|Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882). The Complete Works. 1904.|
Vol. IX. Poems
|II. May-Day and Other Pieces|
|DAUGHTERS 1 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 pleached 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.|
|Note 1. With regard to this poem, which Mr. Emerson once said he thought perhaps his best, the following remarkable entry is from the journal of 1852:|
I find one state of mind does not remember or conceive of another state. Thus I have written within a twelvemonth verses (Days) which I do not remember the composition or correction of, and could not write the like to-day, and have only, for proof of their being mine, various external evidences, as the manuscripts in which I find them, and the circumstance that I have sent copies of them to friends, etc. Well, if they had been better, if it had been a noble poem, perhaps it would have only more entirely taken up the ladder into heaven.
To the like purpose in the journal of the following year is this note, headed The ivory gate:
Poppy leaves are strewn when a generalization is made, for I can never remember the circumstances to which I owe it, so as to repeat the experiment or put myself in the conditions.
But this image of the disguised divinities recurs again and again in his writings, as in the poem May-Day, and twice in the Lecture on the Times (Nature, Addresses and Lectures, pp. 259, 287), and in Works and Days (Society and Solitude, p. 168). Dr. Holmes in the interesting chapter on Emersons Poems, in his Memoir, quotes the latter passage and says: Now see this thought in full dress, and then ask what is the difference between prose and poetry. He then gives the poem and adds, Cinderella at the fireside, and Cinderella at the princes ball!
Days was printed in the first number of the Atlantic. [back]