Ballad of the Schooner Hesperus
, which he says, ‘I accordingly did. Then I went to bed, but could not sleep.
New thoughts were running in my mind, and I got up to add them to the ballad.
It was three by the clock.
I then went to bed and fell asleep.
I feel pleased with the ballad.
It hardly cost me an effort.
It did not come into my mind by lines, but by stanzas.’
A few weeks before, taking up a volume of Scott
's ‘Border Minstrelsy,’ he had received in a similar way the suggestion of ‘The Beleaguered City
’ and of ‘The Luck of Edenhall.’
We know by Longfellow
's own statement to Mr. W. C. Lawton
that it was his rule to do his best in polishing a poem before printing it, but afterwards to leave it untouched, on the principle that ‘the readers of a poem acquired a right to the poet's work in the form they had learned to love.’
He thought also that Bryant
hardly seemed happy in these belated revisions, and mentioned especially Bryant
As darkly limned upon the ethereal sky,
preferred the original reading ‘painted on.’
It is, however, rare to find a poet who can carry out this principle of abstinence, at least in his own verse, and we know