Longfellow: His Life and Work

Longfellow: His Life and Work

Longfellow: His Life and Work

Longfellow: His Life and Work

Excerpt

FOR A WRITER who was to be, on the whole, a poet of acceptance, rather than of rebellion and rejection, there was a peculiar felicity in all the circumstances of Longfellow's origin and early life; a felicity in the time, the place, the family entourage, the whole historic setting. A generation earlier would have been too early; with the same aspirations to poetic fame, Longfellow, who was born in 1807, would soon have been disheartened and silenced by that chill in the literary climate that made so early an end of the poetic labors of the Revolutionary generation -- of Trumbull's and Dwight's and Barlow's -- and that cut short so early the career of the even more gifted Brockden Brown. A generation later would have been too late; the crest of the wave of New England vitality would already have passed, and Longfellow, at the best, would have had to be content with the status, unsuitable to him, of a literary epigone. Some poets, poets both greater and smaller than he, have waged a constant war with their age, and this has either made them or destroyed them; such a conflict would certainly have destroyed Longfellow, who, fortunately for him, was born when Jefferson was President, came of age during the "presidentiad" of John Quincy Adams, and flourished -- the word, for once, is not too strong -- during that long genial summer that elapsed between then and the Civil War. He was no poète maudit, either by nature or by the . . .

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