"Lean, Hungry, Savage, Anti-everythings"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Holmes wrote this poem on the occasion of the inauguration of President Everett, of Harvard. It humorously recounts a request that comes by mail for him, the poet, to provide a speech, a song, and a toast–all by himself–for the dinner honoring the new college president; the poem includes the poet's responses to the request, done in Holmes' witty fashion. He describes the speaker, looking very red because he is "so very green," embarrassed by the amount of learning in many studies represented by the men at the banquet tables about him. In mimicry of speeches delivered at such functions as the inaugurations of college presidents, Holmes has his speaker give a prophetic utterance about the future of Harvard, punctuated, as he notes, by "three tremendous cheers." The speaker, looking to a splendid future, declaims:

My eye prophetic, as the depths unfold,
Sees a new advent of the age of gold;
While o'er the scene new generations press,
New heroes rise the coming time to bless,–
Not such as Homer's, who, we read in Pope,
Dined without forks and never heard of soap,–
Not such as May to Marlborough Chapel brings,
Lean, hungry, savage, anti-everythings,
Copies of Luther in the pasteboard style,–
But genuine articles,–the true Carlyle;
While far on high the blazing orb shall shed
Its central light on Harvard's holy head,
And Learning's ensigns ever float unfurled
Here in the focus of the new-born world!