Lines recited by a character in Willa Cather’s One of Ours (1922) brought me back to eighth-grade English:
Ever thicker, thicker, thicker,I didn’t recognize the words. But that meter: it’s Longfellow. These lines in trochaic tetrameter are from Henry Wadsworth’s Longfellow’s 1855 poem The Song of Hiawatha .
Froze the ice on lake and river;
Ever deeper, deeper, deeper,
Fell the snow o’er all the landscape.
And now I’m back in eighth-grade English, where we read Longfellow’s Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847), all of it, in dactylic hexameter. That really was the forest primeval, and we were stuck in it. I remember how old the little hardcover looked in my young, irreverent hands.
A question: what would you regard as the strangest or most inappropriate or most sadly dated assigned reading of your elementary or high-school education? This post gives my answer: hands down, Evangeline .