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All too soon comes Winter's grief,
The birds but repeat without ending
The same old traditional notes,
Seem to make over new in their throats;
And we men through our old bit of song
run, Until one just improves on the rest, And we call a thing his, in the long run,
Who utters it clearest and best.
“ FRANCISCUS DE VERULAMIO
That's a rather bold speech, my Lord
Nest that had song-birds in it;
go, Since your mind bubbled up at its foun- The dreary days, to fill it, tain,
Instead of lark or linnet, How many streams made it elate,
Shall whirl dead leaves and snow. While it calmed to the plain from the mountain,
Had they been swallows only, As every mind must that grows great ?
Without the passion stronger
That skyward longs and sings, While you thought ’t was You thinking as Woe's me, I shall be lonely newly
When I can feel no longer
The impatience of their wings !
Like birds the brown leaves hover;
But it will not be long Greece, Rome, nay, your namesake, old Before their wild confusion Roger,
Fall wavering down to cover With Truth's nameless delvers who The poet and his song.
wrought In the dark mines of Truth, helped to prod your
THE PREGNANT COMMENT Fine brain with the goad of their thought.
OPENING one day a book of mine, As mummy was prized for a rich hue I absent, Hester found a line
The painter no elsewhere could find, Praised with a pencil-mark, and this So 't was buried men's thinking with which She left transfigured with a kiss.
Like Poussin's nymphs my pulses dance, I heard the proud strawberry saying, And whirl my fancy where it sees
“Only look what a ruby I've made !” Pan piping 'neath Arcadian trees, It forgot how the bees in their maying Whose leaves no winter-scenes rehearse, Had brought it the stuff for its trade. Still young and glad as Homer's verse.
“What mean," I ask," these sudden joys ? And yet there's the half of a truth in it, This feeling fresher than a boy's ?
And my Lord might his copyright sue; What makes this line, familiar long, For a thought's his who kindles new youth New as the first bird's April song ? it,
I co ald, with sense illumined thus, Or so puts it as makes it more true. Clear doubtful texts in Æschylus ! ”
SCIENCE AND POETRY
He who first stretched his nerves of sub
tile wire Over the land and through the sea-depths
still, Thought only of the flame-winged messen
ger As a dull drudge that should encircle earth With sordid messages of Trade, and tame Blithe Ariel to a bagman. But the Muse Not long will be defrauded. From her foe Her misused wand she snatches; at a touch, The Age of Wonder is renewed again, And to our disenchanted day restores The Shoes of Swiftness that give odds to
Thought, The Cloak that makes invisible; and with
these I glide, an airy fire, from shore to shore, Or from my Cambridge whisper to Cathay.
I sat and watched the walls of night
With cracks of sudden lightning glow, And listened while with clumsy might
The thunder wallowed to and fro.
The rain fell softly now; the squall,
That to a torrent drove the trees, Had whirled beyond us to let fall
Its tumult on the whitening seas.
A NEW YEAR'S GREETING The century numbers fourscore years;
You, fortressed in your teens, To Time's alarums close your ears, And, while he devastates your peers,
Conceive not what he means.
But still the lightning crinkled keen,
Or fluttered fitful from behind The leaden drifts, then only seen,
That rumbled eastward on the wind.
Still as gloom followed after glare,
Wbile bated breath the pine-trees drew, Tiny Salmoneus of the air,
His mimic bolts the firefly threw.
If e'er life's winter fleck with snow
Your hair's deep shadowed bowers, That winsome head an art would know To make it charm, and wear it so
As 't were a wreath of flowers.
He thought, no doubt, “ Those flashes
grand, That light for leagues the shuddering
sky, Are made, a fool could understand,
By some superior kind of fly.
If to such fairies years must come,
May yours fall soft and slow As, shaken by a bee's low hum, The rose-leaves waver, sweetly dumb,
Down to their mates below!
“He's of our race's elder branch,
His family-arms the same as ours, Both born the twy-forked flame to launch,
Of kindred, if unequal, powers.'
Down through the rift itself bad made, Golden as honey in the sun,
Of darkest amber in the shade.
And is man wiser ? Man who takes
His consciousness the law to be Of all beyond his ken, and makes
God but a bigger kind of Me?
In this wild glen at last, methought,
The magic's secret I surprise; Here Celia's guardian fairy caught
The changeful splendors of her eyes
All else grows tame, the sky's one blue,
The one long languish of the rose, But these, beyond prevision new,
Shall charm and startle to the close.
Set it to music; give it a tune,
brings you, Tune the wild columbines nod to in June !
WITH A SEASHELL
This is the secret: so simple, you see !
ing, Known, since the world was, by scarce two
IV. HUMOR AND SATIRE
FITZ ADAM'S STORY
SHELL, whose lips, than mine more cold,
you what you guessed before ! ”
[The greater part of this poem was written many years ago as part of a larger one, to be called The Nooning, made up of tales in verse, some of them grave, some comic.
It gives me a sad pleasure to remember that I was encouraged in this project by my friend the late Arthur Hugh Clough.]
