News

Police Apprehend Armed Man and Woman in Central Square

News

107 Faculty Called for Review of Tenure Procedures in Letter to Dean Gay

News

Citing Toxic Culture and Administrator Departures, Harvard School of Public Health Faculty Repeatedly Weighed Voting No Confidence in Dean

News

Elizabeth Wurtzel ’89, Who Collected Friends ‘Like Beads on a String,’ Dies at 52

Multimedia

The Photos That Captured the 2010s

LONGFELLOW CENTENARY

Celebrated in Sanders.--Tributes Paid by Friends.--Order of Speeches.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Last night a meeting was held in Sanders Theatre, under the auspices of the Cambridge Historical Society, to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow h.'59, Smith Professor of the French and Spanish languages and literatures, and Professor of Belles Lettres, in the University from 1836 to 1854. Sanders Theatre was crowded to the utmost so that many were forced to stand, and many others could not gain admittance. Professor C. E. Norton '46, chairman of the assembly, opened the meeting by a short address, which is printed in full below. The other speakers of the evening were President Eliot '53 and Colonel T. W. Higginson '41. A poem, which is also printed below, by T. B. Aldrich h.'96 was read by Mr. Copeland, owing to the illness of Mr. Aldrich. The principal address of the evening was written by Mr. W. D. Howells h.'67, but on account of Mr. Howell's illness, it was read by Professor Bliss Perry. In addition to the addresses of the evening a short cantata entitled "The Village Blacksmith" was rendered by an orchestra and chorus composed of pupils in the Cambridge public schools.

Among the guests of honor seated upon the platform with the speakers were: Governor Guild '81, Professor W. W. Goodwin '51, Dr. W. J. Rolfe, Mayor Ward-well of Cambridge, Professor W. James '69, Professor K. Francke, Professor J. Royce, Professor H. Munsterberg and Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.

Following are the addresses according to the order of the program:

Address by Charles Eliot Norton.

"Forty years ago today the Boston Daily Advertiser contained some verses addressed to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on his birthday. They were signed with the initials of his neighbor, friend and brother poet, Lowell. The second stanza read as follows:

"'With loving breath with all the winds his name

Is blown about the world, but to his friends

A sweeter secret hides behind his fame.

And love steals softly in through the applause

To murmur a "God bless you," and there ends.'

The last stanza but one of the brief poem contained a prophecy of the fulfilment of which this meeting of ours is one of the many signs:

"'Surely if skill in song the shears may stay

And of its purpose cheat the charmed abyss,

He shall not go, although his presence may,

And the next age in praise shall double this.'

"In another month that benignant presence will have been gone from us for twenty-five years--a quarter of a century in which there have been many shifts and fluctuations in current taste in literature, and in which the competition of authors seeking popular favor has been keener than ever before. Many have had their little day of sunshine; few have outlived a single short summer; but all this while there has been no change in the hold of Longfellow on the hearts of men, and today bears witness to the truth of Lowell's prophecy that the next age should double the praise that his own had lavished on the poet.

"But I leave to others to set forth the charm of poems which

"Long as our modern usage shall endure

Shall make forever dear their very-ink.'

for here in Cambridge, the home of our poet, tonight, it is the life rather than the poems of Longfellow that I, as the spokesman of his fellow townsmen, am drawn by affectionate memory chiefly to celebrate; more mindful of the sweeter secret which lies within the melody of his verse than of its outward rhythm and rhyme.

"Of all the blessings with which heaven may endow a community, there is none greater than the habitual presence in it of a good and pleasant man or woman, and this blessing is immeasurably enhanced when to goodness and pleasantness is added the gift of genius which makes its possessor a special object of admiration and of general interest; and if this genius finds its expression in verse addressed not only to the comparative few of highly cultivated intelligence, but through its breadth of sympathy and through its musical expression of simple elementary moral sentiments appealing to the vast multitude of common men and women, the blessing is still further enhanced. And if combined with genius be a character of exceptional purity, gentleness and graciousness, then the blessing of the presence of such a nature in a community is perfected. Such a blessing was bestowed upon Cambridge while Longfellow lived. Its influence abides with us and will abide with those who follow us. 'A good life hath but a few days, but a good name endureth forever.'

