The Lesson

The Lesson

Original Text

James Russell Lowell, Heartsease and Rue (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1888): 139-40. Internet Archive

1I sat and watched the walls of night
2With cracks of sudden lightning glow,
3And listened while with clumsy might
4The thunder wallowed to and fro.
5The rain fell softly now; the squall,
6That to a torrent drove the trees,
7Had whirled beyond us to let fall
8Its tumult on the whitening seas.
9But still the lightning crinkled keen,
10Or fluttered fitful from behind
11The leaden drifts, then only seen,
12That rumbled eastward on the wind.
13Still as gloom followed after glare,
14While bated breath the pine-trees drew,
16His mimic bolts the firefly threw.
17He thought, no doubt, "Those flashes grand,
18That light for leagues the shuddering sky,
19Are made, a fool could understand,
20By some superior kind of fly.
21"He's of our race's elder branch
22His family-arms the same as ours,
23Both born the twy-forked flame to launch,
24Of kindred, if unequal, powers."
25And is man wiser? Man who takes
26His consciousness the law to be
27Of all beyond his ken, and makes
28God but a bigger kind of Me?


15] Salmoneus: the son of Aeolus (Greek god of the winds), punished for trying to imitate lightning with torches and cast for punishment into the underworld. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition