J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Birthday Tribute (of Sorts) to H. W. Longfellow

Today is the bicentennial of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born in Portland on 26 Feb 1807. He was the U.S. of A.’s most widely read, memorized, and parodied poet in the late nineteenth century, when people reread and quoted poetry to express their emotions the way we now recall recordings of popular songs.

Along with friends like Hawthorne and Emerson, Longfellow helped to create the first American literary canon, adapting European epic and ballad forms to tell such North American stories as The Song of Hiawatha (Native Americans), Evangeline (Acadians expelled from Canada to Louisiana), “The Courtship of Miles Standish” (Plymouth settlers), and, most famously, “Paul Revere’s Ride” (the first day of the Revolution).

It thus seems a most opportune day to point to “The Misplaced Bones of William Dawes,” by Timothy Abbott at Walking the Berkshires, inspired by Sunday’s Boston 1775 posting about the remains of Paul Revere’s companion during their interrupted ride from Lexington to Concord early in the morning of 19 April 1775. Longfellow parody lives!

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