Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems & Other Writings: (Library of America #118)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"By the shore of Gitchee Gumee,/ By the shining Big-Sea-Water..." Between the Civil War and the Great Depression, Longfellow (1807-1882) was America's best-loved poet. An audience so broad it's now hard to imagine enjoyed his well-told, metrically innovative narrative poems, like The Song of Hiawatha; schoolchildren memorized, and adults enjoyed, his accessible, often sententious lyric verse. Longfellow's vast and various output also included many translations of Dante and other European poets, verse-drama and a collection of shorter narratives, Tales of a Wayside Inn. (In his day job at Harvard, he helped invent the study of comparative literature.) In search of a new audience for Longfellow, editor McClatchy, a poet and critic himself (Ten Commandments; Twenty Questions), has rightly assembled a very generous selection, including all Longfellow's most famous poems, and all his best (they're not the same). Here are Hiawatha, Evangeline, The Courtship of Miles Standish and "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." Here, too, are some surprisingly powerful lyric and meditative poems--well made, deeply felt, and not much like the schoolhouse favorites. Among them are the ambitious, fast-moving "K ramos," which follows a potter's wheel around the world; metrical complexities like "The Rope-Walk" and "Snow-Flakes"; and the grief-charged sonnet "The Cross of Snow," about his long-dead wife. Longfellow's longtime residence in New England gave him a special gift for nautical themes--his poems about ships, sailing and the sea range from quick mood pieces to political allegories. Translations--an important part of his work--are also well represented. And historically minded readers will seek out his antislavery poems and his later verse on the Civil War. Near the end of the volume comes his nearly plotless--but thoroughly charming--Maine novella, Kavanagh. Though he may never regain his onetime prestige, Longfellow at his best was more fun, smarter, deeper, and a better craftsman than readers nowadays imagine; this hefty volume may finally let them know. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
The Library of America had another banner year, producing collections of Scott Fitzgerald's first four books and this grand gathering of Wordsworth's poems, fiction, and essays. The volume is notable for bringing back into print the novel Kavanaugh, a Tale. (Classic Returns, LJ 11/15/00) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This collection, the first selection of Longfellow's work in more than 25 years, is generous, including broad selections of Longfellow's best known poems, as well as his novel...all in all this book is a pleasure. One doubts that Longfellow's preeminence will be rekindled by this new collection, but he is certainly well worth pondering once again.
Christian Science Monitor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781883011857
  • Publisher: Library of America
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Series: Library of America Series
  • Pages: 825
  • Sales rank: 580,718
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was the most popular and admired American poet of the nineteenth century. Born in Portland, Maine, and educated at Bowdoin College, Longfellow’s ambition was always to become a writer; but until mid-life his first profession was the teaching rather than the production of literature, at his alma mater (1829-35) and then at Harvard (1836-54). His teaching career was punctuated by two extended study-tours of Europe, during which Longfellow made himself fluent in all the major Romance and Germanic languages. Thanks to a fortunate marriage and the growing popularity of his work, from his mid-thirties onwards Longfellow, ensconced in a comfortable Cambridge mansion, was able to devote an increasingly large fraction of his energies to the long narrative historical and mythic poems that made him a household word, especially Evangeline (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858), and Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863, 1872, 1873). Versatile as well as prolific, Longfellow also won fame as a writer of short ballads and lyrics, and experimented in the essay, the short story, the novel, and the verse drama. Taken as a whole, Longfellow’s writings show a breadth of literary learning, an understanding of western languages and cultures, unmatched by any American writer of his time.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The Spirit of Poetry

