#599 A bundle of James Russell Lowell


That James Russell Lowell is part of the Jones 1000 makes sense; Jones considered himself a minor poet and wrote esoteric verse whenever he could much like Aleister Crowley, his contemporary, did.


JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL was a diplomatist, was born at Elmwood, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the 22nd of February 1819.  He was the son of Charles Lowell (1782-1861), the minister for the West Congregational (Unitarian) Church of Boston..  For the  greater part of his ministry, Chas. Lowell was the lone voice against slavery.  On his mother’s side he was descended from the Spences and Traills, who made their home in the Orkney Islands, & his great-grandfather, Robert Traill, returned to England on outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775.

Cambridge was still very much undeveloped land then, so Lowell was able to traipse about in nature and discover its delights.  He was also early initiated into the reading of poetry and romance, hearing Spenser and Scott in childhood, and old ballads from his mother. He graduated at Harvard without special honors in 1838.

Uncertain on what vocation to choose, he vacillated between business, the ministry, medicine and law, he opted to practise law, and applied to Harvard law school, and then was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. He became betrothed to Maria White in the autumn of 1840, and the next twelve years of his life were deeply affected by her influence in the movements directed against the evils of intemperance and slavery.

                                                 Charting Lowell

Jones gives Lowell the birth time of 9:45 am on February 22, 1819. When he was born though Neptune, not discovered until 1845, was unknown, but Lowell married his first wife Maria the year Monsieur Le Verrier discovered it and that marriage was a major impetus for his literary career; obviously Neptune largely influenced his life from that point on.

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Neptune but no Pluto

His ascendant is 16 Taurus with the Hyperion symbol of  “package delivery van” a rather incongruous image for Lowell but one that Kent McClung explains as “a basic down-to-earth consideration to universal outcomes” which describes Lowell’s life well.

As Jones states in the Essential of Astrological Analysis¹, Lowell is a bundle.  All of his planets span within a trine starting with the then newly found Uranus to the old standby Saturn, co-rulers of Aquarius that is his eleventh house of friends and spirituality, showing his literary span of influence and writings.  His South Node is in the sixth house of Libra, often associated with the law, and shows as Lowell found out the hard way, it was not the career for him.  Instead, the North Node at 22 Aries conjunct his Part of Fortune at 20 Aries in the twelfth house, that poetry and literary endeavours maybe more to his taste.

Indeed, 22 Aries has the symbol of a Sage explaining the universe” and 20 fits in perfectly with the image of a “savler of healing oil,” heralding his work for the abolition of slavery that became the hallmark of his works and the Atlantic Monthly and his ability to nourish new poets and writers.

                       Where’s the lines?

Lowell’s Line of Vitality is semi-sextile sim²ilar to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s sextile aspect.  This suggests that their friend and loved one’s deaths and illnesses highly affected their life and work.  In Lowell’s  case, his chart is pock-marked with septiles much like F. Scott Fitzgerald

His Line of Efficiency is just semi-sextile, hovering on the outer limits of Martial orb and suggests that no matter what the problem, Lowell had great confidence in his ability to conquer it.  This so struck Marc Jones that he wrote he became the “prime spirit  in the flowering of native New England talent”  through his industrious “self-reliance of the future of American literature.”

His Line of Self-Determination, as we previously noted, is conjunct, giving Lowell a heightened ability to take advantage of opportunities as they fell his way — the spot at Harvard University and the Spanish post from President Rutherford B. Hayes, are two such examples.

Finally, his Line of Motivation is also semi-sextile, but that all four departments are so close is something to expect in a Bundle where everything is so bunched together.  This line shows Lowell’s ability to make lemonade out of lemons — or an ability to see great hope in adversity.

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What were the Fireside Poets of New England?

The betrothal stimulated Lowell towards new efforts of self-support, because while still maintaining his law office as he was discovering he had no taste for it and little income.  He threw his energy into a literary journal, called The Pioneer with his law partner and was open to anyone who sent something in and so got Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Edgar Allen Poe & Lowell Parsons, none of them yet possessing a wide reputation.  After three monthly issues, beginning in January 1843, the magazine came to an end, partly because of a sudden disaster which befell Lowell‘s eyes, partly through his business inexperience; they were bankrupt.

