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86 Works of James Russell Lowell

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What visionary tints the year puts on, When failing leaves falter through motionless air Or numbly cling and shiver to be gone! How shimmer the low flats and pastures bare, As with her nectar Hebe Autumn fills The bowl between me and those distant hills, And smiles and shakes abroad her misty, tremulous hair! No […]

I. Emerson. “There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one, Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on, Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows, Is some of it pr — No, ’tis not even prose; I’m speaking of metres; some poems have welled From those rare depths […]

Life of Poe

Story type: Essay

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THE situation of American literature is anomalous. It has no centre, or, if it have, it is like that of the sphere of Hermes. It is, divided into many systems, each revolving round its several suns, and often presenting to the rest only the faint glimmer of a milk-and-water way. Our capital city, unlike London […]

1866 The late Philadelphia experiment at making a party out of nullities reminds us of nothing so much as of the Irishman’s undertaking to produce a very palatable soup out of no more costly material than a pebble. Of course he was to be furnished with a kettle as his field of operations, and after […]

1866 Mr. Johnson is the first of our Presidents who has descended to the stump, and spoken to the people as if they were a mob. We do not care to waste words in criticising the taste of this proceeding, but deem it our duty to comment on some of its graver aspects. We shall […]

1865 It has been said that the American people are less apt than others to profit by experience, because the bustle of their lives keeps breaking the thread of that attention which is the material of memory, till no one has patience or leisure to spin from it a continuous thread of thought. We suspect […]

Reconstruction

Story type: Essay

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1865 In the glare of our civil war, certain truths, hitherto unobserved or guessed at merely, have been brought out with extraordinary sharpness of relief; and two of them have been specially impressive, the one for European observers, the other for ourselves. The first, and perhaps the most startling to the Old World watcher of […]

1864 The spectacle of an opposition waiting patiently during several months for its principles to turn up would be amusing in times less critical than these. Nor was this the worst. If there might be persons malicious enough to think that the Democratic party could get along very well without principles, all would admit that […]

1864 In spite of the popular theory that nothing is so fallacious as circumstantial evidence, there is no man of observation who would not deem it more trustworthy than any human testimony, however honest, which was made up from personal recollection. The actors in great affairs are seldom to be depended on as witnesses, either […]

1864 We can conceive of no object capable of rousing deeper sympathy than a defeated commander. Though the first movement of popular feeling may be one of wrathful injustice, yet, when the ebb of depression has once fairly run out, and confidence begins to set back, hiding again that muddy bed of human nature which […]

1861 Had any one ventured to prophesy on the Fourth of March that the immediate prospect of Civil War would be hailed by the people of the Free States with a unanimous shout of enthusiasm, he would have been thought a madman. Yet the prophecy would have been verified by what we now see and […]

E Pluribus Unum

Story type: Essay

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1861 We do not believe that any government–no, not the Rump Parliament on its last legs–ever showed such pitiful inadequacy as our own during the past two months. Helpless beyond measure in all the duties of practical statesmanship, its members or their dependants have given proof of remarkable energy in the single department of peculation; […]

1860 While all of us have been watching, with that admiring sympathy which never fails to wait on courage and magnanimity, the career of the new Timoleon in Sicily; while we have been reckoning, with an interest scarcely less than in some affair of personal concern, the chances and changes that bear with furtherance or […]

1858 There was no apologue more popular in the Middle Ages than that of the hermit, who, musing on the wickedness and tyranny of those whom the inscrutable wisdom of Providence had intrusted with the government of the world, fell asleep, and awoke to find himself the very monarch whose abject life and capricious violence […]

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 […]

VERSES, INTENDED TO GO WITH A POSSET DISH TO MY DEAR LITTLE GODDAUGHTER, 1882 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 […]

The Nobler Lover

Story type: Poetry

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If he be a nobler lover, take him! You in you I seek, and not myself; Love with men’s what women choose to make him, Seraph strong to soar, or fawn-eyed elf: All I am or can, your beauty gave it, Lifting me a moment nigh to you, And my bit of heaven, I fain […]

