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For centuries, many poets have graced the face of the earth and most of them have contributed immensely to the growth of different forms of poetry; one of the main branches of linguistics. The origin of poetry goes back to the Biblical days when poems were written in praise of kings and queens; one of the most read poems in the Bible (Old Testament) is the Song of Solomon written by King Solomon himself. In the modern world, some of the most celebrated poets of all time are, William Boyd, John Banville, Jeanette Winterson, Andrew Motion and the great William Shakespeare.
Purpose of the Term Paper
This term paper is going to focus on the life and works of one the greatest and most celebrated poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Henry was born on 27th February 1807 in Portland, his father was an attorney, a Harvard graduate and a public affairs activist while is mum was an American activist. At a tender age of three, he was enrolled in school together with his elder brother and he grew up just like any other child in the neighborhood. The young Longfellow got his writing inspiration from his father’s collection and at a tender of 13 years he made a debut in the poetry world with his first publication appearing in Portland Gazette on 13th November 1829, and it was simply titled “Henry”. Another major achievement of the young poet at the same age was that he passed the entrance examination to Bowdoin College to pursue further studies. This term paper will use three of his poems, Ladder of St. Augustine, A Psalm of Life and The Song of Hiawatha as part of references in the illustration of his life; however other poems of the author will be mentioned in the paper. The paper will close by giving a brief summary of the key points that would have been mentioned in the course of study.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Works and Life
The life and works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow have been captured in most of his works. He is one poet who used his poems to tell the readers about his life, how he lived it and at the same time the poems formed part of his poetry collection which were used for studies in schools and colleges; it therefore same to say that his poems were full of metaphors.
“The Ladder of St. Augustine”
According to Austin, as a child Henry Wadsworth Longfellow can be described as a child who was focused and had a vision in life (Austin, 1883). This can be seen in his decision to join school at a tender age of three years and there after progress to college and only 13 years. It is vital to also note that he joined school together with his elder brother Stephen and this shows how ambitious this young man was. In the “The Ladder of St. Augustine”, the poet explained that “we do not have wings so that we can soar like eagles but we have the feet to scale and climb and the mountain, a step at a time and we shall reach the summit”. The author used the 7th stanza of the poem to show the determination that he had to make it in life and make the world a better place than he found it.
Apart from the determination that the young Henry had to reach the peak of his career, it can also be observed that he had the willpower to follow his dreams, it is for this reason that he opted not to follow his dad’s footsteps and join the bar as a lawyer but rather he followed his dream and passion; poetry. To fulfill his dream, Kennedy has observed that as a young student he was willing to fund part of his studies from the funds he got from writings this is despite the fact that he had already been awarded a scholarship to pursue a course in literature (Kennedy, 1882).
In the 10th stanza of “The Ladder of St. Augustine”, the author wrote; “the achievements of a person in life cannot be attained by an overnight climb to the top but years of hard work and sacrifice”. This is the life that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow went through during his school days. The intellectual capability of the author is also one of the gifts that the Henry had; he had the mastery of different foreign languages which helped him in the composition of poems during his tours in Europe.
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“A Psalms of Life”
“A Psalms of Life” is a collection of the poems that are not only entertaining but they are educative at the same. There are several poems that the author classified as “Psalms” because of they were rich in wisdom, inspirational words and he gave most readers, especially his American readers a glimpse of how life is in other parts of Europe. For example the poem “The Skeleton in Armor” is a poem that was used by the author to show the unique link between the medieval Scandinavian war songs and the then New England antiquities, he wrote this poem when on tour in Europe. Another poem that Longfellow used to tell the public about his life was the sonnet; “Mezzo Cammin”, which he wrote in 1842 during his stay in German. This sonnet reflected on his past life, the tribulations and joys and how he was yet to accomplish his childhood dreams and ambitions despite the fact that he had already lived half of his youthful life. This can further be illustrated in the poem “A Psalm of Life” in the 4th Stanza of the poem where he appears to be remorseful, he explained that “art and poetry has no end and time was not on his side, in addition to that he says that although his heart is filled with braveness, it is heavy at the same time since as days go by so does life come to an end (Longfellow, 1839)”.
