Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


That is a great day in one's history when he gets his first view of the beauty and the mystery of poetry. Far-reaching vistas open before him—a new world of wonder and delight. The poet who awakens his soul to see what the poet himself saw, and so creates in him the poetic instinct, becomes to him a sort of demigod, and is worshiped forever after. I begin my essay on Longfellow with vivid recollection of the admiration, and even awe, with which he first inspired me. He introduced me to literature, and gave me the freedom of the mind. His " Psalm of Life " encouraged me to think that I too might make my life sublime. And what he did for me he did for a multitude of others. The excellent biography written by Samuel Longfellow, his brother, gives extracts from many letters of men well known, which show that the poet's early productions were germs from which sprang a great literary harvest.

My purpose in this essay, however, is to disclose even a larger influence of Longfellow than this upon individual writers. His influence was national. He rose to fame in a time of comparative uncouthness and mediocrity. We were too young for literary elegance, and too practical to appreciate ideal creations.


Longfellow bridged the gulf between us and the past, between us and Europe, between us and the whole world of romance. He was one of the first to profit by absorbing foreign culture and by importing it into America. His liberal, loving, sympathetic spirit was a garden-plot in which plants hitherto exotic were nourished for distribution over our whole broad commonwealth. If Bryant was the father of American poetry, Longfellow was as certainly its first cultivator and enricher. With a broader view of life than Bryant's, a finer sense of form than Emerson's, a keener apprehension of ideal beauty than Whittier's, a sounder morality than Poe's, he was our first all-round poet and teacher of poetry, and of all our American poets the most beloved.

The true poet is born, not made, and he owes much to his ancestry. Providence ordained that Longfellow should come of good stock. His father was a lawyer of integrity and courtesy, social and public-spirited, a graduate of Harvard College and a genuine scholar. He was so highly esteemed that his fellow citizens chose him to be their representative in Congress. The government of the family was kindly, but strict. The father kept watch over his children's education, criticizing their youthful productions, and directing their thoughts to God, as their Creator, Preserver, and Friend. From his mother our poet probably derived his gifts of imagination and of sympathy. She was beautiful in person and gracious in demeanor. In her early days she was fond of gaiety. Music and dancing had great attractions for her. She loved nature also, even in its wilder and more sublime aspects, and thun


der-storms were her delight. But she was, above all, a woman of old-fashioned piety; though her love of Bible and sermon and psalm was accompanied by interest in romance and by endless ministrations to the poor. She was the confidante of her children, the corrector of their faults, but also the recipient of their joyful and hopeful confessions. If parentage alone could make a poet, Longfellow was in this respect richly blest.

It is also true that the poet is made, and not born. He owes as much to nurture as he owes to nature. Who shall say how much of Longfellow's power was the fruit of his environment and of his education? His poem, "My Lost Youth," is a memorial of the strong influence exerted upon him by his home in Portland, his outlook over Casco Bay, and his wandering in Deering's Woods. Casco Bay, in full view of Portland, was the scene of a naval battle in the war of 1812, upon which the boy of five years gazed with wonder, and the impression of which he never lost:

I remember the sea-fight far away,
How it thundered o'er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o'erlooking the tranquil bay
Where they in battle died.

And the sound of that mournful song
Goes through me with a thrill:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

"The shadows of Deering's Woods," behind the town, were remembered as the scene of "friendships old" and " early loves ":


And Deering's Woods are fresh and fair,

And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
I find my lost youth again.

And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating it still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

He does well to close each stanza with two lines of that old Lapland song; for " the child is father of the man," and " beginnings make endings."

Nature and nurture act and react upon each other. The boy Longfellow inherited from his mother a sprightliness and impressibility which enamored him with singing and dancing. His father seems to have added a quiet and reserve of manner, which appeared in his avoidance of everything noisy or violent. As a schoolboy, he did work equal to that of classmates twice his age. He was a lover of books, and even thus early merited the characterization of a later critic who called him " the bookish Longfellow." His home was fairly well stocked with works of poetry and prose, and the boy devoured them. But the first book that fascinated him, and roused his ambition, was "The Sketch Book" of Washington Irving. "Whenever I open its pages," he says, " I open also that mysterious door which leads back into the haunted chambers of youth." And the first poet to whom he made allegiance was William Cullen Bryant. In his later years he acknowledges his indebtedness, and quotes Dante's address of gratitude to Vergil, " Thou art my master and my author."


At the age of fifteen Longfellow entered Bowdoin College at an advanced standing, and there at eighteen he was graduated. The institution had been founded only twenty years before, at Brunswick, twenty-five miles from his home in Portland. His father was one of its trustees. It had begun with but eight students, and a single building which was the residence of president and pupils alike. In our poet's time it was still a small college, but it had been adopted by the new State of Maine, and many distinguished citizens had sent their sons thither. James Bowdoin had presented it with a costly collection of paintings, drawings, and minerals—a collection which he had made in Europe, and which was finer than any other that America then possessed. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a member of Longfellow's class. He was a shy and reserved young man, then little known to his fellows, but with whom in after years our poet formed one of his warmest friendships. John S. C. Abbott was also a classmate; and Franklin Pierce, afterward President of the United States, was a student in the college. There was much of emulation and ambition in that little company, and it was here and now that both Longfellow and Hawthorne made their first ventures into the field of literature.

Biographers have not sufficiently noted the fact that Maine, in the early part of the nineteenth century, was still a home of the American Indian. Its lakes were full of trout, and its forests full of deer. The Penobscot or Passamaquoddy chief, in his paint and wampum and feathers, was a frequent visitor to the scattered villages; and, though he was somewhat tamed


and civilized, legends of his former savagery were rife at every fireside. Longfellow became interested in Indian life and manners; he read Heckewelder's "Account" of their history and customs; here was the germ of his future " Hiawatha." Now too, he begins to feel the poetic impulse and to write verses. But it is not the Algonquin or Ojibway chief who furnishes the theme; it is rather some maiden, of fairer com plexion and tenderer spirit, who inspires the voutu(' poet. As a specimen of his earliest vef":f quote the first and the last stanz: dressed " To Ianthe ":

When upon the western cloud

Hang day's fading roses,
When the linnet sings aloud

And the twilight closes,—
As I mark the moss-grown spring

By the twisted holly,
Pensive thoughts of thee shall bring

Love's own melancholy.

Then when tranquil evening throws

Twilight shades above thee,
And when early morning glows,—

Think on those that love thee!
For an interval of years

We ere long must sever,
But the hearts that love endears

Shall be parted never.

The youth of eighteen was already seeking his vocation, and love-dreams gave place to preparation for the work of life. He had written many college poems, and some of them had been printed in the "United States Literary Gazette," published in Boston. He


wrote to his father that he eagerly aspired after future eminence in literature; "my whole soul," he says, "burns most ardently for it, and every earthly thought centers in it." But he counted the cost, and knew that acquaintance with other languages, and familiarity with their best authors, were an indispensable condition of success. At first he aimed only at a post-graduate year at Cambridge, with a view to the acquisition is .T>aJian. Better things, however, were in store for »*H was brightened, at his graduation, by _. . *.. -r.the board of trustees to the pro

fessorship o. .ern Languages, for the establishment of ,,hich Madame Bowdoin had given to the college one housand dollars. The invitation was coupled with a permission to spend three years in preparation, by residence abroad. It shows great confidence in his scholarly gifts, his teaching ability, and the soundness of his character, that such an invitation should be extended to a young man who had yet three years to spend before he reached his majority. The invitation was accepted with delight, and after some months of delay, during which he read law in his father's office, he set sail in an ocean packet for Europe.