On this wild waste, where never blossom came, Save the white wind-flower to the billow’s cap, Or those pale disks of momentary flame, Loose petals dropped from Dian’s careless lap, What far fetched influence all my fancy fills, With singing birds and dancing daffodils? Why, ’tis her day whom jocund April brought, And who brings […]

Stood the tall Archangel weighing All man’s dreaming, doing, saying, All the failure and the pain, All the triumph and the gain, In the unimagined years, Full of hopes, more full of tears, Since old Adam’s hopeless eyes Backward searched for Paradise, And, instead, the flame-blade saw Of inexorable Law. Waking, I beheld him there, […]

UNDER A FIGURE SYMBOLIZING THE CHURCH Thou wast the fairest of all man-made things; The breath of heaven bore up thy cloudy wings, And, patient in their triple rank, The thunders crouched about thy flank, Their black lips silent with the doom of kings. The storm-wind loved to rock him in thy pines, And swell […]

What know we of the world immense Beyond the narrow ring of sense? What should we know, who lounge about The house we dwell in, nor find out, Masked by a wall, the secret cell Where the soul’s priests in hiding dwell? The winding stair that steals aloof To chapel-mysteries ‘neath the roof? It lies […]

In vain we call old notions fudge, And bend our conscience to our dealing; The Ten Commandments will not budge, And stealing will continue stealing.

As life runs on, the road grows strange With faces new, and near the end The milestones into headstones change, ‘Neath every one a friend.

Christmas Carol

Story type: Poetry

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“What means this glory round our feet,” The Magi mused, “more bright than morn?” And voices chanted clear and sweet, “To-day the Prince of Peace is born!” “What means that star,” the Shepherds said, “That brightens through the rocky glen?” And angels, answering overhead, Sang, “Peace on earth, good-will to men!” ‘Tis eighteen hundred years […]

The Captive

Story type: Poetry

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It was past the hour of trysting, But she lingered for him still; Like a child, the eager streamlet Leaped and laughed adown the hill, Happy to be free at twilight From its toiling at the mill. Then the great moon on a sudden Ominous, and red as blood, Startling as a new creation, O’er […]

We wagered, she for sunshine, I for rain, And I should hint sharp practice if I dared; For was not she beforehand sure to gain Who made the sunshine we together shared?

The Boss

Story type: Poetry

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Skilled to pull wires, he baffles Nature’s hope, Who sure intended him to stretch a rope.

Sun-Worship

Story type: Poetry

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If I were the rose at your window, Happiest rose of its crew, Every blossom I bore would bend inward, They’d know where the sunshine grew.

Full oft the pathway to her door I’ve measured by the selfsame track, Yet doubt the distance more and more, ‘Tis so much longer coming back!

A Misconception

Story type: Poetry

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B, taught by Pope to do his good by stealth, ‘Twixt participle and noun no difference feeling, In office placed to serve the Commonwealth, Does himself all the good he can by stealing.

To those who died for her on land and sea, That she might have a country great and free, Boston builds this: build ye her monument In lives like theirs, at duty’s summons spent.

FOR A MEMORIAL WINDOW TO SIR WALTER RALEIGH, SET UP IN ST. MARGARET’S, WESTMINSTER, BY AMERICAN CONTRIBUTORS The New World’s sons, from England’s breasts we drew Such milk as bids remember whence we came; Proud of her Past, wherefrom our Present grew, This window we inscribe with Raleigh’s name.

Inscriptions

Story type: Poetry

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FOR A BELL AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY I call as fly the irrevocable hours, Futile as air or strong as fate to make Your lives of sand or granite; awful powers, Even as men choose, they either give or take.

