Both of them are considered by many people all over the world to be the greatest and most loved American poets of all times. But their lives weren’t filled up with poetry from the very first day, because writing wasn’t a very profitable business at that time. They both had tried many other jobs before they were engaged in writing. But, in my opinion, the experience they had gained while working hard, made them understand that their real occupation was poetry and nothing else.
Although they both lived in the 19th century, the things they wrote about differed. It’s because they belonged to different literary schools: H. W. Longfellow was close to abolitionists, whose goal was to abolish slavery in USA and W. Whitman’s poetry was influenced by transcendentalists, who tried to make American life more democratic.
But we can also find some similarities between their poetry, because both literary schools popularized democratic ideas. To support democracy H. W. Longfellow wrote his most famous poem “The Song of Hiawatha”, which reflected the dissatisfaction with the discrimination of the Indians. W. Whitman wrote a book of poems “Leaves of Grass”, where he poeticized nature and democracy. In his essay “The Distances of the Democracy” he criticized USA’s style of life and cherished his own ideal of democracy.
Talking about nature I should mention that it’s their second similarity, which proves that belonging to different literary schools doesn’t mean total difference of ideas and ideals of the poets. H. W. Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” was the symbol of democracy, but it was also the beautification of nature. W. Whitman had the same intention in “Leaves of Grass”. So we can make a conclusion that in their poetry nature is the symbol of freedom and democracy, and the one who understands and loves nature is the real democrat.
That’s why H. W. Longfellow chose to describe Indian culture and traditions, that’s why he showed the adventures of the fearless Hiawatha. Indians always depended on nature, but the Europeans came and destroyed the harmony of their lives. In that way of writing H. W. Longfellow appeals to the readers feelings and tries to make the humanity inside of them wake up. In my opinion, he also wants the readers to care about nature more.
But for W. Whitman nature also symbolizes durability of life, hystory, immortality and many other things, which aren’t very easy to understand. “Leaves of Grass” was one of the most famous his book of poems. Here we can find the themes that are connected with everyone of us: life, death, immortality, friendship, motherland. In my opinion, he called that book of poems in that way because he truly believed in the power of nature.
In my opinion, these two poets became famous all over the world not only because of their democratical ideas, but also because they wrote about the foreigners inside and outside the borders of their country. The most famous poem dedicated to foreigners was “The Song of Hiawatha”, which revealed all the traditions of Indian culture and described the strongest features of the warriors. By writing an Indian epos, H. W. Longfellow made his nation see the beauty of the other cultures in USA.
And although W. Whitman hadn’t dedicated any of his poems to other cultures, we can find the ideas of friendship in his best book of poems “Leaves of Grass”. But maybe he wrote about his nation more, because he wanted to become famous in his homeland or maybe he wanted to make the world hear about the land he was very proud of.
In my opinion, there is no doubt that the most famous H. W. Longfellow’s work was “The Song of Hiawatha” and W. Whitman brang fame to himself with the book of poems “Leaves of Grass”.