Foreign travel was in those days far more rare than now. It was all the more a mark of distinction. For an American, it meant a widening of view, a release from narrow prejudices, an inspiration to better work. The sight of medieval cathedrals and palaces made the wooden architecture of his own country seem like the card-houses of children. Painting and sculpture revealed to him for the first time the glories of art. Other languages and literatures showed him

216 Longfellow's F1rst Stay Abroad

both the merits and the shortcomings of his own. The poverty and oppression of vast populations roused in him a new pride and gratitude, as he compared them with the free and well-to-do life of his native land. Perhaps the most important, however, of all the benefits of a prolonged stay abroad was his introduction to the past—the past of literature, politics, and history, and to that past the acquisition of foreign languages opened the door.

No young man ever entered the great European world with more of advantage than did young Longfellow. Delicate in all his tastes, a born hater of the rough and unseemly, ambitious and industrious, drinking in knowledge at every pore, provided with letters which admitted him at once to the society of litterateurs and diplomats, with a gentle and sincere address which made friends of all who met him, he found everywhere the very teachers and helpers of whom he stood in need. Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, London, in turn, were the scene of his studies and associations. In Spain he made a bosom friend of Washington Irving; in Italy he had confidential talks with George W. Greene, the historian, whose letters are now a chief source of information with regard to our poet's inner life. In this historian's dedication to his friend of his "Life of General Greene," we read:

"Thirty-nine years ago, this month of April, you and I were together at Naples. . . We were young then, with life all before us; and in the midst of the records of a great past our thoughts would still turn to our own future. . . One day—I shall never forget it—we returned at sunset from a long afternoon amid the statues and relics of the Museo Bourbonico. . . We went up to the flat roof of the house, where, as we LONGFELLOW AS A TEACHER 2\J

walked, we could look down into the crowded street and out upon the wonderful bay and across to Ischia and Capri and Sorrento, and over the housetops and villas and vineyards to Vesuvius. . . And over all, with a thrill like that of solemn music, fell the splendor of the Italian sunset. We talked and mused by turns, till the twilight deepened and the stars came forth to mingle their mysterious influences with the overmastering magic of the scene. It was then that you unfolded to me your plans of life, and showed me from what 'deep cisterns' you had already learned to draw. From that day, the office of literature took a new place in my thoughts. I felt its forming power as I had never felt it before."

Three years of this wandering yet busy life made Longfellow a new man. Softened and enlarged in spirit, he came back to his own country, full of ambition to impart the culture which he had himself acquired. The little college became the theater of prelections and conversations in which French, German, and Italian were made to give up their treasures to American youth. He taught by example as well as by precept. He combined graciousness and dignity, a cheerful familiarity and serious intent to teach. No wonder that the stiff routine of college instruction received something of a shock, and that the new professor became exceedingly popular. In that day real comradeship between teachers and students was almost unknown. It was a great gain to have one professor who could sufficiently unbend to talk familiarly with his pupils about the things in which they were interested. Longfellow did something to introduce an improved method into American pedagogy.

He was not satisfied with influencing the narrow circle of the college. Wider fields invited him. An inner impulse to literary production had long possessed Q

218 Longfellow's F1rst Prose Work

him. It had been repressed by the thought that he lacked both ideas and power to express them. Now he determined to trust his destiny and to make the venture. His first impulse was to make his appeal to the public in prose, and Irving's " Sketch Book " suggested the general plan. It was in 1833, during the last of his five and a half years at Bowdoin, that he published "Outre-Mer." It crystallized what his years of travel had left in solution. The jottings of his diary furnished most of the material. We read "Outre-Mer" to-day with a sort of admiring curiosity; it has interest as a chapter in the history of literature; it would seem only an effusion of callow youth but for the occasional apparition in it of original genius. It is a medley of impressions, incidents,* descriptions, and stories, with no more organic unity than that of Boccaccio's "Tales." But Longfellow, like Milton, had dedicated himself to literature, and this was his first offering to the Muse. It showed receptiveness of no ordinary sort; but the constructive period was yet to come.

Until now, his college experiences had been those of the courteous and popular schoolmaster. He looked upon his profession, he writes, " from a far nobler and more elevated point of view than many do. I take an inexpressible delight in watching the gradual dawn of intellect in the youthful mind." Little by little, however, the routine of teaching became burdensome, and he longed for greater freedom. His literary aspirations demanded more of leisure for original composition. He was forced to teach grammar, he says, when he would fain have written poems. A


larger outlook, with less of drudgery, presented itself when, in December, 1834, he was invited to succeed George Ticknor as Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard. Here too, he was permitted to spend a year in preparatory study abroad, and he accepted the new position gladly. But now he did not go to Europe alone. He had married Miss Mary Storer Potter, a Portland acquaintance of his earlier years, a young lady who knew her Greek and Latin, and whose gentle and affectionate disposition combined with beauty of countenance to make her markedly attractive. The one mishap of Longfellow's second stay in foreign ports was her sad death in Rotterdam. It was the first great sorrow of his life, and he has fitly commemorated it in his poem entitled "The 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;

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!

The death of Longfellow's wife was the turningpoint in his literary history. It gave him deeper views of life, and made him more original and constructive in his thinking. There is a marked difference between "Outre-Mer," published before his second European tour, and "Hyperion," printed after his return. The former has a careless if not a flippant gaiety, which often seems a mere overflow of youthful spirits. The latter is the serious attempt to depict a young man's striving after ideal excellence in thought and action. "Outre-Mer" is a chance collection of matters separately interesting, but bound together by no thread but


that of personal adventure. "Hyperion" is a connected tale; it rises to a much higher level of aspiration; it has a unity of conception, to which each part is subordinate and contributory. This change evinces in the author not only an intellectual but also a moral progress. Affliction has sobered and enriched him. He can now become the poet of domestic affection, and can describe joys and sorrows that are universal. To be a great poet, however, requires more than this; only the highest truth can enable him to understand the lowest; he needs to appreciate the facts of sin and redemption; in other words, to know human nature in its normal, and in its abnormal, relations to God.

It was the old Congregational Calvinism that prevailed at Brunswick and that dominated the college. We must concede that the federal theology, unaccompanied by an experience of vital union with Christ, was a theory of religion puzzling to the intellect and repugnant to the moral sense. Regarded as a merely forensic and governmental expression of historical and biological facts, it has justification; and, in the light of these, the Pauline doctrine of Scripture is comprehensible. But doctrine always tends to become traditional. After the religious revival under Jonathan Edwards had spent its force, there grew up a new scholasticism, which was more speculative than religious. Minor and incidental points of belief came to be insisted on, as if they were fundamental and essential to salvation. The younger generation refused to accept them. The result was the Unitarian defection. At the beginning, it might have been prevented by a greater tolerance and a less bigoted dogmatism on the part of orthodox


theologians. In the end, the movement reached its logical goal, and denial of inspiration, Trinity, and atonement, followed.

Longfellow's home influences had been those of the liberal sort. Traditional doctrine was already somewhat modified in the ministrations of the Portland pulpit, and his father had succeeded in securing some changes in the church's creed. Above all, that creed was interpreted by the Christlike lives of his father and his mother. At Bowdoin College, he was brought for the first time into an atmosphere of traditional orthodoxy, yet at the same time an atmosphere of inquiry. The young intellect of that day asked reasons for its faith. The minutiae of theology did not interest our eager student. He lacked as yet the inner experience that would make such questions absorbing. A sort of religious indifference took possession of him. His attendance at religious services became somewhat perfunctory. He longed for a more mild and ethical preaching; and when a Unitarian church was organized at Brunswick, he gave it whatever support lay within his power. There is little doubt that his enthusiastic willingness to accept a Harvard professorship was to some extent influenced by his desire to emerge into a freer theological, as well as a freer intellectual, field. From this time, Longfellow was an avowed Unitarian.

