His translation of the ‘Children of the Lord
's Supper’ had also served by way of preparation; and he had happened upon a specimen in ‘Blackwood
's Magazine’ of the hexameter translation of the ‘Iliad’ which had impressed him very much.
He even tried a passage of ‘Evangeline’ rendered into English pentameter verse, and thus satisfied himself that it was far less effective for his purpose than the measure finally adopted.
There is no doubt that the reading public at large has confirmed the opinion of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes
when he says, ‘Of the longer poems of our chief singer, I should not hesitate to select “Evangeline” as the masterpiece, and I think the general verdict of opinion would confirm my choice.
From the first line of the poem, from its first words, we read as we would float down a broad and placid river, murmuring softly against its banks, heaven over it, and the glory of the unspoiled wilderness all around.’
The words ‘This is the forest primeval’ have become as familiar, he thinks, as the ‘Arma virumque cano’ which opened Virgil's ‘Aeneid,’ and he elsewhere calls the poem ‘the tranquil current of these brimming, slow-moving, soulsatisfying lines.’
The subject was first suggested to Longfellow
, who had heard it from his friend, the Rev. H. L. Conolly
, and the