Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include Paul Revere's Ride, The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five Fireside Poets.
Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, then part of Massachusetts, and studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard College. His first major poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841).
Longfellow retired from teaching in 1854 to focus on his writing, living the remainder of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a former headquarters of George Washington.
His first wife Mary Potter died in 1835 after a miscarriage. His second wife Frances Appleton died in 1861 after sustaining burns when her dress caught fire. After her death, Longfellow had difficulty writing poetry for a time and focused on his translation. He died in 1882.
Longfellow wrote predominantly lyric poems, known for their musicality and often presenting stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and also had success overseas. He has been criticized, however, for imitating European styles and writing specifically for the masses.
The Children's Hour
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
Sophia thought: I liked that poem even though I thought that it was a little long. I thought Allegra was a weird name. I mean, Allegro is a tempo. It seemed kind of playful and funny. This is one poem that I really liked.
Olivia thought: It was okay. It didn't quite make sense. I liked the part about the dungeon. I liked the part about the children attacking the king.
The Arrow and the Song
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.
Sophia thought: I liked the last part about finding the song in the heart of a friend. I didn't really like the beginning...it seemed different than what I like. But, I liked how the poem ended up.
Olivia thought: It was good. The last part seemed kind of sad because it sounded like he shot his friend in the heart with an arrow. The part about the song sounded good.
The Rainy Day
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Sophia thought: It was like today - except colder and windier and wetter. Also, I thought it was too long. The last part doesn't seem as clear as the first two parts.
Olivia thought: It sounded depressing because it was dark, dreary, the wind was cold...it just sounded so dreary. It reminds me of yesterday and today...I felt cold, miserable, and freaked out because it looked like there was going to be a tornado.
As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
Sophia thought: I didn't hear as much rhyming as in the other poems. It also sounds like me when I was little and I didn't like going to bed. About the part about laying down - it sounds like someone is dying (even though it means sleeping). It sounds so final.
Olivia thought: It was good because of the family part - how the mother was leading the baby to bed. The baby was half okay with going to bed. It was in the middle - I could understand some parts, but not understand others.
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.
This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.
Sophia thought: Most poems that have a title like "snowflakes" you would hear snowflakes mentioned. It talked more about the making of them...but not saying the word "snowflakes." I didn't really like this poem.
Olivia thought: The title didn't really seem to go with the poem. It didn't really sound like it was going with snowflakes. The poem was more about nature.
There Was a Little Girl
There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
Sophia thought: I've heard this one before, but I still think it was funny. I like the "horrid" part. I don't understand why the poet talked about the curl and then switched over to bad and good behavior.
Olivia thought: It was funny toward the end when she was horrid. It was kind of interesting when he switched over from the curl to her behavior because I don't think most poets do that.