Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

peared in the 'Gazette,' for which payment was made at the rate of two dollars a column. Five of these early poems were reprinted in Voices of the Night.

At the Commencement of 1825 the trustees of Bowdoin had determined to establish a professorship of modern languages. The chair was promised Longfellow when he should have fitted himself for it by study abroad. He sailed from New York in May, 1826, provided by George Ticknor with letters of introduction to Irving, Eichhorn, and Southey. He travelled in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, mastered the Romance languages, planned certain prose volumes, and announced to his sister Elizabeth that his poetic career was finished. In August, 1829, he was back in America.

His appointment being confirmed and the stipend fixed at eight hundred dollars (together with

( another hundred for services as college librarian), Longfellow entered on his duties. During the next five and a half years he corrected bad French and Italian exercises, heard worse viva voce translations, in brief, was a pedagogue in all homely and trying senses of the word. With any one save a born drill-master the class-room soon loses novelty. In spite of the knowledge that he was useful in a chosen field of work, more than happy in his home-life (he had married, in 1831, Miss Mary Storer Potter of Portland), Longfellow felt the narrowness of his surroundings. Bowdoin was a

a

a

little college and Brunswick a village. The young professor was ambitious. In his own phrase, he wanted a stage on which he could take longer 'strides and speak to a larger audience. At one time he thought of buying the Round Hill School, and visited Northampton to look over the ground. Fortune had something better in store for him. Ticknor was about to resign the chair of modern languages at Harvard, and proposed as his successor Longfellow, whose translation of the Coplas of Manrique (1833) had attracted his notice. The position was formally offered and accepted ; it was understood that Longfellow was to spend a year and a half in Europe before taking up his work.

Accompanied by his young wife, Longfellow crossed the ocean in April, 1835, and passed the summer in Stockholm and Copenhagen, studying the Scandinavian languages. In the autumn he was in Holland. Mrs. Longfellow died the last of November. Longfellow went to Heidelberg for the winter, and to Switzerland and the Tyrol for the spring and summer, and in December (1836) was at Cambridge preparing his college lectures.

He lodged at the famous colonial mansion in Brattle Street known as Craigie House, in a room that had once been Washington's. When Longfellow first applied, old Mrs. Craigie, deceived by his youthful appearance, told him that she had resolved to take no more students into the house.' Craigie House passed into the possession of Worcester, the lexicographer. Worcester sold it to Nathan Appleton, whose daughter Longfellow married in 1843. It then became the property of Mrs. Longfellow.

At Harvard the exactions of work were not like those in the smaller college, strictly pedagogical. Longfellow had time for literature and for society. The years were richly productive, as the following bibliographical lists show.

Outre-Mer, A Pilgrimage beyond the Sea, 1835; Hyperion, a Romance, 1839; Voices of the Night, 1839; Ballads and Other Poems, 1842; Poems on Slavery, 1842; The Spanish Student, 1843 ; The Waif, a Collection of Poems, 1845 (edited); The Poets and Poetry of Europe, 1845 (edited); The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems, 1846; The Estray, a Collection of Poems, 1847 (edited); Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie, 1847; Kavanagh, a Tale, 1849 ; The Seaside and the Fireside, 1850; The Golden Legend, 1851; The Song of Hiawatha, 1855.

After eighteen years of service at Harvard, Longfellow, in 1855, resigned his professorship, handing over its responsibilities to a worthy successor, James Russell Lowell. Released from academic duties, he was able to give himself unreservedly to literary work. Even in these new conditions he enjoyed less freedom than would be supposed. Longfellow had become a world

;

;

famous poet and was compelled to pay in full measure the penalties of fame. The demands on his time were enormous. As his reputation increased there was a proportionate increase in the army of visitors which besieged his door. The uniform kindness of their reception encouraged hundreds more to come.

The beautiful serenity of Longfellow's domestic life was broken in upon by a frightful tragedy. One July morning in 1861 Mrs. Longfellow's dress caught fire from a lighted match. It was impossible to save her, and she died the following day. The poet never recovered from the shock of her death. How crushing the blow was may be faintly conceived from that poem, ‘The Cross of 'Snow,' found

among

his
papers

after his death. During the last quarter century of his life Longfellow published the following books: The Courtship of Miles Standish, 1858; Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863; Flower-de-Luce, 1867; The New England Tragedies, 1868; Dante's Divine Comedy, a Translation,' 1867–70; The Divine Tragedy, 1871; Christus, a Mystery, 1872;? Three Books of Song, 1872; Aftermath, 1873; The Masque of Pandora, and Other Poems, 1875; Poems of Places, 1876–79 (edited); Kéramos and

• The first volume was printed in 1865 and sent to Italy in commemoration of the six hundredth anniversary of Dante's birth.

2 The Divine Tragedy, The Golden Legend, and The New England Tragedies reprinted in order as parts of a trilogy.

2

Other Poems, 1878 ; Ultima Thule, 1880. The posthumous volumes were In the Harbor, 1882, and Michael Angelo, 1884.

All the customary honors with which literary achievement may be recognized were bestowed on Longfellow. Some were formal and academic, scholastic tributes to scholastic achievement. Others were spontaneous and popular, an expression of the heart. Two illustrations will suffice to show the range of the poet's influence. In 1869, during Longfellow's last journey in Europe, the degree of D. C. L. was conferred on him by the University of Oxford. In 1879, when the tree which overhung 'the village smithy' was felled, an armchair was made of the wood, and given to the poet

, by the school-children of Cambridge. Both these tributes were necessary. Each is the complement of the other. Taken together, they symbolize the characteristics of the man and the artist.

Of all American poets Longfellow reached the widest audience. And it was with a feeling of personal bereavement that every member of that vast audience heard the news of his death at Cambridge, on March 24, 1882.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »