Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the most famous American men of letters and the most widely read poet of his time. Longfellow was lionized, loved and respected during his lifetime [1807-1882].
This poem was immensely popular and routinely memorized by American school children through the 1950s. It is a sympathetic portrayal of an unassuming but moral workman grieving for his late wife and taking joy from his work and his family.
The ballad was written in the fall of 1839 and appeared in 1840 in the Knickerbocker magazine. The inspiration for the poem is commonly believed to have come from Thaddeus Tyler, a blacksmith who worked the forge of the Cambridge Smithy on Brattle Street which the poet passed every day as he walked to his position at Harvard College. Longfellow told his father he wrote it in memory of their seventeenth-century ancestor, Stephen Longfellow, who was a blacksmith. The tree in question was a horse-chestnut tree near Longfellow’s home in Cambridge.
Penn State University