Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Early on in a poet’s career development, influences lead him down the path to be an inspiring poet. One’s family, friends, foreign places they visited, and even other famous poets and authors, often help shape a poet’s professional writing style. In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s case, all of these motivators helped him become interested in writing. At night his mother would read him poems and stories that inspired him even more to write poetry. Henry was raised in a rural area with much open countryside. Henry’s friends pressured him to write one of his most famous poems “Evangeline”. As a child, Longfellow was very fascinated when he would travel to different places around the world and hear foreigners speak different languages and tell stories in their native tongue. The Author that really influenced him was Washington Irving. Henry said every good poet would have in his possession and use as a tool Irving’s first book. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow can thank his family and peers for helping him develop into one of the most admired poets.
“Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland Maine on February 27, 1807”(Beck 1). Henry was the second son of eight children in his family. His father, Stephen Longfellow, was a prominent lawyer and later a member of Congress. Henry’s mother, Zilpah Wadsworth, was the daughter of a Revolutionary war hero who was Henry’s grandfather that lived in Gorham. Henry lives with his grandfather during school and summer vacation. As Henry grew older, he married a woman named Mary Storer Potter a former classmate at Bowdoin College. In Henry’s second trip to Europe, his life was shaken when his wife Mary died. When this happened Henry spent a whole year in Germany and Switzerland morning his wife’s death. The whole year Henry spent in Germany and Switzerland he didn’t write any poetry at all.
After he came back to the United States from Germany and Switzerland, he met a woman named Frances Appleton. Henry proposed to her, however, Frances refused his proposal. “Frances finally accepted his proposal the following spring ushering in the happiest 18 years of Longfellow’s life”(Beck 1). This marriage with Frances gave Henry new confidence that he never had. In 1861, when the Civil War had just begun, Frances was sealing an envelope when her dress caught on fire. “Despite her husband desperate attempts to save Frances she died the next day”(Beck 1). After this happened, Longfellow lost the confidence he had gained and again didn’t publish any poetry for the next two years. After all these tragic years Longfellow went through, his health started to fail and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow died March 24, 1882 at the age of 75. He was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Even though Longfellow has died, his legacy still lives on.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow found inspiration for his poems in the forest, in the sea, and all over Portland, Maine. Henry didn’t just get inspiration for his poems from the environment, he also found inspiration through people he meet and admired. Henry spent school and summer vacations in Gorham, at his grandfather’s house. These times spent with his grandfather were among his most joyous and influential times in his life. His grandfather would tell him stories about the war, Indian fights, legends of that time, and how life was when he was a boy. One of Henry’s poems that were inspired by his grandfather was his first poem called “The Battle of Lovell’s Pond”. This poem was based on a story about the war that his grandfather told him. Henry’s grandfather was not the only family member that influenced him.
At night before Henry would go to sleep his mother would read aloud to him, his brothers, and his sisters. She would read from The High Romance of Ossian, the legendary Gallic hero. This is not the only book that Henry’s mother read to him she also read Washington Irving’s Sketch Book. Henry said that every aspiring poet would have Irving’s first book. Family was not the only people that influenced Longfellow, his friends also influenced him. His friends pressured Henry to write one of his most famous poems “Evangeline”. Nathaniel Hawthorne influenced Henry’s writing style and some of the content in this poem. Many people have different inspirations in their life and in Henry’s case it was mostly family and friends that helped shape his writing style and subjects.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made his poetry unique by vividly describing the typical American life by using words and phrases in a musical language that was easy to read and understand. He would frequently write about all the war stories and legends of the time that his grandfather told him as a child. When writing, Henry would use all different types of writing styles. His favorite style was free verse because he was able to tell stories with ease and he was able to describe his poetry in a way a reader could understand and relate to their own life. This is evident in his poem “The Village Blacksmith” when he writes, “And children coming home from school Look in at the open door; They love to see the flaming forge, And hear the bellows roar”(Henry 20). When Henry would write in free verse he wasn’t writing a poem based on a story he was writing a poem about his life and how he felt. He would look around at the nature anything around him and write about what he felt inside.
Henry was a great writer and was very unique in his own way and that is how he became so famous around the world. Overall it is easy to see that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a very famous and well-loved poet. Longfellow’s life was blessed with happiness and troubled by tragedy. Many times he stopped writing due to depressions however, he managed to return and continue to produce many famous poems. He had many influences and his own unique way of writing his poems using everyday happenings that Americans could relate to easily. His family and his friends influenced him with all the stories that they told him and the many famous literary works that were shared with him. Although Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was influenced by many famous poets and writers he is by far the only American writer of the 19th century to truly capture the culture of the time through his literary works.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 4 January 2017
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