On this day in 1807 the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born. An academic and for a time a professor at Harvard, he is known for his ballads The Song of Hiawatha and Paul Revere’s Ride.
Longfellow’s life sometimes appears superficial compared to the angst and torment endured by some poets, but he did endure some emotional pain, especially over the untimely death in 1861 of his wife Frances who was badly burnt and died following an accident with matches (not unusual at a time of open fires, candles and long dresses).
The short story A Half Hour With Longfellow (The New Yorker 1951) is a good read. Here is his only love poem, to his wife, Frances Appleton:
Lo! In the painted oriel of the West,
Whose panes the sunken sun incarnadines,
Like a fair lady at her casement, shines
The evening star, the star of love and rest!
And then anon she doth herself divest
Of all her radiant garments, and reclines
Behind the sombre screen of yonder pines,
With slumber and soft dreams of love oppressed.
O my beloved, my sweet Hesperus!
My morning and my evening star of love!
My best and gentlest lady! Even thus,
As that fair planet in the sky above,
Dost thou retire unto thy rest at night,
And from thy darkened window fades the light.
Today I ask to understand the meaning of true love and friendship.