previous next

[37] he made himself easily the chief American master. Neither in these earlier volumes, to which may be added The Belfry of Bruges and other poems (1846), nor in Evangeline (1847) and succeeding tales in verse, did Longfellow show himself to be a consummate metrical and verbal artist of the highest order or a poet of sustained imaginative flight; nor was he, in compensation, one of those writers who produce a strong effect through their subtle knowledge of human character or their exceptional ability to describe and interpret nature or their profound understanding of a country or a period. Yet even in these particulars he was capable of exhibiting distinguished merit—witness his command of the simpler rhythms, his wide reaching metrical experimentation, his feeling for the sea, his sympathetic attitude toward the Middle Ages displayed in The golden legend (1851), his presentation of the larger natural features of America in Evangeline—and in his lyrical appeal, especially through his semi-didactic poems of reflection and sentiment, as well as in his general narrative power, he was during his life, and he still remains, unapproached by any other American poet.

The years immediately preceding his second marriage in 1843 were partly devoted to the composition of a poetical drama in three acts, The Spanish student, which was published serially in 1842, and the next year was issued in book form. It is generally and justly regarded as a failure, since Longfellow exhibited neither in it nor in later poems cast in similar form —The New England tragedies (1868), Judas MacCABAEUSabaeus (1872), and Michael Angelo (1883),—the slightest trace of dramatic genius. A poet of literary derivation, so to phrase it, inspired by his own wide reading, and a useful transmitter of culture he could not help being from first to last, and his growing reputation naturally prompted him to undertake elaborate works in a form of art practised by preceding poets in every age. His countrymen were not exigent critics, and were inclined to resent it when he was accused, as by Poe and by Margaret Fuller, of unoriginality; latter-day readers are likely to skim, or else altogether to neglect the dramas that are protected from complete oblivion by the venerated and still venerable name. If they desire any justification for their conduct, such prudent readers may ejaculate ‘habent sua fata libelli,’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New England (United States) (1)
Bruges (Belgium) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (2)
Edgar Allan Poe (1)
Margaret Fuller (1)
Michael Angelo (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1883 AD (1)
1872 AD (1)
1868 AD (1)
1851 AD (1)
1847 AD (1)
1846 AD (1)
1843 AD (1)
1842 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: