Franciscus De Verulamio Sic Cogitavit

A poem by James Russell Lowell

That's a rather bold speech, my Lord Bacon,
For, indeed, is't so easy to know
Just how much we from others have taken,
And how much our own natural flow?

Since your mind bubbled up at its fountain,
How many streams made it elate,
While it calmed to the plain from the mountain,
As every mind must that grows great?

While you thought 'twas You thinking as newly
As Adam still wet with God's dew,
You forgot in your self-pride that truly
The whole Past was thinking through you.

Greece, Rome, nay, your namesake, old Roger,
With Truth's nameless delvers who wrought
In the dark mines of Truth, helped to prod your
Fine brain with the goad of their thought.

As mummy was prized for a rich hue
The painter no elsewhere could find,
So 'twas buried men's thinking with which you
Gave the ripe mellow tone to your mind.

I heard the proud strawberry saying,
'Only look what a ruby I've made!'
It forgot how the bees in their maying
Had brought it the stuff for its trade.

And yet there's the half of a truth in it,
And my Lord might his copyright sue;
For a thought's his who kindles new youth in it,
Or so puts it as makes it more true.

The birds but repeat without ending
The same old traditional notes,
Which some, by more happily blending,
Seem to make over new in their throats;

And we men through our old bit of song run,
Until one just improves on the rest,
And we call a thing his, in the long run,
Who utters it clearest and best.

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