Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
ON 1 a mound an Arab lay,
And sung his sweet regrets
And told his amulets:
The summer bird
His sorrow heard,        5
And, when he heaved a sigh profound,
The sympathetic swallow swept the ground.
‘If it be, as they said, she was not fair,
Beauty’s not beautiful to me,
But sceptred genius, aye inorbed,        10
Culminating in her sphere.
This Hermione absorbed
The lustre of the land and ocean,
Hills and islands, cloud and tree,
In her form and motion.        15
‘I ask no bauble miniature,
Nor ringlets dead
Shorn from her comely head,
Now that morning not disdains
Mountains and the misty plains        20
Her colossal portraiture;
They her heralds be,
Steeped in her quality,
And singers of her fame
Who is their Muse and dame.        25
‘Higher, dear swallows! mind not what I say.
Ah! heedless how the weak are strong,
Say, was it just,
In thee to frame, in me to trust,
Thou to the Syrian couldst belong?        30
‘I am of a lineage
That each for each doth fast engage;
In old Bassora’s schools, I seemed
Hermit vowed to books and gloom,—
Ill-bestead for gay bridegroom.        35
I was by thy touch redeemed;
When thy meteor glances came,
We talked at large of worldly fate,
And drew truly every trait.
‘Once I dwelt apart,        40
Now I live with all;
As shepherd’s lamp on far hill-side
Seems, by the traveller espied,
A door into the mountain heart,
So didst thou quarry and unlock        45
Highways for me through the rock.
‘Now, deceived, thou wanderest
In strange lands unblest;
And my kindred come to soothe me.
Southwind is my next of blood;        50
He is come through fragrant wood,
Drugged with spice from climates warm,
And in every twinkling glade,
And twilight nook,
Unveils thy form.        55
Out of the forest way
Forth paced it yesterday;
And when I sat by the watercourse,
Watching the daylight fade,
It throbbed up from the brook.        60
‘River and rose and crag and bird,
Frost and sun and eldest night,
To me their aid preferred,
To me their comfort plight;—
“Courage! we are thine allies,        65
And with this hint be wise,—
The chains of kind
The distant bind;
Deed thou doest she must do,
Above her will, be true;        70
And, in her strict resort
To winds and waterfalls
And autumn’s sunlit festivals,
To music, and to music’s thought,
Inextricably bound,        75
She shall find thee, and be found.
Follow not her flying feet;
Come to us herself to meet.”’
Note 1. The history of this poem does not appear. It was written at a time when Mr. Emerson was taking pleasure in the study of the poets of Persia and Arabia. The theme may have been one drawn from them, or it may have been his endeavor, for the consolation of some friend, “to reduce the calamity within the sphere” of the common human experience of disappointment in love. It is the drawing of a great circle around a small one. The poem presents in brief many of the thoughts in the essays on Love and Friendship, and in the poem which serves as motto for the latter. [back]

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