Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
V. Appendix
O WHAT are heroes, prophets, men,
But pipes through which the breath of Pan doth blow
A momentary music. Being’s tide
Swells hitherward, and myriads of forms
Live, robed with beauty, painted by the sun;        5
Their dust, pervaded by the nerves of God,
Throbs with an overmastering energy
Knowing and doing. Ebbs the tide, they lie
White hollow shells upon the desert shore,
But not the less the eternal wave rolls on        10
To animate new millions, and exhale
Races and planets, its enchanted foam. 1
Note 1. Mr. Emerson seems to have considered other titles, as “Pantheos,” and “Divine Afflatus.” He wrote in the second line “the breath of God,” but afterwards decided to use the classical image. By the parables of the divine music played through human pipes, and of the tide of spirit inundating mankind, he teaches the ancient doctrine of Inspiration. In a note-book of 1830 he wrote, “Heracleitus said, ‘The senses are canals through which we inhale the divine reason.’” Everywhere in the Essays the over-soul is taught, especially in the essay of that name. [back]

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