Sayings

Story type: Poetry

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1. In life’s small things be resolute and great To keep thy muscle trained: know’st thou when Fate Thy measure takes, or when she’ll say to thee, ‘I find thee worthy; do this deed for me’? 2. A camel-driver, angry with his drudge, Beating him, called him hunchback; to the hind Thus spake a dervish: […]

A Parable (2)

Story type: Poetry

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An ass munched thistles, while a nightingale From passion’s fountain flooded all the vale. ‘Hee-haw!’ cried he, ‘I hearken,’ as who knew For such ear-largess humble thanks were due. ‘Friend,’ said the winged pain, ‘in vain you bray, Who tunnels bring, not cisterns, for my lay; None but his peers the poet rightly hear, Nor […]

Serenade

Story type: Poetry

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From the close-shut windows gleams no spark, The night is chilly, the night is dark, The poplars shiver, the pine-trees moan, My hair by the autumn breeze is blown, Under thy window I sing alone, Alone, alone, ah woe! alone! The darkness is pressing coldly around, The windows shake with a lonely sound, The stars […]

Love

Story type: Poetry

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True Love is but a humble, low-born thing, And hath its food served up in earthen ware; It is a thing to walk with, hand in hand, Through the everydayness of this workday world, Baring its tender feet to every flint, Yet letting not one heart-beat go astray From Beauty’s law of plainness and content; […]

Ode

Story type: Poetry

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I In the old days of awe and keen-eyed wonder, The Poet’s song with blood-warm truth was rife; He saw the mysteries which circle under The outward shell and skin of daily life. Nothing to him were fleeting time and fashion, His soul was led by the eternal law; There was in him no hope […]

The Heritage

Story type: Poetry

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The rich man’s son inherits lands, And piles of brick and stone, and gold, And he inherits soft white hands, And tender flesh that fears the cold, Nor dares to wear a garment old; A heritage, it seems to me, One scarce would wish to hold in fee. The rich man’s son inherits cares; The […]

The Falcon

Story type: Poetry

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I know a falcon swift and peerless As e’er was cradled In the pine; No bird had ever eye so fearless, Or wing so strong as this of mine. The winds not better love to pilot A cloud with molten gold o’er run, Than him, a little burning islet, A star above the coming sun. […]

Columbus

Story type: Poetry

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The cordage creaks and rattles in the wind, With whims of sudden hush; the reeling sea Now thumps like solid rock beneath the stern, Now leaps with clumsy wrath, strikes short, and, falling Crumbled to whispery foam, slips rustling down The broad backs of the waves, which jostle and crowd To fling themselves upon that […]

When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west, And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny […]

The Search

Story type: Poetry

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I went to seek for Christ, And Nature seemed so fair That first the woods and fields my youth enticed, And I was sure to find him there: The temple I forsook, And to the solitude Allegiance paid; but winter came and shook The crown and purple from my wood; His snows, like desert sands, […]

Hebe

Story type: Poetry

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I saw the twinkle of white feet, I saw the flush of robes descending; Before her ran an influence fleet, That bowed my heart like barley bending. As, in bare fields, the searching bees Pilot to blooms beyond our finding, It led me on, by sweet degrees Joy’s simple honey-cells unbinding. Those Graces were that […]

To The Future

Story type: Poetry

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O Land of Promise! from what Pisgah’s height Can I behold thy stretch of peaceful bowers, Thy golden harvests flowing out of sight, Thy nestled homes and sun-illumined towers? Gazing upon the sunset’s high-heaped gold, Its crags of opal and of chrysolite, Its deeps on deeps of glory, that unfold Still brightening abysses, And blazing […]

To The Past

Story type: Poetry

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Wondrous and awful are thy silent halls, O kingdom of the past! There lie the bygone ages in their palls, Guarded by shadows vast; There all is hushed and breathless, Save when some image of old error falls Earth worshipped once as deathless. There sits drear Egypt, mid beleaguering sands, Half woman and half beast, […]

O wandering dim on the extremest edge Of God’s bright providence, whose spirits sigh Drearily in you, like the winter sedge That shivers o’er the dead pool stiff and dry, A thin, sad voice, when the bold wind roars by From the clear North of Duty,– Still by cracked arch and broken shaft I trace […]

