Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
 
II. May-Day and Other Pieces
Ode
 
Sung in the Town Hall, Concord, July 4, 1857

O TENDERLY 1 the haughty day
  Fills his blue urn with fire;
One morn is in the mighty heaven,
  And one in our desire.
 
The cannon booms from town to town,        5
  Our pulses beat not less,
The joy-bells chime their tidings down,
  Which children’s voices bless.
 
For He that flung the broad blue fold
  O’er-mantling land and sea,        10
One third part of the sky unrolled
  For the banner of the free.
 
The men are ripe of Saxon kind
  To build an equal state,—
To take the statute from the mind        15
  And make of duty fate.
 
United States! the ages plead,—
  Present and Past in under-song,—
Go put your creed into your deed,
  Nor speak with double tongue.        20
 
For sea and land don’t understand,
  Nor skies without a frown
See rights for which the one hand fights
  By the other cloven down.
 
Be just at home; then write your scroll        25
  Of honor o’er the sea,
And bid the broad Atlantic roll,
  A ferry of the free.
 
And henceforth there shall be no chain,
  Save underneath the sea        30
The wires shall murmur through the main
  Sweet songs of liberty.
 
The conscious stars accord above,
  The waters wild below,
And under, through the cable wove,        35
  Her fiery errands go.
 
For He that worketh high and wise,
  Nor pauses in his plan,
Will take the sun out of the skies
  Ere freedom out of man.        40
 
Note 1. Mr. Emerson was reluctant to mount Pegasus to war against the enemies of Freedom; but when, as he said in his speech on the Fugitive Slave Law (Miscellanies), it required him to become a slave-hunter, he was stirred to plead her cause in verse, of which this and the two following poems are examples.
  The occasion on which this was sung was a breakfast in the Town Hall, on the holiday morning, to raise money for the improvement of the new cemetery in Sleepy Hollow. [back]
 
 
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