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Longfellow Meets German Radical Poet Ferdinand Freiligrath

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1842

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1842 / Maine Historical Society

A resource developed through the Longfellow and the Forging of American Identity program

Author: Steve Gilpatrick, English teacher, St. Dominic Regional High School, Auburn Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 11-12
Subject Areas: Literature

Time Required: 20-30 minutes for reading

Learning Objectives:
Suitable for upper level literature classes prepared to discuss the slavery controversy in ante-bellum America and the role of American literature as a vehicle of social criticism. A background in the rise of political radicalism in Germany and France leading up to the revolutions of 1848 is suggested but not required.

Material and Resources Required:
Lesson plan packet (PDF)

During Longfellow’s 1842 travels in Germany he made the acquaintance of the politically radical Ferdinand Freiligrath, one of the influential voices calling for social revolution in his country. It is suggested that this association with Freiligrath along with his return visit with Charles Dickens influenced Longfellow’s slavery poems. This essay traces Longfellow’s interest in the German poet, Freiligrath’s development as a radical poetic voice, and Longfellow’s subsequent visit with Charles Dickens. Samples of verse and prose are provided to illustrate each writer’s social conscience.