HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born 27 February 1807
“I am weary of your quarrels,
Weary of your wars and bloodshed,
Weary of your prayers for vengeance,
Of your wranglings and dissensions” (The Song of Hiawatha)
Longfellow is the only American writer to have been honoured with a bust in Westminster Abbey. He is little read today, but in the 19thC he was a best-selling poet and everyone knew his works and quoted from them. The Song of Hiawatha is familiar to most of us, if not through the wonderfully musical liens, at least through cartoons, statues and hearsay.
Matthew Pearl’s gripping novel The Dante Club features Longfellow as one of the major characters and much of the action of the story takes place in Longfellow’s beautiful home in Cambridge (not far from Boston). The Longfellow House Museum is fabulous. Because he was so famous in his life-time, everything was preserved in his home and it is a treasure trove of objects and books. You are told very strictly by the guides not to touch a thing, or tread on the carpets, but the guides are excellent and it is a memorable visit.
Try reading Hiawatha aloud to yourself – it flows like one of the rivers it describes. I love the section when he woos Minnehaha. The Indian names are fabulous, and it really is a delight! Another one of Longfellow’s poems I love is Killed at the Ford, a short poem about the death of a young soldier in the American Civil War.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow died on 24 March 1882, aged 75.
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