Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
The Rhodora
On Being Asked, Whence Is the Flower?

IN 1 May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,        5
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,        10
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being: 2
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose        15
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.
Note 1. “The Rhodora” was written in 1834 at Newton, where Mr. Emerson was visiting his uncle, Mr. Ladd. Rev. James Freeman Clarke obtained it for publication in his Western Messenger in 1839. [back]
Note 2. “This element [Beauty] I call an ultimate end. No reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty. Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expression for the universe.”—Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 24. [back]

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