Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), the most popular American poet of the 19th century, whose works are still cited - or parodied. Among his most remembered works are Evangeline (1847), The Song Of Hiawatha (1855) and The Courtship of Miles Standish(1858).
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. His father, Stephen Longfellow, was a Portland lawyer and congressman, and mother Zilpah, was a descendant of John Alden of the Mayflower. Longfellow was fond of reading and at thirteen he wrote his first poem, "The Battle of Lovell's Pond," which appeared in the Portland Gazette.
Longfellow's translation of Horace earned him a scholarship for further studies. After graduating in 1825 he traveled in Italy, France and Spain from 1826 to 1829, and returned to the United States to work as a professor and librarian in Bodwoin. He translated for his students a French grammar, and edited a collection of French proverbs and a small Spanish reader. In 1831 he married Mary Storer Potter, and made with her another journey to Europe, where he studied Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and the Dutch language and literature. On this trip he fell under the influence of German Romanticism. Longfellow's wife died at Rotterdam in 1835.
In 1839 he published the romantic novel Hyperion and a collection of poems Voices Of The Night, which became very popular. In 1840 he wrote "The Skeleton in Armor" and The Spanish Student, a drama in five acts. In 1836 Longfellow began teaching in Harvard, taking lodgings at the historic Craigie House, where General Washington and his wife had lived. He resigned from his post in 1854 and published next year his best-known narrative poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which gained immediate success. His second Frances died tragically in 1861 by burning - her dress caught fire from a lighted match. Longfellow settled in Cambridge, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Longfellow's later poetry reflects his interest in establishing an American mythology. Among his other works are Tales Of A Wayside Inn (1863), a translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy (1865-67) and Christus: A Mystery (1872), a trilogy dealing with Christianity from its beginnings.
The poet's 70th birthday in 1877 was celebrated around the country. Longfellow died in Cambridge on March 24, 1882. In London his marble image is seen in Westminster Abbey, in the Poet's Corner.
A PSALM OF LIFE
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST
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.