Review: The poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A prolific writer of poetry and prose, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is remembered for classic poems like The Song of HiawathaEvangeline: A Tale of Acadie, and The Courtship of Miles Standish.  However, Longfellow’s many anthologies published throughout his lifetime have lesser known poems and ballads that are also beautifully composed and have stirring, dramatic content.  Longfellow never failed to include a moral lesson in each of his poems, and it is notable that most of his poems are tragedies.

The collection entitled Tales of a Wayside Inn is comprised of three separate parts originally published at different times in Longfellow’s life; the composition and storyline of the narrative is comparable to Chaucer’sThe Canterbury Tales.  The first part contains many notable works, and it is here that Longfellow’s famous poem Paul Revere’s Ride appears under the title The Landlord’s Tale: Paul Revere’s Ride.  The Sicilian’s Tale: King Robert of Sicily scorns the arrogance of monarchs by narrating the legend of an angel that usurped the throne of a king as God’s punishment.  The Spanish Inquisition and all its iniquities, as well as denied freedom of belief, are the subjects of the tragic story of The Theologian’s Tale: Torquemada, an expression of its author’s opinions about religious freedom.

The singular visits of death and life to every creature are pondered in such poems as A Psalm of LifeThe Two Angels, and The Slave’s Dream, which particularly decries the injustice of slavery.  The Children’s Hour is a warm, fatherly remembrance of Longfellow’s children through clever comparisons, but The Wreck of the Hesperus is a tragedy that relates a ship’s demise along with its passengers off the coast ofMassachusetts.

A signature trademark of Longfellow’s writing style is his quiet, careful analysis of each topic he discusses; his rich vocabulary, historical and literary references, and intelligent remarks within each poem bond together exquisitely with his skillful rhyming.  He demonstrates how well he understands humanity and life itself.  Longfellow’s proficiency as a writer gives him an undisputed place of honor as one of the greatest American poets who ever lived.

Original review: In honor of National Poetry Month: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,


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