Henry Wadsworth Longfellow biography



Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a lineal successor to Irving, whom he also resembled in his equal treatment of foreign and native themes and legends alike. Such an academic influence as his, broadened and deepened by generous travel abroad to prepare him for his Harvard chair, was certainly needed in the decade after 1830. By his "Poets and Poetry of Europe" he familiarized Americans with the literature and lore of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, and even of old Anglo-Saxon days. His "Outre Mer," a book of travel, has kept a place for itself until to-day. When he came to write his Indian legend of "Hiawatha," his familiarity with the then little-known literature of the Northland enabled him to borrow the curious metre, style of imagery, and treatment of the Finnish epic "Kalevala."

As a critic proper, Longfellow possessed more learning than Poe, but was less truly critical, nor had he the satire and penetration of Lowell. But it is as the great poet of sympathy, as America's most popular poet, that Longfellow must be chiefly considered; and, in the scope of this brief sketch, it is unnecessary to give a systematic account of his familiar poems. Long-fellow's conspicuous note as a poet was from the heart, and not the head. He touched his readers with tender poems of common sentiment and elevating tendency. Perhaps his most scholarly achievement in poetry was his translation of Dante's "Divina Commedia," published in 1867. How deeply he lingered throughout this long labor of love under the spell of the stern Florentine, may be seen in those sonnets inspired by his work and effectively mirroring on their surface this "mediaeval miracle of song." Long-fellow's translation is, in many respects, such as the metrical and onomatopoetic, superior to that of Carey. He was universally regarded with affection, and England paid her first tribute of memorial honor to an American writer by placing his bust in Westminster Abbey.





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