Lowell’s Commemoration Ode
Lowell, James Russell. Ode recited at the Commemoration of the Living and Dead Soldiers of Harvard University, July 21, 1865
Cambridge: Privately printed, 1865
Quarto. Original boards, paper printed label, light green coated endpapers. Front free endpaper with abrasion and small hole where the presentation recipient’s name was rubbed out. Slipcase.
The privately printed, limited edition of Lowell’s celebrated Harvard Commemoration Ode. This is, after the Gettysburg Address, the foremost Civil War tribute to the war dead. In it Lowell declared Lincoln to be the “New birth of our soul, the first American.” Century observed that “Lowell was the first of the leading American writers to see clearly and fully and enthusiastically proclaim th greatness of Abraham Lincoln.” Into this work Lowell “poured a conception of Lincoln which may justly be said to be today the accepted idea which Americans hold of their great president” (Horace Scudder).
Lowell recited this poem at Harvard on 21 July 1865. Many of his classmates served in the Civil War and a number died. When the Ode appeared in print in the September issue of Atlantic Monthly it became famous.
This is copy number 33 (of 50), inscribed by the author, “To [erased] with the cordial regards of J.R. Lowell, / 3rd Septr 1865.” BAL cites five other copies inscribed on September 3, the earliest known examples.