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Best Famous Ralph Waldo Emerson Poems

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by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood, 
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled, 
Here once the embattled farmers stood, 
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept; Alike the conqueror silent sleeps; And Time the ruined bridge has swept Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream, We set to-day a votive stone; That memory may their deed redeem, When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare To die, and leave their children free, Bid Time and Nature gently spare The shaft we raise to them and thee.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Give All to Love

GIVE all to love; 
Obey thy heart; 
Friends kindred days  
Estate good fame  
Plans credit and the Muse¡ª 5 
Nothing refuse.
'Tis a brave master; Let it have scope: Follow it utterly Hope beyond hope: 10 High and more high It dives into noon With wing unspent Untold intent; But it is a god 15 Knows its own path And the outlets of the sky.
It was never for the mean; It requireth courage stout Souls above doubt 20 Valour unbending: Such 'twill reward;¡ª They shall return More than they were And ever ascending.
25 Leave all for love; Yet hear me yet One word more thy heart behoved One pulse more of firm endeavour¡ª Keep thee to-day 30 To-morrow for ever Free as an Arab Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid; But when the surprise 35 First vague shadow of surmise Flits across her bosom young Of a joy apart from thee Free be she fancy-free; Nor thou detain her vesture's hem 40 Nor the palest rose she flung From her summer diadem.
Though thou loved her as thyself As a self of purer clay; Though her parting dims the day 45 Stealing grace from all alive; Heartily know When half-gods go The gods arrive.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Days

DAUGHTERS of Time the hypocritic Days  
Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes  
And marching single in an endless file  
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts after his will 5 Bread kingdoms stars and sky that holds them all.
I in my pleach¨¨d garden watched the pomp Forgot my morning wishes hastily Took a few herbs and apples and the Day Turned and departed silent.
I too late 10 Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.


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by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Sacrifice

THOUGH love repine and reason chafe  
There came a voice without reply ¡ª 
'T is man's perdition to be safe, 
When for the truth he ought to die.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

The Rhodora - On Being Asked Whence Is the Flower

IN May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes, 
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods, 
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook, 
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool, 5 Made the black water with their beauty gay; Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool, And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why This charm is wasted on the earth and sky, 10 Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing, Then Beauty is its own excuse for being: Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose! I never thought to ask, I never knew: But, in my simple ignorance, suppose 15 The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

To Eva

O FAIR and stately maid whose eyes 
Were kindled in the upper skies 
At the same torch that lighted mine; 
For so I must interpret still 
Thy sweet dominion o'er my will 5 
A sympathy divine.
Ah! let me blameless gaze upon Features that seem at heart my own; Nor fear those watchful sentinels Who charm the more their glance forbids 10 Chaste-glowing underneath their lids With fire that draws while it repels.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Uriel

IT fell in the ancient periods 
Which the brooding soul surveys  
Or ever the wild Time coin'd itself 
Into calendar months and days.
This was the lapse of Uriel 5 Which in Paradise befell.
Once among the Pleiads walking Sayd overheard the young gods talking; And the treason too long pent To his ears was evident.
10 The young deities discuss'd Laws of form and metre just Orb quintessence and sunbeams What subsisteth and what seems.
One with low tones that decide 15 And doubt and reverend use defied With a look that solved the sphere And stirr'd the devils everywhere Gave his sentiment divine Against the being of a line.
20 'Line in nature is not found; Unit and universe are round; In vain produced all rays return; Evil will bless and ice will burn.
' As Uriel spoke with piercing eye 25 A shudder ran around the sky; The stern old war-gods shook their heads; The seraphs frown'd from myrtle-beds; Seem'd to the holy festival The rash word boded ill to all; 30 The balance-beam of Fate was bent; The bounds of good and ill were rent; Strong Hades could not keep his own But all slid to confusion.
A sad self-knowledge withering fell 35 On the beauty of Uriel; In heaven once eminent the god Withdrew that hour into his cloud; Whether doom'd to long gyration In the sea of generation 40 Or by knowledge grown too bright To hit the nerve of feebler sight.
Straightway a forgetting wind Stole over the celestial kind And their lips the secret kept 45 If in ashes the fire-seed slept.
But now and then truth-speaking things Shamed the angels' veiling wings; And shrilling from the solar course Or from fruit of chemic force 50 Procession of a soul in matter Or the speeding change of water Or out of the good of evil born Came Uriel's voice of cherub scorn And a blush tinged the upper sky 55 And the gods shook they knew not why.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Borrowing

From the French


SOME of the hurts you have cured  
And the sharpest you still have survived  
But what torments of grief you endured 
From evils which never arrived! 


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Brahma

IF the red slayer think he slays  
Or if the slain think he is slain  
They know not well the subtle ways 
I keep and pass and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near; 5 Shadow and sunlight are the same; The vanished gods to me appear; And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out; When me they fly I am the wings; 10 I am the doubter and the doubt And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode And pine in vain the sacred Seven; But thou meek lover of the good! 15 Find me and turn thy back on heaven.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Fable

THE MOUNTAIN and the squirrel 
Had a quarrel; 
And the former called the latter "Little Prig.
" Bun replied You are doubtless very big; 5 But all sorts of things and weather Must be taken in together, To make up a year And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace 10 To occupy my place.
If I'm not as large as you, You are not so small as I, And not half so spry.
I'll not deny you make 15 A very pretty squirrel track; Talents differ; all is well and wisely put; If I cannot carry forests on my back, Neither can you crack a nut.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Heri Cras Hodie

SHINES the last age the next with hope is seen  
To-day slinks poorly off unmarked between: 
Future or Past no richer secret folds  
O friendless Present! than thy bosom holds.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Poet

TO clothe the fiery thought 
In simple words succeeds  
For still the craft of genius is 
To mask a king in weeds.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Shakespeare

I SEE all human wits 
Are measured but a few; 
Unmeasured still my Shakespeare sits  
Lone as the blessed Jew.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

FATE

 Fate is above me.
Why should I browse? Sleeping in dosses, an outcast, I rove.
Grief is a cellar, that opens in every old house.
A ditch is below me and fate is above.
What did I want? Well, a life of contentment.
What did I get? Just a coffin and wreath.
.
.
Under the cradle a grave has been latent.
Fate is above me, a ditch is beneath.
Up in the sky my soul, like a hound, howls, despaired, the trigger to pull it was keen.
Fate has come over my family background, and on the earth where fate is my kin.
What have I done, apart from the simple poems I've written in passing to date? I've been a lightening conductor for people.
Now I have broken my back.
Such is fate.
© Copyright Alec Vagapov's translation


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Dirge

 COME away, come away, death, 
 And in sad cypres let me be laid; 
Fly away, fly away, breath; 
 I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew, O prepare it! My part of death, no one so true Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet, On my black coffin let there be strown; Not a friend, not a friend greet My poor corse, where my bones shall be thrown: A thousand thousand sighs to save, Lay me, O, where Sad true lover never find my grave To weep there!


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Dirge

 Boys and girls that held her dear,
Do your weeping now;
All you loved of her lies here.
Brought to earth the arrogant brow, And the withering tongue Chastened; do your weeping now.
Sing whatever songs are sung, Wind whatever wreath, For a playmate perished young, For a spirit spent in death.
Boys and girls that held her dear, All you loved of her lies here.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Threnody

 Lilacs blossom just as sweet
Now my heart is shattered.
If I bowled it down the street, Who's to say it mattered? If there's one that rode away What would I be missing? Lips that taste of tears, they say, Are the best for kissing.
Eyes that watch the morning star Seem a little brighter; Arms held out to darkness are Usually whiter.
Shall I bar the strolling guest, Bind my brow with willow, When, they say, the empty breast Is the softer pillow? That a heart falls tinkling down, Never think it ceases.
Every likely lad in town Gathers up the pieces.
If there's one gone whistling by Would I let it grieve me? Let him wonder if I lie; Let him half believe me.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

