preface to his second volume of poems (‘Ballads and Other Poems’), a preface regarded by some good critics as Longfellow
's best piece of prose work.
It was, at any rate, impossible not to recognize a fresh and vigorous quality in a descriptive passage opening thus; and I can myself testify that it stamped itself on the memories of young readers almost as vividly as the ballads which followed:—
‘There is something patriarchal still lingering about rural life in Sweden
, which renders it a fit theme for song.
Almost primeval simplicity reigns over that northern land,—almost primeval solitude and stillness.
You pass out from the gate of the city, and, as if by magic, the scene changes to a wild, woodland landscape.
Around you are forests of fir. Overhead hang the long, fan-like branches, trailing with moss, and heavy with red
Under foot is a carpet of yellow leaves; and the air is warm and balmy.
On a wooden bridge you cross a little silver stream; and anon come forth into a pleasant and sunny land of farms.
Wooden fences divide the adjoining fields.
Across the road are gates, which are opened by troops of children.
The peasants take off their hats as you pass; you sneeze, and they cry, “God bless you.”
The houses in the villages and smaller towns are all built of hewn ’