Saturday, December 19, 2009

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, America's Beloved Poet by Bonnie L. Lukes

In early December I sang (with my choir) at the temple visitors' center lighting ceremonies. It's kind of a big deal; there's a big sign out front that says, "Tonight's Program is for Invited Guests Only," and the guests consist of ambassadors and diplomats from all over the world, a few LDS senators and representatives, and members of the seventy. Elder Marriot is always there (he has sponsored the event for 32 years), and Salt Lake always sends someone to speak. Last year it was Neil L. Andersen, who was called a few months later to become an apostle. This year we heard Elder Jay E. Jensen speak. He talked about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, quoting several excerpts from his journals and poetry. It was fascinating and moving. I love early American history, biography, and literature, so this was right up my alley. Anyway, Elder Jensen's talk prompted me to get a few books from the library on Longfellow. I visited the exterior of his house when I was in Boston in March, but it was closed for tours for the winter.

America's Beloved Poet was nice in that it gave a good overview of Longfellow's life and his work. It was short; I read it in one sitting over the course of about two hours. I thought it was a nice introduction. It included several stories about his tragedies and triumphs, and painted a very nice picture of this wonderful man. I would have enjoyed a lot more integration of his journals and letters. It adds so much to hear his voice. It did include several photographs. It made no mention of the poem that became the hymn I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, which Elder Jensen's talk centered on. Overall, it was a good book that makes me want to read more in-depth about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's life.