American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

“Not wholly useless, though no longer used”

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One of his last poems, published posthumously. Longfellow was never one for violent contention so I find it hard to take his analogy too seriously, but the image of the old man “clouded and confused,” crying because he can’t read any more—that I believe. These were his last few months of life; he would die in March.

My Books

Written December 27, 1881.

Sadly as some old mediaeval knight
Gazed at the arms he could no longer wield,
The sword two-handed and the shining shield
Suspended in the hall, and full in sight,
While secret longings for the lost delight
Of tourney or adventure in the field
Came over him, and tears but half concealed
Trembled and fell upon his beard of white,
So I behold these books upon their shelf,
My ornaments and arms of other days;
Not wholly useless, though no longer used,
For they remind me of my other self,
Younger and stronger, and the pleasant ways
In which I walked, now clouded and confused.

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Not wholly useless, though no longer used”: that would be a good title for an essay on Longfellow today.

Written by Ben Friedlander

October 5, 2019 at 7:46 am

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