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of Lowell's nature, never divorced from this love of letters, a criticism of life, especially as it took form in contemporaneous American history. The period which I have named covered the preparation for the war for the Union, that war itself, and the reconstruction era afterward, and the expression of Lowell's nature in its attitude toward the whole period was manifold. The volume of Political Essays contains the incisive papers which stung the irresolute and time-serving, and inspirited the ardent lovers of truth and liberty. It is impossible read these papers now without admiration for the political sagacity of the writer, a sagacity before the event, not after. Every page bears witness to the sanity with which he regarded contemporaneous affairs, when madness seemed the most natural temper in the world, and his insight of human nature was that of a poet who did not regard his power of vision as excluding the necessity of paying taxes. History has been supplying foot-notes to these pages, with the result, not of correcting the text, but of confirming it.
In this same period also he wrote and published the Second Series of The Biglow Papers, and used his satire and his moral indignation with a depth of feeling which surpassed that shown in the first series, a little to the detriment thereby, it may be, of the gaiety of the humor. In truth, strong as was Lowell's power of invective, his passion of patriotism found this vent too narrow ; there was a large, constructive imagination at work on the great theme of national life, which found fuller expression in the Odes which the Centennial and Commemorative occasions called out. Lowell seized these occasions with a spirit which scarcely needed them, and merely employed them as fit opportunities for casting in large moulds the great thoughts and feelings which rose out of the life of a man conscious of his inheritance in a noble patrimony.
It was at the close of this period, in which he had done incalculable service to the Republic, that Lowell was called on to represent the country, first at Madrid, where he was sent by President Hayes in 1877, and afterwards at London, to which he was transferred in 1880. He had a good knowledge of Spanish language and literature when he went to Spain, but he at once took pains to make his knowledge fuller and his accent more perfect, so that he could have intimate relations with the best Spanish men of the time. In England he was at once a most welcome guest, and a most effective public speaker. Eight years were thus spent by him in the foreign service of the country. His sole participation in practical politics, as the term is, up to this time had been to attend a national convention once as delegate, and to have his name used as Presidential Elector. To the minds of many of his countrymen he seemed doubtless a dilettante in politics. Special preparation in diplomacy he had not, but he had what was more fundamental, a large nature enriched by a familiar intercourse with great minds, and so sane, so sound in its judgment, that whether he was engaged in determining a reading in an Elizabethan dramatist or in deciding to which country an Irish colossus belonged, he was bringing his whole nature to the bench. No one can read Lowell's despatches from Madrid and London without being struck by his sagacity, his readiness in emergencies, his interest in and quick perception of the political situation in the country where he was resident, and his unerring knowledge as a man of the world. Nor could Lowell lay aside in his official communications the art and the wit which were native to him. “ I asked Lord Lyons,” he writes in one letter," whether he did not think suzerainty might be defined as “ leaving to a man the privilege of carrying the saddle and bridle after you have stolen his horse.' He assented.”
But though Lowell's studies and experience had given him a preparation for dealing with diplomatic questions, the firmness with which he held his political faith afforded as
sure a preparation for that more significant embassy which he bore from the American people to the English. Not long after his return he published a little volume containing the more important speeches which he had made while in England. Most of them had to do with literature, but the title-address in the volume, Democracy, was an epigrammatic confession of political faith as hopeful as it was wise and keen. A few years later he gave another address to his own countrymen on “ The Place of the Independent in Politics.” It was a noble apologia, not without a trace of discouragement at the apparently sluggish movement of the recent years, but with that faith in the substance of his countrymen which gave him the right to use words of honest scorn and warning. What impresses one especially in reading this address, remembering the thoughtless gibes which had been flung at this patriot, is the perfect self-respect with which he defines his position, the entire absence of petty retaliation upon his aspersers, the kindliness of nature, the charity, in a word, which is the finest outcome of a strong political faith. It must have been galling to Lowell to find himself taunted with being un-American. He could afford to meet such a charge with silence, but he answered it with something better than silence when he reprinted in a volume his scattered political essays.
The public of Mr. Lowell made him more of a figure before the world. ceived honors from societies and universities ; he was decorated by the highest honors which Harvard could pay officially, and Oxford and Cambridge, St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and Bologna, gave gowns. He established warm personal relations with Englishmen, and after his release from public office he made several visits to England. There, too, was buried his wife, who died in 1885. The closing years of his life in his own country, though touched with domestic loneliness and diminished by growing physical infirmities that predicted his death, were rich also with the continued expression of his large personality. He delivered the public address in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Harvard University, he gave a course of lectures on the Old English Dramatists before the Lowell Institute, he collected a volume of his poems, he spoke and wrote on public affairs, and the year before his death revised, rearranged, and carefully edited a definitive series of his writings in ten volumes. Since his death three small volumes have been added to his collected writings, and Mr. Norton has published Letters of James Russell Lowell in two volumes.
