H W Longfellow- One of the greatest poets of the 19th century America, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote about numerous subjects varying from slavery to the European Literature. Some of his most acknowledged works include Voices of the Night, Evangeline, Poems on Slavery.
Mezzo Cammin- Published in “Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow” (1886), “Mezzo Cammin” is a brilliant poem presenting the poet’s self-reflective thoughts in the midst of a ‘mid-life crisis’ situation, the experience almost every person goes through once in their life time.
Setting of Mezzo Cammin-
The poem is set in the form of a normal speech or a conversation with Self since it portrays the thoughts of the poet reflecting on his past, present and possible future.
Poetic Devices in Mezzo Cammin-
Alliteration: “Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret”
Metaphor: “Half-way up the hill”- The poet’s life has been compared to a hill.
Symbolism: “Some tower of song”- The tower/castle here is a symbolic representation of the poet’s aspirations of his youth and the accomplishments those aspirations would have yielded.
Half of my life is gone, and I have let (A)
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled (B)
The aspiration of my youth, to build (B)
Some tower of song with lofty parapet. (A)
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret (C)
Of restless passions that would not be stilled, (D)
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed, (D)
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet; (C)
Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past (E)
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,— (F)
A city in the twilight dim and vast, (E)
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,— (F)
And hear above me on the autumnal blast (E)
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights. (F)
Summary of Mezzo Cammin-
This poem comprises of the poet’s self-reflective thoughts, his guilt over the passed time, lost aspirations, past mistakes, his present situation and his hopes for the future ahead of him. The poem, though can be read as a part autobiography, is highly relatable due to the poet’s realistic portrayal of a mid-life crisis like situation which almost every human goes through. The poet starts the poem by mentioning his realisation of having lost his youth years, “half of my life is gone”. He regrets letting the time slip by and being unable to accomplish his goal (probably of becoming a great poet). He metaphorically compares his “aspirations of youth” to a castle with high walls surrounding it. Unlike many, though, the reason for not accomplishing his goal, the poet says, was neither laziness nor any other distraction, rather the great sorrow which engulfed him for a long time. The poet however, does change his tone from being regretful to being hopeful. He says “though half-way up hill”, he sees his past with all his mistakes looking back at him, all those mistakes now lie beneath him. But the poet is hopeful of achieving his goals in the near future, though he is well aware of the death coming near with each passing day. The poet is realistic regarding his future and the human status of mortality.
Critical Analysis of Mezzo Cammin-
The poem “Mezzo Cammin” is a realistic account of a crisis like situation which a person goes through when reflecting on his past and thinking about the immediate future. Longfellow beautifully depicts varying emotions from that of guilt and regret to the total opposite of both, hope, maintaining his realistic attitude through it all.
Tone of Mezzo Cammin-
The poem is set in a calm tone yet reflects powerful emotions of guilt and hope. This shift in the tone is observed from the first stanza which portrays guilt of the poet for the lost time, to the middle stanza reflecting his regret over not accomplishing his goals and finally the last stanza which represents the poet’s much realistic yet hopeful attitude towards the future.
Conclusion- The magnificence of this skillful and brilliant work by H W Longfellow lies on the realistic depiction of varying emotions and its relatability. The readers are able to connect to the poem on a personal level, which is one of the greatest accomplishments for any literary work.