Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
MORTAL 1 mixed of middle clay,
Attempered to the night and day,
Interchangeable with things,
Needs no amulets nor rings.
Guy possessed the talisman        5
That all things from him began;
And as, of old, Polycrates 2
Chained the sunshine and the breeze,
So did Guy betimes discover
Fortune was his guard and lover;        10
In strange junctures, felt, with awe,
His own symmetry with law;
That no mixture could withstand
The virtue of his lucky hand.
He gold or jewel could not lose,        15
Nor not receive his ample dues.
Fearless Guy had never foes,
He did their weapons decompose.
Aimed at him, the blushing blade
Healed as fast the wounds it made.        20
If on the foeman fell his gaze,
Him it would straightway blind or craze,
In the street, if he turned round,
His eye the eye ’t was seeking found.
It seemed his Genius discreet        25
Worked on the Maker’s own receipt,
And made each tide and element
Stewards of stipend and of rent;
So that the common waters fell
As costly wine into his well.        30
He had so sped his wise affairs
That he caught Nature in his snares.
Early or late, the falling rain
Arrived in time to swell his grain;
Stream could not so perversely wind        35
But corn of Guy’s was there to grind:
The siroc found it on its way,
To speed his sails, to dry his hay;
And the world’s sun seemed to rise
To drudge all day for Guy the wise.        40
In his rich nurseries, timely skill
Strong crab with nobler blood did fill;
The zephyr in his garden rolled
From plum-trees vegetable gold;
And all the hours of the year        45
With their own harvest honored were.
There was no frost but welcome came,
Nor freshet, nor midsummer flame.
Belonged to wind and world the toil
And venture, and to Guy the oil.        50
Note 1. The balanced soul in harmony with Nature is here described. In one of the earlier verse-books, on the same page with an imperfect form of the six lines beginning “Fearless Guy had never foes,” are the following lines, apparently destined for this poem:—
  Fine presentiments controlled him,
As one who knew a day was great
And freighted with a friendly fate,
Ere whispered news or courier told him.
When first at morn he read the face
Of Nature from his rising place,
The coming day inspired his speech,
And in his bearing and his gait
Calm expectancy did wait.
Note 2. The story of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, is told by Herodotus. Fortune so constantly smiled on him that Amasis, king of Egypt, bade his friend make some great sacrifice to avert the disaster that must come to balance unbroken prosperity. Polycrates flung his wonderful emerald into the sea. It returned to him in a fish on his table next day. Amasis at once broke off his alliance, and soon overthrow and cruel death befel Polycrates. [back]

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