The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XII. Longfellow

§ 8. Miles Standish

The end of the fifties saw the culmination of his genius in the appearance of The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems (1858). This narrative poem, another experiment in hexameters, seems to surpass Longfellow’s other successful achievements in the same category because it is more racy of New England, fuller of humour, superior in movement and in characterization. It is less popular than Evangeline, partly no doubt because it is less sweet, and it seems to have made less impression than its predecessor the Indian epic Hiawatha (1855)—another metrical experiment, this time in rhymeless trochaic tetrameters—partly because it is less ambitious and exotic. The popularity of Hiawatha is not undeserved, however, since novelty and quaintness may well be set over against facility and factitiousness, and since, being in a certain sense American, the poem may justly make more of a local appeal than such a work as The Golden Legend based on Der Arme Heinrich. Yet it may be doubted whether either Hiawatha or Miles Standish did as much to establish Longfellow as the most admired poet of his time as some of the unpretentious poems contained in the collection entitled The Seaside and the Fireside (1850), such poems, for example, as the tender Resignation, to say nothing of the patriotic close of The Building of the Ship.