The Poets and Poetry of Europe

With Introductions and Biographical Notices. By HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW. A New Edition, revised and enlarged. Philadelphia : Porter and Coates.
MR. LONGFELLOW’S work on the Poets and Poetry of Europe was first published twenty-five years ago, and we have all had time to become acquainted with its plan, which here in this latest edition has not been changed, though its scope has been widened to include notice of whatever considerable things have been done, since former publications, in Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese poetry. It was natural that the volume should become the favorite it has always been with people of taste and cultivation, for with thorough honesty of research it unites very great simplicity of arrangement. Proceeding in the order we have given, Mr. Longfellow makes such an historical and critical sketch of each literature as enables the reader at once to form an intelligible idea of its characteristics and periods, and then there follows a selection from it, with more or less biographical and critical account of the poet quoted, giving the earliest authors first, and regularly approaching our own time. In all this there is great clearness and precision ; the details dear to the student of a particular literature or literary epoch, but confusing to the average culture, are sacrificed to the fulness with which the principal and important features are brought out. Wherever it is possible the criticism is founded upon the opinions of each writer’s countrymen, and in all cases it appears to us that the best authorities are consulted ; and one of the best is Mr. Longfellow himself, who speaks his own mind only too sparingly. His work is often merely that of an editor, but he does it with that taste, sympathy, and good sense which his whole literary life embodies in such degree that we feel anything else to be impossible with him, and gives it thus the finest value of original production. The labor involved in the preparation of such a volume as this will by no means appear to the general reader whom it delights, and to whom we venture to suggest grateful consideration of the vast acquaintance with authors and authorities, the tacit service of comparison and selection, implied by the abundance and the succinctness with which every topic is treated. We will not say that here is all the general reader need know of the poets and poetry of Europe, but we assure him that he cannot do better than possess himself of all the information here given, and that he could nowhere else find it so availably and so agreeably presented, and with so little that he need not know.
To this new edition Mr. Longfellow has added a supplement of a hundred and thirtyseven pages, devoted to such poets as have recently won distinction, and to the poets whom recent study has brought into notice anew. The poems in this supplement are marked by that greater fidelity and regard to the originals which no one has done half so much to urge upon translators as Mr. Longfellow himself in the high example of his Dante.” Here are his own exquisite translations from German, French, Italian, and Spanish ; here is one version, most sympathetically tender and spirited, by Mr. Lowell ; here is a part of Faust in Bayard Taylor’s conscientious and admirable English ; here are some songs from Heine by Leland ; here are Mrs. Wister’s charming pieces from De Musset ; here are Bryant’s specimens of modern Spanish poetry ; here are Rossetti’s beautiful versions from the earliest Italian poets ; and here are abundant extracts from the latest. The supplement, in fact, lays before the reader the freshest and best poetry of all Europe, and worthily completes the work. It is not easy to give a just idea of its merits and graces ; but those who already know it will not need a lecture from us upon it, and to those who do not we can but heartily commend it.