To A Pine-Tree

Story type: Poetry

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Far up on Katahdin thou towerest, Purple-blue with the distance and vast; Like a cloud o’er the lowlands thou lowerest, That hangs poised on a lull in the blast, To its fall leaning awful. In the storm, like a prophet o’er-maddened, Thou singest and tossest thy branches; Thy heart with the terror is gladdened, Thou […]

The Landlord

Story type: Poetry

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What boot your houses and your lands? In spite of close-drawn deed and fence, Like water, twixt your cheated hands, They slip into the graveyard’s sands, And mock your ownership’s pretence. How shall you speak to urge your right, Choked with that soil for which you lust? The bit of clay, for whose delight You […]

Hunger And Cold

Story type: Poetry

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Sisters two, all praise to you, With your faces pinched and blue; To the poor man you’ve been true From of old: You can speak the keenest word, You are sure of being heard, From the point you’re never stirred, Hunger and Cold! Let sleek statesmen temporize; Palsied are their shifts and lies When they […]

The Sower

Story type: Poetry

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I saw a Sower walking slow Across the earth, from east to west; His hair was white as mountain snow, His head drooped forward on his breast. With shrivelled hands he flung his seed, Nor ever turned to look behind; Of sight or sound he took no heed; It seemed, he was both deaf and […]

The tower of old Saint Nicholas soared upward to the skies, Like some huge piece of Nature’s make, the growth of centuries; You could not deem its crowding spires a work of human art, They seemed to struggle lightward from a sturdy living heart. Not Nature’s self more freely speaks in crystal or in oak, […]

Men! whose boast it is that ye Come of fathers brave and free, If there breathe on earth a slave, Are ye truly free and brave? If ye do not feel the chain, When it works a brother’s pain, Are ye not base slaves indeed, Slaves unworthy to be freed? Women! who shall one day […]

A Chippewa Legend

Story type: Poetry

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[Greek: algeina men moi kaalegein estin tade, algos de sigan.] AESCHYLUS, Prom. Vinct. 197, 198. For the leading incidents in this tale I am indebted to the very valuable Algic Researches of Henry R. Schoolcraft, Esq. J.R.L. The old Chief, feeling now wellnigh his end, Called his two eldest children to his side, And gave […]

We see but half the causes of our deeds, Seeking them wholly in the outer life, And heedless of the encircling spirit-world, Which, though unseen, is felt, and sows in us All germs of pure and world-wide purposes. From one stage of our being to the next We pass unconscious o’er a slender bridge, The […]

Trial

Story type: Poetry

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I Whether the idle prisoner through his grate Watches the waving of the grass-tuft small, Which, having colonized its rift i’ th’ wall, Accepts God’s dole of good or evil fate, And from the sky’s just helmet draws its lot Daily of shower or sunshine, cold or hot;– Whether the closer captive of a creed, […]

Rhoecus

Story type: Poetry

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God sends his teachers unto every age, To every clime, and every race of men, With revelations fitted to their growth And shape of mind, nor gives the realm of Truth Into the selfish rule of one sole race: Therefore each form of worship that hath swayed The life of man, and given it to […]

He spoke of Burns: men rude and rough Pressed round to hear the praise of one Whose heart was made of manly, simple stuff, As homespun as their own. And, when he read, they forward leaned, Drinking, with thirsty hearts and ears, His brook-like songs whom glory never weaned From humble smiles and tears. Slowly […]

The Token

Story type: Poetry

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It is a mere wild rosebud, Quite sallow now, and dry, Yet there’s something wondrous in it, Some gleams of days gone by, Dear sights and sounds that are to me The very moons of memory, And stir my heart’s blood far below Its short-lived waves of joy and woe. Lips must fade and roses […]

PART FIRST I Fair as a summer dream was Margaret, Such dream as in a poet’s soul might start, Musing of old loves while the moon doth set: Her hair was not more sunny than her heart, Though like a natural golden coronet It circled her dear head with careless art, Mocking the sunshine, that […]

Sonnets

Story type: Poetry

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I TO A.C.L. Through suffering and sorrow thou hast passed To show us what a woman true may be: They have not taken sympathy from thee, Nor made thee any other than thou wast, Save as some tree, which, in a sudden blast, Sheddeth those blossoms, that are weakly grown, Upon the air, but keepeth […]

