Category Archives: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“The Village Blacksmith”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ballad, “The Village Blacksmith,” was first published in a New York Magazine, The Knickerbocker, in 1840. Shortly thereafter, in 1841, it appeared in Longfellow’s collection; Ballads and Other Poems. The poem takes the reader through the life of a blacksmith in town. Longfellow describes what the blacksmith looks like; describing his “large sinewy hands,” and “his face is like the tan.” Then Longfellow moves to how the blacksmith is “hardworking, well-liked and admired throughout the village” (150). The blacksmith is described as a vague member of Longfellow’s community, but in-fact wrote the ballad in memory of a specific blacksmith ancestor of his; Stephen Longfellow (Ziegler).

The ballad uses an eight-stanza variable rhyme scheme. A simile is used to describe the appearance of the blacksmith; “…The muscles of his brawny arms are strong as iron bands.” Here Longfellow is accentuating the Blacksmith’s abilities and strengths, many of which are unique and desirable among the community. The allure of the blacksmith is fortified through each stanza as Longfellow says only positive and admirable things about the blacksmith. “Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night’s repose. Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend, For the lesson thou hast taught!” (Longfellow 16). Not only does Longfellow describe the blacksmith as a good man but he stresses that the blacksmith is a hard working common man as well. He earns his sleep each night, which in the time of Longfellow is something commendable. The blacksmith is overall painted as a role model for other working people.

Longfellow admired the blacksmith, and explains to the readers how important it is to constantly be a good worker and have accomplishments as well as love in life. It is clear that the poem is more about its message to the audience than the actual iconic figure within the story.  Because of its progressive philosophy, this poem was extremely popular in American schools in the 1950s. Children would memorize and recite it for its morally positive message. It is a way to see why children and teachers grabbed a hold of the poem and put it in the hands of children. It promotes many of the values an adult would hope to teach a child; vigilance, kindness, and devotion- setting a good example for all (Ziegler).

Danielle Mulligan

Bibliography and Further Reading
Vickie L. Ziegler. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith. N.p., n.d. Web.

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“Mezzo Cammin”

“Mezzo Cammin” was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1842. However it was not published until 1886, by his brother, Samuel, in Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The title of this poem reflects the theme of the poem. “Mezzo” means medium, or middle; a midlife crisis, perhaps and “Cammin” is a city in Germany. In 1842, during the poem’s writing, Longfellow had taken time off to take a trip to Europe in favor of his health. He was in his mid-thirties and did indeed spend time in Germany during this trip. The title of this sonnet is also from the opening line of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, which Longfellow had actually translated. The translated line means, “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood with the right road lost” (Longfellow). Longfellow relates to this line because he is in a period of his life where he feels he has fallen off track, and it is negatively affecting him.

This sonnet is about a worried, “midlife crisis” type of  feeling the speaker is having. He feels as though he has not accomplished what he had hoped to by this point in his life, and he is feeling somewhat regretful. However, he sees that he cannot change the past, and though he is as close to death as he has ever been before, the subject itself is still far away, and there is still more for him to accomplish in life.

—Danielle Mulligan

Bibliography and Further Reading
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” : The Poetry Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2013; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “Other Poems- Mezzo Cammin.” Poems and Other Writings. New York: Library of America, 2000. 671. Print”; Longfellow: “Mezzo Cammin“” Longfellow: “Mezzo Cammin” N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.