"The prosaic aspects of our town, even though such as those which Harvard square represents, are made interesting by memories and associations with the poet, while its pleasanter regions, such as Brattle street and Kirkland street and many others are beautified by his memory, and already are places of pilgrimage for his sake. More than one youth in each of our swift college generations as he takes his daily walk, shall be touched by refining and inspiring thoughts as he recalls that he is treading the very path which the poet trod in years gone by; and many a stranger from distant regions of our own country or from distant lands will seek Cambridge for the sake of viewing the localities which Longfellow's Muse has consecrated.

"But as was said three centuries ago,

"'. . . the diocis

Of every exemplar man the whole world is.'

"And so, though Cambridge was made the better by his actual presence and is the more famed by his memory, the diocese of Longfellow is bounded only by the limits of the language in which he wrote. For the spirit which inspired his poetry was that of the sweetness and peace and good will for which the whole world longs. Walt Whitman, with a genius of a different order from that of our poet, said well concerning him: 'I should have to think if I were asked to name a man who has done more and in more valuable directions for America.' And, so, at the close of a century from his birth, in every quarter of our land, America is celebrating the birthday of him who did so much for her. Everywhere the tone of affection will mingle with the tone of admiration. It is the man whose life was as beautiful as his own verse; it is the exceptionally good and pleasant man, no less than the delightful poet, who is everywhere cherished and honored; and here in the community which knew him best, the two tones of love and admiration mingle in one harmony of blessing on his memory."

Col. Higginson's Speech.

"We have met this evening to pay tribute to a man who had, among all American authors of his time, the most individual and disarming combination of qualities. He was at once genial and guarded,--kind and cordial in greeting, but with an impassable boundary line of reserve:--dwelling in a charmed circle of thought, yet absolutely self protecting; essentially a poetic mind, but never out of touch with the common heart:--yet not so much a creator as a composer; and viewing his themes, as a very acute observer has said of him, 'in their relations, rather than in their essence.'

"He was one to whom a poem might occur, as did the 'Arrow and the Song,' while he stood before the fire waiting for his children to go to church with him; and he was equally able to spend patient years in hearing and weighing 'slowly and with decorum,' as he says, the criticism of other and younger Italian scholars on his version of Dante. He was abstemious, yet wrote joyous drinking songs for his friends;--did not call himself an abolitionist, yet pronounced the day of the execution of John Brown of Ossawatomie to be 'the date of a new Revolution, quite as much needed as the old one.' When worn with over-work, he could sit down to write 100 autographs for a fair in Chattanooga;--or, perhaps, go out and walk miles to secure kindness for some old friend troubled with chronic and insuperable need of money.

"He was choice in his invited guests, yet drove his housemaids to despair by insisting on the admittance of the poorest children in Cambridge to tramp through his study daily or to sit triumphantly in the chair which their little subscriptions had bought for him. This was the man whom we meet to commemorate: this was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

"It is an obvious truth in regard to the poems of Longfellow, that while they would have been of value at any time and place, their worth towards the foundation of the literature of a new world was priceless. The first need for creating such a literature in America was, no doubt, a great original thinker such as was afforded us in Emerson. Yet Longfellow rendered a service only secondary, in enriching and refining that literature and giving it a cosmopolitan culture, providing for it an equally attentive audience in the humblest log-cabins on the prairies or in the more distant literary courts of far away lands.

"The editor of one of the great London weeklies said to an American traveller a few years ago: 'A stranger can hardly have an idea of how familiar many of our working people, especially women, are with Longfellow. Thousands can repeat some of his poems who have never read a line of Tennyson and probably never heard of Browning.'

"You may count in our Harvard College Library, as I have myself done, with the aid of the most varied linguist there employed, the titles of at least 100 versions from Longfellow scattered through

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags