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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

A Book of Sonnets

The Descent of the Muses

  • Mr. Longfellow was one day visiting Wellesley College, and was asked to write one of his poems. He begged for a few moments’ delay, wrote this sonnet from memory,—it had not been printed,—and read it to the ladies.

  • NINE sisters, beautiful in form and face,

    Came from their convent on the shining heights

    Of Pierus, the mountain of delights,

    To dwell among the people at its base.

    Then seemed the world to change. All time and space,

    Splendor of cloudless days and starry nights,

    And men and manners, and all sounds and sights,

    Had a new meaning, a diviner grace.

    Proud were these sisters, but were not too proud

    To teach in schools of little country towns

    Science and song, and all the arts that please;

    So that while housewives span, and farmers ploughed,

    Their comely daughters, clad in homespun gowns,

    Learned the sweet songs of the Pierides.