For some reason I thought Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's birthday was 28 February so I was planning to post then about his 200th, but, realizing that would have been a day late, I've collected a few key links and musings to get in just under the wire.
- First, I recommend (again) Nicholas Basbanes' essay "Famous Once Again" in the February issue of Smithsonian. It's a good introduction to HWL and also notes some of the many recent commemorations of his life and works (including a postage stamp and an ongoing exhibit at Harvard's Houghton Library).
- Via Bibliophile Bullpen, a WBUR broadcast, "Weathering Longfellow's 200th."
- Also, I should note The Longfellow Bicentennial Committee website - they've got the full list of upcoming celebratory events, including a major gala at Harvard's Sanders Theater on 25 March that sounds like quite a time! And there's the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Birthplace, which has a very useful poetry database. If you get a chance, do stop by the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge; it's a great place where the guides will give you a really amazing tour of a building which featured heavily in the poet's writings (hearing poems like "The Children's Hour" and "The Old Clock on the Stairs" in context is worth the trip in itself). I did an internship there awhile back and enjoyed it very much.
- The HWL poem that always manages to affect me the most (with "A Psalm for Life" a close second) is "Christmas Bells" - not for its first three stanzas (the well-known ones, and most often sung today as "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day") but for the last four. Written on Christmas Day, 1864, as the Civil War dragged inexorably on (and just shortly after Longfellow learned that his son had been wounded in battle), these verses speak so starkly - and so simply, as was Longfellow's way - to the pains of war and hopes of peace that have changed not a whit since they were penned.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Longfellow.