By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
These are the first lines of Longfellow’s famous poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” written in 1855. In this activity, you will learn more about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow before reading one of his poems.
Use the Student Guide to take notes and answer questions as you work through the lesson.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, in 1807. As a young boy, Longfellow was an avid reader. Eventually he became a university professor and a published poet. Longfellow published his first poem in 1831.
Many of Longfellow’s poems reflect the history and ideas of the young United States. He wrote about the natural landscapes of America and the Native Americans who first dwelled there, as in “The Song of Hiawatha.”
As the country moved toward Civil War, Longfellow wrote to remind Americans of where they had come from and what their ideals were. Perhaps his most famous poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” written in 1860, calls on the people to remember the Revolutionary War and what American freedom meant:
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…
For, borne on the nightwind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
As you will see, Longfellow wrote with clear rhythm Opens in modal popup window and rhyme, making his poems easy to remember. His poetry is generally easy to understand, and his topics appeal to diverse interests. In the Longfellow poem you will read, watch for the simple themes Opens in modal popup window and clear rhyme and rhythm.
See how well you understood Longfellow’s poem “The Rainy Day” by answering some questions. Refer to your notes and the text if necessary.
a.) show that most days are rainy
b.) compare life to a dreary day
c.) describe the decay of autumn
d.) represent a specific geographical area
a.) when people grow old, most of their days are sad.
b.) every person will die in the same way
c.) all people face difficulties at some time in their life
d.) taking care of physical property such as walls is important
a.) the weather is constantly blowing down the branches.
b.) the speaker does not get tired anymore.
c.) the storms provide much needed water for plants to grow.
d.) troubles constantly batter a person.
b.) his friends
c.) the weather
d.) older people
The natural world is the starting point for the poem “The Rainy Day.” Poets have a long-standing tradition of comparing what goes on in nature with what goes on in life, and they often use imagery in making the comparison.
Why might poets often use natural imagery in explaining the inner human life?
Rhyme scheme and meter are two more of the poet’s tools. They help to create the mood of a poem.
Read aloud the first stanza of the poem. As you read, listen for the words that rhyme.
To see how this works in “The Rainy Day,” look at the following line:
The day is cold, and dark, and drear-y;
Read the line aloud, using the italicized words to signal the stressed syllables.