In his Inaugural Address at Bowdoin. he had given utterance to a far-reaching truth, in his characterization of the work he hoped to do. He perceived the religious bearings of that work, and spoke of the feeling that prompted it:


It is this religious feeling,—this changing of the finite for the infinite,—this grasping after the invisible things of another and a higher world,—which marks the spirit of modern literature.

What he thought that " religious feeling " to be, seems indicated in one of his early letters:

Human systems have done much to deaden the true spirit of devotion and to render religion merely speculative. Would it not be better for mankind if we should consider it as a cheerful and social companion; given us to go through life ■with us from childhood to the grave, and to make us happier here as well as hereafter; and not as a stern and chiding taskmaster, to whom we must cling at last through mere despair, because we have nothing else on earth to which we can cling? I love that view of Christianity which sets it in the light of a cheerful, kind-hearted friend, and which gives its thoughts a noble and a liberal turn. The doctrines of men have long been taught as the doctrines of an infinitely higher authority, and many have been led to think that faith without works is an active and saving principle.

Longfellow was by nature and by education a Pelagian. The problem of moral evil never seriously vexed him. Born and nurtured amid peaceful and moral surroundings, with a quiet and studious disposition, gentle and social in his ways, he never knew any deep conviction of sin, never felt the need of an atoning Saviour, never shrank from the holiness of God. Love, compassion, pity—these divine attributes seemed to him all-inclusive. That God is righteous, and that man is fallen, never made him tremble. The self-condemnation of Augustine, and his ecstatic praise for redemption, had no place in his experience. And yet, in a certain unevangelical way, he was a Christian poet. One of his earliest ambitions was that of writ


ing a poem, the title of which should be "Christus," and in which apostolic, medieval, and modern Christianity should be exhibited in one great trilogy. This ambition haunted him for nearly half a century, but was not realized until 1873. The translation of Dante's "Divina Comedia " is another indication that our poet was in love with Christian themes. He never reached Dante's heights, because he had never sounded Dante's depths. It was only the superficial aspects of Christianity which he described. He did not understand the plan of God; but he did accept its results. Let us be thankful that, even so, he could give comfort to multitudes of God's children.

I have said that the death of Mrs. Longfellow, in the midst of his preparation abroad for his work at Harvard, was the turning-point in his career. From this time his literary activity is constructive and original. "Kavanagh" is an idyl, full of poetic material, but with so little of plot and with so much of sentiment, that novel-writing seems beyond bur author's powers. Its motto, however, taken from Shakespeare, is significant:

"The flighty purpose never is o'ertook
Unless the deed go with it."

This intimates that the writer is now bent on actual achievement. "Hyperion," though printed before "Kavanagh," is really his last work of importance in prose. Its motto is suggested by his recent affliction:

Look not mournfully into the Past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the Present. It is thine. Go forth to "THE VOICES OF THE NIGHT" 225

meet the shadowy Future, without fear, and with a manly heart.

These exercises in prose show industry and learning, together with the delicacy and skill of a literary artist, but they were only preparatory studies. Longfellow's real work was yet to come.

On his second European journey, the Rhine, Heidelberg, Switzerland, Paris, in succession, diverted him; but in 1836, after fifteen months of travel, he returned to Cambridge, where he taught for the next seventeen years, and where he lived until his death in 1882. With his residence in Cambridge began a new period in his history. He seems now to have discovered his vocation, and to have devoted to it all his powers. It was the vocation of the poet. Its public inauguration consisted in the printing of his first book of poems, "The Voices of the Night." It is doubtful whether any other work of a poetical sort has ever had so immediate recognition and success, or so great an influence in the shaping of future literary production, in America at least, as had this first venture of Longfellow. "A Psalm of Life" became the quickener of ten thousand youthful hearts, who thereafter repeated to themselves the poet's words of courage:

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.

These poems are soothing as well as inspiring. Long labor has made them simple. They are faultless in point of taste. They appeal not only to the heroic but also to the pathetic, elements of human nature. Some of them are the author's efforts to relieve his own deep depression, and they naturally minister comfort to others. They are not distinctly Christian poems, but they are by-products of Christianity, and we cannot imagine them as written in ante-Christian times. We may apply to them Longfellow's own words in " The Day is Done ":

Such songs have power to quiet

The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction

That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume

The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet

The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,

Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,,
And as silently steal away.

From this time forward our poet's life was one of almost uninterrupted prosperity and of ever-increasing fame. His second marriage, to Frances Elizabeth Appleton, soon put him in possession of the Craigie


House, the noblest mansion in Cambridge, the former headquarters of General George Washington at the beginning of the Revolutionary war. Here he dispensed a liberal hospitality. He entertained, and was entertained. The social side of his nature was quickened, and he was inspired to literary production. He was ready for his task; and, though somewhat handicapped by his college duties, he managed to derive even from them new stimulus and inspiration. He came gradually to be recognized as our most representative American poet; and that, because he combined the broadest literary outlook with the deepest knowledge of the human heart. If we are asked to name the chief poet of America, we must answer that Longfellow is our poet most truly national; and this verdict is rendered not only by Americans, but by the literary world at large. This place in the world's esteem he won by right; because, with all his knowledge of foreign literatures and authors, he avoided the sentimentality of European romanticism, while at the same time he glorified the sweet and tender instincts of human nature. Culture had broadened his views of life, but he had learned that the sources of true poetry are not without, but within. We may almost say that the last stanza of the "Prelude," in this first published book of poetry, lays down the program of his future life:

"Look, then, into thine heart, and write!
Yes, into Life's deep stream!
All forms of sorrow and delight,
s All solemn Voices of the Night,
That can soothe thee, or affright,—
Be these henceforth thy theme!"


It is a long stride forward, but I must here take account of the second great sorrow of Longfellow's life. After eighteen years of happy wedlock, his beautiful and accomplished wife met with an agonizing death. She had been sealing up in separate packages the clippings of her children's hair, when a lighted match fell to the floor and set her dress on fire. Her husband came to her relief, and was himself severely burned. His help was vain; she died next day; he was left in a distress so deep, that for months he could not speak of it; the effect of it indeed never left him; it colored all his views of life. To one who exhorted him to " bear his cross," he replied, " Yes, but what if one be stretched upon it!" And to George William Curtis he made answer: "I can write no word. God's will be done! I am too utterly wretched and overwhelmed,—to the eyes of others, outwardly, calm; but inwardly, bleeding to death." In his journal, many days after, he added these lines of Tennyson:

"Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace;
Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,
While the stars burn, the moons increase,
And the great ages onward roll."

"Known and unknown, human, divine;
Sweet human hand and lips and eye;
Dear heavenly friend that canst not die;
Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine."

Like Bryant, Longfellow strove to console himself by translating one of the great poets, choosing XJante. The first sonnet prefixed to this work, which was completed in 1866, contains the suggestive words:


I enter here from day to day,
And leave my burden at this minster gate.

It was a long time before he plucked up courage to write any verses of his own. Among the verses then written, there was found in a portfolio after his death, the poem entitled "The Cross of Snow "; and that poem is the best proof of his depth of feeling, and at the same time his inability, with all his gifts of expression, to put that feeling into words:

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,

A gentle face—the face of one long dead—
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.

Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.

There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.

Such is the cross I wear upon my breast

These eighteen years, through all the changing

And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

The years that intervened between these two great sorrows, the years from 1843 to 1861, were our poet's most productive years. Providence had favored him with every advantage and facility. He had passed from adolescence to manhood; he had mastered the languages and literatures of Europe; he was the idol of a notable literary circle; Agassiz, Hawthorne, Hillard, Felton, Sumner, Prescott, were his friends; in fact, association with them was so close, that there was


talk of a "Mutual Admiration Society "; and, when his work was reviewed by one of its members, a critic wrote after its title, "Insured in The Mutual." But Longfellow was never led astray, either by criticism or by applause. He was an industrious and conscientious workman, and even the slightest of his poems bore marks of scrupulous care and artistic skill. A stanza of " The Village Blacksmith " well expresses the spirit of his work:


Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin.

Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done.

Has earned a night's repose.

During this comparatively youthful period, Longfellow gave to the world the best fruits of his brain and heart. No products of his later years, for purely poetic merit, surpass "Excelsior," "The Belfry of Bruges," "The Rainy Day," and "Mezzo Cammin." This last sonnet, written at Boppard on the Rhine in 1842, just before leaving for home, so nobly expresses the spirit of his life, that I cannot refrain from quoting it:

Half of my life is gone, and I have let

The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.

Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;

Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past


Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,— A city in the twilight dim and vast, With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,— And hear above me on the autumnal blast The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

Here is true poetry, and with it a modesty equal to ihat of the youthful Milton. Was this lofty ambition ever realized? With all our admiration for Longfellow's gifts, we must hold that he was most successful in his shorter poems, and that he lacked the genius to construct an epic. His technical skill increased with years, but his creative power waned. Nor was he a dramatic poet . I do not now have in mind "The Spanish Student," which is a comparatively juvenile production, with romantic reminiscences of Byron and of Goethe, though it lacks the sentiment of the one and the fire of the other. I refer to such works as " Evangeline," " Hiawatha," " The Courtship of Miles Standish," and most of all, to what Longfellow intended to make the great and final work of his life, his poem entitled "Christus." Let me say a word of each of these in succession. "Evangeline" is an idealization of true love, with its patience and faithfulness. The Acadian maiden, separated from her lover on their marriage day, seeks him for years, only to find him at last an old man dying in a hospital:

Vainly he strove to whisper her name, for the accents

unuttered Died on his lips, and their motion revealed what his tongue

would have spoken. Vainly he strove to rise; and Evangeline, kneeling beside him, Kissed his dying lips, and laid his head on her bosom.


Sweet was the light of his eyes; but it suddenly sank into

darkness, As when a lamp is blown out by a gust of wind at a casement.

"Evangeline" is probably the most popular of our poet's works. It stirs deep founts of feeling, and the pathos of the story is undeniable. Hawthorne gave Longfellow the theme, but our poet worked it out in verse. The hexameter has never been better domesticated in English. Goethe's "Hermann and Dorothea " is its only poetical rival, and the work of Goethe is inferior in its direct appeal to the heart. The power of " Evangeline" is proved by an ever-1ncreasing influx of pilgrims into Nova Scotia, and an ever-increasing interest in the haunts of Gabriel and Evangeline. Grand-Pre and the Basin of Minas are consecrated localities. Though the "forest primeval" has now disappeared, the traveler still imagines the scene as it was two centuries ago, and repeats to himself the words with which the poet begins his story:

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the

hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the

twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their


"The Song of Hiawatha," more than any other work of literature, more even than the novels of Cooper, preserves to us the spirit and the life of the American Indian. The Finnish poem of " Kalevala" suggested the meter, and Schoolcraft's "Algic Researches" furnished most of the legends. There is a


religious element in the story, which shows the bent of Longfellow's mind in matters of theology, and which we must not fail to take account of. In his "Introduction," he makes appeal to the reader:

Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened;—
Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

The story of Hiawatha's Childhood, his Fasting, his Friends, his Sailing, his Fishing, his Wooing, his Wedding-feast, of the Ghosts, the Famine, the White Man's Foot, and of Hiawatha's Departure, is an idealized picture of Indian life and Indian religion. The poet has contradicted the dreadful doctrine that the only good Indian is a dead Indian, and has taught us anew that "in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto him ":

Thus departed Hiawatha,
Hiawatha the Beloved,
In the glory of the sunset,
In the purple mists of evening,
To the regions of the home-wind.
Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin,
To the Islands of the Blessed,
To the Kingdom of Ponemah,
To the Land of the Hereafter.


"The Courtship of Miles Standish" is a kind of Puritan pastoral, the scene of which is laid, as the poem relates, " In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth, the land of the Pilgrims." John Alden undertakes to win the heart of Priscilla for Miles Standish, although John himself loves her, and only out of loyalty to his friend has undertaken to speak for another:

But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language, Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival. Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with

laughter, Said, in a tremulous voice, " Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"

And so, all unexpectedly, John Alden wins his bride, and takes her to his home. The hard life of the Pilgrims is seen to have had its sunshine as well as its shadows:

Like a picture it seemed of the primitive, pastoral ages, Fresh with the youth of the world, and recalling Rebecca and

Isaac, Old and yet ever new, and simple and beautiful always, Love immortal and young in the endless succession of lovers. So through the Plymouth woods passed onward the bridal


All these longer poems fail to reach the highest mark, by reason of their very profuseness and facility. There is in them too much of merely superficial outflow. They lack intensity and condensation. This is particularly true in that poem which Longfellowwished to be his greatest—the poem entitled "Christus." It was to be an idealized history of Christianity,


in apostolic, medieval, and modern times, and was to illustrate successively the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The apostolic portion of the work is called "The Divine Tragedy." This is little more than a somewhat commonplace versification of the story of the Gospels. The second part is entitled " The Golden Legend." It aims to show that, through the darkness of the Middle Ages, there ran a stream of faith, which preserved the apostolic tradition. The third part is called "The New England Tragedies," and this presents to us Puritans and Quakers, as still aiming to subdue the world, and to bring in the kingdom of, God. The conception is noble, and the execution is often interesting. Yet we must confess that our attention sometimes flags. No paraphrase, whether metrical or prosaic, can improve upon the simple narrative of the Gospels. "The Golden Legend" is an imitation, possibly unconscious, of the second part of Goethe's "Faust," with its symbolic and supernatural paraphernalia—a diffuse and dreary application of the Christian "Legend " to actual life. "The New England Tragedies" come nearest to reality, and seem the only permanently valuable part of the lengthy poem. The fundamental defect in this trilogy is its insufficient estimate of Jesus Christ. He is the gentle and sympathizing friend, the model of virtue, the worker of wonders, yes, even the man of sorrows; but he is not what the New Testament represents him to be—Immanuel, God with us, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. His preexistence, incarnation, atonement, and omnipresence with his people, are ignored. One might read "Christus"


from beginning to end, and never learn that it is he through whom alone God is revealed, and that only he is the medium through whom God creates, upholds, and redeems. The result is that Christianity is only a "Golden Legend," and there is no personal and present Christ in Christian history. A mythological atmosphere envelops the whole story, and it seems only a poet's dream. The fortitude and faith of Puritan and Quaker have no sufficient justification. Our poet's plan is too large for his material. His " Christus" is indeed a " Mystery "; for it gives no real explanation of Christianity, or of its permanence and progress in the world. Michelangelo had more insight into the secret, when he painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that majestic figure of the Creator in human form, and filled the whole end of that same chapel with the picture of Christ's Final Judgment. And Jonathan Edwards had greater insight still, when he planned a "History of Redemption," which began with eternity past, and concluded with eternity to come, but in which Christ was the only Revealer of God, the only Lord and King.

Longfellow had neither the genius, nor the faith, of Michelangelo or of Jonathan Edwards. His insufficient estimate of Jesus Christ was the logical consequence of his ignorance of the holiness of God, and of the deep damnation of human sin. Sin to him is a misfortune and a disease, but never guilt and ruin. The green apple needs only sunshine and rain to ripen it, for there is no worm at the heart. There needs no divine Saviour to redeem, no suffering of the Son of God to reveal the heart of the Father or to win the hearts of


men. The accusations of conscience and the fearful looking for of judgment are illusions of the unenlightened mind. Little sin means a belittled Christ; and of this belittled Christ Longfellow is the apostle.

