Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Start Free Trial

What did Longfellow teach to his contemporary readers?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The poem that best answers your question is Longfellow's "The Day is Done." Here Longfellow speaks about the difference between the simplicity he craves from poety. He'd like poetry to be simple enough to read aloud. Indeed, he advises: 

Read from some humbler poet,

      Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
      Or tears from the eyelids start;


And lend to the rhyme of the poet
      The beauty of thy voice.
Longfellow likes this simple poetry because they are soothing and calming. As he notes:
Such songs have power to quiet
      The restless pulse of care
The simple heartfelt poems he speaks of are in contrast to the grandious old poems that were most likely popular at the time. Indeed he advises his readers to choose works:
Not from the grand old masters,
      Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
      Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
      Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor
In speaking against the rousing poems associated with military (martial) movements, he suggests that the purpose of poetry is to calm, not excite.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on