Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine on this day in 1807. His works include The Golden Legend, The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.
Longfellow was one of the most popular poets of his day. He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.
Longfellow died at the age of 75 in 1882. When Walt Whitman heard of the poet’s death, he wrote that, while Longfellow’s work “brings nothing offensive or new, does not deal hard blows,” he was the sort of bard most needed in a materialistic age: “He comes as the poet of melancholy, courtesy, deference—poet of all sympathetic gentleness—and universal poet of women and young people. I should have to think long if I were ask’d to name the man who has done more and in more valuable directions, for America.”
Care to read some of Longfellow works? Visit Special Collections located on the second floor of the Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room).