The Brakes

A poem by James Russell Lowell

What countless years and wealth of brain were spent
To bring us hither from our caves and huts,
And trace through pathless wilds the deep-worn ruts
Of faith and habit, by whose deep indent
Prudence may guide if genius be not lent,
Genius, not always happy when it shuts
Its ears against the plodder's ifs and buts,
Hoping in one rash leap to snatch the event.
The coursers of the sun, whose hoofs of flame
Consume morn's misty threshold, are exact
As bankers' clerks, and all this star-poised frame,
One swerve allowed, were with convulsion rackt;
This world were doomed, should Dulness fail, to tame
Wit's feathered heels in the stern stocks of fact.

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