Monday, September 16, 2019

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow*

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—1882) is one of New England’s Fireside Poets, and the most popular poet of his day. He wrote many long narrative pieces, telling stories from mythology and history, such as “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Evangeline, in tightly structured poetic form. Much of his verse was produced for the entertainment of a wide range of people — an aspect of poetry that has been overtaken by less literary forms of writing today — which may explain his bent toward sentimentality.

Although, like most of his friends he was a member of the Unitarian Church, he was fascinated by Jesus and his claims to divinity, which was more in keeping with the beliefs of orthodox Christian denominations. Perhaps it was translating Dante’s Divine Comedy that had particularly influenced him. In 1872 his great work Christus: A Mystery appeared, which includes the Apostles Creed as placed in the mouths of various disciples after the resurrection. This would have been a surprising declaration to those in the Unitarian Church.

My Cathedral

Like two cathedral towers these stately pines
---Uplift their fretted summits tipped with cones;
---The arch beneath them is not built with stones,
---Not Art but Nature traced these lovely lines,
And carved this graceful arabesque of vines;
---No organ but the wind here sighs and moans,
---No sepulchre conceals a martyr's bones.
---No marble bishop on his tomb reclines.
Enter! the pavement, carpeted with leaves,
---Gives back a softened echo to thy tread!
---Listen! the choir is singing; all the birds,
In leafy galleries beneath the eaves,
---Are singing! listen, ere the sound be fled,
---And learn there may be worship without words.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.