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LOVE AND THOUGHT
Men shall say, “ A lover of this fashion
Such an icy mistress well beseems." Women say, “ Could we deserve such pas
sion, We might be the marvel that he dreams."
What hath Love with Thought to do?
ON HEARING A SONATA OF BEETHOVEN'S PLAYED IN THE NEXT ROOM
Since we love, what need to think?
UNSEEN Musician, thou art sure to please, For those same notes in happier days I
heard Poured by dear hands that long have never
stirred Yet now again for me delight the keys: Ah me, to strong illusions such as these What are Life's solid things? The
walls that gird Our senses, lo, a casual scent or word Levels, and 't is the soul that hears and
sees ! Play on, dear girl, and many be the years
Ere some grayhaired survivor sit like And, for thy largess pay a meed of tears
Unto another who, beyond the sea Of Time and Change, perhaps not sadly
hears A music in this verse undreamed by
THE NOBLER LOVER
What you take of me is yours to serve
you, All I give, you gave to me before; Let him win you ! If I but deserve you,
I keep all you grant to him and more: You shall make me dare what others dare
not, You shall keep my nature pure as snow, And a light from you that others share
not Shall transfigure me where'er I go.
INTENDED TO GO WITH A POSSET DISH
TO MY DEAR LITTLE GODDAUGHTER, 1882
It is of interest to know that the goddaughter was a child of Leslie Stephen. In good old times, which means, you know, The time men wasted long ago, And we must blame our brains or mood If that we squander seems less good, In those blest days when wish was act And fancy dreamed itself to fact, Godfathers used to fill with guineas The cups they gave their pickaninnies, Performing functions at the chrism Not mentioned in the Catechism. No millioner, poor I fill up With wishes my more modest cup, Though had I Amalthea's horn
Let me be your thrall! However lowly
Be the bondsman's service I can do, Loyalty shall make it high and holy;
Naught can be unworthy, done for you.
It should be hers the newly born.
“A similar change is made in the ninth verse of the stanza, where simpleness' is substituted for steadfastness. The change from 'steadfast' to 'simple' was not made, probably through oversight, in the first verse of the second stanza. There is nothing to indicate what epithet Mr. Lowell would have chosen to complete the first verse of the third stanza. C. E. N." STRONG, simple, silent are the steadfast]
laws That sway this universe, of none withstood, Unconscious of man's outcries or applause, Or what man deems his evil or his good; And when the Fates ally them with a cause That wallows in the sea-trough and seems
lost, Drifting in danger of the reefs and sands Of shallow counsels, this way, that way,
tost, Strength, silence, simpleness, of these three
strands They twist the cable shall the world hold
fast To where its anchors clutch the bed-rock of
Strong, simple, silent, therefore such was
he Who helped us in our need; the eternal law That who can saddle Opportunity Is God's elect, though many a mortal flaw May minish him in eyes that closely see, Was verified in him: what need we say Of one who made success where others
failed, Who, with no light save that of common
day, Struck hard, and still struck on till For
tune quailed, But that (so sift the Norns) a desperate
Ne'er fell at last to one who was not wholly
ON A BUSTOF GENERAL GRANT
“ This poem is the last, so far as is known, written by Mr. Lowell. He laid it aside for revision, leaving two of the verses incomplete. In a pencilled fragment of the poem the first verse appears as follows:
Strong, simple, silent, such are Nature's Laws.' In the final copy, from which the poem is now printed, the verse originally stood :
Strong, steadfast, silent are the laws.' but 'steadfast' is crossed out, and imple' written above.
A face all prose where Time's (benignant]
haze Softens no raw edge yet, nor makes all fair With the beguiling light of vanished days; This is relentless granite, bleak and bare, Roughhewn, and scornful of aesthetic
phrase; Nothing is here for fancy, naught for
dreams, The Present's hard uncompromising light
Accents all vulgar outlines, flaws, and Such blood as quelled the dragon in his seams,
den, Yet vindicates some pristine natural right Made harmless fields, and better worlds O’ertopping that hereditary grace
began: Which marks the gain or loss of some time- He came grim-silent, saw and did the deed fondled race.
That was to do; in his master-grip
Our sword flashed joy; no skill of words So Marius looked, methinks, and Crom
Such sure conviction as that close-clamped Not in the purple born, to those they led
lip; Nearer for that and costlier to the foe, He slew our dragon, nor, so seemed it, New moulders of old forms, by nature
He had done more than any simplest man The exhaustless life of manhood's seeds to
might do. show, Let but the ploughshare of portentous Yet did this man, war-tempered, stern as times
steel Strike deep enough to reach them where Where steel opposed, prove soft in civil they lie:
sway; Despair and danger are their fostering The hand hilt-hardened had lost tact to climes,
feel And their best sun bursts from a stormy The world's base coin, and glozing knaves
sky: He was our man of men, nor would abate Of him and of the entrusted Commonweal; The utmost due manhood could claim of So Truth insists and will not be denied. fate.
