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β€œ [279] eyebrows a shining moon. Another youth named Memnon, the pupil of Herodes the Sophist, had this moon when he was young; but as he approached to man's estate, its light grew fainter and fainter, and finally vanished.” The world should see with reverence on each youth's brow, as a shining moon, his fresh ideal. It should remember that he is already in the hands of a sophist more dangerous than Herodes, for that sophist is himself. It should watch, lest from too early and exclusive action, the moon on his brow, growing fainter and fainter, should finally vanish, and, sadder than all, should leave in vanishing no sense of loss.

This oration is not to be read as a mere literary exercise; it is a sincere expression of the spirit in which Lowell made his choice of a profession. β€˜Nor was this spirit a youthful enthusiasm; it shaped his life up to its last fatal hour.’ On taking his degree, he was strongly urged to devote himself to letters or science. But in spite of his force of intellect and of his Platonism in philosophy, his energetic nature demanded, as a necessity, continual contact with men and things. Yet he was resolved to maintain in full vigor his life of thought and feeling; and, above all, both at this time and always, he heartily abhorred the apathy of an educated man who, after having gained a great power to benefit the world, makes his own enjoyment the purpose of his life.

He had already meditated plans for raising the condition and character of the working classes; and he now chose his course of life with reference to this object, being also determined in the same direction by the partial consciousness of that capacity of ruling men, which was perhaps, on the whole, the most remarkable of his gifts. He desired to select a profession which would afford him, not only a field of practical usefulness, but the opportunity of becoming a master in some department of science. His mind at last settled on the working of metals as the occupation best suited to his views; and he entered the iron-mill of the Ames Company at Chicopee, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1855. Here he remained half a year as a common workman. He interested himself in his fellow-workmen, and often met with them to talk on branches of science connected with their work.

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