James Russell Lowell
  • James Russell Lowell
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Under the Willows

  • May is a pious fraud of the almanac.
  • A ghastly parody of real Spring
  • Shaped out of snow and breathed with eastern wind;
  • Or if, o’er-confident, she trust the date,
  • And, with her handful of anemones,
  • Herself as shivery, steal into the sun,
  • The season need but turn his hour-glass round,
  • And Winter suddenly, like crazy Lear,
  • Reels back, and brings the dead May in his arms,
  • Her budding breasts and wan dislustred front
  • With frosty streaks and drifts of his white beard
  • All overblown. Then, warmly walled with books,
  • While my wood-fire supplies the sun’s defect,
  • Whispering old forest-sagas in its dreams,
  • I take my May down from the happy shelf
  • Where perch the world’s rare song-birds in a row,
  • Waiting my choice to upen with full breast,
  • And beg an alms of springtime, ne’er denied
  • Indoors by vernal Chaucer, whose fresh woods
  • Throb thick with merle and mavis all the years.

Green Mountains

  • Ye mountains, that far off lift up your heads,
  • Seen dimly through their canopies of blue,
  • The shade of my unrestful spirit sheds
  • Distance-created beauty over you;
  • I am not well content with this far view;
  • How may I know what foot of loved-one treads
  • Your rocks moss-grown and sun-dried torrent beds?
  • We should love all things better, if we knew
  • What claims the meanest have upon our hearts:
  • Perchance even now some eye, that would be bright
  • To meet my own, looks on your mist-robed forms;
  • Perchance your grandeur a deep joy imparts
  • To souls that have encircled mine with light —
  • O brother-heart, with thee my spirit warms!

James Russell Lowell (1819–1891) was an American poet, critic, editor, and general all-around Romantic associated with the “Fireside Poets,” which included other luminaries of New England verse: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes (and which only required for membership, apparently, the possession of a tremendously conspicuous middle name). Among Lowell’s descendants were the two 20th-century American poets Amy Lowell (1874–1925) and Robert Lowell (1917–1977) and virtually half the population of eastern Massachusetts.

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