We turn our eyes away, and so will Fame,
As if in his last battle he had died Nothing ideal, a plain-people's man Victor for us and spotless of all blame, At the first glance, a more deliberate ken Doer of hopeless tasks which praters shirk, Finds type primeval, theirs in whose veins One of those still plain men that do the
world's rough work.
I. INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND
SERIES OF BIGLOW PAPERS (Lowell took occasion, when collecting in a book the several numbers of the second series of “Biglow Papers," which had appeared in the “Atlantic Monthly," to prefix an essay which not only gave a personal narrative of the origin of the whole scheme, but particularly dwelt upon the use in literature of the homely dialect in which the poems were couched. In this Cambridge Edition it has seemed expedient to print the Introduction here rather than in immediate connection with the poems themselves.]
Though prefaces seem of late to have fallen under some reproach, they have at least this advantage, that they set us again on the feet of our personal consciousness and rescue us from the gregarious mock-modesty or cowardice of that we which shrills feebly throughout modern literature like the shrieking of mice in the walls of a house that has passed its prime. Having a few words to say to the many friends whom the “Biglow Papers" have won me, I shall accordingly take the freedom of the first person singular of the personal pronoun. Let each of the good-natured unknown who have cheered me by the written communication of their sympathy look upon this Introduction as a private letter to himself.
When, more than twenty years ago, I wrote the first of the series, I had no definite plan and no intention of ever writing another. Thinking the Mexican war, as I think it still, a national crime committed in behoof of Slavery, our common sin, and wishing to put the feeling of those who thought as I did in a way that would tell, I imagined to myself such an upcountry man as I had often seen at antislavery gatherings, capable of district-school English, but always instinctively falling back into the natural stronghold of his homely dialect when heated to the point of self-forgetfulness. When I began to carry out my conception and to write in my assumed character, I found myself in a strait between two perils. On the one hand, I was in danger of being carried beyond the limit of my own opinions, or at least of that temper with which every man should speak his mind in print, and on the other I feared the risk of seeming to vulgarize a deep and sacred conviction. I needed on occasion to rise above the level of mere patois, and for this purpose conceived the Rev. Mr. Wilbur, who should express the more cautious element of the New England character and its pedantry, as Mr.
Biglow should serve for its homely commonsense vivified and heated by conscience. The parson was to be the complement rather than the antithesis of his parishioner, and I felt or fancied a certain humorous element in the real identity of the two under a seeming incongruity. Mr. Wilbur's fondness for scraps of Latin, though drawn from the life, I adopted deliberately to heighten the contrast. Finding soon after that I needed some one as a mouthpiece of the mere drollery, for I conceive that true humor is never divorced from moral conviction, I invented Mr. Sawin for the clown of my little puppet-show. I meant to embody in him that half-conscious unmorality which I had noticed as the recoil in gross natures from a puritanism that still strove to keep in its creed the intense savor which had long gone out of its faith and life. In the three I thought I should find room enough to express, as it was my plan to do, the popular feeling and opinion of the time. For the names of two of my characters, since I have received some remonstrances from very worthy persons who happen to bear them,
would say that they were purely fortuitous, probably mere unconscious memories of signboards or directories. Mr. Sawin's sprang from the accident of a rhyme at the end of his first epistle, and I purposely christened him by the impossible surname of Birdofredum not more to stigmatize him as the incarnation of “Manifest Destiny,” in other words, of national recklessness as to right and wrong, than to avoid the chance of wounding any private sensitiveness.
