Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
To J. W.
SET 1 not thy foot on graves;
Hear what wine and roses say;
The mountain chase, the summer waves,
The crowded town, thy feet may well delay.
Set not thy foot on graves;        5
Nor seek to unwind the shroud
Which charitable Time
And Nature have allowed
To wrap the errors of a sage sublime.
Set not thy foot on graves;        10
Care not to strip the dead
Of his sad ornament,
His myrrh, and wine, and rings,
His sheet of lead,
And trophies burièd:        15
Go, get them where he earned them when alive;
As resolutely dig or dive.
Life is too short to waste
In critic peep or cynic bark,
Quarrel or reprimand:        20
’T will soon be dark;
Up! mind thine own aim, and
God speed the mark!
Note 1. The person addressed was Rev. John Weiss, a young clergyman and an able writer, who had seemed to Mr. Emerson to dwell overmuch on Goethe’s failings. [back]

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