09 March 2007

Longfellow and an Act of Will

In his column dated 12 March, Newsweek fixture George S. Will states:

One hundred years ago, Feb. 27 was enlivened by events around the nation commemorating what had happened 100 years before that, in 1807. But last week's bicentennial of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow passed largely unnoted, which is noteworthy. . . .

The melancholy fact that the 200th birthday of the poet who toiled to create the nation's memory passed largely unremarked is redundant evidence of how susceptible this forward-leaning democracy is to historical amnesia.
Daring to intrude on Will’s studied melancholy, I report that Longfellow’s bicentennial was noted by several individual bloggers in different ways.

Furthermore, considering Will’s own readership is so much larger than any one blog, he bears some responsibility for a lack of note last month. Will could have mentioned Longfellow’s 27 February birthdate in his column dated 26 February, which actually quotes the poet. He could have published his appreciation of Longfellow a week or two before the poet’s birthday as a way of prodding his readers and others in the news media, instead of waiting a week or two after.

What about those approaches would have been deficient? Well, they’d have left Will powerless to lament. Complaining about contemporary culture retrospectively is apparently more rewarding to him than looking forward, even a week or two. Will is, after all, a traditionalist conservative, the sort who’s always looking for handbaskets on their way somewhere.

“Not long ago there still were celebrity poets,” Will writes. Of course, there still are: they just aren’t the type of people or writers that Will admires, such as Maya Angelou and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, so he pretends they don’t exist. Just as he pretends that he didn’t contribute to Longfellow’s birthday being, in his eyes, “largely unremarked.”

1 comment:

Al Nye said...

Thanks for mentioning my blog article about Longfellow. Here in Maine (and where you are in Massachusetts), it's almost impossible to have his birthday go unnoticed. I'm pleased to see that you noted it.


P.S. I'm a huge Oz fan and have all of the "Famous Forty" -- many of them 1st editions.feqfilj