To Lamartine

A poem by James Russell Lowell

I did not praise thee when the crowd,
'Witched with the moment's inspiration,
Vexed thy still ether with hosannas loud,
And stamped their dusty adoration;
I but looked upward with the rest,
And, when they shouted Greatest, whispered Best.

They raised thee not, but rose to thee,
Their fickle wreaths about thee flinging;
So on some marble Phoebus the swol'n sea
Might leave his worthless seaweed clinging,
But pious hands, with reverent care,
Make the pure limbs once more sublimely bare.

Now thou'rt thy plain, grand self again,
Thou art secure from panegyric,
Thou who gav'st politics an epic strain,
And actedst Freedom's noblest lyric;
This side the Blessed Isles, no tree
Grows green enough to make a wreath for thee.

Nor can blame cling to thee; the snow
From swinish footprints takes no staining,
But, leaving the gross soils of earth below,
Its spirit mounts, the skies regaining,
And unresentful falls again,
To beautify the world with dews and rain.

The highest duty to mere man vouchsafed
Was laid on thee,--out of wild chaos,
When the roused popular ocean foamed and chafed
And vulture War from his Imaus
Snuffed blood, to summon homely Peace,
And show that only order is release.

To carve thy fullest thought, what though
Time was not granted? Aye in history,
Like that Dawn's face which baffled Angelo
Left shapeless, grander for its mystery,
Thy great Design shall stand, and day
Flood its blind front from Orients far away.

Who says thy day is o'er? Control,
My heart, that bitter first emotion;
While men shall reverence the steadfast soul,
The heart in silent self-devotion
Breaking, the mild, heroic mien,
Thou'lt need no prop of marble, Lamartine.

If France reject thee, 'tis not thine,
But her own, exile that she utters;
Ideal France, the deathless, the divine,
Will be where thy white pennon flutters,
As once the nobler Athens went
With Aristides into banishment.

No fitting metewand hath To-day
For measuring spirits of thy stature;
Only the Future can reach up to lay
The laurel on that lofty nature,
Bard, who with some diviner art
Hast touched the bard's true lyre, a nation's heart.

Swept by thy hand, the gladdened chords,
Crashed now in discords fierce by others,
Gave forth one note beyond all skill of words,
And chimed together, We are brothers.
O poem unsurpassed! it ran
All round the world, unlocking man to man.

France is too poor to pay alone
The service of that ample spirit;
Paltry seem low dictatorship and throne,
Weighed with thy self-renouncing merit;
They had to thee been rust and loss;
Thy aim was higher,--thou hast climbed a Cross!

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