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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

For an Autograph

By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

[From Poetical Works. Collective Edition. 1885.]

THOUGH old the thought and oft exprest,

’Tis his at last who says it best,—

I’ll try my fortune with the rest.

Life is a leaf of paper white

Whereon each one of us may write

His word or two, and then comes night.

“Lo, time and space enough,” we cry,

“To write an epic!” so we try

Our nibs upon the edge, and die.

Muse not which way the pen to hold,

Luck hates the slow and loves the bold,

Soon come the darkness and the cold.

Greatly begin! though thou have time

But for a line, be that sublime,—

Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

Ah, with what lofty hope we came!

But we forget it, dream of fame,

And scrawl, as I do here, a name.