Longfellow is one of the few poets that put together novel type works.
He created some of the best poetry ever written. Longfellow’s narrative poems, such as Evangeline, The song of Hiawatha, and The Courtship of Miles Standish, gave a romanticized view of America’s early history and democratic ideals. Evangeline is one of the best long poems ever written by any author. It’s popularity at through all class distinctions.
It was read and loved and pondered over in humble cottages (Wagonknecht P. 85). Evangeline was the first long poem in America literature to live beyond its own time, and it would be impossible to exaggerate its vogue, either at home or abroad (Wagonknecht P. 85).
The historical basis of the story was supplied in 1755 by the expulsion of the French settlers from the vicinity of the boy of Minas in Acadie as an incident of the conflict between France and England for possession of the North American continent (Wagonknecht P. 86). In the poem Evangeline they are unable to find Gabriel. Evangelines party arrives at a village and finds Gabriel’s father Basil, who tells Evangeline that Gabriel had left only the day before with a party going to the Ozark Mountains to trade for moles with the Spaniards.
The priest assures her, however, that the party will return to the mission in autumn when the hunting season is over. Evangeline decides to accept the priest’s advice to await her lover at the mission. But the autumn comes and passes, with no Gabriel, so she again resumes her pursuit (Williams P. 153 &154). Gabriel Lajeunesse, in his passiuity and elusiveness, is unconsciously fleeing from Evangeline rather than seeking her out.
Certainly he is no dominating and aggressive Odysseus, anymore than Evangeline is a merely stead fast and long-waiting Penelope; and the poem, in itself and in the popular imagination, is hers, not Gabriels (Arvin P. 100-101). Evangeline is nothing if not persistent. It apparently never occurred to the Victorian Longfellow that anyone would question the virtue of a maiden who would voyage for years unchaperoned with the rough men of the frontier and even spend a summer and autumn as the only women in a mission full of men (Williams P. 154). It is what imparts to Evagneline its particular Longfellow character of delicate and rather teminine pathos, and deprives it of the true heroic strain.
But pathos of this sort is a genuine poetic effect, and it is felt and expressed so purely, so appropriately, here as to escape the charge of sentimentality (Arvin P. 101-102). The Song of Hiawatha is one of the few great long poems by Longfellow. Longfellow, in the eyes of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793 – 1864), ethnologist, explorer, and Indian Agent, who had married a half – Ojibway woman, and who would give credit to Longfellow with having, for the time, portrayed the Indian correctly in the literature. Longfellow combined the mythical with the historical and undercut the heroic stature of his characters by presenting them as “child – like and immature,” not universally human. Sometimes he presented nature as in different to human wants and sometimes as sympathetic (Wagenknecht p.
102 and 96). Hiawatha is a long and many – sided poem, in which readers mat be trusted to fin their own tastes and interests, but one can hardly believe that many would fail to respond to the famous passages from “Hiawath’a childhood” in canto 3 (Wagenknecht p. 99). Hiawatha is not born by immaculate conception nor does he spring full-grown from the brow of a god, but he does have a supernatural origin. The “beautiful Nokomis,” who is “a wife, but not a mother,” through the act of a jealous rival falls from the moon to a beautiful meadow on earth, where she gives birth to a winsome daughter, Wenonah. Nokomis warned Wenonah against the west – wind, but vainly so she “ Bore a son of love and sorrow.
” Thus was born my Hiawatha. Hiawatha’s mother dies deserted by the faithless west – wind, and the “child of wonder” is reared by his grandmother Nokomis until he finds out about his mother and his fickle father. Despites Nokomis attempt to dissuade him, as he sets out to