Ralph Waldo Emerson: Life
A train of gay and clouded days
Dappled with joy and grief and praise,
Beauty to fire us, saints to save,
Escort us to a little grave.
No fate, save by the victim's fault, is low,
For God hath writ all dooms magnificent,
So guilt not traverses his tender will.
Around the man who seeks a noble end,
Not angels but divinities attend.
From high to higher forces
The scale of power uprears,
The heroes on their horses,
The gods upon their spheres.
This shining moment is an edifice
Which the Omnipotent cannot rebuild.
Casts her schemes rarely,
And an aeon allows
For each quality and part
Of the multitudinous
And many-chambered heart.
The beggar begs by God's command,
And gifts awake when givers sleep,
Swords cannot cut the giving hand
Nor stab the love that orphans keep.
In the chamber, on the stairs,
Go and come
Lemurs and Lars.
Such another peerless queen
Only could her mirror show.
Easy to match what others do,
Perform the feat as well as they;
Hard to out-do the brave, the true,
And find a loftier way:
The school decays, the learning spoils
Because of the sons of wine;
How snatch the stripling from their toils?—
Yet can one ray of truth divine
The blaze of revellers' feasts outshine.
Of all wit's uses the main one
Is to live well with who has none.
The tongue is prone to lose the way,
Not so the pen, for in a letter
We have not better things to say,
But surely say them better.
She walked in flowers around my field
As June herself around the sphere.
Friends to me are frozen wine;
I wait the sun on them should shine.
You shall not love me for what daily spends;
You shall not know me in the noisy street,
Where I, as others, follow petty ends;
Nor when in fair saloons we chance to meet;
Nor when I'm jaded, sick, anxious or mean.
But love me then and only, when you know
Me for the channel of the rivers of God
From deep ideal fontal heavens that flow.
To and fro the Genius flies,
A light which plays and hovers
Over the maiden's head
And dips sometimes as low as to her eyes.
Of her faults I take no note,
Fault and folly are not mine;
Comes the Genius,—all's forgot,
Replunged again into that upper sphere
He scatters wide and wild its lustres here.
Asks nought his brother cannot give;
Asks nothing, but does all receive.
Love calls not to his aid events;
He to his wants can well suffice:
Asks not of others soft consents,
Nor kind occasion without eyes;
Nor plots to ope or bolt a gate,
Nor heeds Condition's iron walls,—
Where he goes, goes before him Fate;
Whom he uniteth, God installs;
Instant and perfect his access
To the dear object of his thought,
Though foes and land and seas between
Himself and his love intervene.
The brave Empedocles, defying fools,
Pronounced the word that mortals hate to hear—
"I am divine, I am not mortal made;
I am superior to my human weeds."
Not Sense but Reason is the Judge of truth;
Reason's twofold, part human, part divine;
That human part may be described and taught,
The other portion language cannot speak.
Tell men what they knew before;
Paint the prospect from their door.
Him strong Genius urged to roam,
Stronger Custom brought him home.
That each should in his house abide.
Therefore was the world so wide.
Thou shalt make thy house
The temple of a nation's vows.
Spirits of a higher strain
Who sought thee once shall seek again.
I detected many a god
Forth already on the road,
Ancestors of beauty come
In thy breast to make a home.
The archangel Hope
Looks to the azure cope,
Waits through dark ages for the morn,
Defeated day by day, but unto victory born.
As the drop feeds its fated flower,
As finds its Alp the snowy shower,
Child of the omnific Need,
Hurled into life to do a deed,
Man drinks the water, drinks the light.
Ever the Rock of Ages melts
Into the mineral air,
To be the quarry whence to build
Thought and its mansions fair.
Go if thou wilt, ambrosial flower,
Go match thee with thy seeming peers;
I will wait Heaven's perfect hour
Through the innumerable years.
Yes, sometimes to the sorrow-stricken
Shall his own sorrow seem impertinent,
A thing that takes no more root in the world
Than doth the traveller's shadow on the rock.
But if thou do thy best,
Without remission, without rest,
And invite the sunbeam,
And abhor to feign or seem
Even to those who thee should love
And thy behavior approve;
If thou go in thine own likeness,
Be it health, or be it sickness;
If thou go as thy father's son,
If thou wear no mask or lie,
Dealing purely and nakedly,—
* * *
Ascending thorough just degrees
To a consummate holiness,
As angel blind to trespass done,
And bleaching all souls like the sun.
From the stores of eldest matter,
The deep-eyed flame, obedient water,
Transparent air, all-feeding earth,
He took the flower of all their worth,
And, best with best in sweet consent,
Combined a new temperament.