On a positive note thou, during his voyage in Europe he was able to connect with the audience and this gave him a sense of personal satisfaction. The last collection of poems that Longfellow wrote on his way back home after his stay in Europe was the “Poems of Slavery”, which talked about the negative issues that he went through (Longfellow, 1842).
It is every man and woman’s wish to one day walk down the aisle with the love of his/her life, and for the case of Longfellow this came sooner than expected, he married the love of his Frances Appleton on July 13th 1843 and they blessed with six children. The poetic life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took a different turn after marriage in that he dedicated most of his poems to love and relationship. “The Bridge” is a poem that the author wrote to show about his new life and the peace he had found after marriage, this was in contrast to his earlier life that was full of hectic schedules and little time to relax and mediate about life.
“The Song of Hiawatha”
The Song of Hiawatha is a long poetic narrative that has more than twenty sections each of which passes a message to the audience (Longfellow, 1855). It is important to note that of all the poems that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote during his life time, this is the longest of them all. The Song of Hiawatha tells of a story of different mixed cultures and their practices, the main character in the poem is Hiawatha who is an American Indian and one that the author has used to as a “bridging gap” between different religions and communities. One extra ordinary writing skill that the author used in the use of animals to represent different tribes and sub tribes.
Just like in the animal in the jungle, not all people on earth are equal, we are categorized differently depending on one’s economic, political and social status in the society; the higher you are on the mentioned scale, the more respect you command in the society; this is the same situation when it comes to the animal kingdom where the more fierce an animal is the more respect it has in the kingdom. For instance in the poem he has given an example of two bears that represent two different “communities”, Mudjkeewis defeated Mishe-Mokwa who was believed to be the great bear and the most feared of all. The Mishe-Mokwa defeat attracted criticism and ridicule from other “bears” for being a disgrace to the society.
The purpose of this metaphor was to pass a message to the reader that indeterminacy of human character is part of the human society; during that time however he used the American Indian community for convey the message. Marriage exposed another side of Longfellow that very few people were not aware of; love of children, he published the poem “The Children’s Hour” that he dedicated to his young daughters as well as other children around the universe.
Despite all the achievements that Henry had accomplished in his life, his family life was not smooth all along. In 1861 he lost his wife to a fire disaster that was caused by a candle as she was sealing packets of her daughters’ curls ignited dress. Longfellow himself suffered massive burns as he tried to save the life of his life and it took a few months before he was fully recovered. This was not the end of his tribulations, the following year he was traumatized when he learnt that his son Charles was wounded while fighting in the Union army and he spent most of his time in that year (1862) on the road going to visit his injured son. Being a person of strong spirit, he dedicated most of his free time composing more poems and the end result was a collection of poems that were titled “Tales of Wayside Inn” which were first released in 1863 (Longfellow, 1863).
The list of achievements of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow including Cambridge and Oxford University honorary degree awards is endless; he was honored and celebrated in almost all nations in Europe and all major schools in America. Streets have been named after him and statues constructed in his honor, schools were also named after him as a sign of respect for example; Hiawatha and Evangeline. The last publication that he released was “The Bells of San Blas” before he passed on a month after in 75th birthday due to phlebitis after a life well lived.
Summation of the Paper
The review of the life and work’s of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow cannot be easily exhausted because he was a man full of talent and content. There are many journals, magazines books and films describing the life and times of this great author; even thou most of his works are not read and used in the modern literally world but his contribution to the literally works and more specifically the growth and development of the poetry cannot be underestimated.
This term paper has extensively looked at the life and work of Longfellow; it has used examples from different poems (his works) to show how it affected his life. At the same some of events that happened in his life have been expressed in poetic form, “A Psalm of Life” is one poem that clearly shows this. Another poem that has been used in the paper to show about the life and works of Longfellow is “The Song of Hiawatha” which has been used to show about the different cultural lifestyles that communities live.
The last reference poem that has been focused on is the “Ladder of St. Augustine” which has been used to talk about the author’s early life and struggles as he tried to establish himself in the literature and poetry world. As an author and a father he was described by many as being kind, sympathizing, gently and an encouraging friend who was loved by many when he was alive and celebrated even more after his death.
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