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I need ye not, for I to-day
Will make one long sweet verse of play."
This feeling of kinship with nature finds perhaps its fullest and freest expression in the quaint language of the Biglow Papers.
"Nor th' airth don't git put out with me,
I, country-born an' bred, know where to find
Young oak-leaves mist the side-hill woods with pink ;
"The charm of Lowell's out-door verse," says Mr. Stedman," lies in its spontaneity; he loves nature with a child-like joy, her boon companion, finding even in
her illusions welcome and relief. It does me good to see a poet who knows a bird or flower as one friend knows another, yet loves it for itself alone."
At the age of thirty-six, Lowell began to reap the well-merited honors of a literary career. He gave before the Lowell Institute in 1855 a series of lectures which were unusually popular. That same year he was appointed to succeed Longfellow as Professor of Modern Language and Literature at Harvard College. After two years' study in Europe, he entered upon .these new duties. His term as professor covers thirty years on the catalogue, during twenty of which he was in active service. The gracious influence of those years can scarcely be overestimated. "If you talk with any of the men who were with him in college," writes Dr. Hale, "you will find that they associate him especially with the brilliant lectures which students liked to attend. But you find much more than this. Those who knew him at all, and who took any interest in the line of study to which he was committed, remember him for their personal intimacies with him." "Here," says one of the students, "was a man who knew literature as the best record that human beings have made of human life- and knew the world, and knew you too; ready and willing in a friendly way to pronounce the cordial word of introduction."
Soon after Lowell's return from Europe, the literary men about Boston projected a new magazine which should express the best thought of New England and the nation. Longfellow, Holmes, Whittier, Emerson, and Mrs. Stowe promised to contribute. Holmes gave the name The Atlantic, and Lowell became the first editor. During the fifteen years of his life which he spent in editorial duties, as we learn from Dr. Hale, he was no mere figurehead, but understood his business and performed the prosaic details most faithfully.
But the poet and the reformer were not wholly engrossed in these exacting duties. The second series of Biglow Papers glows with patriotic fervor. Here the deeper feeling called out by the great interests at stake in the Civil War gives a genuine pathos, and leads at times to a higher poetical expression than in the former series. The Harvard Commemoration Ode, one of the best occasional poems in our language, is the loftiest expression of his passion and genius, and marks the high tide of poetic achievement in America. The sorrow of both friend and patriot finds expression in the lines,
"I strive to mix some gladness with my strain,
And will not please the ear:
I sweep them for a pæan, but they wane
Into a dirge, and die away, in pain.
Thinking of dear ones whom the dumb turf wraps,
Fitlier may others greet the living,
I with uncovered head
Who went, and who return not.”.
The glad consciousness that the sacrifice has not been in vain speaks in the sonorous lines of the closing stanza :
"Bow down, dear Land, for thou hast found release!
Hath taught thee the sure wisdom of His ways,
No poorest in thy borders but may now
Freed from wrath's pale eclipse,
The rosy edges of their smile lay bare,
It has been well said that public spirit was the natural inheritance of the Lowell family. Before his forty-eighth year Lowell's public duties had all been performed in the arena of private life. He was our noblest example of the scholar in politics, serving without political reward. But in 1877, genius, political courage, independence, and ability found appropriate recognition in his appointment as minister to Spain. Here he remained until his transfer to England in 1880. His reputation as poet and humorist had preceded him. But he was, as George William Curtis says, "much more than his Excellency the Ambassador of American Literature to the Court
of Shakespeare; " " he was "the representative to
England of an American scholarship, a wit, an intellectual resource, a complete and splendid accomplishment,... a felicity of public and private speech and a weight of good sense, which pleasantly challenged England to a continuous and friendly bout in which America did not suffer."
We think of Lowell as a man of sparkling wit, the most genial of companions, the most faithful of friends. He has nothing of the iceberg quality which he ascribes to Bryant, little of the shy shrinking of Hawthorne, or the philosophic isolation of Emerson. He is a true son of New England, in whom