February's Book Review
February's Book Review
Prose and Poetry, The Firelight Book
Copyright, 1946 by The L.W. Singer Company
Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America, 6812.5
Edited By Barbara Henderson, Marion T. Garretson
Frederick H. Weber
Illustrated by Guy Brown Wiser
Choral Reading By, Bess L. Crofoot and Margaret T. Palen
Unit Three: The Story of a Poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
An American Poet
Have you ever listened to stories of a long ago time told by your
father or grandfather? If you have, you will understand why
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow loved to visit his grandfather and
to listen to the exciting stories about the Indian wars with the
white men. One story so thrilled the young boy that he wrote
a poem about it. He called it "The Battle of Lovell's Pond."
A schoolmate who read the poem told Henry to send it to the
town newspaper to be printed. The young poet followed his
friend's suggestion. That evening and every evening he
searched the paper for his poem. Days passed, but still
the poem did not appear. Sadly the boy went to the
editor of the newspaper, and asked if he might have his
poem back. On his way home, a friend who knew of
Henry's disappointment, told him to send it to another
newspaper called The Gazette. Henry did so, and that
night he waited outside the building and eagerly listened
to the sound of the big printing press. He hoped it was
printing his poem.
The next morning he hurried down to the breakfast table.
His father was already seated, reading The Gazette.
Quickly Henry slipped behind his father's chair and looked
at the paper. There it was! Before his eyes was his poem
in print! Henry could hardly keep from shouting for joy.
When this poem was written Henry was thirteen years old.
His birthday was February 27, 1807. If Mr. Longfellow were
here to tell us about his boyhood himself he might begin
with the first stanza of his poem,
"My Lost Youth"
"Often I think of that beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me."
Then he might tell us the story like this;
"Such a lucky lad I was to be born in the beautiful city of
Portland on the coast of Maine! Near the sea, my home
faced the blue water. Always I could see the shining
islands in the bay and build my dreams about them.
My brother and I were wild with delight whenever a
ship came into the harbor bringing its cargo from some
foreign port. The sailors were strange and wonderful
men to us, and the great boats were full of mystery.
"Fort Sumner was just over the hill. I shall never forget the
sound of the sunrise gun fired at the fort every morning.
It was one of the terrors of my childhood. But the beat of
the drum, over and over and over, made me long for a
drum of my own. My good aunt who lived with us had
already bought a toy gun for me. I thought I wanted to
be a soldier. I wrote to my father who was away at
Boston Court asking him to bring me a drum. I told him
that I already owned a gun and powdered my hair, so if
he brought a drum I should be ready to march and fight.
"How old was I? Oh, about five or six, I should think.
Rather young to be thinking about war, but the whole
country was talking about it as our country was then
at war with England. That war is now known as the
War of 1812. I can very well remember the thunder
of guns that came to us from across the bay when
the American ship Enterprise fought the English ship
Boxer. It was a fierce battle between the two vessels,
and both captains were killed. They were brought into
Portland for burial.
"As I grew older I changed my mind about being a
soldier. You will laugh when I tell you that when Fourth
of July came I stuffed cotton in my ears so I would
not hear the noise of shooting. At the age of ten, using
my brother's gun, I aimed at and shot a robin. When I
saw what I had done, I was broken-hearted. I never
fired a gun again, though I sometimes carried one as the
other boys did when we tramped the fields and woods.
" I must show you two of my report cards from school.
We called them "billets." I suppose my dear mother
was pleased with them. They have been kept safely all
this time. I am glad to show them to you.
1. Master Henry Longfellow is one of the
best boys we have in school.
He spells and reads very well. He also
can add and multiply numbers. His
conduct last quarter was very correct
2. Stephen and Henry have both com-
menced this quarter with an unusual
degree of diligence in their studies.
Their deportment is remarkably good.
" I went to school with my brother Stephen who was two
years older. This was a private school kept by Ma'am
Fellows. I remember that there was a long rod hanging
over the door. Later, I went to public school for a short
time. The big boys seemed pretty rough, I remember. I
was ready for college when I was fifteen.
" I liked to go to school. I liked to study at home. In my
old home at Portland you may see now in the boys' room
on the third floor a school desk at which we studied. It
shows that it was used rather hard, too. But I was one
of eight children and of course we all had our turn at it.
" In this same room were large, old wall maps on which
we traced journeys in geography and lessons in history.
" I wrote my first poem when I was nine years old, but
this poem was never published. My teacher asked me
to write a poem one day. 'Take your slate out-of-doors
and write about something you see,' she said.
"I did not know what to do but obeyed and went out by the
shed. I sat down on the ground wondering what to do. I
saw a turnip lying on the ground nearby and that gave me
an idea and soon I went to the teacher with the poem on
my slate entitled, 'The Turnip.'
"When I was young I was not very strong or well. I could
not take much part in games with the other boys, so I
spent my time reading. In the evening all of us children
would gather about the big living-room table to study
our reading and arithmetic. This I liked as the best part
of the day.
" My grandfather had a farm north of Portland. Just like
all boys who have grandfathers living on farms, I spent
my vacations there, roaming the fields and the woods.
"I also like to listen to stories of the war. My grandfather
had been a gallant general. In fact, I had several fighting
ancestors. If you ever go to my Portland home which is
open to visitors every day, you will see, among many other
things, some of their uniforms and weapons. It was in this
Portland home that I first began my writing. From the time
my first poem was published, I was always writing
whenever I could spare the time."
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