Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Posted: December 5, 2011 in poetry

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include “Paul Revere’s Ride”, “The Song of Hiawatha”, and “Evangeline”. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy” and was one of the five Fireside Poets.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1868 by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, in 1807, and educated at Bowdoin College, where one of his classmates was Nathaniel Hawthorne. He became a national literary figure by the 1850s, and a world-famous personality by the time of his death in 1882. He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.
Was he a great poet? He was certainly a grand poet, and in the public mind the grandest of his day and age. No American poet of any era, it’s safe to say, has been both as awesomely prolific and prodigiously popular. If Walt Whitman, his younger contemporary by a dozen years, is enshrined as the founding father of modern American poetry, Longfellow deserves no less than to be remembered as the native bard who gave mythic dimension to the country’s historical imagination, a national poet of epic sweep and solemn feeling who came along right at the moment when the emerging nation had the most need for one.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
 Life is but an empty dream!
 For the soul is dead that slumbers,
 And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
 And the grave is not its goal;
 Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
 Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
 Is our destined end or way;
 But to act, that each to-morrow
 Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
 And our hearts, though stout and brave,
 Still, like muffled drums, are beating
 Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
 In the bivouac of Life,
 Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
 Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
 Let the dead Past bury its dead!
 Act,–act in the living Present!
 Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
 We can make our lives sublime,
 And, departing, leave behind us
 Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
 Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
 A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
 Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
 With a heart for any fate;
 Still achieving, still pursuing,
 Learn to labor and to wait.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Between the dark and the daylight,
     When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations
     That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
     The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
     And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
     Descending the broad hall-stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
     And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
     Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
     To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
     A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
     They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
     O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
     They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
     Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
     In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
     Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old moustache as I am
     Is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress,
     And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeons
     In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
     Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
     And moulder in dust away!

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

I shot an arrow into the air,
 It fell to earth, I knew not where;
 For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
 Could not follow it in its flight.

 I breathed a song into the air,
 It fell to earth, I knew not where;
 For who has sight so keen and strong,
 That it can follow the flight of song?

 Long, long afterward, in an oak
 I found the arrow, still unbroke;
 And the song, from beginning to end,
 I found again in the heart of a friend.

Learn more about Longfellow at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Wadsworth_Longfellow. See more Longfellow poems http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_front.php.

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