Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
The Seaside and the Fireside
By the Fireside.
Sonnet, on Mrs. Kemble’s Readings from Shakespeare
          In the winter of 1849 Mrs. Fanny Kemble Butler was reading Shakespeare in Boston, and Mr. Longfellow was a constant attendant. He notes in his diary under date of February 20: “We did not go last night to hear Othello. I wrote this morning a sonnet on Mrs. Butler’s readings.” A week later the poet entertained Mrs. Butler after a reading in Cambridge, and read his sonnet at the close of the supper.

O PRECIOUS evenings! all too swiftly sped!
  Leaving us heirs to amplest heritages
  Of all the best thoughts of the greatest sages,
  And giving tongues unto the silent dead!
How our hearts glowed and trembled as she read,        5
  Interpreting by tones the wondrous pages
  Of the great poet who foreruns the ages,
  Anticipating all that shall be said!
O happy Reader! having for thy text
  The magic book, whose Sibylline leaves have caught        10
  The rarest essence of all human thought!
O happy Poet! by no critic vext!
  How must thy listening spirit now rejoice
  To be interpreted by such a voice!

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