Слике страница
PDF
ePub

The second series of the "Biglow Papers," relating to the War of the Rebellion, were first published in the Atlantic. They were collected into a volume in 1865. That year was rendered notable by his "Commemoration Ode," the worthy crowning of one of the grandest poetic opportunities ever granted to man. "Under the Willows" appeared in 1869; "The Cathedral" in 1870.

In 1864 he had issued a collection of his early descriptive articles under the title, "Fireside Travels." In 1870 came "Among my Books." The second series followed in 1876. My Study Windows" was published in 1871. All these prose works were marked by an exuberant, vivid, poetic, impassioned style. The tropical efflorescence of imagery was characteristic of them all. He ought to have remembered his own words,

66

"Over-ornament ruins both poem and prose."

In 1876 appeared three memorial poems: that read at Concord, April 19, 1875; that read at Cambridge under the Washington Elm, July 3, 1875; and the Fourth of July Ode of 1876. This year Mr. Lowell was appointed one of the presidential electors; and the following year President Hayes first offered him the Austrian mission, and, on his refusal of that, gave him the honorary post at Madrid, which had been adorned by Everett, Irving, and Prescott. He was there three years, and, on the retirement of Mr. Welsh in 1880, was transferred to the Court of St. James, or, as one of the English papers expressed it, he became "His Excellency the Ambassador of American Literature to the Court of Shakespeare."

66

He was extremely popular. Known in private as one of the most marvellous of story-tellers," he became the lion of many public occasions. The London News spoke of the “Extraordinary felicity of his occasional speeches." At Birmingham he delivered a noble address on Democracy. He was selected to deliver the oration at the dedication of the Dean Stanley Memorial. He spoke on Fielding at Taunton, on Coleridge at Westminster Abbey, on Gray at Cambridge. He was President of the Wordsworth Society. All sorts of honors were heaped upon him, both at home and abroad.

He returned to America in 1885, and once more occupied the somewhat dilapidated historic mansion at Elmwood. Once

more he moved amid his rare and precious books, and heard the birds singing in the elms that his father had planted, or in the clustered bushes back of the house. He took a deep interest in the struggle for international copyright. He was President of the American Copyright League, and wrote the memorable lines:

:

"In vain we call old notions fudge,

And bend our conscience to our dealing;
The Ten Commandments will not budge;
And stealing will continue stealing."

He used the leisure of his failing health in revising his works. His last volume of poems was entitled "Heart's Ease and Rue.' One of his latest poems, "My Book," appeared in the Christmas number of the New York Ledger in 1890. In the December number of the Atlantic his hand was visible in the anonymous "Contributor's Club."

During the last years his health was a matter of grave anxiety to his friends. In the spring of 1891 he seemed better. He was engaged in writing a life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. When the present writer call to see him one beautiful spring day, he found him in his library, at that moment engaged in making suggestions for the inscriptions on the new Boston Public Library. His manner was the perfection of courtesy and high breeding. His keen eyes seemed to read the very soul. Simplicity and beautiful dignity, tempered by evident feebleness of health, made him a memorable figure.

Toward the end of the summer he suddenly grew more seriously ill. He suffered severely, and his last words were, "Oh! why don't you let me die?”

He drew his last breath in the early morning of Aug. 12, 1891. He was buried at Mount Auburn, in the shadow of Indian Ridge, not far from Longfellow's grave, in a lot unenclosed and marked by no monument.

Memorial services were held in many places. Lord Tennyson cabled a message of sympathy: "England and America will mourn Mr. Lowell's death. They loved him and he loved them." The Queen publicly expressed her respect and sorrow. Few men have left a deeper impress on their age. Few men have used noble powers more nobly. In private life and public

station there is not a shadow to stain the whiteness of his fame.

As a poet he stands in the front rank of those who have yet appeared in America. As a critic he was generous and just; as a humorist he used his shafts of ridicule only to wound wrong; as a statesman and diplomat he was actuated by broad, farseeing views; as a man he was a type to be upheld and followed. America has just cause to reverence his memory; and the whole English-speaking world, without geographical distinction, claims him as its own.

NATHAN HASKELL DOLE.

[ocr errors]

EARLY POEMS.

SONNET.

If some small savor creep into my rhyme
Of the old poets, if some words I use,
Neglected long, which have the lusty thews
Of that gold-haired and earnest-hearted time,
Whose loving joy and sorrow all sublime
Have given our tongue its starry eminence,
It is not pride, God knows, but reverence
Which hath grown in me since my childhood's prime;
Wherein I feel that my poor lyre is strung
With soul-strings like to theirs, and that I have
No right to muse their holy graves among,
If I can be a custom-fettered slave,
And, in mine own true spirit, am not brave
To speak what rusheth upward to my tongue.

HAKON'S LAY.

THEN Thorstein looked at Hakon, where he sate,
Mute as a cloud amid the stormy hall,

And said: "O, Skald, sing now an olden song,
Such as our fathers heard who led great lives;
And, as the bravest on a shield is borne
Along the waving host that shouts him king,
So rode their thrones upon the thronging seas!"

Then the old man arose: white-haired he stood,
White-bearded, and with eyes that looked afar
From their still region of perpetual snow,
Over the little smokes and stirs of men:
His head was bowed with gathered flakes of years,
As winter bends the sea-foreboding pine,
But something triumphed in his brow and eye,
Which whoso saw it, could not see and crouch:

« ПретходнаНастави »