A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poem of the Day: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Chaucer 

An old man in a lodge within a park;
     The chamber walls depicted all around
     With portraitures of huntsman, hawk, and hound,
     And the hurt deer. He listeneth to the lark,
Whose song comes with the sunshine through the dark
     Of painted glass in leaden lattice bound;
     He listeneth and he laugheth at the sound,
     Then writeth in a book like any clerk.
He is the poet of the dawn, who wrote
     The Canterbury Tales, and his old age
     Made beautiful with song; and as I read
I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note
     Of lark and linnet, and from every page
     Rise odors of plowed field or flowery mead.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We suffered through "Hiawatha" or "Evangeline" in school way back when. I don't think they have to put up with all that Gitche Gumee and murmuring pines and hemlocks stuff anymore. In a way it's a pity: 14-year-olds need a good laugh at the moldy oldies. (In my ninth-grade English class, we discovered that  "Evangeline's" dactylic hexameter could be sung to the tunes of several church hymns.) But of course it soured us on old Longfellow and on rumty-tum-tum poetry, and alienated us from our parents and grandparents who cherished it. And it deprived us from learning that Longfellow was not such a bad poet when he wasn't trying to write the Great American Epic. And maybe from encountering this simple and fresh appreciation by a pretty minor poet of a really great one.