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Friday, February 27, 2015

Longfellow's serenades

Then come as we lay beside this sleepy glade.  And there I’ll sing to you my Longfellow serenade.  – Neil Diamond from his song "Longfellow Serenade."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may be the only poet to ever have a rock song written about him.  Neil Diamond's 1974 hit and his reverence for Longfellow only echoes the reverence people had for the man when he was living in the mid-19th Century.

It is probably fitting that a song was written for him because much of his work is recognized for its melody-like musicality.  As he himself once said, “What a writer asks of his reader is not so much to like as to listen.”

Longfellow wrote many lyric poems not just known for their musicality but also for presenting stories of mythology and legend, including the renowned Song of Hiawatha and the favorite of school children almost from its first day, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.   He was the most popular American poet of his day and also had success overseas, so admired in the U.S.  that his poems commanded huge fees for the time and young people turned out to welcome him much like rock stars of today are greeted when they come to town. His 70th birthday – on this date in 1877 – took on the air of a national holiday, with parades, speeches, and the reading of his poetry. 

Although a “rock star” at the end, the beginning of his career started more slowly.  “Overnight success” didn’t come until he’d been writing for more than 20 years.  “Perserverance is a great element of success,” he said.  “If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody eventually.”

Here’s a link to “Longfellow Serenade.”  Enjoy.

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