Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the most popular poet in the history of the English language. With poems about Miles Standish, Hiawatha, Evangeline, Paul Revere, he gave America its public mythology and he taught it to Europe, too. Longfellow’s poems were the favorite of Harvard Scholars and common farmers, he sold more books than any other poet, and his birthday became a national celebration.
He was the first American to get an honorary degree from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the only non-Brit to have a plaque in poet’s corner at Westminster Abbey, the poet whose works were set to music by composers like Liszt, Elgar, Mendelssohn, and Ives.
Longfellow was an abolitionist who wrote impassioned poems against slavery and a scholar whose translation of Dante was a bench-mark of 19th century intellectual life. The question is, why was he ever forgotten? We’re talking about Longfellow, America’s Poet, this hour on The Connection
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
J.D. McClatchy, Poet, Chancellor of American Academy of Poets, editor of Modern Library’s Longfellow book
and John Hollander, Poet, Professor of English Lit. Yale University