O moonlight deep and tender, A year and more agone, Your mist of golden splendor Round my betrothal shone! O elm-leaves dark and dewy, The very same ye seem, The low wind trembles through ye, Ye murmur in my dream! O river, dim with distance, Flow thus forever by, A part of my existence Within […]

A Parable

Story type: Poetry

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Worn and footsore was the Prophet, When he gained the holy hill; ‘God has left the earth,’ he murmured, ‘Here his presence lingers still. ‘God of all the olden prophets, Wilt thou speak with men no more? Have I not as truly served thee As thy chosen ones of yore? ‘Hear me, guider of my […]

A Requiem

Story type: Poetry

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Ay, pale and silent maiden, Cold as thou liest there, Thine was the sunniest nature That ever drew the air; The wildest and most wayward, And yet so gently kind, Thou seemedst but to body A breath of summer wind. Into the eternal shadow That girds our life around, Into the infinite silence Wherewith Death’s […]

Rosaline

Story type: Poetry

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Thou look’dst on me all yesternight, Thine eyes were blue, thy hair was bright As when we murmured our troth-plight Beneath the thick stars, Rosaline! Thy hair was braided on thy head, As on the day we two were wed, Mine eyes scarce knew if thou wert dead, But my shrunk heart knew, Rosaline! The […]

Violet! sweet violet! Thine eyes are full of tears; Are they wet Even yet With the thought of other years? Or with gladness are they full, For the night so beautiful, And longing for those far-off spheres? Loved one of my youth thou wast, Of my merry youth, And I see, Tearfully, All the fair […]

I In his tower sat the poet Gazing on the roaring sea, ‘Take this rose,’ he sighed, ‘and throw it Where there’s none that loveth me. On the rock the billow bursteth And sinks back into the seas, But in vain my spirit thirsteth So to burst and be at ease. Take, O sea! the […]

A Prayer

Story type: Poetry

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God! do not let my loved one die, But rather wait until the time That I am grown in purity Enough to enter thy pure clime, Then take me, I will gladly go, So that my love remain below! Oh, let her stay! She is by birth What I through death must learn to be; […]

Midnight

Story type: Poetry

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The moon shines white and silent On the mist, which, like a tide Of some enchanted ocean, O’er the wide marsh doth glide, Spreading its ghost-like billows Silently far and wide. A vague and starry magic Makes all things mysteries, And lures the earth’s dumb spirit Up to the longing skies: I seem to hear […]

The Forlorn

Story type: Poetry

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The night is dark, the stinging sleet, Swept by the bitter gusts of air, Drives whistling down the lonely street, And glazes on the pavement bare. The street-lamps flare and struggle dim Through the gray sleet-clouds as they pass, Or, governed by a boisterous whim, Drop down and rustle on the glass. One poor, heart-broken, […]

The Fatherland

Story type: Poetry

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Where is the true man’s fatherland? Is it where he by chance is born? Doth not the yearning spirit scorn In such scant borders to be spanned? Oh yes! his fatherland must be As the blue heaven wide and free! Is it alone where freedom is, Where God is God and man is man? Doth […]

Allegra

Story type: Poetry

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I would more natures were like thine, That never casts a glance before, Thou Hebe, who thy heart’s bright wine So lavishly to all dost pour, That we who drink forget to pine, And can but dream of bliss in store. Thou canst not see a shade in life; With sunward instinct thou dost rise, […]

Song To M.l.

