copy of Burns
that revealed to the farmer lad his own desire and capacity for verse-writing.
When he was nineteen, his sister sent his Exile's Departure
to William Lloyd Garrison
, then twenty, and the editor of the Newburyport free Press
The neighbors liked it, and the tall frail author was rewarded with a term at the Haverhill Academy
, where he paid his way, in old Essex County
fashion, by making shoes.
He had little more formal schooling than this, was too poor to enter college, but had what he modestly called a “knack at rhyming,” and much facility in prose.
He turned to journalism and politics, for which he possessed a notable instinct.
For a while he thought he had “done with poetry and literature.”
Then in 1833, at twenty-six, came Garrison
's stirring letter bidding him enlist in the cause of Anti-Slavery.
He obeyed the call, not knowing that this new allegiance to the service of humanity was to transform him from a facile local verse-writer into a national poet.
It was the ancient miracle of losing one's life and finding it. For the immediate sacrifice was very real to a youth trained in quietism and non-resistance, and well aware, as a Whig journalist, of the ostracism visited upon the active