Let us remember that the apostles of old were once in Longfellow's state of mind, and even in that state of mind did some preaching of the gospel. They were sent out on a trial-mission, before the resurrection and before Pentecost. They were Christians of an infantile sort, and they had learned some lessons in Christ's kindergarten. In spite of its defects, their message was good news, and it brought comfort to many hearts. So we are thankful for the elements of truth in the poetry of Longfellow, and we doubt not that his poetry has blessed the world. How much greater would have been its power, if he had grasped the truth that Christ is God manifest in the flesh, the atoning and omnipresent Saviour, the guiding force in human history, the arbiter of human destinies, before whom every knee in heaven and earth shall bow!

We betake ourselves to Longfellow's shorter poems for a more detailed account of his theology. His "Hymn for My Brother's Ordination " seems, at first sight, to be an expression of the common Christian faith:

Christ to the young man said: " Yet one thing more

If thou wouldst perfect be,
Sell all thou hast and give it to the poor,

And come and follow me!"

Within this temple Christ again, unseen,

Those sacred words hath said
And his invisible hands to-day have been

Laid on a young man's head. ,


And evermore beside him on his way

The unseen Christ shall move,
That he may lean upon his arm and say,

"Dost thou, dear Lord, approve?"

Beside him at the marriage feast shall be,

To make the scene more fair;
Beside him in the dark Gethsemane

Of pain and midnight prayer.

O holy trust! O endless sense of rest!

Like the beloved John
To lay his head upon the Saviour's breast,

And thus to journey on!

This is not a prayer to Christ, nor an assurance of his personal presence. It is rather an imaginative concession to traditional Christian feeling. Longfellow was no critic and no skeptic. He had no sympathy with agnosticism. His bent was rather toward the mystical element in Christianity. But the lack of an inward experience of the power of sin made all his religious conceptions ideal and poetical, rather than definite and practical. Whatever was sweet and beautiful pleased him, but he took no particular care to investigate its scientific value. He could appropriate, for purposes of poetry, mueh of the gospel idea of union with Christ, although he would have been unwilling to grant that this Christ is anything more than are other dear friends who have been long departed, but who, as we love to think, are still invisibly ministering to our good. He was as far from the true Christian mysticism as he was from sheer agnosticism. We may well compare his "Hymn for my Brother's Ordination " with the opening lines of Tennyson's " In


Memoriam," in which are asserted so strongly a faith in Christ's Creatorship and Lordship in the Universe, his possession of the Truth of which human philosophies are only fitful gleams, and his rightful claim to the absolute submission of every human will:

"Strong Son of God, immortal Love,

Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

"Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

"Thou seemest human and divine,

The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

"Our little systems have their day;

They have their day and cease to be;

They are but broken lights of thee,

And thou, O Lord, art more than they."

Longfellow could never have subscribed to this utterance, and still less could he have taken upon his lips the sublime confession of the apostle Paul: "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me." Paul believed in Christ's deity and atonement, as Longfellow did not.

Indeed, we mark a growing tendency toward a pagan view of the world and of religious things, as the years


go on. German influences were strong, and to some extent Goethe was the poet's model. Unevangelical theology, in cutting loose from Christ's control, tends ever to a liberalism which denies special revelation, and regards Christianity as only one of many natural religions, no one of which has proper claim to inspiration or supremacy. The classical mythology becomes even more satisfying, to this abnormal taste, than are the definite and authoritative demands of a historic revelation. "The Masque of Pandora " is the heathen version of the Fall of Man. When Pandora is tempted to open the box in which are imprisoned all the future ills of humanity, she speaks to her own heart:

No one sees me,
Save the all-seeing Gods, who, knowing good
And knowing evil, have created me
Such as I am, and filled me with desire
Of knowing good and evil like themselves.
I hesitate no longer. Weal or woe,
Or life or death, the moment shall decide.

She lifts the lid, and the evil is done:

Fever of the heart and brain,
Sorrow, pestilence, and pain,
Moans of anguish, maniac laughter,
All the evils that hereafter
Shall afflict and vex mankind,
All into the air have risen
From the chambers of their prison;
Only Hope remains behind.

Now Pandora is a prey to anguish and to fear. Conscience witnesses against her, and the Eumenides, the Furies, threaten. Pandora resigns herself to their chastisement:


Me let them punish.
Only through punishment of our evil deeds,
Only through suffering, are we reconciled
To the immortal Gods and to ourselves.

But the Eumenides reply:

Never by lapse of time

The soul defaced by crime
Into its former self returns again;

For every guilty deed

Holds in itself the seed
Of retribution and undying pain.

Evangelical theology does not grant that God created men such as they now are, or that he "filled them with desire of knowing good and evil like himself." It holds that this longing for that which is forbidden is the consequence and the penalty of man's free choice to disobey, instead of letting God's will rule within him. And evangelical theology does not grant that suffering the punishment of his evil deeds of itself reconciles man either to God or to himself. There must be also God's own suffering on man's account, and the renewing of man's spirit by the Spirit of God. If by "Helios," in this poem, is meant "the Sun of Righteousness," Jesus Christ, we may subscribe to its last stanza, and give it a Christian interpretation:

Never shall be the loss

Restored, till Helios
Hath purified them with his heavenly fires;

Then what was lost is won,

And the new life begun,
Kindled with nobler passions and desires.

"Hermes Trismegistus" seems to be a confession that the poet despaired of any solution of the mysteries of existence, and that his final attitude was that of the


agnostic. Only Christ holds in his girdle the key to those mysteries, and to call him only a human being like ourselves is to leave ourselves in mental and moral darkness. This poem of "Hermes Trismegistus" is one of the last which our poet wrote, and it shows that he needed greater light. His " Hermes " is apparently identical with himself:

By the Nile I see him wandering,

Pausing now and then,
On the mystic union pondering

Between gods and men;
Half believing, wholly feeling,

With supreme delight.
How the gods, themselves concealing,

Lift men to their height.

Who shall call his dreams fallacious?

Who has searched or sought
All the unexplored and spacious

Universe of thought?
Who, in his own skill confiding,

Shall with rule and line
Mark the border-land dividing

Human and divine?

Thine, O priest of Egypt, lately

Found I in the vast,
Weed-encumbered, sombre, stately,

Grave-yard of the Past;
And a presence moved before me

On that gloomy shore,
As a waft of wind, that o'er me

Breathed, and was no more.

Longfellow's faith was simply a faith in the historic value of Christ's human example. This is a minor point in Christian doctrine, yet it is an essential


point, and such faith as this, though fragmentary, may have great influence over life and conduct. I see the influence of it in our poet's own life, and in his writing. Without this faith, I doubt whether his "Poems on Slavery" could ever have been written. They came short of the fire and fury which abolitionists like Garrison demanded. But they appealed to the Christian conscience on behalf of the oppressed, and their very calmness and sympathy moved many who, like Sumner, could not be revolutionists. It is almost amusing to remember that Whittier urged Longfellow to be a candidate for Congress, as he himself once proposed to be. The poet declined, with the words: " Partisan warfare becomes too violent, too vindictive, for my taste." He could praise Channing's denunciations of slavery, and his prophecies of its downfall, and could entreat him to

Go on, until this land revokes

The old and chartered Lie,
The feudal curse, whose whips and yokes

Insult humanity.

But he himself could better serve the cause by such pathetic verses as those in which he describes the selling to a slave-dealer, by her own father, of "The Quadroon Girl":

His heart within him was at strife

With such accursed gains:
For he knew whose passions gave her life,

Whose blood ran in her veins.

But the voice of nature was too weak;

He took the glittering gold!
Then pale as death grew the maiden's cheek,

Her hands as icy cold.


The Slaver led her from the door,

He led her by the hand,
To be his slave and paramour

In a strange and distant land.

If Whittier was our poet of Liberty, Longfellow was our poet of Union. In the days that were to come, it was quite as important that national solidarity should be preserved, as that freedom should be given to the slave. No utterance in our literature has had more lasting influence than Longfellow's poem, " The Building of the Ship." The closing stanza of it is one of his noblest:

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!

Sail on, O Un1on, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years.

Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

We know what Master laid thy keel,

What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,

Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,

What anvils rang, what hammers beat.

In what a forge and what a heat

Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!

Fear not each sudden sound and shock,

'Tis of the wave and not the rock;

'Tis but the flapping of the sail,

And not a rent made by the gale!

In spite of rock and tempest's roar,

In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,

Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,

Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,

Are all with thee,—are all with thee!

And to this chant in praise of Union must be added his prophecy of universal Peace. "The Arsenal at


Springfield" has ever since been quoted by those who are " warlike against war ": t

Down the dark future, through long generations,
The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;

And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,

I hear once more the voice of Christ say, " Peace!"

Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals
The blast of War's great organ shakes the skies!

But beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of love arise.

The peace which Longfellow desired was not simply peace within our own borders. It was world-wide and universal peace. He was not, and he did not desire to be, a merely national poet. In " Kavanagh " he said:

Nationality is a good thing to a certain extent, but universality is better. All that is best in the great poets of all countries is not what is national in them, but what is universal. Their roots are in their native soil; but their branches wave in unpatriotic air, that speaks the same language to all men, and their leaves shine with the illimitable light that pervades all lands.

In this somewhat florid and rather obscure utterance of his youth, Longfellow wisely held that the true poet appeals to the universal instincts of humanity. He brings men back to nature. But can Art redeem? There are poems in which our poet seems to intimate this, and so, to magnify his office. "Keramos " gives us his conception of Art:

Art is the child of Nature; yes,
Her darling child, in whom we trace
The features of the mother's face,

246 Longfellow's Gen1us Representat1ve

Her aspect and her attitude;
All her majestic loveliness
Chastened and softened and subdued
Into a more attractive grace,
And with a human sense imbued.

He is the greatest artist, then,

Whether of pencil or of pen,

Who follows Nature. Never man,

As artist or as artisan,

Pursuing his own fantasies,

Can touch the human heart, or please.

Or satisfy our nobler needs,

As he who sets his willing feet

In Nature's footprints, light and fleet,

And follows fearless where she leads.

To this we reply that our true nature can be understood and interpreted only when we recognize our sin, and accept God's remedy for sin in Christ . The lack of this fundamental knowledge makes Longfellow's poetry comparatively weak and superficial. He deals with results, but not with causes. His Christianity has no Cross of divine sacrifice, and so furnishes no refuge for the guilty, and no dynamic for the saved. He has not grappled with the deepest problems, and he cannot stir the deepest emotions. Creative power in the poet is inseparable from religious experience; Longfellow's genius therefore is representative rather than creative; he cannot be ranked with the great poets of all time; he must be counted only the chief sweet singer of America.

The poem entitled " Michael Angelo" is interesting, in this connection, and that for two reasons. It is a posthumous work, found in the author's desk after his decease, and it is almost autobiographical. It cer


tainly gives us his latest views with regard to the philosophy of art in general, and by inference, the philosophy of poetry in particular. There are intimations in it that our poet realized the nearness of his end, and was eager to improve every passing hour. We can hear him speaking, in the words he puts into the mouth of the great painter, sculptor, and architect, as he meditates upon the glories of old Rome:


Yes, malaria of the mind,
Out of this tomb of the majestic Past;
The fever to accomplish some great work
That will not let us sleep. I must go on
Until I die.

How will men speak of me when I am gone,

When all this colorless, sad life is ended,

And I am dust? They will remember only

The wrinkled forehead, the marred countenance,

The rudeness of my speech, and my rough manners,

And never dream that underneath them all

There was a woman's heart of tenderness;

They will not know the secret of my life,

Locked up in silence, or but vaguely hinted

In uncouth rhymes, that may perchance survive

Some little space in memories of men!

Each one performs his life-work, and then leaves it;

Those that come after him will estimate

His influence on the age in which he lived.

Not events
Exasperate me, but the funest conclusions
I draw from these events; the sure decline
Of art, and all the meaning of that word;
All that embellishes and sweetens life,
And lifts it from the level of low cares
Into the purer atmosphere of beauty.


In the " Dedication^" to this poem, I find one of the best statements of Longfellow's conception of his own work. He was rebuilding the ruins of a noble past, and reviving for his own generation the beauty and the pathos that had stirred the hearts of men in olden time. This particular sonnet has a literary charm which ranks our poet among the most finished workmen of the world, and for that reason also I take pleasure in quoting it at length:

Nothing that is shall perish utterly,
But perish only to revive again
In other forms, as clouds restore in rain
The exhalations of the land and sea.

Men build their houses from the masonry
Of ruined tombs; the passion and the pain
Of hearts, that long have ceased to beat, remain
To throb in hearts that are, or are to be.

So from old chronicles, where sleep in dust
Names that once filled the world with trumpet tones,
I build this verse; and flowers of song have thrust

Their roots among the loose disjointed stones,
Which to this end I fashion as I must.
Quickened are they that touch the Prophet's bones.

"The faith in the Ideal," of which Longfellow speaks in this poem, was the faith that led him on. The words of his " Michael Angelo," modest as they are, seem to express his own modest feeling, as he looked back to his working days:

Come back to me the days when, as a youth,
I walked with Ghirlandajo in the gardens
Of Medici, and saw the antique statues,
The forms august of gods and godlike men,
And the great world of art revealed itself


To my young eyes. Then all that man hath done
Seemed possible to me. Alas! how little
Of all I dreamed of has my hand achieved!

In many ways, "Michael Angelo" is the most mature work of the poet, although it lacks the spontaneity and simplicity of his youth. In learning and in thought, he was never so well equipped as when he wrote this poem. After eighteen years of service in his chair at Harvard, he had resigned his professorship, and had devoted himself exclusively to poetry. Europe as well as America had come to recognize Tennyson and himself as the two greatest poets of the nineteenth century. England and the United States were united by a new tie, when Longfellow's name became a household word in both countries. He achieved this fame and influence by being, not provincial in his sympathies, but universal. I find the proof of this in his generous estimate of the works of others, and specially in the noble tribute which he renders to Tennyson, his only rival in the suffrages of the English-speaking world:

Poet! I come to touch thy lance with mine;
Not as a knight, who on the listed field
Of tourney touched his adversary's shield
In token of defiance, but in sign

Of homage to the mastery, which is thine,

In English song; nor will I keep concealed
And voiceless as a rivulet frost-congealed,
My admiration for thy verse divine.

Not of the howling dervishes of song,

Who craze the brain with their delirious dance,
Art thou, O sweet historian of the heart!

Therefore to thee the laurel-leaves belong,
To thee our love and our allegiance,
For thy allegiance to the poet's art.



Longfellow's kindly spirit was shown in his reception of criticism. There was much to try a vain or rancorous soul. "Hiawatha" was easily parodied, and its hero was dubbed " Milgenwatha." Twice our poet was accused of plagiarism; once for having stolen the tale of " Martin Franc, or the Monk of St . Anthony," from George Colman's " Knight and Friar "; and again by Edgar Allan Poe, for having passed off a ballad of Motherwell, "The Bonnie George Campbell," as his own translation from the German. Our author replied to the first accusation that he had, without knowledge of Colman's work, simply used the same material that Colman himself had used. To the second accusation, accompanied by Poe's declaration that "Longfellow zvill steal, though perhaps he cannot help it," he replied that he had found the ballad in a German collection, with no indication of its being a translation, and that he had simply put it into English, without claiming authorship. Poe was informed of his error, but he never made reparation.

