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SHIP OF STATE.
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
HENRY WADS WORTH LONGFELLOW.
AGE, 47 YEARS.
HENRY W. LONGFELLOW is a son of the late Hon. Stephen Longfellow, and a native of Portland, in which city he was born on the twenty-seventh day of February, 1807. He was graduated from Bowdoin College, in the class of 1825, and being desirous of visiting the scenes of beauty and grandeur in the old world, he soon after made an extended tour through England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy, which occupied nearly four years. Much of this time was given to the study of the languages, manners and customs, and historical incidents of the different nations that he visited. For nearly five years, after his return, he occupied the chair of Professor of Modern Languages, in Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine, from which he was a graduate. In 1835, he again visited Europe, accompanied by his wife, to whom he was married four years previous, and who died very suddenly during the ensuing winter, while they were sojourning at Heidelberg. He spent considerable time in Germany, Tyrol and Switzerland, and Denmark and Sweden, devoting himself to the study of Northern languages and literature. He returned home during the fall of 1836, and received the appointment of Professor of French and Spanish Languages, in Harvard University, at Cambridge, Mass., where he still resides.
Mr. Longfellow's first efforts in literature were made while he was a Sophomore in Bowdoin College, as a contributor to the “United States Literary Gazette,” by which he acquired considerable popularity among the reading community; he was also a contributor to the “North American Review,” while a Professor in the College. In 1839, he published “Hyperion," of which Dr. Griswold, a very able critic, says, “it is one of the most beautiful prose compositions in our lan
guage." Subsequent to this, he published “Outre-Mer, a Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea ;" in 1840, "Voices of the Night,” his first volume of Poems, and two years later, “ Ballads and Other Poems;" in 1848, “ Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie," one of his most beautiful and admired poems; in 1849, “ Kavanagh,” a prose tale; in 1850, “Sea-Side and Fireside,” a collection of Poems; in 1852, “The Golden Legend,” a Poem dramatique. In 1853, his publishers, Messrs. Ticknor, Reed and Fields, of Boston, issued his complete poetical works and translations, in two volumes, not including, however, “The Golden Legend," his longest poem, which was published at nearly the same time.
Professor Longfellow, by his earnest and persevering study of the Modern Languages, has been able to give to the literature of this country, some of the most beautiful and correct translations in the English language; among
“ The Children of the Lord's Supper," “ Frithiof's Saga,” and “ Coplas de Manrique," and a numerous collection of minor ones. Although he has achieved a fame greater than any American Poet, he is still adding to it by frequent productions from his prolific pen. What he has written, will remain before the public, and in the hearts of his countless friends, when the long grass shall wave and fall over the poet's sacred place of rest, and they will gather around his “ FIRESIDE,” and that calm and holy “Resignation” will teach them
To think day after day what he is doing
In those bright realms of air?
“Thus will they walk with him, and kecp unbroken
The bond which Nature gives,
May reach him where he lives." There is something so tender, so gentle, and so woman-like in the nature of Mr. Longfellow, that his poems imbibe it bountifully, and it brings them home to the heart, and not the mind alone, and what the heart loves and admires, will linger long ere time can obliterate it. He is yet a Professor in Harvard University, and resides at Cambridge, in the old mansion once the head-quarters of George Washington, and of which he writes, in a poem, “ To a Child":
Once, ah, once within these walls,
The fires of the besieging camp
In England, and many other countries, Mr. Longfellow is considered the most distinguished poet of America. Gilfillan, in his English work, published in London, entitled, “Literary Men," in which Mr. Longfellow is the only American author included, thus speaks of his style and characteristics :
“The distinguishing qualities of Longfellow seem to be, beauty of imagination, delicacy of taste, wide sympathy, and mild earnestness, expressing themselves sometimes in form of quaint and fantastic fancy, but always in chaste and simple language. His fertile imagination sympathizes more with the correct, the classical, and the refined, than with that outer and sterner world, where dwell the dreary, the rude, the fierce, and the terrible shapes of things. The scenery he describes best is the storied richness of the Rhine, or the golden glories of the Indian summer, or the environs of the old Nova-Scotian village, or the wide billowing prairie; and not those vast forests, where a path for the sunbeams must be hewn, nor those wildernesses of snow, where the storm and the wing of the Condor divide the sovereignty. In the midst of such dreadful solitudes, his genius rather shivers and cowers, than rises and reigns.
“ He is a spirit of the Beautiful, more than the Sublime; he has lain on the lap of Loveliness, and not been dandled, like a lion-cub, on the knees of Terror. The magic he wields, though soft, is true and strong. If not a prophet, torn by a secret burden, and uttering it in wild, tumultuous strains, he is a genuine poet who has sought for, and found inspiration, now in the story and scenery of his own country, and now in the lays and legends of other lands, whose native vein, in itself exquisite, has been by him highly cultivated and delicately cherished. It is to us a proof of Longfellow's originality, that he bears so well and meekly his load of accomplishments and acquirements. His ornaments, unlike those of the Sabine maid, have not crushed him, nor impeded the motions of his own mind. He has transmuted a lore, gathered from many languages, into a quick and rich flame, which we feel to be the flame of Genius. It is evident that his principal obligations are due to German literature, which over him, as over so many at the present day, exerts a certain wild witchery, and is tasted with all the sweetness of forbidden fruit. No writer in America has more steeped his soul in the spirit of German poetry, its blended homeliness and romance, its simplicity and fantastic emphasis, than Longfellow. And if he does not often trust himself amidst the weltering chaos of its philosophers, you see him lured by their fascination, hanging over their brink, and rapt in wonder at their strange, gigantic, and evershifting forms. Indeed his “ Hyperion" contains two or three exquisite bits of trancendantalism.
* His poetry is that of sentiment, rather than of thought. But the sentiment is never false, nor strained, nor mawkish. It is always mild, generally manly, and sometimes it approaches the sublime. It touches both the female part of man's mind, and the masculine part of woman's. He can at one time start unwonted tears in the eyes of men, and at another kindle on the cheek of women, a glorious glow of emotion, which the term blush cannot adequately measure; as far superior to it as the splendor of a sunşet to the bloom of a peach.
“ Besides his quality of generous, genial, manhood, Longfellow is distinguished by a mild religious earnestness. We do not vouch for the orthodoxy of his creed, but we do vouch for the firm Christianity of his spirit. No poet has more beautifully expressed the depth of his conviction, that life is an earnest reality,a something with eternal issues and dependencies; that this earth is no scene of revelry, or market of sale, but an arena of contest, and a hall of doom. This is the inspiration of his “Psalm of Life,” than which we have few things finer, in moral tone, since those odes by which the millions of Israel, tuned their march across the wilderness, and to which the fiery pillar seemed to listen with complacency, and to glow out a deeper crimson, in silent praise. To man's now wilder, more struggling, but still more God-guided and hopeful progress, towards a land of fairer promise, Longfellow's " Psalm” is a noble accompaniment.”