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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) is one of the most enduring figures in American poetry, known for his lyric poems that catered to the tastes of the general public and for his didactic and narrative works that have become ingrained in the American literary canon.

Longfellow's literary background was steeped in the Romantic tradition, and he was heavily influenced by both European literature and the American transcendentalist movement. Educated at Bowdoin College with Nathaniel Hawthorne, Longfellow went on to become a professor at Harvard, where he had a significant impact on American scholarship, particularly in his promotion of European literature.

His early influences include the Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and the storytelling traditions of European literature. These influences are evident in Longfellow’s own narrative poetic style, characterized by its musicality, easy-to-understand language, and rhythmic patterns, which made his work widely accessible and popular in his time.

Longfellow’s poetic oeuvre is extensive and includes such celebrated pieces as "The Song of Hiawatha," "Paul Revere's Ride," "The Courtship of Miles Standish," and "Evangeline." His themes often touch upon the American landscape, historical subjects, and universal human experiences such as love, death, and spirituality. He was particularly adept at weaving together the American ethos with European myth and legend, creating a sense of an American identity that was reflective and introspective.

In terms of poetic movements, Longfellow is most commonly associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were popular in the 19th century for their family-friendly verse and their promotion of American values. His poetry, though not avant-garde or revolutionary in style, was revolutionary in its reach, as it sought to build a cultural and educational foundation for the young nation.

Longfellow’s influence on American poetry is profound; he was the first American poet to reach a wide audience and to create a living from his writing. His work fostered an appreciation for poetry as an art form in the United States. He was also instrumental in introducing European culture to American readers through his translations and his teaching.

Throughout his life, Longfellow received numerous honors. He was the first American to be honored with a bust in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London, an indication of his international reputation. Within the United States, his birthday was formally recognized as a day of recognition by schools and literary societies.

In conclusion, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stands as a towering figure in 19th-century American literature. His contributions to the poetic form, his ability to capture the American spirit, and his role in shaping the country's cultural identity through literature are his lasting legacy. Longfellow's work continues to be read and studied, not only for its historical significance but also for its lyrical beauty and its deep humanism. His poems remain a testament to his vision of America as a place with its own myths, heroes, and poetic traditions.

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