Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) is a lover American poet and also educator whose notable works encompass Paul Revere’s Ride, The Courtship of miles Standish, The town Blacksmith, and Evangeline. That wrote many lyric poems recognized for your musicality, regularly presented stories of mythology and legend, and also was the very first American to interpret Dante’s Divine Comedy.

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In the summer that 1852, Longfellow lugged his family members to Newport, Rhode Island, for a vacation and also while go the neighborhood streets he ended up being captivated by the old Jewish cemetery, i beg your pardon he saw on July 9, 1852. Together he composed in his diary:


Here us are, in the clover-fields ~ above the cliff, at Hazard’s house; close to the beach, through the glorious sea unrolling its an altering billows before us. Here, in truth, the sea speak Italian; in ~ Nahant it speak Norse. Went this morning into the Jewish burying-ground, with a polite old gentleman who keeps the key. It is a shady nook, at the corner of 2 dusty, frequented streets, v an iron fence and a granite gateway…

The Jewish Cemetery in ~ Newport, his poem around the site, published two years later, was a sensitive portrayal that the place and its people, as he consisted of tender referrals to “Hebrews in your graves,” knowledgeable mentions that Jewish spiritual practices, and sympathetic references to Jewish persecution. Exhibited with this obelisk is a quotation indigenous the poem, initially signed “With Mr. Longfellow’s compliments.”

Founded in 1677, the Jewish Cemetery is the second oldest Jewish graveyard in the joined States. Nonetheless, at the time of Longfellow’s visit to Newport with his family, it to be logical because that him to consider it strange to uncover a Jewish cemetery there. Newport had been financially ruined during the Revolution, when the British occupied the town and also seized ships and also other resources. After the successful resolution that the war, most prosperous vendors left for cities such as new York and Savannah, i beg your pardon by then had actually displaced Newport as commercial centers.


The Newport community was left behind through the rapid pressures of industrialization, and successful Jewish merchants had actually moved on together well, so that by the moment of Longfellow’s visit, there were very few Jews there. However, by the moment he composed The Jewish Cemetery the old seaport city had begun to attract members that Boston’s pundit elite.

Longfellow began his city by to express his surprised at detect a synagogue – which he describes as being “a shady nook, in ~ the edge of two dusty, frequented streets” – in an old brand-new England port town. However, this to be actually not surprising, since neither Portsmouth (where he flourished up), no one Cambridge (where that lived), no one Boston, nor any type of other new England city or port, had a colonial-era Jewish community. “How strange that seems! this Hebrews in their graves, near by the street the this fair seaport town…” this particular day the synagogue stays the oldest surviving synagogue structure in the united States.

As a previous language professor at Harvard, Longfellow can read and also write Hebrew, and his musings on what might have led the first Jews to Newport in the 17th century suggest that the knew a little of their history. Isaacs, Judah, Moses, Alvares, Rivera…these an initial Jews the Newport had fled religious persecution and also arrived at brand-new Amsterdam in the brand-new World in 1658. The negotiation of Newport, then only nineteen year old, invited them and also later taken on a team of Spanish Portuguese Jews who fled the Inquisition. Obviously relocated by, and sympathetic toward, the plight that the Jews, Longfellow was eerily prophetic in his poem; his well-educated, enlightened mind might surely not have actually imagined the persecutions and also suffering that were still to come for the Jewish people

In the legacy of English contemplative poetry of the 18th century, the both paints a physics portrait of the cemetery and also explores his own ruminations. Yet it is the last – and also controversial – heat that has caused the poem, and also the cemetery, to be remembered:

But ah! what once has been shall it is in no more!

The groaning earth in travail and also in ache brings soon its races, yet does no restore,

and the dead countries never rise again.

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The poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), who frequented Newport at she family’s summer home, was influenced at period 18 to create In the Jewish Synagogue the Newport (1867), one of her earliest an imaginative expressions that Jewish consciousness. Famously suggesting that if the Jews might be down they will nonetheless exist forever, she focused on the synagogue and its continuing living power and also concluded that “the sacred shrine is holy yet.”

Thus, if Longfellow created from the view of cynicism and old age and also as a non-Jewish exterior observer, Lazarus thought about the same subject from the perspective of youth and also as one insider elevated within the Jewish community. She later developed a friendship through Longfellow, frequently synchronized with him and, upon his death, eulogized the in the April 4, 1882 version of The American Hebrew.

And that course, once all is said and done, Lazarus to be correct and also Longfellow was dead wrong. As we say in the vernacular: Am Yisrael Chai!