Quotes by James Russell Lowell
Dear common flower, that grow'st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride uphold.
Though old the thought and oft expressed,
'Tis his at last who says it best.
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?
The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.
They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.
The wisest man could ask no more of Fate
Than to be simple, modest, manly, true,
Safe from the Many — honored by the Few;
To count as naught in World or Church or State;
But inwardly in secret to be great.
Ye come and go incessant; we remain
Safe in the hallowed quiets of the past;
Be reverent, ye who flit and are forgot,
Of faith so nobly realized as this.
His words were simple words enough,
And yet he used them so,
That what in other mouths was rough
In his seemed musical and low.
It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the native metal of a man is tested.
It may be glorious to write
Thoughts that shall glad the two or three
High souls, like those far stars that come in sight
Once in a century.
If I were asked what book is better than a cheap book, I should answer that there is one book better than a cheap book, — and that is a book honestly come by.
Earth’s noblest thing, — a woman perfected.
Before Man made us citizens, great Nature made us men.
No man is born into the world whose work
Is not born with him. There is always work,
And tools to work withal, for those who will;
And blessed are the horny hands of toil.
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.
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.
They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne;
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.
The child is not mine as the first was,
I cannot sing it to rest,
I cannot lift it up fatherly
And bliss it upon my breast;
Yet it lies in my little one's cradle
And sits in my little one's chair,
And the light of the heaven she's gone to
Transfigures its golden hair.
I first drew in New England's air, and from her hardy breast
Sucked in the tyrant-hating milk that will not let me rest.
When I was a beggarly boy,
And lived in a cellar damp,
I had not a friend nor a toy,
But I had Aladdin's lamp.
The birch, most shy and lady-like of trees,
Her poverty, as best she may, retrieves,
And hints at her foregone gentilities
With some saved relics of her wealth of leaves.
There is nothing so desperately monotonous as the sea, and I no longer wonder at the cruelty of pirates.
How little inventiveness there is in man‚
Grave copier of copies‚ I give thanks
For a new relish‚ careless to inquire
My pleasure's pedigree‚ if so it please‚
Nobly‚ I mean‚ nor renegade to art.
The Grecian gluts me with its perfectness‚
Unanswerable as Euclid‚ self-contained‚
The one thing finished in this hasty world‚
Forever finished‚ though the barbarous pit‚
Fanatical on hearsay‚ stamp and shout
As if a miracle could be encored.
These pearls of thought in Persian gulfs were bred,
Each softly lucent as a rounded moon;
The diver Omar plucked them from their bed,
Fitzgerald strung them on an English thread.
The nurse of full-grown souls is solitude.
Who speaks the truth stabs Falsehood to the heart.
The soil out of which such men as he are made is good to be born on, good to live on, good to die for and to be buried in.
All thoughts that mould the age begin
Deep down within the primitive soul.
The thing we long for, that we are
For one transcendent moment.
God, give us Peace! not such as lulls to sleep,
But sword on thigh and brow with purpose knit!
And let our Ship of State to harbor sweep,
Her ports all up, her battle lanterns lit,
And her leashed thunders gathering for their leap.
But life is sweet, though all that makes it sweet
Lessen like sound of friends’ departing feet;
And Death is beautiful as feet of friend
Coming with welcome at our journey’s end.
For me Fate gave, whate’er she else denied,
A nature sloping to the southern side;
I thank her for it, though when clouds arise
Such natures double-darken gloomy skies.
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.
Along A River-Side, I Know Not Where,
I walked one night in mystery of dream;
A chill creeps curdling yet beneath my hair,
To think what chanced me by the pallid gleam
Of a moon-wraith that waned through haunted air.
Is true Freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And, with leathern hearts, forget
That we owe mankind a debt?

No! true freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free!

From lower to the higher next,
Not to the top, is Nature’s text;
And embryo Good, to reach full stature,
Absorbs the Evil in its nature.
The Maple puts her corals on in May,
While loitering frosts about the lowlands cling,
To be in tune with what the robins sing.
James Russell Lowell's Biography
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