How well he succeeded in the stupendous task to which he set himself while yet groping in the black night of bondage, with no human power outside of his own indomitable will to help him, his life work attests in language more enduring than “storied urn” or written history. A roll call of the world’s great moral heroes would be incomplete without the name of the slave-born Douglass, who came on the stage of life to play the leading role of the Moses of his race in one of the saddest and, at the same time, most glorious eras of American history.
He was born in Talbot County, Maryland. The exact date of his birth is not known; but he himself thought it was in February, 1817. He died in Washington, D.C., February 20, 1895.
“To the first robin”
The air was keen and biting, and traces of snow still lingered on the ground and sparkled on the tree tops in the morning sun. But the happy, rosy-cheeked children, lately freed from the restraints of city life, who played in the old garden in Concord, Massachusetts, that bright spring morning many years ago, heeded not the biting wind or the lingering snow. As they raced up and down the paths, in and out among the trees, their cheeks took on a deeper glow, their eyes a brighter sparkle, while their shouts of merry laughter made the morning glad.
But stay, what is this? What has happened to check the laughter on their lips, and dim their bright eyes with tears? The little group, headed by Louisa, has suddenly come to a pause under a tree, where a wee robin, half dead with hunger and cold, has fallen from its perch.
“Poor, poor birdie!” exclaimed a chorus of pitying voices. “It is dead, poor little thing,” said Anna. “No,” said Louisa, the leader of the children in fun and works of mercy alike; “it is warm, and I can feel its heart beat.” As she spoke, she gathered the tiny bundle of feathers to her bosom, and, heading the little procession, turned toward the house.
A warm nest was made for the foundling, and, with motherly care, the little Louisa May Alcott, then only eight years old, fed and nursed back to life the half-famished bird.
Before the feathered claimant on her mercy flew away to freedom, the future authoress, the “children’s friend,” who loved and pitied all helpless things, wrote her first poem, and called it “To the First Robin.” It contained only these two stanzas:—
“Welcome, welcome, little
Fear no harm, and fear no danger,
We are glad to see you here,
For you sing, ‘Sweet spring is near.’
“Now the white snow
Now the flowers blossom gay,
Come, dear bird, and build your nest,
For we love our robin best.”
Although he had only a few months’ regular schooling, at ten Thomas Alva Edison had read and thought more than many youths of twenty. Gibbon’s “Rome,” Hume’s “England,” Sears’s “History of the World,” besides several books on chemistry,—a subject in which he was even then deeply interested,—were familiar friends. Yet he was not, by any means, a serious bookworm. On the contrary, he was as full of fun and mischief as any healthy boy of his age.