Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Longfellow, Whitman, Wheatley: Whatever Happened to Patriotic Poems?

In a collection of stories, letters, poems, and speeches, I happened across “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It immediately brought a smile, evoking a memory of class memorization from elementary school, which occurred longer ago than I care to think. I can hear myself and my fellow fifth graders reciting in unison, some of us (overachiever Mary Ellen comes to mind) reciting louder to show mastery of the poem, while a few others mumbled to disguise what they hadn’t learned. I was somewhere in the middle but leaning in the direction of Mary Ellen’s loudness. 

After I reread the poem, remembering some of the stanzas, I checked back with a Tweetspeak Poetry post from last year, which took a look at “America’s most patriotic poem.” The Atlanticpublished Longfellow’s poem in January 1861, long after Revere’s famous ride (although much about that ride remains in historical dispute today). And then I went looking for what was happening when Longfellow wrote and published that poem.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860, about the time he wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

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