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Longfellow's early verse had all the requisites for popularity ; it is clear, melodious, simple in its lessons, tinged with sentiment and melancholy, dashed with romantic color, and abounding in phrases which catch the ear and pulsate in the brain. The poet voices the longings, regrets, fears, aspirations, the restlessness, or the faith, which
go to make up the warp and woof of everyday life. An allegory, a moralized legend, a song, a meditation, a ballad, — these are what we find in turning the leaves of Voices of the Night or the Ballads. Here is a certain popular quality not to be attained by taking thought. ‘A Psalm of Life,' Flowers,' 'The Beleaguered City,' 'The Village * Blacksmith,' 'The Rainy Day,''Maidenhood, Excelsior,' The Bridge,'The Day is Done,' Resignation,' 'The Builders,' are a few among many illustrations of the type of verse which carried Longfellow's name into every home where poetry is read. The range of emotions expressed is of the simplest. There is feeling, but no thinking. The robust reader who perchance has battened of late on sturdy diet, like Fifine at the Fair, hardly knows what to make of these poems, so little resistance do they offer to the mind. The meaning lies on the surface. But it is no less true that their essence is poetical. The one thing never lacking is the note of distinction. The human quality to be found in such a poem as the 'Footsteps of Angels' almost overpowers the poetic element.
Nevertheless the poetry is there, and by virtue of this Longfellow's early work lives.
Other poems show his scholar's love for the past. They express the natural longing felt by an inhabitant of a crude new land for countries where romance lies thick because history is ancient. “The Belfry of Bruges' and 'Nuremberg are examples. Moreover Longfellow's ballads have genuine quality. “The Skeleton in Armor' illustrates his study of Scandinavian literature. 'The Wreck of the Hesperus’ is based on an actual incident which came under his notice. The criticism reflecting on this ballad because the poet had never seen the reef of Norman's Woe, is superfine. Longfellow was born and reared almost within a stone's throw of the Atlantic. His knowledge of the ocean began with his first lessons in life. His sea poems are distinctive. “The Build‘ing of the Ship,' “The Fire of Driftwood,' “Sir Humphrey Gilbert,' The Secret of the Sea,' 'The Lighthouse,' 'Chrysaor,' and 'Seaweed,' whether or not they deserve the praise Henley gives them, will always be accounted among Longfellow's characteristic pieces.
Two other works may be noted in this section: the Poems on Slavery and a play, The Spanish Student. The first of these, though academic, shows how early Longfellow took his rank with the unpopular minority. The Spanish Student, a play based on La Gitanilla of Cervantes, was written
con amore, and with a celerity of which I did not “think myself capable.' Longfellow had great hopes of its success, though he seems not to have been ambitious for a dramatic presentation. The success was to come through the reader. The Spanish Student shows that Longfellow could have written good acting plays had he chosen to submit to the irritations and rebuffs which are the inevitable preliminary to dramatic good fortune.
EVANGELINE, HIAWATHA, MILES STANDISH, TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN
Evangeline and Hiawatha mark the climax of Longfellow's contemporary popularity and may be regarded as the principal bulwarks of his fame. There is an anecdote to the effect that Hawthorne, to whom the subject of Evangeline was proposed, was not attracted by it, while Longfellow seized on it eagerly. Such was the divergence of their genius. Longfellow's mind always sought the fair uplands of thought, checkered with alternate sunshine and shadow ; it did not willingly traverse deep ravines, gloomy and mysterious, or haunted groves such as those about which Hawthorne's spirit loved to keep. The instinct which led the one poet to reject the narrative was as infallible as that which led the other to appropriate it.
The tale of Acadie is engrossing in its very nature, and whether told in prose or verse must always invite, even chain, the attention. It is dramatic without being melodramatic. The characters are not mere 'persons' of the drama, they are types. Evangeline will always stand for something more than the figure of an unhappy Acadian girl bereft of her lover. As Longfellow has painted her, she is the incarnation of beauty, devotion, maidenly pride, self-abnegation. So too of the other characters, Gabriel, old Basil, Benedict; each has that added strength which a character conceived dramatically is bound to have if it shall prove typical as well.
Longfellow gave himself little anxiety about the historic difficulties of the Acadian question. It was enough for him that these unhappy people were carried away from their homes and that much misery ensued. He painted the French Neutrals
Father Felician was not sketched from the Abbé Le Loutre, nor was life in the actual Grand Pré altogether idyllic.
Evangeline aroused interest in French-American history. For example, Whewell wrote to Bancroft to say that he feared Longfellow had some historical basis for the story and to ask for information. In the Plymouth idyl of the choleric little cap
as a romancer must.
tain who believed that the way to get a thing well done was to do it one's self, and who exemplified his theory by having his secretary make a proposal of marriage for him, Longfellow made one of his most fortunate strokes. The Courtship of Miles Standish showed the poetic possibilities in the harsh, dry annals of early colonial life. The wonder is that so few adventurers have cared to follow the path indicated.
Bound up with the story of Priscilla and John Alden is a handful of poems to which Longfellow gave the collective title of · Birds of Passage.' Here are several fine examples of his art: “The Warden of the Cinque-Ports,” Haunted Houses,' *The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,''Oliver Bas'selin,'Victor Galbraith,''My Lost Youth,' The
Discoverer of the North Cape,' and 'Sandalphon.' It is a question whether in these eight poems we have not a small but well-nigh perfect Longfellow anthology. Certainly no selection of his writings can pretend to be characteristic which does not contain them.
Hiawatha was not intended for a poetic commentary on the manners and customs of the North American Indians, though that impression sometimes obtains. It is a free handling of Ojibway legends drawn from Schoolcraft's Algic Researches and supplemented by other accounts of Indian life. The grossness of the red man's character, his cruelty, his primitive views of clean