Born: Oc­to­ber 8, 1816, Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Died: Sep­tem­ber 12, 1891, Sche­nec­ta­dy, New York.

Buried: Vale Ce­me­te­ry, Sche­nec­ta­dy, New York.


Robert was the son of Charles Low­ell and Har­ri­ette Brack­et Spence, bro­ther of James Russ­ell Low­ell, and hus­band of Ma­ry Ann Duane (mar­ried 1845).

He was edu­cat­ed at Round Hill School, North­amp­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts; Har­vard Col­lege (gra­du­at­ed 1833); and Har­vard Me­di­cal School.

Instead of prac­tic­ing me­di­cine, he en­gaged in mer­can­tile pur­suits, then be­came an Epis­co­pal priest in March 1843.



A Christmas Sermon

On the glorious Birthday morning,
All the church is dressed in green;
Loud are heard the holy anthems,
Sweetest prayers go up between.

He that lay in lowly manger,
Now is known as Heaven’s king;
What but angels sang, aforetime,
Now have men been taught to sing:

God have glory, in the highest:
Peace on earth, good-will towards men:
Over all the tide of ages,
Ever now as it was then.

After prayers and chant all ended,
Then the priest begins to preach:
In God’s name he speaketh plainly,
For God’s sake he loveth each.

Lo! he saith, “the Lord of Glory,
Born and cradled in a stall!
Sure He had but scanty welcome,
Seeing He was Lord of all.

“Yet, in sooth, He sought no other,
Nor to earth for homage came;
Here He took the form of servant;
Here He bared the cheek to shame.

“Not of this world was His kingdom:
He lived not at monarch’s cost:
He sought not the known and honored,
But He came to seek the lost:

“Lost from out the world’s long annals,
For they came of humble kin:
Lost from out the Book of Hea­ven,
For their life was led in sin.

“Thus the poor, and thus the sinner,
Found the Lord beside their door:
Heard His blessèd words of comfort,
Such as no man spake before.

“Let our thoughts, this day, my brethren,
Seek the poor, by men forgot;
Whom the holy Christ remembered,
Coming here to share their lot.

“This world hath its rich and needy:
This world hath its high and low:
On the one side, pomp and worship;
On the other, toil and woe.

“Not forever shall we struggle
With the trials of this state:
To be poor, and yet be thankful;
To be lowly-willed, if great.

“Yet a little, and the Judgment:
Then we change for good or ill:
Rich or poor shall enter Hea­ven,
As they did the Father’s will.

“To be rich we may not covet,
Ye have heard the Saviour say:
And He chose the lowest station
When He came to earth this day.

“He has told us of His kingdom,
Hardly shall the rich go in;
Though the best that this world offers—
Power and glory—wealth may win.

“I will tell a simple story:
Every day it falleth true;
Jesu grant you all, my brethren,
That it be not so of you.

“See you there how Dives sitteth,
Richly clad, at dainty fare?
Many servants make obeisance,
Many guests sit humbly there.

“Now one cometh, speaking softly,
‘Lazarus is at the gate:
Waiting, in full mournful fashion,
That his welcome cometh late.

“‘For he meekly claimeth kindred,
Though he is of low degree.’
Heed the rich man, now, my brethren;
Scornful answer maketh he:

“‘Lazarus? I know no beggars,
And my kin bear no such name:
Yet these poor folk have their kindred;
Bid him go from whence he came.’

“‘Good my lord, the dogs are licking,
In mere ruth, his running sore;
He is modest, and he claimeth
But the crumbs from off thy floor.’

“‘Prating varlet!’ said the rich man,
’Now what idle knaves have I!
Was there none to bid this beggar
Choose a fitter place to die?’

“He forgot that in God’s Hea­ven,
Righteous poor shall have their share:
And he thrust him from the threshold,
Caring nought how he might fare.

“So the servants laid the beggar
Just before another’s gate;
Coming back, with due obeisance,
At their master’s side to wait.