The venture confirmed Lowell in his bent towards literature. At the close of 1843 he published a collection of his poems, Conversations on some of the Old Poets. This is written in the form of a dialogue undress his subject; there was no attempt at the dramatic. The book reflects Lowell‘s mind for the conversations relate only partly to the poets and dramatists of the Elizabethan period; and any slight suggestion elsewhere sends the interlocutors off on the discussion of current reforms in church and state and society; he was a born reformer.

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The Fireside Poets

Literature and reform were dividing the author’s mind and continued to do so for the next decade. Lowell and Miss White were married and spent the winter and early spring of 1845 in Philadelphia.  Here, besides continuing his literary contributions to magazines, Lowell had a regular engagement as an editorial writer on The Pennsylvania Freeman, a fortnightly journal devoted to the Anti-Slavery cause.

In the spring of 1845 the Lowells returned to Cambridge and made their home at Elmwood. On the last day of the year their first child, Blanche, was born, but she lived only fifteen months. A second daughter, Mabel, was born six months after Blanche’s death, and lived to survive her father; a third, Rose, died an infant.

Lowell‘s mother meanwhile was living, sometimes at home, sometimes at a neighboring hospital, with a clouded mind, and his wife was in frail health. These troubles and a narrow income conspired to make Lowell almost a recluse in these days, but from the retirement of Elmwood he sent forth writings which show how large an interest he took in affairs. He contributed poems to the daily press, on the Slavery question and while some were frequently works of art, occasionally they were tracts; but the prose was exclusively concerned with the public men and questions of the day.

In 1848 Lowell wrote a second series of Poems,:  “Columbus,” “An Indian Summer Reverie,” “To the Dandelion,” “The Changeling”; A Fable for Critics,  The Vision of Sir Launa, a romantic story suggested by the Arthurian legends – one of his most popular poems; and finally The Biglow Papers.

 Lowell had acquired a reputation among men of letters and a cultivated class of readers, but it was the satire of Biglow that brought he greater fame. The book was a single poem against the Mexican war and the Manifest Destiny that was so prominent in American politics; it was a great seller.

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All ten planets shown.

                            Family matters

The death of Lowell‘s mother, and the fragility of his wife’s health, led Lowell, with his wife, their daughter Mabel and their infant son Walter, to go to Europe in 1851, and they went direct to Italy. The early months of their stay were saddened by the death of Walter in Rome, and by the news of the illness of Lowell‘s father, who had a slight shock of paralysis.

They returned in November 1852, and Lowell published a prose volume, Fireside Travels that helped endorse the Fireside poets and strengthen their name.He took part also in the editing of an American edition of the British Poets, but the low state of his wife’s health kept him in an uneasy condition.  Mrs. Lowell died  (27th October 1853) just as Neptune entered Taurus and with that grief came a readjustment of his nature and a new intellectual activity.lowell's wife dies.png

At the invitation of a cousin, he delivered a course of lectures on English poets before the Lowell Institute in Boston in the winter of 1855. This first formal appearance as a critic and historian of literature at once gave him a new standing in the community and was the occasion of his election to the Smith Professorship of Modern Languages in Harvard College, then vacant by the retirement of Longfellow.

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The inner wheel is the Jupiter Cycle for 1856.  The outer is Lowell’s bundle highlighted in Yellow.  We could not find a date for when he remarried but notice that his Jupiter is conjunct the Cycle’s Venus in the eighth — love through shared suffering and understanding.

In 1856 when a new Jupiter Cycle began,  Lowell married Miss Frances Dunlap, a lady who had been in charge of his daughter Mabel since her mother’s death.

                                        The Atlantic Monthly

In the autumn of 1857 The Atlantic Monthly was established, and Lowell was its first editor. He at once gave the magazine the stamp of high literature and of bold speech on public affairs. He held this position until spring of 1861, but he continued to make the magazine the vehicle of his poetry and of some prose for the rest of his life. By 1862  he was associated with Mr Charles Eliot Norton, editor of the North American Review (Nathan Hale founded it in 1815)/  Later Norton himself  founded the Nation.

In 1877 Lowell, who had mingled so little in party politics that was appointed by President Hayes as minister resident at the court of Spain. He had a good knowledge of Spanish language and literature, and his long-continued studies in history and his quick judgment enabled him speedily to adjust himself to these new relations. His despatches to the home government were published in a posthumous volume – Impressions of Spain. In 1880 he was transferred to London as American minister and remained there till the close of President Arthur’s administration in the spring of 1885.

