Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings

Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings

copyright 2000 by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. , New York, NY

Distributed to the trade in the United States by Penguin Putnam, Inc.

ISBN 978-1-883011-85-7

Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings is a collection of the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow is considered, quite aptly in this reviewer’s opinion, among the greatest poets of American literature. He was born in Portland, Maine in February of 1807 and he died in Cambridge Massachusetts in March of 1882.

Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings contains examples of some of both the better and lesser known works of Longfellow. The volume is hardly comprehensive and overlooks some of his better known works in order to present lesser known ones, also, two of his more prosaic works, Evangeline and The Song of Hiawatha, appear in their entirety, as do a small sampling of his definitive prose and a novel. Another example of somewhat prosaic work appears in abbreviated form. While recognizing the expediency of a need for space, Longfellow’s poems are better known than his prose, so I personally feel the prose should have been given more space.

What follows are two very brief examples of Longfellow’s work, the first, a sample from a poem is a personal favorite, read to me by my father as a child. It is from The Landlord’s Tale and is entitled Paul Revere’s Ride. The second sample is from Evangeline.

Paul Revere’s Ride:

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march

By land or sea from the town tonight,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the North Church tower as a signal light,-

One, if by land, and two, if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm…”

Evangeline:

“Matrons and maidens sat in snow-white caps and in kirtles

Scarlet and blue and green, with distaffs spinning the golden

Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuttles within

doors

Mingled their sounds with the whir of the wheels and the

songs of the maidens.

Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the

children

Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless

them.”

As I already noted, the volume is hardly to be considered comprehensive, although it does provide a reasonable representative sampling of Longfellow’s work. Missing are explanatory notes to highlight the text and, as in the case of many other volumes of work from the later part of the eighteen hundreds, and even the early nineteen hundreds, notes to illuminate the lifestyle and obscure meaning of some of the words, which are no longer in use. This is especially necessary in the poems as there are many words which grow out of use over time. A good example of outdated word usage can be gained from the word “kirtle” in the above quoted example from Evangeline. As with most other things you can find the meaning of the word online, but it is a rather time-consuming task to look up every unfamiliar word online. This gets a mixed review, leaning toward the side of Pigeon Gold, but definitely not there yet.

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