Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

VOICES OF THE NIGHT

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.

The first writing of Mr. Longfellow which found its way into print was The Battle of Lovell's Pond, four verses, published in the Portland Gazette when he was thirteen years of age. When he was a student in Bowdoin College he also contributed poems to a periodical journal, and shortly after graduation he wrote poems for an annual, The Atlantic Souvenir. A few prose sketches appeared during this period, but it may be said that previous to his first journey to Europe, that is, until he was nineteen years of age, whatever expression he sought was most naturally in the poetic form. His travel and study abroad gave him pause in this regard. His expectation of a professorship and his own intellectual awakening led him to throw himself into the study of modern languages and literature, and shortly before his return home after a three years' absence he could write : “My poetic career is finished. Since I left America I have hardly put two lines together. His note-book and his letters indicate that his schemes for literary production looked distinctly to prose; and during the next ten years he gave himself, with a single exception, to the prose form. . In this time he produced Outre-Mer, Hyperion,

one.

and almost the entire bulk of the critical and literary work of which he gave a selection in DriftWood. The exception was a notable and interesting

His introduction to other modern languages and literatures than the English was scarcely made before he began to render the verse which delighted him into corresponding forms in English; and while, after his return to America, he was contributing prose papers to the reviews and journals, he was constantly illustrating his criticism by specimens of translation, and publishing also independent renderings of current foreign poetic literature. His first book, aside from school-manuals, was his translation of Coplas de Manrique, and his prose volumes were lighted by lyrics in which his own poetic genius was a transparent medium for the beauty of the originals.

It was when he was in the flush of his intellectual manhood, established in what promised to be a permanent position in Harvard College, and with his days of wandering over, that he turned again to poetry. He was still a student, but the urgency of the student - mood was passed; the riches of human thought had become in a measure his possession; his personal experience had been enlarged and deepened ; he no longer saw prin

; cipally the outside of the world ; youth with its surrender to the moment had gone, and manhood with its hours of reflection had come. interpret the poet's mood as it discloses itself in the verses which introduce his first volume of orig

So we may

inal poetry

The conclusion of one period of his intellectual growth, as instanced in the writing of Hyperion, melts into the beginning of a new period, which is instanced by the several Psalms, so called by himself, written and published at the end of 1838 and during 1839. In this latter year, a few months after the appearance of Hyperion, Mr. Longfellow gathered these recent poems, with those belonging to earlier stages, into a volume to which he gave the title Voices of the Night. The publication seems to have been a sudden thought coming to him in the exhilaration of his busy life. He writes in his diary, under date of September 11th, 1839: “I have taken to the Greek poets again, and mean to devote one hour every morning to them. Began to-day with Anacreon. What exquisite language ! Why did I ever forget my Greek ?” and the next day he notes: “I mean to publish a volume of poems, under the title of Voices of the Night. As old Michael Drayton says, —

'I will; yea, and I may!
Who shall oppose my way?
For what is he alone
That of himself can say,
He's heire of Helicon ?'"

[ocr errors]

He was not yet, indeed, so conscious of his destiny, that he could not outline, a few days later, a plan of literary work which embraced a history of English poetry, a novel, a series of sketches, and only one poem which may have been a paraphrase of Scandinavian verse. But it is to be noted that after the publication of Voices of the Night the succession of volumes of poetry was broken only

« НазадПродовжити »