The Lesson

A poem by James Russell Lowell

I sat and watched the walls of night
With cracks of sudden lightning glow,
And listened while with clumsy might
The thunder wallowed to and fro.

The rain fell softly now; the squall,
That to a torrent drove the trees,
Had whirled beyond us to let fall
Its tumult on the whitening seas.

But still the lightning crinkled keen,
Or fluttered fitful from behind
The leaden drifts, then only seen,
That rumbled eastward on the wind.

Still as gloom followed after glare,
While bated breath the pine-trees drew,
Tiny Salmoneus of the air,
His mimic bolts the firefly threw.

He thought, no doubt, 'Those flashes grand,
That light for leagues the shuddering sky,
Are made, a fool could understand,
By some superior kind of fly.

'He's of our race's elder branch,
His family-arms the same as ours.
Both born the twy-forked flame to launch,
Of kindred, if unequal, powers.'

And is man wiser? Man who takes
His consciousness the law to be
Of all beyond his ken, and makes
God but a bigger kind of Me?

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