Slave's Dream

Topics: Slavery, Atlantic slave trade, History of slavery Pages: 6 (1855 words) Published: May 21, 2013
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five Fireside Poets.

Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, then part of Massachusetts, and studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard College. His first major poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841). Longfellow retired from teaching in 1854 to focus on his writing, living the remainder of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a former headquarters of George Washington. His first wife Mary Potter died in 1835 after a miscarriage. His second wife Frances Appleton died in 1861 after sustaining burns when her dress caught fire. After her death, Longfellow had difficulty writing poetry for a time and focused on his translation. He died in 1882. Longfellow wrote predominantly lyric poems, known for their musicality and often presenting stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and also had success overseas. He has been criticized, however, for imitating European styles and writing specifically for the masses. His poetry has been a continuous presence in our language ever since. He is quoted by merchants and manufacturers on their products, by journalists and preachers in their articles and sermons, and by ordinary men and women in their daily lives. Some of his lines and phrases - "A boy's will is the wind's will," "Ships that pass in the night," "Footprints on the sands of time" - are so well known that they have entered the language. Today they are often quoted without the speaker even knowing Longfellow penned the words. During a violent storm at sea on his return to America, Longfellow wrote seven poems, including The Quadroon Girl, The Slave Singing at Midnight, and The Witnesses. In a letter to Freiligrath, January 6, 1843, he described the event: “...thus ‘cribbed, cabined and confined’ I passed fifteen days. During this time I wrote seven poems on slavery. I meditated them in the stormy, sleepless nights, and wrote them down with a pencil in the morning. A small window in the side of the vessel admitted light into my berth; and there I lay on my back, and soothed my soul with songs.”

Upon their publication in December 1842, Longfellow received impassioned reviews, both positive and negative. Despite the outcry among some segments of the population, Longfellow stood behind his poems. Within a few weeks of publication he wrote to his father: “Some persons regret that I should have written them, but for my own part I am glad of what I have done. My feelings prompted me, and my judgment approved and still approves.” Longfellow allowed the New England Anti-Slavery Tract Society to reprint and distribute these poems for free, for which they expressed much gratitude. One of the anti-slavery poems of H.W.Longfellow is “The Slave’s Dream”. Poem

Beside the ungathered rice he lay, 
   His sickle in his hand; 
His breast was bare, his matted hair 
   Was buried in the sand. 
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep, 
   He saw his Native Land.
Wide through the landscape of his dreams 
   The lordly Niger flowed; 
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain 
   Once more a king he strode; 
And heard the tinkling caravans 
   Descend the mountain-road.
He saw once more his dark-eyed queen 
   Among her children stand; 
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks, 
   They held him by the hand!-- 
A tear burst from the sleeper's lids 
   And fell into the sand.
And then at furious speed he rode 
   Along the Niger's bank; 
His bridle-reins were golden chains, 
   And, with a martial clank, 
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel 
   Smiting his stallion's...
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