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IV.

AGASSIZ.

(Locis John RODOLPH AGASSIZ was of Swiss birth, having been born in Canton Vaud, Switzerland, in 1807 (see Longfellow's pleasing poem, The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz), and had already made a name as a naturalist, when he came to this country to pursue investigations in 1846. Here he was persuaded to remain, and after that identified himself with American life and learning. He was a masterly teacher, and by his personal enthusiasm and influence did more than any one man in America to stimulate study in natural history. Through his name a great institution, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, was established at Cambridge, in association with Harvard University, and he remained at the head of it until his death in 1874. His home was in Cambridge, and he endeared himbelf to all with whom he was associated by the unselfishness of his ambition, the generosity of his affection, and the liberality of his nature. Lowell was in Florence at the time of Agassiz's der th, and sent home this poem, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly for May, 1874. Longfellow, besides in the poem mentioned above, has written of Agassiz in his sonnets, Three Friends of Mine, III., and Whittier also wrote The Prayer of Agassiz These poems are well worth comparing, as indicat ing characteristic strains of the three poets.]

1 See Appendix.

Come
Dicesti egli ebbe ? non viv' egli ancora?
Non fiere gli occhi suoi lo dolce lome?

Dante, Inferno, Canto X. lines 67-69

(How
thou, he had? Is he not still alive?
Does not the sweet light strike upon his eye?

Longfellow, Translation.)

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1.
The electric nerve, whose instantaneous thrill
Makes next-door gossips of the antipodes,
Confutes poor Hope's last fallacy of ease,

The distance that divided her from ill:
5 Earth sentient seems again as when of old

The horny foot of Pan
Stamped, and the conscious horror ran
Beneath men's feet through all her fibres cold :

Space's blue walls are mined; we feel the throe 10 From underground of our night-mantled foe:

The flame-winged feet
Of Trade's new Mercury, that dry-shod run
Through briny abysses dreamless of the sun,

Are mercilessly fleet, 6. Since Pan was the deity supposed to pervade all nature, the mysterious noises which issued from rocks or caves in mountainous regions were ascribed to him, and an unreasonable fear springing from sudden or unexplained causes came to be called a panic.

12 Mercury, he messenger of the gods, and fabled to have

20

15

And at a bound annihilate
Ocean's prerogative of short reprieve;

Surely ill news might wait,
And man be patient of delay to grieve:

Letters have sympathies
And tell-tale faces that reveal,

To senses finer than the eyes,
Their errand's purport ere we break the seal ;
They wind a sorrow round with circumstance

To stay its feet, nor all unwarned displace 25 The veil that darkened from our sidelong glanco

The inexorable face :
But now Fate stuns as with a mace;
The savage of the skies, that men have caught

And some scant use of language taught, 30

Tells only what he must,
The steel cold fact in one laconic thrust.

2.
So thought I, as, with vague, mechanic eyes,
I scanned the festering news we half despise

Yet scramble for no less,
35 And read of public scandal, private fraud,

Crime flaunting scot-free while the mob applaud,
Office made vile to bribe unworthiness,

And all the unwholesome mess
The Land of Broken Promise serves of late
40 To teach the Old World how to wait,

When suddenly,

winged sandals, was the tutelar divinity of merchants, so that in a double way the modern application to the spirit of the electric telegraph becomes fit.

39. At the time when this poem was written there was a succession of terrible disclosures in America of public and private corruption; loud vaunts were made of dishonoring the nationa

As happens if the brain, from overweight

Of blood, infect the eye,
Three tiny words grew lurid as I read,
45 And reeled commingling : Agassiz is dead.

As when, beneath the street's familiar jar,
An earthquake's alien omen rumbles far,
Men listen and forebode, I hung my head,

And strove the present to recall, 50 As if the blow that stunned were yet to fall. 55

3.
Uprooted is our mountain oak,
That promised long security of shade

word in financial matters, and there were few who did not look almost with despair upon the condition of public affairs. The aspect was even more sharply detined to those Americans who, travelling in Europe, found themselves openly or silently regarded as representatives of a nation that seemed to be disgracing itself. Lowell's bitter words were part of the goadings of conscience which worked so sharply in America in the years immediately following. He was reproached by some for such words as this line contains, and, when he published his Three Memorial Poems, made this noble self-defence which stauds in the front of that little book :

“If I let fall a word of bitter mirth

When public shames more shameful pardon won,
Some have misjudged me, and my service done,
If small, yet faithful, deemed of littie worth :
Through veins that drew their life from Western earth
Two hundred years and more my blood hath run
In no polluted course from sire to son ;
And thus was I predestined ere my birth
To love the soil wherewith my fibres own
Instinctive sympathies; yet love it so
As honor wouli, nor lightly to dethrone
Judgment, the stamp of manhood, nor forego
The son's right to a mother dearer grown
With growing knowledge and more chaste than snow."

And brooding-place for many a wingèd thought;

Not by Time's softly warning stroke

By pauses of relenting pity stayed,
But ere a root seemed sapt, a bough decayed,
From sudden ambush by the whirlwind caught
And in his broad maturity betrayed !

4.

Well might I, as of old, appeal to you,
60 O mountains, woods, and streams,
To help us mourn him, for ye loved him too;

But simpler moods befit our modern themes,
And no less perfect birth of nature can,
Though they yearn tow'rds him, sympathize with

nian,
65 Save as dumb fellow-prisoners through a wall;

Answer ye rather to my call,
Strong poets of a more outspoken day,
Too much for softer arts forgotten since
That teach our forthright tongue to lisp and

mince,
70 Lead me some steps in your

directer

way, Teach me those words that strike a solid root 59. In classical mythology Adonis was fabled as a lovely youth, killed by a boar, and lamented long by Venus who was inconsolable for his loss. The poets used this story for a symbol of grief and when mourning the loss of a human being were wont to call on nature to join in the lamentation. This classic form of mourning descended in literature and at different times has found very beautiful expression, as in Milton's Lycidas and Shelley's Adonais which is a lament over the dead poet Keats. Here the poet might justly call on nature to lament the death of her great student, but he turns from the form as too classic and artificial and remote from his warmer sympathy. In his own strong sense of human life he demands a fellowship of grie! from no lower crder of nature than man himself.

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