Ode recited at the Harvard commemoration, July 21, 1865.

by James Russell Lowell
[Reprinted by permission.]


Weak-winged is song,
     Nor aims at that clear-ethered height
Whither the brave deed climbs for light:
     We seem to do them wrong,
Bringing our robin's-leaf to deck their hearse
     Who in warm life-blood wrote their nobler verse,
Our trivial song to honor those who come
     With ears attuned to strenuous trump and drum,
And shaped in squadron-strophes their desire,
     Live battle-odes whose lines were steel and fire:
Yet sometimes feathered words are strong,
     A gracious memory to buoy up and save
From Lethe's dreamless ooze, the common grave
     Of the unventurous throng.


To-day our Reverend Mother welcomes home
     Her wisest Scholars, those who understood
The deeper teaching of her mystic tome,
     And offered their fresh lives to make it good:
No lore of Greece or Rome,
     No science peddling with the names of things,
Or reading stars to find inglorious fates,
     Can lift our life with wings

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