Posted by Bob on July 07, 2003
In Reply to: Wreck of the Hesperus by Longfellow posted by ESC on July 07, 2003
: : : Had a friend describe her general demeanor in the morning as looking like the "wreck of the Hespress" and I asked her it's meaning. She said her mother had used the saying often but didn't know the origin of the saying. I myself had never heard of it. Would someone know of it's original use?
: : : Thanks.
: : A poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow where a sailor man takes his little daughter out for a boat ride and they wind up in a hurricane.
: See Bruce's post above for a picture.
: I just had to ask...is your friend's name June, by any chance? My best friend in West Virginia used to say that all the time.
"The Wreck of the Hesperus" is prototypical Longfellow, pure 19th century sentimentalism, with all the inverted word order and overwrought emotions connected with that school of verse. While such poems have been sneered at for most of a century now, they were the popular culture of the time, and The Wreck was wildly popular in its day. Many a middle-class American home had books of Longfellow in the parlor, and many people could recite this verse by heart. The poem is mostly forgotten now, but the title lives on as a widely used phrase representing disastrous wreckage.