Henry wads worth Longfellow was born on the 27 February, 1987 to Stephen Longfellow, a Portland attorney and Zilpah Longfellow. At a very young age, Henry demonstrated an aptitude for learning. He attended school at the early age of three years. Some of Henry’s favorite books were those with foreign settings like Robinson Crusoe. Portland Maine was a port city and Henry interacted with sailors who spoke French, Spanish, and Italian languages.
Stephen Longfellow wanted his son to follow him into the legal profession, but young Henry was in love with poetry. He used to marvel at the beauty of the countryside during his frequent visits to his grandparent’s farms. Henry went on to write his first poem at the age of thirteen which appeared in the Portland gazette. The activities at the port city nourished his imagination for distant places and he would transverse the Atlantic Ocean several times during his lifetime.
After being conferred with a professorship from Bowdoin College, Henry embarked on a three year tour across Europe. The journey enabled him to muster modern European languages, and on arrival wrote his Spanish book Outré-Mer: A pilgrimage beyond the sea.
Henry Longfellow was a very popular American poet and was loved world wide. One of the reasons for his fame arose from the simplicity of his works. His writings were composed of rhymes whose flow was easy to follow and did not require a lot of dedication to remember through out ones lifetime.
Another reason was his choice of themes which appealed to all people. His writings were not complex to understand, they found their way into the awareness of its readers. His writings also were also laced with joy, a sense of hope and belief in the kindness of life which brought to the fore quick response from those who consumed his writings.
Longfellow was the first American poet to incorporate local themes in his writings. His work contained American scenery and flora. In his work, Hiawatha, Henry writes about the American Indian, a theme which had not been utilized before. The ‘courtship of miles Standish ‘and ‘Evangeline’, talk of American past and traditions which were unutilized in poetry before. At the turn of the 19th century, America lagged in the development of a brand of culture which it could be identified with. Americans were more focused in creating a niche for themselves and freeing itself from the chains of colonial rule. The literature of the time was mainly European and American literature was not deemed interesting.
Henry was among the literary icons of the period described by Van Wyck Brooks as, “the flowering of New England”. With the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry David Thoreau, and William Prescott they are credited with exposing the literary greatness of New England. His contribution to this era was immense as he was among the great minds who were true ambassadors of America.
His popularity stems also from his role as a teacher. Just as he exposed American literary prowess to the rest of the world, Henry revealed to his students and the American populace at large the European literary tradition. He developed in them brand awareness of the literary writings of Spain, France, Italy and particularly German, Nordic, and Icelandic traditions.
To show case his popularity, Henry was awarded honorary degrees from the famous universities of Oxford and Cambridge; he also landed an invitation to Windsor from Queen Victoria for tea, and summoned by appeal upon the Prince of Wales. Henry was also taken as a member of the Spanish and Russian academies of sciences. He died on March 24, 1882 and Van Wyck Brooks summarized him thus, “of all the suns of the New England morning, he was the largest in his golden sweetness”.