I am specially interested in our poet's relations with Emerson. The two were never intimate, though they were never on unfriendly terms. Longfellow could not sympathize with Emerson's transcendentalism, or with the disjointedness of his thinking. He speaks of Emerson's " Essays," as "full of prose poetry, magnificent absurdities, and simple truths." "But it is impossible," he adds, "to see any connection in the ideas." In his diary he writes:

Hear Emerson's lecture on Holiness, which he defines to be "the breath of the Soul of the world." This lecture is a great bugbear to many pious, feeble souls. Not exactly DEATH OF LONGFELLOW S CHILD 251

comprehending it (and who does?) they seem to be sitting in the shadow of some awful atheism or other. . . This evening Emerson lectured on the "Affections"; a good lecture. He mistakes his power somewhat, and at times speaks in oracles, darkly. He is vastly more of a poet than a philosopher.

Received from Emerson a copy of his Poems. F. read it to me all the evening and until late at night. It gave us the keenest pleasure; though many of the pieces present themselves Sphinxlike, and, "struggling to get free their hinder-parts," offer a very bold front and challenge your answer. Throughout the volume, through the golden mist and sublimation of fancy, gleam bright veins of purest poetry, like rivers running through meadows. Truly a rare volume; with many exquisite poems in it, among which I should cull out "Monadnock," "Threnody," "The Humble-Bee," as containing much of the quintessence of poetry.

Longfellow was a man of deep feeling, but he did not wear his heart on his sleeve. Affectionate and gentle in his nature, he could not be demonstrative about the things that touched him most. One of the most pathetic experiences of his life was the loss of his little daughter Fanny. He had comforted himself with the hymn:

Give to the winds thy fears;

Hope, and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears;

God shall lift up thy head.

But after a day of agony, in which the child lay motionless, with only a little moan now and then,

At half past four this afternoon she died. F. and M. sat with me by her bedside. Her breathing grew fainter, fainter, then ceased without a sigh, without a flutter,—perfectly quiet, perfectly painless. The sweetest expression was on her face. 252 SCANTY MATERIAL FOR LONGFELLOW S THEOLOGY

The room was full of angels where she lay;
And when they had departed she was gone.

And a full month after, he writes in his diary:

I feel very sad to-day. I miss very much my dear little Fanny. An inappeasable longing to see her comes over me at times, which I can hardly control.

It is not to be expected that we should find, either in his prose or in his poetry, any very definite state ments of his theological or religious beliefs. He was no dogmatist—he rather doubted the possibility of expressing the mysterious relations of the finite spirit with the infinite Spirit from whom it came, and in whom it lives. If he had had a more pronounced belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures, or had had a more profound Christian experience, he could have left to us more material from which to construct his theological system. Both Bryant and Whittier have given us many hymns for our Christian worship. Longfellow is not so prolific. But who can fail to recognize the Christian spirit of his early poem, "Blind Bartimeus "?

Blind Bartimeus at the gates

Of Jericho in darkness waits;

He hears the crowd;—he hears a breath

Say, "It is Christ of Nazareth!"

And calls, in tones of agony,

'Itjooo, lXli)o6v {is!

The thronging multitudes increase;
Blind Bartimeus, hold thy peace!
But still, above the noisy c.owd,
The beggar's cry is shrill and loud;
Until they say, " He calleth thee!"
8dpas1; eye1pat, </imvsi as t


Then saith the Christ, as silent stands
The crowd, " What wilt thou at my hands?"
And he replies, " Oh, give me light!
Rabbi, restore the blind man's sight!"
And Jesus answers, "Yitayt •
'H itttrrts 000 atamxi at t

Ye that have eyes, yet cannot see,
In darkness and in misery,
Recall those mighty Voices Three,
'/ijffoD, iXir/adv /xt /
Odpatt, tyt1pa1, uxayt I
'H starts auu alawxl at!

I know of no poet who has written so little that is professedly Christian, and whose poetry is notwithstanding so shot through and through with the Christian spirit. It seems as if the same Saviour who had cleansed him had also bidden him, "See that thou tell no man!" He had undoubtedly a prejudice against a forthputting and demonstrative evangelicism. But the atmosphere of his poems is the atmosphere of gospel truth. There is a tenderness and compassion not to be found in pagan or agnostic literature. The last stanza of "Christus" best expresses the innermost thought of the poet:

From all vain pomps and shows,

From the pride that overflows,

And the false conceits of men;

From all the narrow rules

And subtleties of Schools,

And the craft of tongue and pen;

Bewildered in its search,

Bewildered with the cry:

Lo, here! lo, there, the Church!

Poor, sad Humanity

Through all the dust and heat


Turns back with bleeding feet.
By the weary road it came,
Unto the simple thought
By the great Master taught,
And that remaineth still:
Not he that repeateth the name,
But he that doeth the will!

I am persuaded that in the First Interlude of " Christus," our poet is in like manner expressing his own religious convictions:

My work is finished; I am strong
In faith, and hope, and charity;
For I have written the things I see,
The things that have been and shall be,
Conscious of right, nor fearing wrong;
Because I am in love with Love,
And the sole thing I hate is Hate;
For Hate is death; and Love is life,
A peace, a splendor from above;
And Hate, a never-ending strife,
A smoke, a blackness from the abyss
Where unclean serpents coil and hiss!
Love is the Holy Ghost within;
Hate the unpardonable sin!
Who preaches otherwise than this,
Betrays his Master with a kiss!

This is not Epicureanism or Stoicism, but faith in an overruling divine Providence, and in the Christ who has manifested God to men. On a visit to his old home in Portland, he wrote, in his diary, of the silvery reflection of the moonlight on the sea:

Among other thoughts we had this cheering one, that the whole sea was flashing with this heavenly light, though we saw it only in a single track; the dark waves are the dark providences of God; luminous, though not to us; and even to ourselves in another position.


I am therefore not willing to take the closing words of "Michael Angelo" as the final expression of the poet's feeling in view of his approaching end. "Michael Angelo" is called, in its very title, "A Fragment"; and it was unfinished at the poet's death. It certainly gives us a dark picture of unfulfilled ambition:

Life hath become to me
An empty theater,—its lights extinguished,
The music silent, and the actors gone;
And I alone sit musing on the scenes
That once have been. I am so old that Death
Oft plucks me by the cloak, to come with him;
And some day, like this lamp, shall I fall down,
And my last spark of life will be extinguished.
Ah me! ah me! what darkness of despair!
So near to death, and yet so far from God!

"Morituri Salutamus " is a notable poem, both for its occasion and for its expression of Longfellow's thoughts in view of death. Its title is the words of the Roman gladiators, as they came to their final fight in the arena. It was written for the fiftieth anniversary of his college class, and it was actually delivered before them:

"O Caesar, we who are about to die
Salute you!" was the gladiators' cry
In the arena, standing face to face
With death and with the Roman populace.

Young men, whose generous hearts are beating high,
We who are old, and are about to die,
Salute you; hail you; take your hands in ours,
And crown you with our welcome as with flowers.

256 Longfellow's Bel1ef 1n 1mmortal1ty

What then? Shall we sit idly down and say
The night hath come; it is no longer day?
The night hath not yet come; we are not quite
Cut off from labor by the failing light;
Something remains for us to do or dare;
Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear;
Not CEdipus Coloneus, or Greek Ode,
Or tales of pilgrims that one morning rode
Out of the gateway of the Tabard Inn,
But other something, would we but begin;
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.

