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of effort, of deep soul-experience, of intellectual and moral growth. Concerning the influences of the time Dr. E. E. Hale writes, "I despair of making any person appreciate the ferment in which any young person moved who came into the daily life of Boston in the days when Lowell left college. But the reader must believe that nobody was indifferent then." The antislavery agitation was coming to the front, and Lowell could talk with its great leaders, Wendell Phillips or Garrison, on the subject of human rights. He could hear Emerson discourse of "the open secret of the universe." Of the latter experience, Lowell says: "We used to walk in from the country through the crisp winter night, and listen to that thrilling voice of his, so charged with subtle meaning and subtle music, as shipwrecked men on a raft to the hail of a ship that came with unhoped-for food and rescue. The delight and benefit were that he put us in communication with a larger style of thought, made us conscious of the supreme and everlasting originality of whatever bit of soul might be in any of us."
In 1838 Lowell entered the Harvard Law School. He seems to have had much perplexity in choosing a profession, however, for he wrote to his friend Loring, in October, "I have been thinking seriously of the
ministry. I have also thought of medicine - but there still worse!" Again in November, "I went into town to look out for a place (i.e. in business), and was induced to step into the United States District Court where Webster was pleading a case. I had not been there an hour before I determined to continue in my profession and study as well as I could." Dr. Hale assures us that he studied law more earnestly than the college text-books. Having won the degree of LL. B., he opened an office in Boston, but as far as we know the man who figures in the amusing story as My First Client may have been his last. His taste and convictions were drawing him irresistibly toward literature. Of this crisis. he writes: "We spend all our youth in building a vessel for our voyage of life, and set forth with streamers flying; but the moment we come near the great loadstone mountain of our proper destiny, out leap all our carefully driven nails and bolts, and we get many a mouthful of good salt brine, and many a buffet of the rough waters of experience, before we secure the bare right to live."
"It is pathetic," says Dr. Hale, "to see how little welcome there was then to a young poet, how little temptation there was to a literary career." It was thought a marvel that the "North American Review"
should pay one dollar a page to their writers. was nearly starving on literary work in Philadelphia. It took courage for a man who needed an income to adopt literature as a profession in 1841. It took more to be a poet of reform, or as Lowell playfully puts it,
Mount Parnassus to climb,
With a whole bale of isms tied together with rhyme."
But he was fully alive to the demand of the times. "My calling is clear to me. I am never lifted up to any peak of vision and moments of almost fearless illumination I have sometimes but that, when I look down in hope to see some valley of the Beautitiful Mountains, I behold nothing but blackened ruins; and the moans of the downtrodden come up to my ear instead of the happy songs of the husbandThen I feel how great is the office of a poet, could I but ever dare to fill it. Then it seems as if my heart would break in pouring out one glorious song that should be the gospel of reform, full of consolation to the oppressed, yet falling gently and restoringly as dew on the withered youth-flowers of the oppressor."
Lowell's marriage to Maria White in 1844 only strengthened his ardor for reform. The noble, saintly
spirit vividly pictured in Irene and My Love now became the inspiration of the poet's pen; and surely poet never found more fitting mate. Those early years in the peaceful home at Elmwood seem ideally perfect. It was a time of productiveness as well as peace. Literatures were explored, poems born. Nothing was wanting to their happiness, but a sense of permanence. Mrs. Lowell's delicate health and the early loss of children were the only foils to their happiness for of the young voices that came to make music in the old halls only one, the little Mabel of The First Snow Fall, remained to cheer them. The lyrics so dear to the popular heart, The' Changeling, She Came and Went, and After the Burial, were the fruit of these early sorrows.
It is well to remember that it was his sympathy for the oppressed that moved Lowell to write some of his strongest verse, especially that series of poems the Biglow Papers, which in the opinion of many critics constitutes his strongest claim to original genius. In the summer of 1846 a letter appeared in the Boston Courier purporting to come from a certain Ezekiel Biglow, and enclosing a poem in Yankee dialect written by his son Hosea. These poems then became a regular feature of the Courier. They voice in a satirical vein the protest of the New England
conscience against the Mexican War, and in the broad, quaint speech of the country-bred Yankee, pour unsparing ridicule upon the politicians of the day. For a time Lowell remained incognito. But the keenscented public could not long be kept in ignorance, and the pungent wit and rustic philosophy of Hosea Biglow soon placed his creator in the front rank of humorists and original poets.
Ardor for reform seems never to have interfered with the poet's growth in scholarship and culture, or his enjoyment of outdoor life. The titles of his essays, My Garden Acquaintance, A Good Word for Winter, Among my Books, indicate the drift of his mind toward both thought and nature. No man was more devoted to the friends on his library shelves. But like his favorite, Chaucer, spring drew him to the fields.
"The dandelions and buttercups
Away, my poets, whose sweet spell
Can make a garden of a cell!