Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

L'ENVOI.

This poem was written in the autumn of 1839 and served as a poetical summary of the volume Voices of the Night, which it closed, referring in its three parts to the three divisions of that volume. See Introductory Note and also head-note to Earlier Poems.

YE voices, that arose
After the Evening's close,
And whispered to my restless heart repose !

Go, breathe it in the ear
Of all who doubt and fear,
And say to them, “Be of good cheer!”

Ye sounds, so low and calm,
That in the groves of balm
Seemed to me like an angel's psalm !

Go, mingle yet once more
With the perpetual roar
Of the pine forest, dark and hoar !

Tongues of the dead, not lost,
But speaking from death’s frost,
Like fiery tongues at Pentecost!

Glimmer, as funeral lamps,
Amid the chills and damps
Of the vast plain where Death encamps !

BALLADS AND OTHER POEMS

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.

Two years after the appearance of Voices of the Night, Mr. Longfellow published a second volume of poems with the title Ballads and other Poems. It was issued December 19, 1841, and contained all the verse which he had written in the interval with the important exception of The Spanish Student. Besides the pieces included in this division in the present edition, the original volume contained two ballads translated from the German, and also The Children of the Lord's Supper from the Swedish of Bishop Tegnér, which will be found in the sixth volume of this series. It is to be noted that his intention at one time was to omit Tegnér's poem, and to print a thin volume mainly as a sort of herald to The Spanish Student, which he looked upon as an important venture. “I have two or three literary projects,” he writes to Mr. Samuel Ward, September 17, 1841; “ foremost among which are the Student and the Skeleton. I have been thinking this morning which I shall bring out first. The Skeleton, with the few other pieces I have on hand, will, it is true, make but a meagre volume. But what then? It is important to bring all my guns to bear now; and though they are small ones, the shot may take effect. Through the breach

[ocr errors]

thus made, the Student may enter the citadel in triumph.”

The inception of the leading ballad in the volume may be traced through several steps. “This ballad was suggested to me,” Mr. Longfellow said in an introductory note to the volume under consideration, “while riding on the sea-shore at Newport. A year or two previous a skeleton had been dug up at Fall River, clad in broken and corroded armor; and the idea occurred to me of connecting it with the Round Tower at Newport, generally known hitherto as the Old Windmill, though now claimed by the Danes as a work of their early ancestors." In illustration of this claim he quotes a passage

from Professor Rafn in the Mémoires de la Société Royale des Antiquaires du Nord, and then adds: “I will not enter into a discussion of the point. It is sufficiently well established for the purpose of a ballad ; though doubtless many a citizen of Newport, who has passed his days within sight of the Round Tower, will be ready to exclaim with Sancho: God bless me! did I not warn you to have a care of what you are doing, for that it was nothing but a windmill; and nobody could mistake it, but one who had the like in his head.' It was after this visit to Newport, made in 1838, that he made this entry in his diary:

May 24, 1839. Felton comes and reads me his [translation of] Menzel's History of German Literature. A vigorous, live book, and most faithfully done into English. Told him of my plan of a heroic poem on the Discovery of America by the Northmen, in which the Round Tower at Newport

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and the Skeleton in Armor have a part to play. The more I think of it, the more I like it.”

After he decided to publish Voices of the Night his mind was teeming with literary plans, and among other projects recorded in his diary is one without comment : “ The Saga of Hakon Jarl ; a poem,” which was possibly the heroic poem which had floated before him, though Hakon Jarl was not a creation of Mr. Longfellow's. A few weeks later came a terrible storm on the coast, with the wreck among others of the schooner Hesperus on the reef called Norman's Woe. “I must write a ballad upon this,” exclaims the poet in his diary ; “ also two others, The Skeleton in Armor and Sir Humphrey Gilbert.It may also be noted that in the poem last written and then attracting some criticism, Midnight Mass for the Dying Year, he had approached the ballad form, while in Hyperion, then bringing him an echo in comment and criticism, he had made some spirited translations of German ballads. The Wreck of the Hesperus was written at once, but it is not stated just when he wrote The Skeleton in Armor. It is probable, however, that he wrote it shortly after, but kept it to himself for many months, not quite sure if he had succeeded. At any rate, there is an entry in his diary, January 13, 1840, which hints at the way his mind was working, for he records, à propos of a visit from W. H. Prescott: • Prescott seems to doubt whether I can imitate successfully the Old English ballad.”

Finally, at the end of the year, upon receiving Uhland's Das Glück von Edenhall, he translated

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »