Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poems and Other Writings
"This is the real stuff..."
No American writer of the 19th century was more universally enjoyed and admired than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His works were extraordinary bestsellers for their era, achieving fame both here and abroad. Now, for the first time in over 25 years, The Library of America offers a full-scale literary portrait of America's greatest popular poet.
Here are the poems that created an American mythology: Evangeline in the forest primeval, Hiawatha by the shores of Gitche Gumee, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, the wreck of the Hesperus, the village blacksmith under the spreading chestnut tree, the strange courtship of Miles Standish, the maiden Priscilla and the hesitant John Alden; verses like "A Psalm of Life" and "The Children's Hour," whose phrases and characters have become part of the culture. Here as well, along with the public antislavery poems, are the sparer, darker lyrics—"The Fire of Drift-Wood," "Mezzo Cammin," "Snow-Flakes," and many others—that show a more austere aspect of Longfellow's poetic gift.
Erudite and fluent in many languages, Longfellow was endlessly fascinated with the byways of history and the curiosities of legend. As a verse storyteller he had no peer, whether in the great book-length narratives such as Evangeline and The Song of Hiawatha (both included in full) or the stories collected in Tales from a Wayside Inn (reprinted here in a generous selection). His many poems on literary themes, such as his moving homages to Dante and Chaucer, his verse translations from Lope de Vega, Heinrich Heine, and Michelangelo, and his ambitious verse dramas, notably The New England Tragedies (also complete), are remarkable in their range and ambition.
As a special feature, this volume restores to print Longfellow's novel Kavanagh, a study of small-town life and literary ambition that was praised by Emerson as an important contribution to the development of American fiction. A selection of essays rounds out of the volume and provides testimony of Longfellow's concern with creating an American national literature.
J. D. McClatchy, volume editor, is a distinguished poet and critic, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has taught at Yale, Princeton, and UCLA, and since 1991 been editor of The Yale Review.
On November 3, 2000, J.D. McClatchy spoke with Linda Wertheimer on National Public Radio "about Longfellow's prolific writing, and his sway on how American's view themselves and their history." Listen to the program.
Also read "Return to Gitche Gumee," written by J. D. McClatchy, the volume's editor, for The New York Times Book Review at the time of publication.
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