Happy Birthday, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Feb. 27, 1805 — Mar. 24, 1882) was the most popular poet in 19th century America. His long narrative poems Hiawatha and Evangeline were considered national literary treasures and his shorter lyrical poems, such as “The Village Blacksmith” and “Paul Revere’s Ride” were recited by practically every American schoolchild.
Longfellow was also a noted literary scholar who learned many European languages, including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, and Icelandic. His English translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy (1867) was considered essential in the library of any American literary household.
Longfellow resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a house that had been George Washington’s military headquarters during the siege of Boston in 1775–1776, the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War. Longfellow took a room as a lodger in the house in 1834, the year in which he began his tenure as a professor of modern languages and literature at Harvard College. Longfellow became the owner of the house in 1843, when his father-in-law Nathan Appleton bought it as a wedding gift for the poet and his second wife, Frances Appleton.
Longfellow lived in the house until his death in 1882. The Longfellow House — Washington’s Headquarters is a National Historic Site that became part of the National Park Service in 1972. For readers interested in visiting the site, the Park Service provides free guided tours seasonally. For further information, visit the National Park Service webpage at Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
Dover Publishing titles for Longfellow’s poems include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Favorite Poems. The anthology includes one of his classic narrative poems, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” as well as such famous poems as “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” “The Village Blacksmith, and “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
The Song of Hiawatha (1855). The lilting meter of this classic poem has drawn in many readers. It begins with the evocative lines, “At the door on Summer evenings/ Sat the little Hiawatha;/ Heard the whispering of the pine-trees,/ Sounds of music, words of wonder.” The poem goes on to relate the adventures of the young Hiawatha, who has magic moccasins, talks with animals, and seeks to bring peace to his people. Fun fact: the rhythm of this poem is actually based on Finnish poetry.
Evangeline and Other Poems. Longfellow’s celebrated romantic narrative is featured in its entirety, along with other works such as “The Skeleton in Armor” and “The Arsenal at Springfield.”
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri. Translated by Longfellow, this 1867 edition of Dante’s classic tour of the Underworld is accompanied by illustrations by the celebrated 19th century engraver, Gustavo Dore. The combination of Longfellow’s poem and Dore’s engravings provide a class nineteenth century one-two literary punch.