POETS Day! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ben Sears

Ben Sears is a writer and restaurant guy in Birmingham, Alabama. He lives quite happily across from a creek with his wife, two sons, and an obligatory dog. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog, The Columbo Game.

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7 Responses

  1. PD Shaw

    “Keats published ‘Ozymandias'”? Am I missing something, or is this more obfuscation and trespass?

    My own limited sense of the type of poetry that might be read in mid-19th century America is there was a lot of graveyard poetry. Children might be expected to recite William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” (1817) from memory. One of Lincoln’s favorite poems was from the Scottsman William Knox, “Mortality” (1847), which ascribes to death the role of great leveler showing no favor to king or peasant. The final verse:

    ‘Tis the twink of an eye, ’tis the draught of a breath,
    From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
    From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud –
    O why should the spirit of mortal be proud!

    My sense would be that themes of the absolute nihilation of death must have been widely popular in America and Longfellow may only be unique in that he got paid.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to PD Shaw

      This is the kind of thing Mark Twain made fun of in Huck Finn.

      Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her “tribute” before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker—the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme for the dead person’s name, which was Whistler. .

      The example we see being

      And did young Stephen sicken,
      And did young Stephen die?
      And did the sad hearts thicken,
      And did the mourners cry?

      No; such was not the fate of
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
      Though sad hearts round him thickened,
      ’Twas not from sickness’ shots.

      No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
      Nor measles drear with spots;
      Not these impaired the sacred name
      Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

      Despised love struck not with woe
      That head of curly knots,
      Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

      O no. Then list with tearful eye,
      Whilst I his fate do tell.
      His soul did from this cold world fly
      By falling down a well.

      They got him out and emptied him;
      Alas it was too late;
      His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
      In the realms of the good and great.

  2. Saul Degraw

    A brief google informs me that he was 5’6″, not really a LongfellowReport

  3. Brandon Berg

    The fifth and six lines, “Here in this room” and “martyrdom of fire” in particular, give me the kind of cringe that usually follows twenty to thirty seconds after a groomsman announces that he’s written a poem for the bride and groom.

    Was it cliche when he wrote it, or is this like the guy complaining about Shakespeare just chaining a bunch of quotes together?Report

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