Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Not from the grand old masters,
- Although he isn't looking for a particular poem, the speaker's got some ideas about what won't work. He doesn't want something from "the grand old masters."
- Tough to know exactly who he's talking about here, but we imagine someone like Homer (who wrote the Odyssey and the Iliad) or Dante (who wrote the Inferno) or Virgil (who wrote the Aeneid). Poets like that tell epic stories of quests and adventures. That's not what the speaker is in the mood for tonight.
Not from the bards sublime,
- Same idea here. No serious old stuff from "bards sublime" (that means pretty much the same thing as "grand old masters").
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
- Again, he's working on the same idea. He doesn't want something that feels far away, or strange, or filled with the power of history.
- We know for a fact that Longfellow loved guys like Dante (he even did a famous translation of Dante's poetry). So he's not saying that grand old poems are bad. He's just not in the mood. It's all about making sure the poem fits the moment.
- See how that works? Just because you like to go out dancing Saturday doesn't necessarily mean you want to listen to the same music on Wednesday morning, right?