About Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Our namesake, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was one of the preeminent poets of the Romantic Period.
Born in Portland, Maine, he was a “monumental cultural figure of 19th Century America” and is universally considered the most popular American poet of his time. Often referred to as “the people’s poet,” he wrote straightforward verses with simple language; his personal motto was Non clamor sed amor, which translates to “not loudness but love.”
While his verses were simple, his themes were not: Often expressing contradicting ideas of despair or encouragement, he wrote about many subjects, including appreciating the present moment and finding meaning within the awe of your surroundings.
Longfellow was certainly a poet who took inspiration from his surroundings—the untamed beauty of Maine and the New England coast. His musings and writings take us back to a simpler time, a mindset where the appreciation of the seagull’s cry warranted an afternoon sitting by the water. Flowers, gardens, and the passing of the seasons were protagonists in his tales of life, growth, and decay.
Longfellow’s poetry speaks to a romanticism in which the landscape becomes an active participant in our lives, where we are mere individuals within the mystery of Mother Nature.
Our favorite Longfellow selections
Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the flowers,
Kind deeds are the fruits.
Take care of your garden,
And keep out the weeds,
Fill it with sunshine,
Kind words, and kind deeds.
—“Kind Hearts are the Gardens”
In all places, then, and in all seasons,
Flowers expand their light and soul-like wings,
Teaching us, by most persuasive reasons,
How akin they are to human things.
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
—From “A Psalm of Life””
Learn about Longfellow
Want to learn more about our local literary giant? There are a variety of great spots and tours to check out around Portland!
Tour Longfellow’s house
The poet’s historic home is open for guided tours and self-directed visits from June–October.
Walking History Tour
Walk through more than 300 years of history—including Longfellow’s time—on this tour, which also includes a treat at one of the city’s famed bakeries.
The Longfellow Monument
Unveiled in 1888, this bronze statue in Longfellow Square (naturally) is at the corner of State and Congress streets.