Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

Those who question the depth of Maine’s most famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, need look no further than this poem, in which he examines feelings just beneath the cordiality of a seasonal reunion.

The Meeting

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After so long an absence

At last we meet again:

Does the meeting give us pleasure,

Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,

And but few of us linger now,

Like the Prophet’s two or three berries

In the top of the uppermost bough.

We cordially greet each other

In the old, familiar tone;

And we think, though we do not say it,

How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas

And many a Happy New Year;

But each in his heart is thinking

Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,

And of what they did and said,

Till the dead alone seem living,

And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish

Between the ghosts and the guests;

And a mist and shadow of sadness

Steals over our merriest jests.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.