Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
Give All to Love
GIVE 1 all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-fame,
Plans, credit and the Muse,—        5
Nothing refuse.
’T is a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:        10
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But it is a god,        15
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.
It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout.
Souls above doubt,        20
Valor unbending,
It will reward,—
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.        25
Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,—
Keep thee to-day,        30
To-morrow, forever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved. 2
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,        35
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young,
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,        40
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.
Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Though her parting dims the day,        45
Stealing grace from all alive;
Heartily know,
When half-gods go, 3
The gods arrive.
Note 1. For this poem, as for the essays on Love and Friendship and the poems “To Rhea” and “The Initial, Dæmonic and Celestial Love,” what Mr. Joel Benton says of Mr. Emerson’s verses seems true:—
  “Let us admit at the outset, if you will, that the fortitude of his strain—as Matthew Arnold says of the verses of Epictetus—‘is for the strong, for the few; even for them the spiritual atmosphere with which it surrounds them is bleak and gray’—and that
  ‘The solemn peaks but to the stars are known,
But to the stars and the cold lunar beams;
Alone the sun arises, and alone
    Spring the great streams.’”
  [Emerson as a Poet. By Joel Benton. New York: M. L. Holbrook & Co., 1883.] [back]
Note 2. This thought appears in the image at the end of “The Initial Love”:—
  As the wave breaks to foam on shelves,
Then runs into a wave again,
So lovers melt their sundered selves,
Yet melted would be twain.
Note 3. The last two lines of the poem are used by Kipling in a remarkable manner in his beautiful allegory “The Children of the Zodiac,” for which they possibly suggested the theme. Mr. Emerson presents the same idea often in his prose writings, best perhaps in the essay on Compensation:—
  “The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character. It permits or constrains the formation of new acquaintances and the reception of new influences that prove of the first importance to the next years; and the man or woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for its roots and too much sunshine for its head, by the falling of the walls and the neglect of the gardener is made the banian of the forest, yielding shade and fruit to wide neighborhoods of men.”
  He quotes Hafiz in the journals to this purpose: “Here is the sum, that when one door opens another shuts.” [back]

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