Ralph Waldo Emerson: Quatrains



High was her heart, and yet was well inclined, Her manners made of bounty well refined; Far capitals and marble courts, her eye still seemed to see, Minstrels and kings and high-born dames, and of the best that be.


Every thought is public, Every nook is wide; Thy gossips spread each whisper, And the gods from side to side.


He who has no hands Perforce must use his tongue; Foxes are so cunning Because they are not strong.


Quit the hut, frequent the palace, Reck not what the people say; For still, where'er the trees grow biggest, Huntsmen find the easiest way.


Ever the Poet from the land Steers his bark and trims his sail; Right out to sea his courses stand, New worlds to find in pinnace frail.


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


Go thou to thy learned task, I stay with the flowers of Spring: Do thou of the Ages ask What me the Hours will bring.


True Brahmin, in the morning meadows wet, Expound the Vedas of the violet, Or, hid in vines, peeping through many a loop, See the plum redden, and the beurré stoop.


He took the color of his vest From rabbit's coat or grouse's breast; For, as the wood-kinds lurk and hide, So walks the woodman, unespied.


The gale that wrecked you on the sand, It helped my rowers to row; The storm is my best galley hand And drives me where I go.

From Alcuin

The sea is the road of the bold, Frontier of the wheat-sown plains, The pit wherein the streams are rolled And fountain of the rains.


Over his head were the maple buds, And over the tree was the moon, And over the moon were the starry studs That drop from the angels' shoon.


With beams December planets dart His cold eye truth and conduct scanned, July was in his sunny heart, October in his liberal hand.


From the French

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


Boon Nature yields each day a brag which we now first behold, And trains us on to slight the new, as if it were the old: But blest is he, who, playing deep, yet haply asks not why, Too busied with the crowded hour to fear to live or die.


Her planted eye to-day controls, Is in the morrow most at home, And sternly calls to being souls That curse her when they come.


Ere he was born, the stars of fate Plotted to make him rich and great: When from the womb the babe was loosed, The gate of gifts behind him closed.


Cast the bantling on the rocks, Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat, Wintered with the hawk and fox, Power and speed be hands and feet.


I am not wiser for my age, Nor skilful by my grief; Life loiters at the book's first page,— Ah! could we turn the leaf.

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.


Night-dreams trace on Memory's wall Shadows of the thoughts of day, And thy fortunes, as they fall, The bias of the will betray.


Love on his errand bound to go Can swim the flood and wade through snow, Where way is none, 't will creep and wind And eat through Alps its home to find.


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


Well and wisely said the Greek, Be thou faithful, but not fond; To the altar's foot thy fellow seek,— The Furies wait beyond.


Test of the poet is knowledge of love, For Eros is older than Saturn or Jove; Never was poet, of late or of yore, Who was not tremulous with love-lore.


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


Her passions the shy violet From Hafiz never hides; Love-longings of the raptured bird The bird to him confides.

Nature in Leasts

As sings the pine-tree in the wind, So sings in the wind a sprig of the pine; Her strength and soul has laughing France Shed in each drop of wine.

Adakryn Nemontai Aiona


'A New commandment,' said the smiling Muse, 'I give my darling son, Thou shalt not preach';— Luther, Fox, Behmen, Swedenborg, grew pale, And, on the instant, rosier clouds upbore Hafiz and Shakspeare with their shining choirs.