The Apology

 Think me not unkind and rude,
That I walk alone in grove and glen;
I go to the god of the wood
To fetch his word to men.
Tax not my sloth that I Fold my arms beside the brook; Each cloud that floated in the sky Writes a letter in my book.
Chide me not, laborious band, For the idle flowers I brought; Every aster in my hand Goes home loaded with a thought.
There was never mystery, But 'tis figured in the flowers, Was never secret history, But birds tell it in the bowers.
One harvest from thy field Homeward brought the oxen strong; A second crop thine acres yield, Which I gather in a song.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

The Forerunners

 The harbingers are come.
See, see their mark; White is their colour, and behold my head.
But must they have my brain? must they dispark Those sparkling notions, which therein were bred? Must dulnesse turn me to a clod? Yet have they left me, Thou art still my God.
Good men ye be, to leave me my best room, Ev'n all my heart, and what is lodged there: I passe not, I, what of the rest become, So Thou art still my God, be out of fear.
He will be pleased with that dittie; And if I please him, I write fine and wittie.
Farewell sweet phrases, lovely metaphors.
But will ye leave me thus? when ye before Of stews and brothels onely knew the doores, Then did I wash you with my tears, and more, Brought you to Church well drest and clad; My God must have my best, ev'n all I had.
Louely enchanting language, sugar-cane, Hony of roses, whither wilt thou flie? Hath some fond lover tic'd thee to thy bane? And wilt thou leave the Church, and love a stie? Fie, thou wilt soil thy broider'd coat, And hurt thy self, and him that sings the note.
Let foolish lovers, if they will love dung, With canvas, not with arras clothe their shame: Let follie speak in her own native tongue.
True beautie dwells on high: ours is a flame But borrow'd thence to light us thither.
Beautie and beauteous words should go together.
Yet if you go, I passe not; take your way: For, Thou art still my God, is all that ye Perhaps with more embellishment can say, Go birds of spring: let winter have his fee, Let a bleak palenesse chalk the doore, So all within be livelier then before.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Loss And Gain

 Virtue runs before the muse
And defies her skill,
She is rapt, and doth refuse
To wait a painter's will.
Star-adoring, occupied, Virtue cannot bend her, Just to please a poet's pride, To parade her splendor.
The bard must be with good intent No more his, but hers, Throw away his pen and paint, Kneel with worshippers.
Then, perchance, a sunny ray From the heaven of fire, His lost tools may over-pay, And better his desire.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Fate

 That you are fair or wise is vain,
Or strong, or rich, or generous;
You must have also the untaught strain
That sheds beauty on the rose.
There is a melody born of melody, Which melts the world into a sea.
Toil could never compass it, Art its height could never hit, It came never out of wit, But a music music-born Well may Jove and Juno scorn.
Thy beauty, if it lack the fire Which drives me mad with sweet desire, What boots it? what the soldier's mail, Unless he conquer and prevail? What all the goods thy pride which lift, If thou pine for another's gift? Alas! that one is born in blight, Victim of perpetual slight;— When thou lookest in his face, Thy heart saith, Brother! go thy ways! None shall ask thee what thou doest, Or care a rush for what thou knowest, Or listen when thou repliest, Or remember where thou liest, Or how thy supper is sodden,— And another is born To make the sun forgotten.
Surely he carries a talisman Under his tongue; Broad are his shoulders, and strong, And his eye is scornful, Threatening, and young.
I hold it of little matter, Whether your jewel be of pure water, A rose diamond or a white,— But whether it dazzle me with light.
I care not how you are drest, In the coarsest, or in the best, Nor whether your name is base or brave, Nor tor the fashion of your behavior,— But whether you charm me, Bid my bread feed, and my fire warm me, And dress up nature in your favor.
One thing is forever good, That one thing is success,— Dear to the Eumenides, And to all the heavenly brood.
Who bides at home, nor looks abroad, Carries the eagles, and masters the sword.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Two Rivers

