Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Initial Love

The Initial Love

Venus, when her son was lost, Cried him up and down the coast, In hamlets, palaces and parks, And told the truant by his marks,— Golden curls, and quiver and bow. This befell how long ago! Time and tide are strangely changed, Men and manners much deranged: None will now find Cupid latent By this foolish antique patent. He came late along the waste, Shod like a traveller for haste; With malice dared me to proclaim him, That the maids and boys might name him.  Boy no more, he wears all coats, Frocks and blouses, capes, capotes; He bears no bow, or quiver, or wand, Nor chaplet on his head or hand. Leave his weeds and heed his eyes,— All the rest he can disguise. In the pit of his eye's a spark Would bring back day if it were dark; And, if I tell you all my thought, Though I comprehend it not, In those unfathomable orbs Every function he absorbs; Doth eat, and drink, and fish, and shoot, And write, and reason, and compute, And ride, and run, and have, and hold, And whine, and flatter, and regret, And kiss, and couple, and beget, By those roving eyeballs bold.  Undaunted are their courages, Right Cossacks in their forages; Fleeter they than any creature,— They are his steeds, and not his feature; Inquisitive, and fierce, and fasting, Restless, predatory, hasting; And they pounce on other eyes As lions on their prey; And round their circles is writ, Plainer than the day, Underneath, within, above,— Love—love—love—love. He lives in his eyes; There doth digest, and work, and spin, And buy, and sell, and lose, and win; He rolls them with delighted motion, Joy-tides swell their mimic ocean. Yet holds he them with tautest rein, That they may seize and entertain The glance that to their glance opposes, Like fiery honey sucked from roses. He palmistry can understand, Imbibing virtue by his hand As if it were a living root; The pulse of hands will make him mute; With all his force he gathers balms Into those wise, thrilling palms.  Cupid is a casuist, A mystic and a cabalist,— Can your lurking thought surprise, And interpret your device. He is versed in occult science, In magic and in clairvoyance, Oft he keeps his fine ear strained, And Reason on her tiptoe pained For aëry intelligence, And for strange coincidence. But it touches his quick heart When Fate by omens takes his part, And chance-dropped hints from Nature's sphere Deeply soothe his anxious ear.  Heralds high before him run; He has ushers many a one; He spreads his welcome where he goes, And touches all things with his rose. All things wait for and divine him,— How shall I dare to malign him, Or accuse the god of sport? I must end my true report, Painting him from head to foot, In as far as I took note, Trusting well the matchless power Of this young-eyed emperor Will clear his fame from every cloud With the bards and with the crowd.  He is wilful, mutable, Shy, untamed, inscrutable, Swifter-fashioned than the fairies. Substance mixed of pure contraries; His vice some elder virtue's token, And his good is evil-spoken. Failing sometimes of his own, He is headstrong and alone; He affects the wood and wild, Like a flower-hunting child; Buries himself in summer waves, In trees, with beasts, in mines and caves, Loves nature like a hornèd cow, Bird, or deer, or caribou.  Shun him, nymphs, on the fleet horses! He has a total world of wit; O how wise are his discourses! But he is the arch-hypocrite, And, through all science and all art, Seeks alone his counterpart. He is a Pundit of the East, He is an augur and a priest, And his soul will melt in prayer, But word and wisdom is a snare; Corrupted by the present toy He follows joy, and only joy. There is no mask but he will wear; He invented oaths to swear; He paints, he carves, he chants, he prays, And holds all stars in his embrace. He takes a sovran privilege Not allowed to any liege; For Cupid goes behind all law, And right into himself does draw; For he is sovereignly allied,— Heaven's oldest blood flows in his side,— And interchangeably at one With every king on every throne, That no god dare say him nay, Or see the fault, or seen betray; He has the Muses by the heart, And the stern Parcae on his part.  His many signs cannot be told; He has not one mode, but manifold, Many fashions and addresses, Piques, reproaches, hurts, caresses. He will preach like a friar, And jump like Harlequin; He will read like a crier, And fight like a Paladin. Boundless is his memory; Plans immense his term prolong; He is not of counted age, Meaning always to be young. And his wish is intimacy, Intimater intimacy, And a stricter privacy; The impossible shall yet be done, And, being two, shall still be one. As the wave breaks to foam on shelves, Then runs into a wave again, So lovers melt their sundered selves, Yet melted would be twain.