Thus Lowell in the note which he prefixed to this poem when printing it in Heartsease and Rue. In his Letters are some more detailed references to the design of The Nooning. As far back as 1849, when issuing a new edition of his Poems, he wrote to Mr. Briggs : “My next volume, I think, will show an advance. It is to be called The Nooning. Now guess what it will be. The name suggests pleasant thoughts, does it not ? But I shall not tell you anything about it yet, and you must not mention it." A little later he wrote to the same correspondent: “ Maria invented the title for me, and is it not a pleasant one? My plan is this. I am going to bring together a party of half a dozen old friends at Elmwood. They go down to the river and bathe, and then one proposes that they shall go up into a great willow-tree (which stands at the end of the causey near our house, and has seats in it) to take their nooning. There they agree that each shall tell a story or recite a poem of some sort. In the tree they find a countryman already resting himself, who enters into the plan and tells a humorous tale, with touches of Yankee character and habits in it. I am to read my poem of the Voyage of Leif to Vinland, in which I mean to bring my hero straight into Boston Bay, as befits a Bay-state poet. Two of my poems are already written - one The Fountain of Youth (no connection with any other firm), and the other an Address to the Muse, by the Transcendentalist of the party. . . . In The Nooning I shall have not
THE SECRET I HAVE a fancy: how shall I bring it Home to all mortals wherever they be ? Say it or sing it? Shoe it or wing it, So it may outrun or outfly ME, Merest cocoon-web whence it broke free ?
Only one secret can save from disaster, Only one magic is that of the Master :
even a glance towards Reform.". Apparently And after thinking wondered why they did, Lowell regarded the book as imminent, but For half he seemed to let them, half forthe death of his daughter Rose early in 1850 bid, and the subsequent journey to Europe seem to
And wrapped him so in humors, sheath on have deferred the execution of his plans, and
sheath, the book, as we know, never had a whole, though there were several fragments of it pub
'T was hard to guess the mellow soul be
neath; lished. He held tenaciously, however, to his plan. In June, 1853, he wrote again to Mr.
But, once divined, you took him to your Briggs : “I have The Nooning to finish which
heart, shall turn out well ;” and thirteen years later While he appeared to bear with you as he wrote to Mr. Norton: “I have been work
part ing hard, and if my liver will let me alone, as Of life's impertinence, and once a year it does now, am likely to go on all winter.
Betrayed his true self by a smile or tear, And on what, do you suppose? I have taken
Or rather something sweetly-shy and loath, up one of the unfinished tales of The Nooning,
Withdrawn ere fully shown, and mixed of and it grew to a poem of near seven hundred
both. lines! (plainly this poem of Fitz Adam's Story]. It is mainly descriptive. First, a
A cynic? Not precisely: one who thrust sketch of the narrator, then his 'prelude,' Against a heart too prone to love and trust, then his tale.' I describe an old inn and its Who so despised false sentiment he knew landlord, bar-room, etc. It is very homely, Scarce in himself to part the false and but right from nature. I have lent it to Child
true, and hope he will like it, for if he does n't I And strove to bide, by roughening-o'er the shall feel discouraged. It was very interest
skin, ing to take up a thread dropt so long ago, and
Those cobweb nerves he could not dull curious as a phenomenon of memory to find
within. how continuous it had remained in my mind, and how I could go on as if I had let it fall
Gentle by birth, but of a stem decayed, only yesterday.”
He shunned life's rivalries and hated trade; A scheme so long persisted in and returned On a small patrimony and larger pride, to so often could scarcely be wholly unknown, He lived uneaseful on the Other Side and in a letter to Professor James B. Thayer (So he called Europe), only coming West written in December, 1868, we find Lowell To give his Old-World appetite new zest; answering a query he had put: “ And The
still the New World spooked it in his Nooning. Sure enough, where is it? The
veins, June Idyl (renamed Under the Willows] (writ
A ghost he could not lay with all his pains; ten in '51 or '52) is a part of what I had written as the induction to it. The description of
For never Pilgrims' offshoot scapes control spring in one of the Biglow Papers is another
Of those old instincts that have shaped his fragment of the same, tagged with rhyme for
soul. the nonce. So is a passage in Mason and Slidell A radical in thought, he puffed away beginning
With shrewd contempt the dust of usage "Oh, strange new world.'
gray, The Voyage to Vinland, the Pictures from
Yet loathed democracy as one who saw, Appledore, and Fitz Adam's Story were written
In what he longed to love, some vulgar for The Nooning, as originally planned. So,
flaw, you see, I had made some progress. Perhaps And, shocked through all his delicate reit will come by and by — not in the shape I
serves, meant at first, for something broke my life in Remained a Tory by his taste and nerves. two, and I cannot piece it together again. Be- His fancy's thrall, he drew all ergoes sides, the Muse asks all of a man, and for many
thence, years I have been unable to give myself up would.” Fragments of an Unfinished Poem, p.
And thought himself the type of common 158, is another bit of Hotsam from The Nooning. Misliking women, not from cross or whim,
sense; The next whose fortune 't was a tale to But that his mother shared too much in tell
him, Was one whom men, before they thought, And he half felt that what in them was loved well,