Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Author of the poem "The Rainy Day"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Children across New England are familiar with the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose "Paul Revere's Ride" has been recited at many a grade school pageant. Longfellow, born in Maine in 1807, became an epic poet of sorts for American history, writing about the American Revolution in the way bards of old wrote about conquests across Europe.

The Life of Longfellow

Longfellow the second-oldest in a family of eight children, was a teacher at Bowdoin College in Maine, and later at Harvard University.

Longfellow's first wife Mary died in 1831 following a miscarriage, while they were traveling in Europe. The couple had been married for only four years. He did not write for several years following her death, but she inspired his poem "Footsteps of Angels."

In 1843, after years of trying to win her over for nearly a decade, Longfellow married his second wife Frances. The two had six children together. During their courtship, Longfellow often walked from his home in Cambridge, crossing the Charles River, to Frances' family home in Boston. The bridge he crossed during those walks is now officially known as the Longfellow Bridge.

But his second marriage ended in tragedy as well; in 1861 Frances died of burns she suffered after her dress caught fire. Longfellow was himself burned trying to save her and grew his famous beard to cover the scars left behind on his face.

He died in 1882, a month after people around the country celebrated his 75th birthday.

Body of Work

Longfellow's best-known works include epic poems such as "The Song of Hiawatha," and "Evangeline," and poetry collections such as "Tales of a Wayside Inn." He also wrote well-known ballad-style poems such as "The Wreck of the Hesperus," and "Endymion."

He was the first American writer to translate Dante's "Divine Comedy." Longfellow's admirers included President Abraham Lincoln, and fellow writers Charles Dickens and Walt Whitman.

Analysis of "The Rainy Day"

This 1842 poem has the famous line "Into each life some rain must fall," meaning that everyone will experience difficulty and heartache at some point. The "day" is a metaphor for "life." Written after the death of his first wife and before he married his second wife, "The Rainy Day" has been interpreted as a deeply personal look into Longfellow's psyche and state of mind.

Here is the complete text of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Rainy Day."

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
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Khurana, Simran. "Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/the-rainy-day-quotes-2831517. Khurana, Simran. (2020, August 26). Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-rainy-day-quotes-2831517 Khurana, Simran. "Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-rainy-day-quotes-2831517 (accessed March 20, 2023).