For anything like an adequate apprehension of Lowell's rich nature, the reader unacquainted with him during his lifetime, needs to read these Letters and the whole body of his prose and poetry; a nature at once so spontaneous and so lavish of its best gifts is not to be bounded by the arbitrary limits of a biography, brief or extended. Yet the poems alone as contained in this volume do much to reveal to the attentive reader the personality of their author. He was the most companionable of men, and shared his large gifts with chance acquaintance so freely that one sometimes wondered what he saved for more intimate friends ; and yet his fine reserve was apparent even to those who knew him best. The humor which underlies so much even of his stately verse was a constant quantity in his temperament, closely allied with shrewd sagacity; the sentiment and fancy which find expression sometimes in an entire poem, more often in phrase and line, played about his conversation in familiar intercourse; but as his verse when read in its fulness is charged with noble passion and with an imagination in which human experience and personal emotion are fused in a high ideal, so no one could long be with the poet without recognizing that he was in the presence of a character which combined the unflinching earnestness of the Puritan with the mellowness of a man of the great world.
H. E. S.
The first book of poetry issued by Lowell, if we except the pamphlet containing his Class Poem, was A Year's Life, published in 1841 by C. C. Little and J. Brown, Boston. It contained thirty-two poems and songs and thirtyfive sonnets, besides a l'envoi headed “Goe, Little Booke," and a dedication addressed, though not formally, to Miss Maria White, to whom he had become engaged in the fall of 1840.
The gentle Una I have loved,
newspapers. How little value the author set upon the contents of this first volume is evident when one discovers that on making his first general collection of poems in 1849, he retained but seven of those printed in A Year's Life. He continued to contribute to the magazines of his time, especially to The Democratic Review, Graham's Magazine, The Boston Miscellany, and The Pioneer, the last named being a very short-lived magazine which he conducted in company with Mr. Robert Carter, and in 1843 he issued a second volume of Poems, in which he gathered the product of the intervening time, whether printed or in manuscript. The division Earlier Poems, first used in the collection dated 1877, contains but seven of the poems, two of them being sonnets included in A Year's Life. Of the thirty-five poems and thirty-seven sonnets printed in the 1843 volume of Poems, seven poems and thirteen sonnets were silently dropped from later collections, and the poems included in the two volumes were distributed mainly between the two divisions Earlier Poems and Miscellaneous Poems.
If there be one who can, like her,
Will she accept this book from me ?
Those deep, dark eyes so warm and bright,
Wherein the fortunes of the man As first printed in The Knickerbocker maga- Lay slumbering in prophetic light, zine for May, 1839, this poem bore the title In characters a child might scan? Threnodia on an Infant, and was signed H. P.,
So bright, and gone forth utterly! the initials for Hugh Perceval, a pseudonym
Oh stern word Nevermore! which Lowell used occasionally at the outset of his career. In a letter to G. B. Loring, upon
The stars of those two gentle eyes the appearance of the poem, Lowell says that his brother Robert animadverted on the irreg
Will shine no more on earth; ular metre of the Threnodia; “but as I think," Quenched are the hopes that had their he adds, “very unphilosophically and without
birth, much perception of the true rules of poetry. As we watched them slowly rise, In my opinion no verse ought to be longer Stars of a mother's fate; than the writer can sensibly make it. It has And she would read them o'er and o'er, been this senseless stretching of verses to make
Pondering, as she sate, them octo- or deka-syllabic or what not, that
Over their dear astrology, has brought such an abundance of useless epithets on the shoulders of poor English verse."
Which she had conned and conned before,
Deeming she needs must read aright GONE, gone from us ! and shall we see What was writ so passing bright. Those sibyl-leaves of destiny,
And yet, alas ! she knew not why, Those calm eyes, nevermore ?
Her voice would falter in its song,
And tears would slide from out her eye,
As the airy gossamere, Floating in the sunlight clear, Where'er it toucheth clingeth tightly, Round glossy leaf or stunıp unsightly, So from his spirit wandered out Tendrils spreading all about, Knitting all things to its thrall With a perfect love of all: Oh stern word - Nevermore !
The tongue that scarce had learned to
He did but float a little way
Full short his journey was; no dust
How peacefully they rest, Crossfolded there Upon his little breast, Those small, white hands that ne'er were
still before, But ever sported with his mother's hair, Or the plain cross that on her breast she
This poem in A Year's Life is dated Nan. tasket, July, 1840.
THE sea is lonely, the sea is dreary,