Afternoon in February by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Afternoon in February

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.
Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.
The snow recommences;
The buried fences
Mark no longer
The road o’er the plain;
While through the meadows,
Like fearful shadows,
Slowly passes
A funeral train.
The bell is pealing,
And every feeling
Within me responds
To the dismal knell;
Shadows are trailing,
My heart is bewailing
And tolling within
Like a funeral bell.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was the most popular American poet of his day. He achieved widespread fame with works like “Paul Revere’s Ride,” The Song of Hiawatha, and “The Wreck of the Hesperus” that idealized American history and landscapes. Though born in Portland, Maine, Longfellow spent much of his youth traveling Europe. These early travels inspired a lifelong interest in European cultures and traditions which he incorporated into his poetry. After returning to America, Longfellow accepted a professorship at Harvard College, becoming one of the first American academics focused on developing a genuinely American national literature. Known for his flowing rhyme schemes, use of folklore themes, and melancholic tone, Longfellow created accessible works that resonated powerfully with the public during his lifetime and after his death from peritonitis at age 75. More than just a famous name, Longfellow left an enduring mark on American letters through poems that gave a new nation myths and stories of its own.