James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

December 14


By James Thomas Fields (1817–1881)

  • Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, the famous naturalist, died Dec. 14, 1873.

  • ONCE in the leafy prime of Spring,

    When blossoms whitened every thorn,

    I wandered through the Vale of Orbe

    Where Agassiz was born.

    The birds in boyhood he had known

    Went flitting through the air of May,

    And happy songs he loved to hear

    Made all the landscape gay.

    I saw the streamlet from the hills

    Run laughing through the valleys green,

    And, as I watched it run, I said,

    “This his dear eyes have seen!”

    Far cliffs of ice his feet have climbed

    That day outspoke of him to me;

    The avalanches seemed to sound

    The name of Agassiz!

    And standing on the mountain crag

    Where loosened waters rush and foam,

    I felt that, though on Cambridge side,

    He made that spot my home.

    And looking round me as I mused,

    I knew no pang of fear or care,

    Or homesick weariness, because

    Once Agassiz stood there!

    I walked beneath no alien skies,

    No foreign heights I came to tread,

    For everywhere I looked, I saw

    His grand, beloved head.

    His smile was stamped on every tree,

    The glacier shone to gild his name,

    And every image in the lake

    Reflected back his fame.

    Great keeper of the magic keys

    That could unlock the guarded gates

    Where Science like a Monarch stands,

    And sacred Knowledge waits,—

    Thine ashes rest on Auburn’s banks,

    Thy memory all the world contains,

    For thou couldst bind in human love

    All hearts in golden chains!

    Thine was the heaven-born spell that sets

    Our warm and deep affections free,—

    Who knew thee best must love thee best,

    And longest mourn for thee!