Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

February 27, 1807-March 24, 1882
Portland, Maine

Longfellow was the second son in a family of eight children. His mother, Zilpah Wadsworth, was the daughter of a Revolutionary War hero. His father, Stephen Longfellow, was a prominent Portland lawyer and a member of Congress. After graduating from Bowdoin College, he studied modern languages in Europe for three years, then returned to Bowdoin to teach them to other students. In 1831 he married Mary Storer Potter of Portland, a former classmate.

In 1854, he decided to quit teaching to devote all his time to poetry. He published Hiawatha, a long poem about Native American life. He also is known for his translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. When his country was moving towards the Civil War, he wrote Paul Revere's Ride. In 1861, Longfellow published nothing for two years because his wife's dress caught on fire from wax and she died that day.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Out of the bosom of the Air,

Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,

Over the woodlands brown and bare,

Over the harvest-fields forsaken,

Silent, and soft, and slow

Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take

Suddenly shape in some divine expression,

Even as the troubled heart doth make

In the white countenance confession,

The troubled sky reveals

The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,

Slowly in silent syllables recorded;

This is the secret of despair,

Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,

Now whispered and revealed

To wood and field.