This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 America needed just then, apparently, was some one who, like Longfellow, could carry on the work begun by Irving of interpreting the Old World to the New. The younger man was not only better endowed with the faculty of specific poetic utterance, but he was naturally more fully qualified than his predecessor to gratify the taste of a generation that was beginning to be affected by the work of the newer English romantic poets. Thus we are not surprised to find the Smith Professor writing poems on European subjects instead of grammars and histories of literature, and editing in place of textbooks a small collection of poems entitled The Waif (1843), a similar volume, The Estray (1847), and the comprehensive and useful Poets and poetry of Europe (1845). Even the thirty-one volumes of the much later Poems of places (1876-1879) with which Longfellow's name is more or less associated, bear witness to the influence of the teacher—poet's second sojourn in Europe both upon him and upon American culture. But the greatest influence of that sojourn, exhibited after he took up his duties at Harvard in December, 1836, is to be seen in the simple, wholesomely emotional, and unblushingly didactic poems with which Longfellow now began to win the hearts of his provincial readers. The Psalm of life is perhaps the best known and the best chosen example of these ‘household poems,’ shall we call them? With its companion pieces The Reaper and the flowers, The light of Stars, and Footsteps of Angels, it is undoubtedly amenable to some of the harsh Criticism it has received from those persons who seem to imagine that taste thrives only on its own exigency. But it is hard to see how verses of subtler quality would have so sung themselves through the length and breadth of young America, or could have laid so broad and deep a foundation for the fame of the most heartily loved poet of his generation. Long before that poet had reached the zenith of his reputation the professor had grown weary of his chair. At first he worked hard enough to justify weariness, particularly at the uncongenial task of supervising the instruction in the elementary language courses given by his assistants; but gradually, whatever enthusiasm he may have had for a scholarly, academic career wore itself out, and toward the end of his eighteen years of service—he resigned in 1854—he was almost querulous in
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.