There is a quiet spirit in these woods,
That dwells where'er the gentle south-wind blows;
Where, underneath the white-thorn, in the glade,
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air,
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread.
With what a tender and impassioned voice
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought,
When the fast ushering star of morning comes
O'er-riding the gray hills with golden scarf;
Or when the cowled and dusky-sandalled Eve,
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate,
Departs with silent pace! That spirit moves
In the green valley, where the silver brook,
From its full laver, pours the white cascade;
And, babbling low amid the tangled woods,
Slips down through moss-grown stones with endless
And frequent, on the everlasting hills,
Its feet go forth, when it doth wrap itself
In all the dark embroidery of the storm,
And shouts the stern, strong wind. And here, amid
The silent majesty of these deep woods,
Its presence shall uplift thy thoughts from earth,
As to the sunshine and the pure, bright air
Their tops the green trees lift. Hence gifted bards
Have ever loved the calm and quiet shades.
For them there was an eloquent voice in all
The sylvan pomp of woods, the golden sun,
The flowers, the leaves, the river on its way,
Blue skies, and silver clouds, and gentle winds,
The swelling upland,where the sidelong sun
Aslant the wooded slope, at evening, goes,
Groves, through whose broken roof the sky looks in,
Mountain, and shattered cliff, and sunny vale,
The distant lake, fountains, and mighty trees,
In many a lazy syllable, repeating
Their old poetic legends to the wind.

    And this is the sweet spirit, that doth fill
The world; and, in these wayward days of youth,
My busy fancy oft embodies it,
As a bright image of the light and beauty
That dwell in nature; of the heavenly forms
We worship in our dreams, and the soft hues
That stain the wild bird's wing, and flush the clouds
When the sun sets. Within her tender eye
The heaven of April, with its changing light,
And when it wears the blue of May, is hung,
And on her lip the rich, red rose. Her hair
Is like the summer tresses of the trees,
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky,
With ever-shifting beauty. Then her breath,
It is so like the gentle air of Spring,
As, from the morning's dewy flowers, it comes
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy
To have it round us, and her silver voice
Is the rich music of a summer bird,
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence.

Hymn to the Night

I heard the trailing garments of the Night
    Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
    From the celestial walls!

I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
    Stoop o'er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
    As of the one I love.

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
    The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
    Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
    My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,—
    From those deep cisterns flows.

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
    What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,
    And they complain no more.

Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
    Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
    The best-beloved Night!

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
    And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
    And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
    Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
    Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
    And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
    Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
    In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
    Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
    Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
    Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
    Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor and to wait.

The Light of Stars

The night is come, but not too soon;
    And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
Drops down behind the sky.

There is no light in earth or heaven
    But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
    To the red planet Mars.

Is it the tender star of love?
    The star of love and dreams?
Oh no! from that blue tent above
    A hero's armor gleams.

And earnest thoughts within me rise,
    When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
    The shield of that red star.

O star of strength! I see thee stand
    And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailed hand,
    And I am strong again.

Within my breast there is no light
    But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
    To the red planet Mars.

The star of the unconquered will,
    He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
    And calm, and self-possessed.

And thou, too, whosoe'er thou art,
    That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
    Be resolute and calm.

Oh, fear not in a world like this,
    And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
    To suffer and be strong.

Footsteps of Angels

When the hours of Day are numbered,
    And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
    To a holy, calm delight;

Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
    And, like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
    Dance upon the parlor wall;

Then the forms of the departed
    Enter at the open door;
The beloved, the true-hearted,
    Come to visit me once more;

He, the young and strong, who cherished
    Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perished,
    Weary with the march of life!

They, the holy ones and weakly,
    Who the cross of suffering bore,
Folded their pale hands so meekly,
    Spake with us on earth no more!

And with them the Being Beauteous,
    Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
    And is now a saint in heaven.

With a slow and noiseless footstep
    Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
    Lays her gentle hand in mine.

And she sits and gazes at me
    With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
    Looking downward from the skies.

Uttered not, yet comprehended,
    Is the spirit's voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
    Breathing from her lips of air.

Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
    All my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only
    Such as these have lived and died!
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Table of Contents

from The Voices of the Night
The Spirit of Poetry 1
Hymn to the Night 2
A Psalm of Life 3
The Light of Stars 4
Footsteps of Angels 6
from Ballads and Other Poems
The Skeleton in Armor 8
The Wreck of the Hesperus 12
The Village Blacksmith 15
It Is Not Always May 17
The Rainy Day 18
God's-Acre 18
To the River Charles 19
The Goblet of Life 20
Excelsior 22
from Poems on Slavery
The Slave's Dream 24
The Slave Singing at Midnight 25
The Witnesses 26
The Warning 27
from The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems
The Belfry of Bruges 29
A Gleam of Sunshine 31
The Arsenal at Springfield 33
Rain in Summer 35
To a Child 37
The Occultation of Orion 43
The Bridge 45
To the Driving Cloud 47
The Day Is Done 48
Afternoon in February 50
The Old Clock on the Stairs 51
The Arrow and the Song 53
The Evening Star 53
Autumn 54
Dante 54
Curfew 55
Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie 57
from The Seaside and the Fireside
The Building of the Ship 116
Seaweed 127
Chrysaor 128
Twilight 129
Sir Humphrey Gilbert 130
The Lighthouse 131
The Fire of Drift-Wood 133
Resignation 135
The Builders 136
Sand of the Desert in an Hour-Glass 138
The Open Window 139
The Song of Hiawatha 141
from The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems
The Courtship of Miles Standish 280
Birds of Passage 323
The Ladder of St. Augustine 324
The Phantom Ship 326
The Warden of the Cinque Ports 328
Haunted Houses 329
In the Churchyard at Cambridge 331
The Emperor's Bird's-Nest 331
The Two Angels 333
Daylight and Moonlight 335
The Jewish Cemetery at Newport 335
My Lost Youth 337
The Ropewalk 340
Daybreak 342
The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz 343
Children 344
Sandalphon 345
Poems 1859-1863
The Children's Hour 347
Enceladus 348
The Cumberland 349
Snow-Flakes 351
A Day of Sunshine 351
Something Left Undone 352
Weariness 353
from Tales of a Wayside Inn
Part First
Prelude: The Wayside Inn 354
The Landlord's Tale: Paul Revere's Ride 362
Interlude 366
The Student's Tale: The Falcon of Ser Federigo 367
Interlude 375
The Spanish Jew's Tale: The Legend of Rabbi Ben Levi 376
Interlude 378
The Sicilian's Tale: King Robert of Sicily 379
Interlude 385
The Musician's Tale: The Saga of King Olaf 386
Interlude 431
The Theologian's Tale: Torquemada 433
Interlude 439
The Poet's Tale: The Birds of Killingworth 440
Finale 446
from Part Second
The Spanish Jew's Talc: Kambalu 447
The Student's Tale: The Cobbler of Hagenau 450
The Theologian's Tale: The Legend Beautiful 456
from Part Third
The Spanish Jew's Tale: Azrael 460
The Sicilian's Tale: The Monk of Casal-Maggiore 461
Finale 469
from Flower-de-Luce
Palingenesis 472
Hawthorne 474
Christmas Bells 475
The Wind Over the Chimney 476
Killed at the Ford 478
Giotto's Tower 479
Divina Commedia 480
from Christus: A Mystery
from The Divine Tragedy
Mount Quarantania 483
The Tower of Magdala 485
Let Me Go Warm 695
The Sea Hath Its Pearls 696
Retribution 697
The Grave 697
Rondel 698
The Artist 699
To Vittoria Colonna 699
Dante 700
A Neapolitan Canzonet 700
Selected Prose
Kavanagh, A Tale 703
The Literary Spirit of Our Country 791
Table-Talk 796
Address on the Death of Washington Irving 800
Chronology 805
Note on the Texts 816
Notes 824
Index of Titles and First Lines 850
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2007

    The Best Poet

    Longfellow is in my view the best and most understandable poet I have ever read. His work was profound and easy to follow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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