“Soon the poor man died, full godly,
And with saints he went to dwell:
Next the rich man died, and, after,
Lifted up his eyes in hell;

“And afar he saw the poor man,
As he lay in Abraham’s breast;
And, from out his place of torment,
Prayed towards that blissful rest.

“‘Twas but for a drop of water:
Yet his boon he could not win:
God had set a gulf, forever,
‘Twixt the two that were not kin.

“For the words of dreadful judgment,
Christ hath told us what they be:
‘I was hungry, sick, and naked,
And ye had no care of Me.’

“Then shall they make forward answer,
That on earth had Him forgot:
’Lord, when saw we Thee an-hungered,
Sick, and naked, and cared not?’

“Christ shall say, ‘These poor and wretched,
Whose meek claim ye put aside,
I do own them as My brethren,
And in them was I denied.

“‘When ye saw Me not, nor heard Me,
It was I put up the claim:
I lay pining at the threshold,
For they sought you in My name.’

“Let us, then, confess Christ’s brother,
Lest we claim another kin:
Then, before the gate of Hea­ven,
He shall bid us enter in.

Glory, worship, love, and service,
To the blessèd One in Three:
As it was in the beginning,
Is, and evermore shall be!

Robert Traill Spence Lowell
Fresh Hearts That Failed
Three Thous­and Years Ago
, 1860



Help Needed

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Low­ell (head & shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els),


The Christ Forgotten in Our Days

Christ in a wretched place was born,
Nor owned His very grave;
He lived both homeless and forlorn—
His fellows such as rich men scorn—
And ate what beggars gave.

And when the Lord of Life became
Poor, and of none esteem.
He bade His followers do the same;
For Him to choose a life of shame;
Earth’s goods a curse to deem.

The poor He blessed, and opened wide
The kingdom to their feet;
And bade the rich man go divide
The wealth whereon he built his pride.
And give the poor to eat.

Not otherwise might he be made
Christ’s brother and God’s son;
For how could one in pomp arrayed
The family of Christ invade,
Where wealth and pomp was none?

Christ’s brethren—oh! what seraphim
Cared less for earthly good!
The rich, bright world to them was dim;
They marched along with prayer and hymn,
And left it, where it stood.

If in the kingdom’s early day,
Men gave up earth for Heav’n,
If lands and wealth they gave away.
If dainty food and rich array—
If all for Christ was giv’n,

Then how unlike God’s humble Son
Are they who bear His name!
In rich apparel every one,
No worldly good they care to shun:
Are those and these the same?

The rich—the rich are everywhere;
These fill the Temple too.
And scantly give the poor a share
To whom Christ said Ye blessèd are;
God’s kingdom is for you.

O rich men! who do claim to be
The followers of the Lamb,
What, what are you, and what was He?
Is not His name a mockery?
Is not your faith a sham?

I see your houses cedar-lined:
Ye feed each earthborn lust
For food, for gems, for gold refined,
For every pleasure that can bind
The spirit down to dust.

What single thing that wealth can buy
Do ye, for Christ, forget?
To Bear thy cross, thyself deny,
Know ye these words? Were they to die,
Or are they living yet?

Has Christ taught you another way,
The Fathers never knew,
To live well here, and live for aye?
To have the riches earth can pay,
And those hereafter too?

And yet ye cant of serving God
And giving to His poor,
Who go unfed, unclothed, unshod,
And underneath the heavy sod
First find a sleep secure.

O men well clothed, and warmed, and filled
While God’s poor children fast,
The very churches that ye build
And deck with pomp and carve and gild
Will judge you at the last.

Where are My poor, Christ still demands—
To whom the Gospel came?;
This costly offering at your hands
Is to yourselves, and only stands
A monument of shame.

Give to My poor! give much: give all,
If nothing less will do;
They that at first obeyed the call,
Were fain to let earth’s riches fall:
Shall I ask less of you?

Robert Lowell
June 1849