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Inside the Saga: 'I shot an arrow into the air...'

For the love of poetry and Longfellow


Okay, I admit it. I am one of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s fangirls. Really, I hear you ask? Shouldn’t that be Lord Byron (She walks in beauty, like the night) or Keats (Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness) or Shelley (Hail to thee, blithe spirit)... Okay, I admit I am one of their fangirls, too.

Poetry is a feature of my novels and the work of these classic Romantic poets is featured in that poetry… well, so far, Shelley has been given the task of romancing Emmaline on Cliff’s behalf in Empire for Liberty and First Country … while Keats has been pressed into action in Volume Four, as you will see later on when it is published. As for Lord Byron, you just never know. I love poetry and always have.
 

While my characters dally with and drool over the Romantics, this fangirl author has given the verse of American poet Longfellow the singular purpose of gracing those pages that separate one section of the novel from the next. When you breathe out between sections you mostly find Longfellow’s poetry to give you thought and pause about what is to come – a troubadourian timeout with a New World twist, if you like.

On the FAQ page of my website, there is the question of why do I like Longfellow’s poetry so much. Since it’s silly to reinvent the wheel, this is what I have answered… “Longfellow [1807-1882] is a great American poet whose poetry, in content, style and sentiment, is able to span the distance of years from the days of colonial America, to the Revolution where Liberty & Property was the catchcry, to the era in which my novels are set”.
  

You could understand, then, my delight when on my visit to Boston in 2012 I got to tour Longfellow’s house in Cambridge. As the headquarters for General George Washington in the War of Independence, the house was already steeped in history before Longfellow and his family occupied it. Writers aren’t supposed to use clichés (it’s a harsh occupation) but this was a pinch me moment: the tour docent recited verses of Longfellow’s poetry in the very room they were written. You've got to admit, that's pretty special stuff for an avid fan. Magical moments you don’t soon forget.
 

                   
                  Photography is not permitted inside Longfellow's House (Cambridge MA) but there are no restrictions in the gardens.

Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn, featuring the iconic Paul Revere’s Ride, still conjure the atmosphere of inn and hearth in which they were written. And then there is the perennial childhood classic The Village Blacksmith. And who has never heard of The Song of Hiawatha? At the top of my list of favourites is The Courtship of Miles Standish. The poems he composed to express the loss of his beloved wife are unbearably poignant.  Across the length and breadth of his work there is adventure and history, tenderness and romance, wisdom and philosophy, lyrical beauty and narrative splendour. Longfellow’s poems run the gamut of human emotion and experience; it’s what the great poets do best.

I hope as you are reading the grand saga of The West and Gilded Age, you enjoy the poetry. The people of the era enjoyed, appreciated, considered and discussed these poems, which gave public voice to the philosophy of love and life in the days when this difficult task belonged to the poet.
 

For a list of the Longfellow poems I have included in the series so far, please visit Poetry & Song 

 

Tags: Longfellow, Lord Byron, Keats, Shelley, poetry, Romantic poets, Empire for Liberty, First Country, fangirl, America, Liberty & Property, Boston, Cambridge, Tales of A Wayside Inn, Paul Revere's Ride, The Village Blacksmith, The Song of Hiawatha, philosophy, love, life

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