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By the time Lowell dies, Pluto still not discovered for another 50 years, is conjunct Neptune.  More notably, his natal chart originally a bundle is filled with his life and thus his chart is complete.  Mars is opposite Mars also highlighting what probably was  a bad heart or stroke.

Illness attended the last months of his life, and he died at Elmwood on the 12th of August 1891. After his death his literary executor, Charles Eliot Norton, published a brief collection of his poems, and two volumes of added prose, besides editing his letters.

                                    Britannica review of Lowell’s oevure

The spontaneity of Lowell‘s nature is delightfully disclosed in his personal letters. They are often brilliant, and sometimes very penetrating in their judgment of men and books; but the most constant element is a pervasive humor, and this humor, by turns playful and sentimental, is largely characteristic of his poetry, which sprang from a genial temper, quick in its sympathy with nature and humanity. The literary refinement which marks his essays in prose is not conspicuous in his verse, which is of a simpler character.

There was an apparent conflict in him of the critic and the creator, but the conflict was superficial. The man behind both critical and creative work was so genuine, that through his writings and speech and action he impressed himself deeply upon his generation in America, especially upon the thoughtful and scholarly class who looked upon him as especially their representative. This is not to say that he was a man of narrow sympathies.

On the contrary, he was democratic in his thought, and outspoken in his rebuke of whatever seemed to him antagonistic to the highest freedom. Thus, without taking a very active part in political life, he was recognized as one of the leaders of independent political thought. He found expression in so many ways, and was apparently so inexhaustible in his resources, that his very versatility and the ease with which he gave expression to his thought sometimes stood in the way of a recognition of his large, simple political ideality and the singleness of his moral sight.

WRITINGs

  1. The Works of James Russell Lowell,in ten volumes (Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1890); edition deluxe, 61 vols. (1904);
  2. Latest Literary Essays and Addresses(1891);
  3. The Old English Dramatists (1892);
  4. Conversations on some of the Old Poets (Philadelphia, David McKay; reprint of the volume published in 1843 and subsequently abandoned by its author, 1893);
  5. The Power of Sound: A Rhymed Lecture(New York, privately printed, 1896);
  6. Lectures on English Poets(Cleveland, The Rowfant Club, 1899).

Adapted from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911



One of Lowell’s Poems.

The Dandelion

Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride uphold,
High-hearted buccaneers, o’erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth’s ample round
May match in wealth, thou art more dear to me
Than all the prouder summer-blooms may be.

Gold such as thine ne’er drew the Spanish prow
Through the primeval hush of Indian seas,
Nor wrinkled the lean brow
Of age, to rob the lover’s heart of ease;
‘Tis the Spring’s largess, which she scatters now
To rich and poor alike, with lavish hand,
Though most hearts never understand
To take it at God’s value, but pass by
The offered wealth with unrewarded eye.

Thou art my tropics and mine Italy;
To look at thee unlocks a warmer clime;
The eyes thou givest me
Are in the heart, and heed not space or time:
Not in mid-June the golden-cuirassed bee
Feels a more summer-like warm ravishment
In the white lily’s breezy tent,
His fragrant Sybaris, than I, when first
From the dark green thy yellow circles burst.

Then think I of deep shadows on the grass,
Of meadows where in sun the cattle graze,
Where, as the breezes pass,
The gleaming rushes lean a thousand ways,
Of leaves that slumber in a cloudy mass,
Or whiten in the wind, of waters blue
That from the distance sparkle through
Some woodland gap, and of a sky above,
Where one white cloud like a stray lamb doth move.

My childhood’s earliest thoughts are linked with thee;
The sight of thee calls back the robin’s song,
Who, from the dark old tree
Beside the door, sang clearly all day long,
And I, secure in childish piety,
Listened as if I heard an angel sing
With news from heaven, which he could bring
Fresh every day to my untainted ears
When birds and flowers and I were happy peers.

How like a prodigal doth nature seem,
When thou, for all thy gold, so common art!
Thou teachest me to deem
More sacredly of every human heart,
Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam
Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret show,
Did we but pay the love we owe,
And with a child’s undoubting wisdom look
On all these living pages of God’s book.



Footnotes:

  1. Essentials, pg. 41-42
  2. Essentials, Septiles, pg 202.
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