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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow was born at Portland, Maine and graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. Longfellow travelled to Europe and eventually settled in as a professor of English literature at Harvard. "As a poet," as Chambers observes, "he was extremely popular during his lifetime and although his work lacks the real depth of great poetry, his gift of simple, romantic story telling in verse makes it still read widely and with pleasure." His two poems which people would immediately recognize as being ones written by Longfellow would be "The Wreck of the Hesperus" and "The Village Blacksmith."
|The day is done|
The day is done (fragment)
The day is done and the darkness
Falls from the wings of the Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness come o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartful lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, likethe Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by rain
With banners, by great gales incessant fann'd,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harness'd to thy wain;
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; royal hand
Outstreched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain,
Thy shield is red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'erhanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayer attended:
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!
Sadly as some old mediaeval knight
Gazed at the arms he could no longer wield,
The sword two-handed and the shining shield
Suspended in the hall, and full in sight,
While secret longings for the lost delight
Of tourney or adventure in the field
Came over him, and tears but half concealed
Trembled and fell upon his beard of white,
So I behold these books upon their shelf,
My ornaments and arms of other days;
Not wholly useless, though no longer used,
For they remind me of my other self,
Younger and stronger, and the pleasant ways
In which I walked, now clouded and confused.
1 As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
2 Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
3 Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
4 And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
5 Still gazing at them through the open door,
6 Nor wholly reassured and comforted
7 By promises of others in their stead,
8 Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
9 So Nature deals with us, and takes away
10 Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
11 Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
12 Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
13 Being too full of sleep to understand
14 How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions chat would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, half way up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,--
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights.--
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
Though the mills of God grind slowly,
yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting,
with exactness grinds He all.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
© 2000 Elena and Yacov Feldman