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Comfort for Those Who Have Lost a Loved One

Longfellow’s “Footsteps of Angels” was written after the death of his first wife.

Comfort for those who have lost a loved one.

My daughter Evangeline is named for the heroine of Longfellow’s first epic poem, a history of the Cajun people, based on a tale he heard at a dinner party. It’s a poem familiar to every good schoolchild in south Louisiana. Perhaps girls especially, because above all else it is a love story.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffered the deaths of two faithful wives in his lifetime. Three years after the death of his first, Mary Potter, he wrote “Footsteps of Angels,” a love story in its own right. And a comfort to all who’ve lost a loved one. Here are the last four stanzas, but please do find the poem in its entirety:

With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.

And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.

Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.

Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died!

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