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By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,

   A gentle face — the face of one long dead —

   Looks at me from the wall, where round its head

   The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.

Here in this room she died; and soul more white

   Never through martyrdom of fire was led

   To its repose; nor can in books be read

   The legend of a life more benedight.

There is a mountain in the distant West

   That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines

   Displays a cross of snow upon its side.

Such is the cross I wear upon my breast

   These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes

   And seasons, changeless since the day she died.


Poet Bio

Born in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow displayed an interest in linguistics at an early age, eventually teaching modern languages at Harvard. His idealistic poetry struck a chord with a young country sharply divided over slavery. Poems such as the narrative Evangeline and “Paul Revere’s Ride” made Longfellow the most popular 19th-century American poet.

More By This Poet

The Light of Stars

The night is come, but not too soon;
  And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
  Drops down behind the sky.

There is no light in earth or heaven
  But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
  To the red planet Mars. 

Is it the tender star of love?
  The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
  A hero's armor gleams. 

And earnest thoughts within me rise,
  When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
  The shield of that red star. 

O star of strength! I see thee stand
  And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailèd hand,
  And I am strong again. 

Within my breast there is no light
  But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
  To the red planet Mars. 

The star of the unconquered will,
  He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
  And calm, and self-possessed. 

And thou, too, whosoe'er thou art,
  That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
  Be resolute and calm. 

O fear not in a world like this,
  And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
  To suffer and be strong.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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