Henry Wadsworth Longfellow an American Writing Icon
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a powerful figure in nineteenth century America. He is considered to be one of the most influential writers of this time. There are many reasons for the popularity and significance of Longfellow's poetry. The most evident is the manner in which he uses the gift of effortless rhyme. He writes poetry with a natural grace, read or heard once, his rhyme and meters cling to the mind long after the initial sense may be forgotten. No other American poet has so penetrated the general consciousness of the entire English speaking world as is apparent through the way that he uses common themes which appeal to all kinds of people. To first understand the unique genius of Longfellow and the way he created his writings one must learn a little about his life. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland Maine; he grew up of modest means and was exposed to the conditions of everyday life. His first major achievement in his litaray career was his accepentce to Bowidian College at the age of 14; he stayed there for a few years and graduated in 1825. After his graduation he went to further his study in Europe and then came back to America and accepted a position at Bowidian College teaching as a professor of modern language. After teaching for five years he once again returned to Europe to study and stayed for a year but once he returned he accepted a position at Harvard University and taught there for eighteen years. Many people who have been aquatints with Longfellow agree that he was “such a thoroughbred gentleman, in his everyday life that even the most timid were at ease in his company” (Moulton 386).While Longfellow was at college he became good friends with a man named Nathaniel Hawthorne. Longfellow was not only a gentleman in his social life but was a devoted husband to his two wives, both which ended in tragedy due to their untimely deaths.
Longfellow grew up as your average child of the early nineteenth century with nature surrounding him. He saw the things that happened in everyday life people working and the changing of the seasons. His boyhood was spent mostly in his native town, which he never ceased to love, and whose beautiful surroundings quaint and pure, found its way into some of the main theme of his poems. Even though they varied a little they had the same overtone one of simplicity that any individual that picked up his writings could connect with and understand them. Many of his poems were derived from nature some of them consisted of “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls”, “A Gleam of Sunshine” and “Autumn”. The next major influence in his poems was the integration of American history, including Indians, the ride of Paul Revere and the life of slaves. The last selection was that of everyday life the lessons, like “Something Left Undone” and “The Reaper and the Flowers”. The idea to incorporate common themes, of nature, American history and everyday life was a first and truly appealed to the readers.
The subjects of Longfellow’s poetry are, for the most part, aspects of nature as influencing human feeling, either directly or through historical association, the tender or pathetic sides and incidents of life, or heroic deeds preserved in legend or history. He had a special fondness for records of human devotion and self-sacrifice, whether they were monkish legends, Indian tales or bits of American History. The reason for his choice of such familiar topics was to reach the general public and connect with them. All of the topics which he chose were easy to understand and were common occurrences in people’s lives at this time. The choice of topics such as waves in the ocean, a man working and the life of a slave were topics that the people related to and up until this time most poets wrote about European ideas, things that had no relation ship with the people who lived in America. He brought about the topics of Native Americans and...
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