Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Song of Hiawatha is one of the many works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American educator and poet. He was born on February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine. Longfellow predominantly wrote lyric poetry, known for its musicality, which often presented stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and also had great success overseas.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
He was a very passionate man, who from his college days knew what he wanted to do with his life. In his senior year at the Bowdoin College, Longfellow wrote to his father about his aspirations:

"I will not disguise it in the least... the fact is, I most eagerly aspire after future eminence in literature, my whole soul burns most ardently after it, and every earthly thought centres in it... I am almost confident in believing, that if I can ever rise in the world it must be by the exercise of my talents in the wide field of literature."

This same passion was displayed in his private life. He was twice married both times happily. His first died in childbirth, and several years after, he again fell in love, and began courting Frances "Fanny" Appleton, the daughter of a wealthy Boston industrialist, Nathan Appleton. At first, she was not interested but Longfellow was determined.

In July 1839, he wrote to a friend: "Victory hangs doubtful. The lady says she will not! I say she shall! It is not pride, but the madness of passion."

The lady finally gave in and they married and had six children. It was during this time that he wrote the Song of Hiawatha, based on the legends of the Ojibway Indians. The poem reflects the depth of emotion, which Longfellow possessed.

In March 1882, Longfellow went to bed with severe stomach pain. He endured the pain for several days with the help of opium before he died surrounded by family on Friday, March 24, 1882. He had been suffering from peritonitis. He is buried with both of his wives at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Adapted by: LH August 2008