Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Cambridge, MA poet HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (1807-1882) was so beloved in his lifetime, he was considered a national treasure. His “ Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Song of Hiawatha” are among the best-known American poems ever written. Longfellow liked using local history and lore in his poems, and “The Wreck of the Hesperus” is based on two events: an actual shipwreck at Norman’s Woe, after which a body like the one in the poem was found, and the real wreck of the Hesperus, which took place near Boston. Despite that fact, the poem is so well known that the loop road leading close to Norman’s Woe from Route 127 is named Hesperus Ave. Interestingly, Longfellow only saw Norman’s Woe for the first time shortly before his death. “The Wreck of the Hesperus” was written in 1839.

On December 17, 1839 a disastrous storm hit the Atlantic coast, from Boston to Gloucester harbor. Seventeen schooners were wrecked and 40 lives were lost. Unable to sleep after reading the news in the Boston Post, Longfellow sat up one night long after midnight and composed the poem effortlessly.

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