I have not seen Longfellow. He has seen no one yet, out of his immediate family. I dread to think of him bereaved of Fanny: she was so perfect a companion of his daily existence, and sharer of his glory... God help them all. The world henceforth will be strangely changed for him.
The poet remained very private in his sorrows, though he was deeply grieved by his wife's sudden death. He became more sullen and rarely left his home in the following months. He stopped shaving, either out of disinterest or due to burn marks on his face. Biographers have found it frustrating that Longfellow did not allow his deep depression to mark what a contemporary called his "goody two-shoes" style of poetry. Nevertheless, 18 years to the day after his wife's death, Longfellow composed a sonnet he never intended to have published. "The Cross of Snow" is dated July 10, 1879:
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face — the face of one long dead —
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died, and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.