 Thy summer voice, Musketaquit, 
Repeats the music of the rain; 
But sweeter rivers pulsing flit 
Through thee, as thou through the Concord Plain.
Thou in thy narrow banks art pent: The stream I love unbounded goes Through flood and sea and firmament; Through light, through life, it forward flows.
I see the inundation sweet, I hear the spending of the steam Through years, through men, through Nature fleet, Through love and thought, through power and dream.
Musketaquit, a goblin strong, Of shard and flint makes jewels gay; They lose their grief who hear his song, And where he winds is the day of day.
So forth and brighter fares my stream,-- Who drink it shall not thirst again; No darkness taints its equal gleam, And ages drop in it like rain.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Good-by

 Good-by, proud world, I'm going home,
Thou'rt not my friend, and I'm not thine;
Long through thy weary crowds I roam;
A river-ark on the ocean brine,
Long I've been tossed like the driven foam,
But now, proud world, I'm going home.
Good-by to Flattery's fawning face, To Grandeur, with his wise grimace, To upstart Wealth's averted eye, To supple Office low and high, To crowded halls, to court, and street, To frozen hearts, and hasting feet, To those who go, and those who come, Good-by, proud world, I'm going home.
I'm going to my own hearth-stone Bosomed in yon green hills, alone, A secret nook in a pleasant land, Whose groves the frolic fairies planned; Where arches green the livelong day Echo the blackbird's roundelay, And vulgar feet have never trod A spot that is sacred to thought and God.
Oh, when I am safe in my sylvan home, I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome; And when I am stretched beneath the pines Where the evening star so holy shines, I laugh at the lore and the pride of man, At the sophist schools, and the learned clan; For what are they all in their high conceit, When man in the bush with God may meet.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

Each And All

 Little thinks, in the field, yon red-cloaked clown,
Of thee, from the hill-top looking down;
And the heifer, that lows in the upland farm,
Far-heard, lows not thine ear to charm;
The sexton tolling the bell at noon,
Dreams not that great Napoleon
Stops his horse, and lists with delight,
Whilst his files sweep round yon Alpine height;
Nor knowest thou what argument
Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent:
All are needed by each one,
Nothing is fair or good alone.
I thought the sparrow's note from heaven, Singing at dawn on the alder bough; I brought him home in his nest at even;— He sings the song, but it pleases not now; For I did not bring home the river and sky; He sang to my ear; they sang to my eye.
The delicate shells lay on the shore; The bubbles of the latest wave Fresh pearls to their enamel gave; And the bellowing of the savage sea Greeted their safe escape to me; I wiped away the weeds and foam, And fetched my sea-born treasures home; But the poor, unsightly, noisome things Had left their beauty on the shore With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar.
The lover watched his graceful maid As 'mid the virgin train she strayed, Nor knew her beauty's best attire Was woven still by the snow-white quire; At last she came to his hermitage, Like the bird from the woodlands to the cage,— The gay enchantment was undone, A gentle wife, but fairy none.
Then I said, "I covet Truth; Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat,— I leave it behind with the games of youth.
" As I spoke, beneath my feet The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath, Running over the club-moss burrs; I inhaled the violet's breath; Around me stood the oaks and firs; Pine cones and acorns lay on the ground; Above me soared the eternal sky, Full of light and deity; Again I saw, again I heard, The rolling river, the morning bird;— Beauty through my senses stole, I yielded myself to the perfect whole.


by Ralph Waldo Emerson | |

The Snow-Storm

 Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet Delated, all friends shut out, the housemates sit Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer Curves his white bastions with projected roof Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he For number or proportion.
Mockingly, On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths; A swan-like form invests the hiddden thorn; Fills up the famer's lane from wall to wall, Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world Is all his own, retiring, as he were not, Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone, Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work, The frolic architecture of the snow.