Story type: Poetry

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A lily thou wast when I saw thee first, A lily-bud not opened quite, That hourly grew more pure and white, By morning, and noontide, and evening nursed: In all of nature thou hadst thy share; Thou wast waited on By the wind and sun; The rain and the dew for thee took care; It […]

Remembered Music

Story type: Poetry

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A FRAGMENT Thick-rushing, like an ocean vast Of bisons the far prairie shaking, The notes crowd heavily and fast As surfs, one plunging while the last Draws seaward from its foamy breaking. Or in low murmurs they began, Rising and rising momently, As o’er a harp AEolian A fitful breeze, until they ran Up to […]

The Moon

Story type: Poetry

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My soul was like the sea. Before the moon was made, Moaning in vague immensity, Of its own strength afraid, Unresful and unstaid. Through every rift it foamed in vain, About its earthly prison, Seeking some unknown thing in pain, And sinking restless back again, For yet no moon had risen: Its only voice a […]

Thy voice is like a fountain, Leaping up in clear moonshine; Silver, silver, ever mounting, Ever sinking, Without thinking, To that brimful heart of thine. Every sad and happy feeling, Thou hast had in bygone years, Through thy lips comes stealing, stealing, Clear and low; 10 All thy smiles and all thy tears In thy […]

Summer Storm

Story type: Poetry

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Untremulous in the river clear, Toward the sky’s image, hangs the imaged bridge; So still the air that I can hear The slender clarion of the unseen midge; Out of the stillness, with a gathering creep, Like rising wind in leaves, which now decreases, Now lulls, now swells, and all the while increases, The huddling […]

The Beggar

Story type: Poetry

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A beggar through the world am I, From place to place I wander by. Fill up my pilgrim’s scrip for me, For Christ’s sweet sake and charity! A little of thy steadfastness, Bounded with leafy gracefulness, Old oak, give me, That the world’s blasts may round me blow, And I yield gently to and fro, […]

This little blossom from afar Hath come from other lands to thine; For, once, its white and drooping star Could see its shadow in the Rhine. Perchance some fair-haired German maid Hath plucked one from the selfsame stalk, And numbered over, half afraid, Its petals in her evening walk. ‘He loves me, loves me not,’ […]

The Sirens

Story type: Poetry

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The sea is lonely, the sea is dreary, The sea is restless and uneasy; Thou seekest quiet, thou art weary, Wandering thou knowest not whither;– Our little isle is green and breezy, Come and rest thee! Oh come hither, Come to this peaceful home of ours, Where evermore The low west-wind creeps panting up the […]

Irene

Story type: Poetry

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Hers is a spirit deep, and crystal-clear; Calmly beneath her earnest face it lies, Free without boldness, meek without a fear, Quicker to look than speak its sympathies; Far down into her large and patient eyes I gaze, deep-drinking of the infinite, As, in the mid-watch of a clear, still night, I look into the […]

Threnodia

Story type: Poetry

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Gone, gone from us! and shall we see Those sibyl-leaves of destiny, Those calm eyes, nevermore? Those deep, dark eyes so warm and bright, Wherein the fortunes of the man Lay slumbering in prophetic light, In characters a child might scan? So bright, and gone forth utterly! Oh stern word–Nevermore! The stars of those two […]

Abraham Lincoln

Story type: Essay

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THERE have been many painful crises since the impatient vanity of South Carolina hurried ten prosperous Commonwealths into a crime whose assured retribution was to leave them either at the mercy of the nation they had wronged, or of the anarchy they had summoned but could not control, when no thoughtful American opened his morning […]

My coachman, in the moonlight there, Looks through the sidelight of the door; I hear him with his brethren swear, As I could do–but only more. Flattening his nose against the pane, He envies me my brilliant lot, Breathes on his aching fist in vain, And dooms me to a place more hot. He sees […]

Love And Thought

Story type: Poetry

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What hath Love with Thought to do?Still at variance are the two.Love is sudden, Love is rash,Love is like the levin flash,Comes as swift, as swiftly goes,And his mark as surely knows. Thought is lumpish, Thought is slow,Weighing long ‘tween yes and no;When dear Love is dead and gone,Thought comes creeping in anon,And, in his […]

Old Joe is gone, who saw hot Percy goadHis slow artillery up the Concord road,A tale which grew in wonder year by year;As every time he told it, Joe drew nearTo the main fight, till faded and grown gray,The original scene to bolder tints gave way;Then Joe had heard the foe’s scared double-quickBeat on stove […]