Sunday, October 16, 2011

POEM #23- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

With both marriages ending in the premature deaths of his wives, the professor poet Longfellow was well-acquainted with sorrow. The second hit him especially hard, as his wife's dress caught on fire, and she died soon after from injuries sustained in the accident. Longfellow did his best to put out the flames. His own injuries prevented him from attending Frances' funeral. Later, with his face so scarred he could no longer shave, he grew the beard we see in all his later photographs.
*Note line 6 where he equates her death with a burning at the stake
*Line 8- "benedight" (def.) blessed

The Cross of Snow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face--the face of one long dead--
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died, and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

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