Many many years ago, down in The Strand in Greenwich Village in New York City, I found several of their volumes and got them. I brought one home, and she picked up the Whittier volume and told me that he was her favorite. I had never heard that and I read from the book, and she from memory this one.
I liked Mum’s pick Whittier’s Snow-bound for us to read together, because I had spent time in her hometown of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, knew of the rigours of a New England nor’easter. They are wonderful things to watch and be safe inside and warm. A horrible thing though to get trapped in.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, another one of the set, penned “Old Ironsides” which remained in popular imagination up & including the television series with Raymond Burr. It is harbored up in Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts and from a corner window in my cousin Ophelia’s apartment you could catch a shot of it.
The frigate Old Ironsides
The poems of Longfellow
At the peak of his career, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s popularity rivaled Tennyson’s in England. He was a noted translator and scholar in several languages and the first American poet to be honored with a bust in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner. The Song of Hiawatha draws not only upon the East Coast Leni Lenape language for its rhythmic underpinning, but also echoes the Kalevala, the great national Finnish epic and like the former, it lasts forever.
Lowell and Whittier were both outspoken liberals and abolitionists & known for their journalism at the fledgling Atlantic Monthly.
After the Civil War, and until his death Whittier wrote of religion, nature, and rural life; and became the most popular Fireside poet. In 1866 he published his most popular work the aforementioned Snow-Bound, which sold 20,000 copies. For Whittier’s seventieth birthday dinner in 1877, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and William Dean Howells attended.
Channeling Longfellow (forbes.com)
1. The poem Old Ironsides
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;–
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee;–
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
Oh, better that her shattered bulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!