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Fireside Poets and Their Foundational Themes

The foundational themes commonly associated with fireside poets were in full display in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem entitled My Lost Youth. The said foundational themes are listed as follows:

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  1. living a just life;
  2. commemorating history;
  3. embracing family and community;
  4. celebrating nature.

However, in this particular poem the theme that reverberates all throughout the stanzas was the commemoration of history. Longfellow demonstrated the value of family, community, and nature, but in My Lost Youth the dominant theme that he used allowed him to revisit his personal history. He spoke about the things he did and the events he witnessed through innocent eyes.

It is easy to make the argument that the theme “living a just life” was the implied rationale for revisiting his hometown. Prudence dictates the importance of remembering the past, especially the need to give honor to those who were generous enough to lend a hand during the turbulent years of youth. In going back to his birthplace, Longfellow demonstrated his belief in the idea that honoring the memory of old friends is part of righteous living (Longfellow 1).

Aside from honoring the dead and his so-called “early loves” Longfellow also celebrated nature when he extolled the beauty of the islands as if these were the gardens tended by magical creatures called the Hesperides (Merriam-Webster 1). Longfellow’s poignant reminiscing of the pleasant streets of his childhood was his warm embrace on both family and community. The said representations of the aforementioned foundational themes provided evidentiary support to the claim that Longfellow belonged to a group labeled as the fireside poets (GGCA English 1).

On the other side of the fence stood Oliver Wendell Holmes with his poem entitled Old Ironsides. Holmes’ superb literary output echoed the same foundational themes found in Longfellow’s masterpiece. Be that as it may, the person performing a review requires outside sources to serve as some sort of a code breaker that is necessary to decipher the intended message of the text. After additional research it was revealed that Old Ironsides was the popular nickname given to the USS Constitution ( 1). The meaning of the poem gets deeper after the discovery that George Washington commissioned the construction of the said battleship (AllHands 1).

A historical background revealed that American patriots succeeded in overthrowing England’s yoke of bondage placed on the colonies. However, the newly minted United States was not yet an established military and economic power at the turn of the 19th century. It was the battle ship Old Ironsides that was instrumental in securing that victory over the English overlords. Thus, the poet was not being sentimental about the battleship, and at the same time he was reminiscing the good old days.

He was also mindful of the feelings of the members of the community. He was also thinking about the significance of the USS Constitution in the hearts and minds of his relatives, as well as the family members who went to war to protect his country from the forces of marauders. The poet’s remembrance of the past enabled him to touch on the foundational themes discussed earlier. It is also interesting to note that although his main concern was to rekindle the beautiful memories of Old Ironsides’ exploits, he also managed to insert verses that expressed his love for nature.

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In fact, he wanted natural forces to swallow up the grandeur of the battleship, because in his mind it is a better ending than the artificial death through the hands of workers paid to decommission her in the most dishonorable manner (Longfellow 1). Thus, just like Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes earned his stripes to be inducted into the hall of fame called the fireside poets.

Works Cited

AllHands. Restoring the Legend. 2016. Web.

GGCA English. Fireside Poets. 2016. Web. Old Ironsides Earns its Name. 2016. Web.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell. Old Ironsides. 2016. Web.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. My Lost Youth. 2016. Web.

Merriam-Webster. Hesperides. 2016. Web.

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