Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882

[Mentioned in Miscellaneous Writings, p. 271, and Retrospection and Introspection, p. 27]

Longfellow first won distinction as a scholar in Romance languages. Bowdoin College appointed him, one of its graduates, to its first professorship of modern languages. In preparation for this work he went abroad for three years. His extraordinary ability to learn languages made it possible for him to write his own French and Spanish textbooks, when he returned and found the available ones unsatisfactory. In order to introduce his students to the best, he made many translations of poem from other tongues. His aim in teaching was to reach "both the heart and the mind, but first the heart."

From Bowdoin, Longfellow went to Harvard, where he was Professor of Belles-Lettres. Again he went abroad, this time staying eighteen months. At Harvard he helped to prepare the way for graduate work in modern languages. More and more he turned to poetry for the expression of his feelings, and when he resigned from Harvard to write, he was already widely known as a poet. Ordinarily he did not write on topical themes. Notable exceptions are: 7 antislavery poems, "Santa Filomena," a tribute to "a lady with a lamp, or Florence Nightingale's heroic service in the Crimean War, and "The Building of the Ship," whose lines beginning,

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Signs of the Times
May 26, 1956

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