Page images
[blocks in formation]


But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,

Are so queer!


And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree

In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough

Where I cling.


Notes and Questions What was the office of the Crier 8 old man so vivid ! What has done away with the ne How does he resemble "the last cessity for such service?

leaf on the tree” At what time was the costume de Of whom is Holmes thinking when

scribed in the seventh stanza he says “Let them smile''? worn?

What is added to the picture of What great men can you mention the last leaf by the words “In

who are pictured in this dress? the spring''? What makes the description of the

Words and Phrases for Discussion "pruning knife -of Time"

“mossy marbles"


JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL was born at Cambridge in the beautiful house known as Elmwood. He was more fortunate than most Americans, for in this same house he lived and died. The dwelling at Elmwood was like Craigie House, an historic place of Revolutionary memories. The secluded, ample grounds made a fine rural refuge for a youth of poetic fancies. Nor was there only wealth for the nature-lover of outdoors; there were also treasures for the lover of books within. The Lowell library was the accumulation of several generations of scholarly men, and Lowell from early youth was familiar with books which Whittier even in the studious leisure of old age never looked into.

Lowell was twelve years younger than Longfellow and was a sophomore when Longfellow went to Harvard as professor of Romance languages. At Harvard Lowell distinguished himself especially in literary matters. In the last year of his residence he was one of the editors of the college magazine and was also elected class poet. Although he studied law, he was never attracted to the practice of it.

Lowell, like Whittier, could turn from the heat and strife of public affairs to the solace of pure poetry. Inspired by the legend of the Holy Grail, he wrote within forty-eight hours, so we are told, the poem of knightly aspiration and brotherly love, “The Vision of Sir Launfal.”

In 1856, upon Longfellow's resignation, Lowell was appointed professor of Romance Languages at Harvard, and, like Longfellow, he remained for twenty years. In 1857 a new magazine to which Holmes had given the name “Atlantic Monthly” was established and Lowell was its first editor.

In 1877 Lowell was appointed minister to Spain, where Irving had been sent more than thirty years before; and in 1880 he was transferred to the court of St. James. Here he distinguished himself by tact, courtesy, and wisdom and won the admiration of the English people.

Returning to America in 1885 Lowell continued to write, and delivered addresses when his strength would permit. He spent his time among his books and lived peacefully at Elmwood, where he died in 1891 at the age of seventy-two.



OVER his keys the musing organist,

Beginning doubtfully and far away,
First lets his fingers wander as they list,

And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay:


Then, as the touch of his loved instrument

Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme, First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent

Along the wavering vista of his dream.




Not only around our infancy
Doth heaven with all its splendors lie;
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,

We Sinais climb and know it not.
Over our manhood bend the skies;

Against our fallen and traitor lives
The great winds utter prophecies;

With our faint hearts the mountain strives;
Its arms outstretched, the Druid wood

Waits with its benedicite;
And to our age's drowsy blood

Still shouts the inspiring sea.
Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us ;

The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,

We bargain for the graves we lie in;
At the Devil's booth are all things sold,
Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;

For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking:

'Tis heaven alone that is given away,
'Tis only God may be had for the asking;
No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.




And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,

And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,



An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,

Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen

Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,

The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf or a blade too mean

To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,

Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun

With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?





Now is the high-tide of the year,

And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,

Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,

That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;



« PreviousContinue »