Over the basement below protected and shaded the doorway."
That there is some poetry, courtesy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie (1847), Part I, Canto 1. Some people say that you really have to read poetry aloud to appreciate it. Give that a shot. Any better? No?
The meter is the problem, I guess. Evangeline is in dactylic hexameter, an epic meter, used by Homer and Virgil. In English, it's just prose. Rhythmic prose, but still. Suggestions of exceptions are most welcome.
Longfellow could do a lot better than that dormer and gable stuff. Here's a blacksmith:
"There at the door they stood, with wondering eyes to behold him
Take in his leathern lap the hoof of the horse as a plaything,
Nailing the shoe in its place; while near him the tire of the cart-wheel
Lay like a fiery snake, coiled round in a circle of cinders." (I.1.)
The fiery snake is nice, as is the little flash of characterization of the blacksmith. I even hear a hint of poetry at the end. This is good rhythmic prose. Or how about this description of a Louisiana swamp:
Gleamed on the columns of cypress and cedar sustaining the arches,
Down through whose broken vaults it fell as through chinks in a ruin." (II.1.)
Actually, the whole section from which I took that passage is pretty good.
Evangeline ia a long (60 pages or so) narrative poem, based on a terrible event in Canadian history, when the British forcibly evicted the French settlers from part of Nova Scotia. Today, we call this ethnic cleansing. In Longfellow's poem a young woman is separated from her husband and devotes her life to searching for him. Late in the poem, her search takes on a mythic quality that effectively deepens the meaning of the story.
It's a good story. It's easy to see why it was so popular for so long. I have trouble seeing how it would have been much different in prose.