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
Maiden Speech of the Æolian Harp
 
SOFT 1 and softlier hold me, friends!
Thanks if your genial care
Unbind and give me to the air.
Keep your lips or finger-tips
For flute or spinet’s dancing chips;        5
I await a tenderer touch,
I ask more or not so much:
Give me to the atmosphere,—
Where is the wind, my brother,—where?
Lift the sash, lay me within,        10
Lend me your ears, and I begin.
For gentle harp to gentle hearts
The secret of the world imparts;
And not to-day and not to-morrow
Can drain its wealth of hope and sorrow;        15
But day by day, to loving ear
Unlocks new sense and loftier cheer.
I ’ve come to live with you, sweet friends,
This home my minstrel-journeyings ends.
Many and subtle are my lays,        20
The latest better than the first,
For I can mend the happiest days
And charm the anguish of the worst. 2
 
Note 1. These lines accompanied Mr. Emerson’s New Year’s present to his daughter Edith and her husband, Colonel William H. Forbes, in 1868. [back]
Note 2. His own delighted use of the windharp is shown in this fragment of an early lecture:—
  “Stretch a few threads over an Æolian harp and put it in the window, and listen to what it says of the times, and of the heart of Nature. You shall not believe that the miracle of Nature is less, the chemical power worn out.” [back]
 
 
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