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The Humanitarian Sensibility and the Inevitable Conflict
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a 19th Century American poet and educator. He is the renown author of many poems, the most widely known being “Paul Revere’s Ride” (Talib, 56). While staying at Heidelberg, he was greatly influenced by the works of the German romantic poet Novalis, his works greatly influenced Longfellow, and lifted his grief after the death of his first wife. Later on, he wrote and published the sentimental prose romance, “Hyperion”, and his first volume of poetry, “The Voices of the Night.” The story line behind Hyperion is basically pursuit for his second wife Frances Appleton, whom he met soon after his first wife’s death in Europe.
Frances’ father was wealthy merchant who gave them Craigie house as their wedding present. The house became famous to Longfellow’s admirers. Talib notes that Longfellow had a great command in many languages ((Talib, 61) and a well known translator fondly remembered for translating Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Additionally, he was a very popular man who associated in shrewd marketing of his literary wares and interesting and well-crafted poems. Mostly, he was very much concerned with the needs of the middle –class American family too whom he pays tribute for the support he was accorded central to myths of his literature. The romance in his poems was unquestionable and mostly, he celebrated the female genre, this is especially well indicated in his “the beauty and strength of woman’s devotion” in the great works such as Evangeline and the Golden Legend. The poem romanticized what the Women’s movement was rejecting. In his poem “Hiawatha” he brought into focus the culture of Native Americans Indians, making it impossible for the white audience to ignore them anymore. Thus, the romanticism and realism in his works are still celebrated by his admirer’s today.
Oliver Wendell Holmes was a professor and author (Talib, 71). He was a member of the Fireside Poetry Society and is regarded as one of the best 19th-century writers and an important medical reformist. His most famous works include the “Breakfast-Table”. Holmes briefly studied law before later studying medicine after his graduation in Harvard in1829. He began writing poetry after his retirement as dean in Harvard. Most of his works were meant to be humorous and conversational. Holmes was a critic of romantic poetry but he himself slipped into sentimentality when writing as witnessed in his poems. “Dorothy Q.” dedicated to his maternal great grand-mother (Talib, 81). However, Holmes always balanced such emotions with humor.
He always connected the theme of nature to many of his topics and social teachings such as “The Ploughman” and “The New Eden” written in commemoration of Pittsfield’s scenic countryside. “Old Ironsides” was a poem Holmes wrote in opposition to the demolition of the renowned 18th-century frigate USS Constitution. The poem was later published in many magazines and regarded as patriotic. This brought immediate national attention to Holmes; consequently, it generated public sentiment that led to the preservation of the large ship by the Navy. Thus many of his poems were written for various events in which he was always invited or dedicated to his family members, only the latter was very sentimental. Towards the end of his life, Holmes noted that he had outlived many of his friends including his Fireside poetry friends.
Talib S. The Language of Postcolonial Literatures: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2002.
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