Feb 27: Longfellow Serenade

I apologize for the Neil Diamond reference, but look how late it is. You people don't know what suffering is until you've put the kids to bed, cleaned up the kitchen, made the lunches for tomorrow...and then realized you have to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I feel like I read somewhere that Longfellow may be coming, not all the way back, but somewhat back into fashion. Based on I absolutely can't see it.

STARS of the summer night!
Far in yon azure deeps,
Hide, hide your golden light!
She sleeps!
My lady sleeps!
Sleeps!
Dude, be cool about the exclamation points! She's sleeping!

There are eleven poems assigned, because apparently Longfellow, as a poet, was of the Let's Move Some Units School. Actually, he was of the Set Your Poem At Night For Guaranteed Results school -- seven of the eleven poems take place at night. In another one it's gray and rainy.

I had always associated Longfellow with the uplift (to use a phrase of Mencken's), but actually he seems incredibly sad. One poem is about a dead child. There's the rainy one (helpfully called "The Rainy Day".) Then there's this one, about the feeling we all have coming home from work:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Plus the one which is, "Remember the time I was going to throw myself off a bridge?"

I think a good measure of the progress of human happiness is the fact that, in Longfellow's day, such sadness made him Top Poet. I mean, there were probably a lot of people who knew what it was like to lose a child, or even to have a lot of your friends die young. Harder times.

The one I liked the best was The Wreck of the Hesperus. It doesn't end happily. The old sea captain, with his daughter on board, sails into a hurricane (against the advice of his crew). The results are forseeable:
‘O father. I see a gleaming light,
Oh say, what may it be?’
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.
So she prays to Christ. No help -- she dies also. These are the "poems that have charmed and cheered thousands"? (As today's DRG says.) Wow.

Sweet dreams, everybody!

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