The success of my experiment soon began not only to astonish me, but to make me feel the responsibility of knowing that I held in my hand a weapon instead of the mere fencingstick I had supposed. Very far from being a popular author under my own name, so far, indeed, as to be almost unread, I found the verses of my pseudonym copied everywhere; I saw them pinned up in workshops ; I heard them quoted and their authorship debated; I once even, when rumor had at length caught up my name in one of its eddies, had the satisfaction of overbearing it demonstrated, in the pauses of a concert, that I was utterly incompetent to have written anything of the kind. I had read too much not to know the utter worthlessness of contemporary reputation, especially as regards satire, but I knew also that by giving a certain amount of influence it also had its worth, if that influence were used on the right side. I had learned, too, that the first requisite of good writing is to have an earnest and definite purpose, whether æsthetic
or moral, and that even good writing, to please comes at last as unfitting a vehicle for living long, must have more than an average amount thought as monkish Latin. That we should all either of imagination or common-sense. The be made to talk like books is the danger with first of these falls to the lot of scarcely one in which we are threatened by the Universal several generations; the last is within the reach Schoolmaster, who does his best to enslave the of many in every one that passes; and of this minds and memories of his victims to what he an author may fairly hope to become in part esteems the best models of English composithe mouthpiece. If I put on the cap and bells tion, that is to say, to the writers whose style and made myself one of the court-fools of King is faultily correct and has no blood-warmth in Demos, it was less to make his majesty laugh it. No language after it has faded into diction, than to win a passage to his royal ears for cer- none that cannot suck up the feeding juices tain serious things which I had deeply at heart. secreted for it in the rich mother-earth of comI say this because there is no imputation that mon folk, can bring forth a sound and lusty could be more galling to any man's self-respect book. True vigor and heartiness of phrase do than that of being a mere jester. I endeavored, not pass from page to page, but from man to þy generalizing my satire, to give it what value man, where the brain is kindled and the lips I could beyond the passing moment and the im- suppled by downright living interests and by mediate application. How far I have succeeded passion in its very throe. Language is the soil I cannot tell, but I have had better luck than of thought, and our own especially is a rich I ever looked for in seeing my verses survive to leaf-mould, the slow deposit of ages, the shed pass beyond their nonage.
foliage of feeling, fancy, and imagination, which In choosing the Yankee dialect, I did not act has suffered an earth-change, that the vocal forwithout forethought. It had long seemed to est, as Howell called it, may clothe itself anew me that the great vice of American writing and with living green. There is death in the dictionspeaking was a studied want of simplicity, that ary; and, where language is too strictly limited we were in danger of coming to look on our by convention, the ground for expression to grow mother-tongue as a dead language, to be sought in is limited also; and we get a potted literature. in the grammar and dictionary rather than in Chinese dwarfs instead of healthy trees. the heart, and that our only chance of escape But while the schoolmaster has been busy was by seeking it at its living sources among starching our language and smoothing it flat those who were, as Scottowe says of Major- with the mangle of a supposed classical authorGeneral Gibbons, “divinely illiterate.” Presi- ity, the newspaper reporter has been doing even dent Lincoln, the only really great public man more harm by stretching and swelling it to suit whom these latter days have seen, was great
his occasions. A dozen years ago I began a list, also in this, that he was master - witness his which I have added to from time to time, of speech at Gettysburg - of a truly masculine some of the changes which may be fairly laid English, classic, because it was of no special at his door. I give a few of them as showing period, and level at once to the highest and their tendency, all the more dangerous that lowest of his countrymen. I learn from the their effect, like that of some poisons, is insenhighest authority that his favorite reading was sibly cumulative, and that they are sure at last in Shakespeare and Milton, to which, of course, of effect among a people whose chief reading is the Bible should be added. But whoever the daily paper. I give in two columns the old should read the debates in Congress might fancy style and its modern equivalent. himself present at a meeting of the city council of some city of Southern Gaul in the decline of
New Style. the Empire, where barbarians with a Latin Was hanged.
Was launched into eternity. varnish emulated each other in being more than When the halter was put When the fatal noose was Ciceronian. Whether it be want of culture, for round his neck.
adjusted about the neck the highest outcome of that is simplicity, or for
of the unfortunate victim
of his own unbridled whatever reason, it is certain that very few
sions. American writers or speakers wield their native
A great crowd came to see. A vast concourse was assemlanguage with the directness, precision, and
bled to witness. force that are common as the day in the mother Great fire.
Disastrous conflagration. country. We use it like Scotsmen, not as if it The fire spread.
The conflagration extended belonged to us, but as if we wished to prove
its devastating career. that we belonged to it, by showing our inti
Edifice consumed. macy with its written rather than with its
The fire was got under. The progress of the devour
ing element was arrested. spoken dialect. And yet all the while our
Individual was precipitated. popular idiom is racy with life and vigor and
A horse and wagon ran A valuable horse attached originality, bucksome (as Milton used the word) against.
to a vehicle driven by J. to our new occasions, and proves itself no mere
8., in the employment of graft by sending up new suckers from the old
J. B., collided with. root in spite of us.
The infuriated animal. It is only from its roots in
The frightened horse.
Sent for the doctor. Called into requisition the the living generations of men that a language
services of the family can be reinforced with fresh vigor for its needs;
physician. what may be called a literate dialect grows ever The mayor of the city in a The chief magistrate of the more and more pedantic and foreign, till it be- short speech welcomed. metropolis, in well-chosen