When he revisited Brunswick in the summer of 1875, he wrote a sonnet as he viewed the funeral-stone that marked the resting-place of Parker Cleaveland, one of the best of his early friends. The closing lines of that sonnet declare Longfellow's firm belief in immortality:

With fond affection memory loves to dwell
On the old days, when his example made
A pastime of the toil of tongue and pen;
And now, amid the groves he loved so well

That naught could lure him from their grateful

He sleeps, but wakes elsewhere, for God hath
said, Amenl

And yet I turn to Longfellow's earliest poems for my clearest proofs that he believed in another life beyond the grave. In his later years he grew more thoughtful, but also more reticent, with regard to the great problems of existence. The day for easygoing faith had passed. Controversy had raged around him. He had little interest in theological discussion—it seemed to him of less importance to define what is be


yond us, than to practise what we already know. But he would have been more or less than human, if he had been unaffected by the strife. It made him less and less inclined to dogmatic utterance, or to express the deepest feelings of his soul. The poems of his early days, however, were never withdrawn or disavowed; and they remain to us as spontaneous and genuine expressions of religious feeling though they are entirely free from hackneyed phraseology and from sentimental exaggeration. In "The Beleaguered City" he wrote:

I have read, in the marvellous heart of man,

That strange and mystic scroll.
That an army of phantoms vast and wan

Beleaguer the human soul.

And, when the solemn and deep church-bell

Entreats the soul to pray,
The midnight phantoms feel the spell,

The shadows sweep away.

Down the broad Vale of Tears afar

The spectral camp is fled;
Faith shineth as a morning star,

Our ghastly fears are dead.

If we seek evidence of our poet's belief in an immortal life beyond the grave, we may find it in that "Psalm of Life" which, more than any other of Longfellow's poems, drew to him first of all the admiration and affection of his youthful contemporaries:

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.

In "The Reaper and the Flowers," he comforts the mother who has lost her child:

There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,

And, with his sickle keen,
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,

And the flowers that grow between.

"My Lord, has need of these flowerets gay,"

The Reaper said, and smiled;
"Dear tokens of the earth are they,

Where He was once a child."

And the mother gave, in tears and pain,

The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again

In the fields of light above.

"The Light of Stars " witnesses that even in the midst of earthly losses and trials the soul may be hopeful and quiet:

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 ere long,
Know how sublime a thing it is

To suffer and be strong.


"Flowers " teach lessons of symbolic lore to those who can read them:

Spake full well, in language quaint and olden,
One who dwelleth by the castled Rhine,

When he called the flowers, so blue and golden,
Stars, that in earth's firmament do shine.

Wondrous truths, and manifold as wondrous,
God hath written in those stars above;

But not less in the bright flowerets under us
Stands the revelation of his love.

And the Poet, faithful and far-seeing,
Sees, alike in stars and flowers, a part

Of the self-same, universal being,
Which is throbbing in his brain and heart.

And with childlike, credulous affection,
We behold their tender buds expand;

Emblems of our own great resurrection,
Emblems of the bright and better land.

Longfellow translated from other languages many poems which he would not have ventured to write in his own name. What shall we say of the verses in "Coplas de Manrique " which follow?

To One alone my thoughts arise,

The Eternal Truth, the Good and Wise,

To Him I cry,

Who shared on earth our common lot,

But the world comprehended not

His deity.

Yes, the glad messenger of love,
To guide us to our home above,


The Saviour came;
Born amid mortal cares and fears,
He suffered in this vale of tears
A death of shame.

"O thou, that for our sins didst take
A human form, and humbly make
Thy home on earth;
Thou, that to thy divinity
A human nature didst ally
By mortal birth,

"And in that form didst suffer here
Torment, and agony, and fear,
So patiently;

By thy redeeming grace alone,
And not for merits of my own,
Oh, pardon me!"

And what shall we say of such sweet and reposeful words as those in which our poet has translated, from the German of Salis-Seewis, his " Song of the Silent Land"?

Into the Silent Land!

Ah! who shall lead us thither?

Clouds in the evening sky more darkly gather,

And shattered wrecks lie thicker on the strand.

Who leads us with a gentle hand

Thither, oh, thither,

Into the Silent Land?

Into the Silent Land!

To you, ye boundless regions

Of all perfection! Tender morning-visions

Of beauteous souls! The Future's pledge and band!

Who in Life's battle firm doth stand,

Shall bear Hope's tender blossoms

Into the Silent Land.

L1m1ts Op Longfellow's Theology 261

O Land! O Land!

For all the broken-hearted

The mildest herald by our fate allotted,

Beckons, and with inverted torch doth stand

To lead us with a gentle hand

To the land of the great Departed,

Into the Silent Land.

These translations show a comprehensive appreciation of other faiths, even if they do not show the drift of the poet's own beliefs. His kindly and sympathetic nature entered into the feelings of others, and interpreted them as efforts to grasp and express the truth. "He that is not against us is for us," might have been his motto. He was a poet of humanity, but not of divinity. Humanity, to some extent, indeed, reveals divinity. Unfortunately, our present humanity is neither normal nor true. It is only a partial revelation of God. We need the perfect humanity of Christ to instruct us; and, without knowledge of our sin, we cannot fully appreciate him. Longfellow did see Christ, in some of his most winning attributes; and, because of this vision of a human ideal, he could interpret a people's heart, and could win their love. He would have been a greater poet, if he had apprehended Christ's divine nature, his revelation of God's righteousness, and his atonement for our sin. But he saw the beauty and the pathos of life. The gentle and tender elements in humanity he could appropriate and express. The background of divine holiness, which would have made life more solemn and significant, was beyond his ken.

Like Bryant, Longfellow found diversion and solace, after the death of his wife, in translating one of the great poets. But while Bryant took Homer, Long262 Longfellow's Translat1on Of Dante

fellow dealt with Dante. It would at first sight appear incongruous that so sweet and mellow a poet should put into English the horrors of the "Inferno "; and we must confess that Rossetti has, in that part of "The Divine Comedy," achieved a greater triumph than has Longfellow. But it can be said for our poet, that the smoothness and melody of the terza-rima found in him a grateful response, and he loved the very softness with which Dante clothes his images of terror. It is also true that Longfellow looked beneath the surface, and perceived that even Dante had no thought of mere physical torment as constituting the essences of punishment, either in this world or in the next; the "Inferno" is only a vast allegory, which describes eternal pangs of conscience under the figure of literal fire. So our poet could see, even in eternal suffering, the discipline of eternal love. All this becomes more manifest in his versions of the "Purgatorio" and of the "Paradise" Here Longfellow's style favors his subject, and critics have declared his work to be without a superior, in faithful rendering of both the substance and the form of the original. We can easily imagine the old man eloquent, cheering his days, as he drew near his end, with the spiritual and soul-subduing strains of Dante's " Purgatory " and "Paradise."

Our poet was sunny and genial to the last, though he was afflicted with rheumatism, and his days were never free from pain. When confined to his room, he delighted to receive and to entertain children. Charles Kingsley declared that his " face was the most beautiful he had ever seen." It was the noble expression


of a noble soul. When he died in 1882, at the age of seventy-five, America mourned his loss, as it had mourned the loss of no other of its literary sons. And the mourning was not confined to our own land. In the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, the bust of only one American has a place. It is the bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The benignant countenance looks down upon the tomb of Chaucer, and is midway between the memorials to Cowley and to Dryden. Its admission to that Valhalla is proof that Longfellow was recognized not simply as an American poet, but also as a poet of our whole English-speaking race. Another monument, less public but more affecting, is the tribute which James Russell Lowell wrote on Longfellow's sixtieth birthday, and which sums up most admirably the spirit of his life and work:

"I need not praise the sweetness of his song,
Where limpid verse to limpid verse succeeds
Smooth as our Charles, when, fearing lest he wrong
The new moon's mirrored skiff, he glides along,
Full without noise, and whispers in his reeds.

"With loving breath of all the winds his name
Is blown about the world, but to his friends
A sweeter secret hides behind his fame,
And Love steals shyly through the loud acclaim
To murmur a God bless you! and there ends."