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The Landlord

by James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell, American Romantic poet, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 22, 1819, and died on August 12, 1891. He is considered a Fireside Poet, or part of a group of New England authors that wrote material very suitable to be read as entertainment to members of a family, often read aloud in front of a residential fireplace.


What boot your houses and your lands? 
In spite of close-drawn deed and fence, 
Like water, twixt your cheated hands, 
They slip into the graveyard's sands, 
And mock your ownership's pretence.

How shall you speak to urge your right, 
Choked with that soil for which you lust? 
The bit of clay, for whose delight 
You grasp, is mortgaged, too; Death might 
Foreclose this very day in dust.

Fence as you please, this plain poor man, 
Whose only fields are in his wit, 
Who shapes the world, as best he can, 
According to God's higher plan, 
Owns you, and fences as is fit.

Though yours the rents, his incomes wax 
By right of eminent domain; 
From factory tall to woodman's axe, 
All things on earth must pay their tax, 
To feed his hungry heart and brain.

He takes you from your easy-chair, 
And what he plans that you must do; 
You sleep in down, eat dainty fare,? 
He mounts his crazy garret-stair 
And starves, the landlord over you.

Feeding the clods your idlesse drains, 
You make more green six feet of soil; 
His fruitful word, like suns and rains, 
Partakes the seasons' bounteous pains, 
And toils to lighten human toil.

Your lands, with force or cunning got, 
Shrink to the measure of the grave; 
But Death himself abridges not 
The tenures of almighty thought, 
The titles of the wise and brave.


— The Complete Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell (1882)

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