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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Thessalia (Thessaly)

The Shepherd of King Admetus

By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

THERE came a youth upon the earth,

Some thousand years ago,

Whose slender hands were nothing worth,

Whether to plough, or reap, or sow.

He made a lyre, and drew therefrom

Music so strange and rich,

That all men loved to hear,—and some

Muttered of fagots for a witch.

But King Admetus, one who had

Pure taste by right divine,

Decreed his singing not too bad

To hear between the cups of wine:

And so, well-pleased with being soothed,

Into a sweet half-sleep,

Three times his kingly beard he smoothed,

And made him viceroy o’er his sheep.

His words were simple words enough

And yet he used them so,

That what in other mouths was rough

In his seemed musical and low.

Men called him but a shiftless youth,

In whom no good they saw;

And yet unwittingly, in truth,

They made his careless words their law.

They knew not how he learned at all,

For idly, hour by hour,

He sat and watched the dead leaves fall,

Or mused upon a common flower.

It seemed the loveliness of things

Did teach him all their use,

For, in mere weeds, and stones, and springs,

He found a healing power profuse.

Men granted that his speech was wise,

But, when a glance they caught

Of his slim grace and woman’s eyes,

They laughed, and called him good-for-naught.

Yet after he was dead and gone,

And e’en his memory dim,

Earth seemed more sweet to live upon,

More full of love, because of him.

And day by day more holy grew

Each spot where he had trod,

Till after-poets only knew

Their firstborn brother as a god.