Where to Go Tours & Routes FAQ Search

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

The quintessential 19th-century New England poet wrote "Paul Revere's Ride," "Evangeline" and "The Song of Hiawatha."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Born in Portland ME, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) attended Maine's Bowdoin College, later became a professor there, and also at Harvard College in Cambridge MA, where he spent most of his life.

His stirring, musical, lyric poems captured the spirit of America in mid-century 1800s, when American literature was struggling to depart from European forms and subjects and create a new American literary voice.

"Paul Revere's Ride" made the Boston silversmith immortal:


Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Reading Longfellow's stirring words, it's easy to forget there were two other messengers, William Dawes and Dr Samuel Prescott, riding out with Revere to raise the alarm. Alas, they had no Longfellow of their own...

Longfellow's work was controversial during his lifetime. Although he was a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson's, his poetry was criticized as "children's verse," perhaps because of its accessibility and romance.

However that may be, he was the most famous and successful poet of the time, and is the only American poet to have a bust in the Poets' Corner of London's Westminster Abbey.

You can visit Longfellow's grand house on Brattle Street in Cambridge MA.

Novels by Tom Brosnahan
Further reading...