Elegy for Hawthorne by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In poetry, an elegy is a reflective poem, usually a lament for the dead. In this elegy for American poet and author Nathaniel Hawthorne, his friend and college classmate, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow mourns his passing.

Elegy for Hawthorne

“Nathaniel Hawthorne, with blue pen” 5/29/06. Photo by Flickr.com user Tim Pierce (“qwrrty”). Creative Commons License

Elegy for Hawthorne

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How beautiful it was, that one bright day
In the long week of rain!
Though all its splendor could not chase away
The omnipresent pain.

The lovely town was white with apple-blooms,
And the great elms o’erhead
Dark shadows wove on their aerial looms
Shot through with golden thread.

Across the meadows, by the gray old manse,
The historic river flowed;
I was as one who wanders in a trance,
Unconscious of his road.

The faces of familiar faces seemed strange;
Their voices I could hear,
And yet the words they uttered seemed to change
Their meaning to my ear.

For the one face I looked for was not there,
The one low voice was mute;
Only an unseen presence filled the air
And baffled my pursuit.

Now I look back, and meadow, manse, and stream
Dimly my thought defines;
I only see–a dream within a dream–
The hill-top hearsed with pines.

I only hear above his place of rest
Their tender undertone,
The infinite longings of a troubled breast,
The voice so like his own.

There in seclusion and remote from men
The wizard hand lies cold,
Which at its topmost speed let fall the pen,
And left the tale half told.

Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power,
And the lost clew regain?
The unfinished windows in Aladdin’s tower
Unfinished must remain!


Hawthorne and Longfellow were classmates at Bowdoin College.

Other Longfellow poems

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