Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
Initial, Dæmonic and Celestial Love
I. The Initial Love
VENUS, 1 when her son was lost,
Cried him up and down the coast,
In hamlets, palaces and parks,
And told the truant by his marks,—
Golden curls, and quiver and bow.        5
This befell how long ago!
Time and tide are strangely changed,
Men and manners much deranged:
None will now find Cupid latent
By this foolish antique patent.        10
He came late along the waste,
Shod like a traveller for haste;
With malice dared me to proclaim him,
That the maids and boys might name him.
Boy no more, he wears all coats,        15
Frocks and blouses, capes, capotes;
He bears no bow, or quiver, or wand,
Nor chaplet on his head or hand.
Leave his weeds and heed his eyes,—
All the rest he can disguise.        20
In the pit of his eye ’s a spark
Would bring back day if it were dark;
And, if I tell you all my thought,
Though I comprehend it not,
In those unfathomable orbs        25
Every function he absorbs;
Doth eat, and drink, and fish, and shoot,
And write, and reason, and compute,
And ride, and run, and have, and hold,
And whine, and flatter, and regret,        30
And kiss, and couple, and beget,
By those roving eyeballs bold.
Undaunted are their courages,
Right Cossacks in their forages;
Fleeter they than any creature,—        35
They are his steeds, and not his feature;
Inquisitive, and fierce, and fasting,
Restless, predatory, hasting;
And they pounce on other eyes
As lions on their prey; 2        40
And round their circles is writ,
Plainer than the day,
Underneath, within, above,—
He lives in his eyes;        45
There doth digest, and work, and spin,
And buy, and sell, and lose, and win;
He rolls them with delighted motion,
Joy-tides swell their mimic ocean.
Yet holds he them with tautest rein,        50
That they may seize and entertain
The glance that to their glance opposes,
Like fiery honey sucked from roses.
He palmistry can understand,
Imbibing virtue by his hand        55
As if it were a living root;
The pulse of hands will make him mute;
With all his force he gathers balms
Into those wise, thrilling palms.
Cupid is a casuist,        60
A mystic and a cabalist,—
Can your lurking thought surprise,
And interpret your device.
He is versed in occult science,
In magic and in clairvoyance,        65
Oft he keeps his fine ear strained,
And Reason on her tiptoe pained
For aëry intelligence,
And for strange coincidence.
But it touches his quick heart        70
When Fate by omens takes his part,
And chance-dropped hints from Nature’s sphere
Deeply soothe his anxious ear.
Heralds high before him run;
He has ushers many a one;        75
He spreads his welcome where he goes,
And touches all things with his rose.
All things wait for and divine him,—
How shall I dare to malign him,
Or accuse the god of sport?        80
I must end my true report,
Painting him from head to foot,
In as far as I took note,
Trusting well the matchless power
Of this young-eyed emperor        85
Will clear his fame from every cloud
With the bards and with the crowd.
He is wilful, mutable,
Shy, untamed, inscrutable,
Swifter-fashioned than the fairies,        90
Substance mixed of pure contraries;
His vice some elder virtue’s token,
And his good is evil-spoken.
Failing sometimes of his own,
He is headstrong and alone;        95
He affects the wood and wild,
Like a flower-hunting child;
Buries himself in summer waves,
In trees, with beasts, in mines and caves,
Loves nature like a hornéd cow,        100
Bird, or deer, or caribou.
Shun him, nymphs, on the fleet horses!
He has a total world of wit;
O how wise are his discourses!
But he is the arch-hypocrite,        105
And, through all science and all art,
Seeks alone his counterpart.
He is a Pundit of the East,
He is an augur and a priest,
And his soul will melt in prayer,        110
But word and wisdom is a snare;
Corrupted by the present toy
He follows joy, and only joy.
There is no mask but he will wear;
He invented oaths to swear;        115
He paints, he carves, he chants, he prays,
And holds all stars in his embrace. 3
He takes a sovran privilege
Not allowed to any liege;
For Cupid goes behind all law,        120
And right into himself does draw;
For he is sovereignly allied,—
Heaven’s oldest blood flows in his side,—
And interchangeably at one
With every king on every throne,        125
That no god dare say him nay,
Or see the fault, or seen betray:
He has the Muses by the heart,
And the stern Parcæ on his part.
His many signs cannot be told;        130
He has not one mode, but manifold,
Many fashions and addresses,
Piques, reproaches, hurts, caresses. 4
He will preach like a friar,
And jump like Harlequin;        135
He will read like a crier,
And fight like a Paladin.
Boundless is his memory;
Plans immense his term prolong;
He is not of counted age,        140
Meaning always to be young.
And his wish is intimacy,
Intimater intimacy,
And a stricter privacy;
The impossible shall yet be done,        145
And, being two, shall still be one.
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.        150
Note 1. In all the editions until Mr. Emerson’s revision called Selected Poems was published in 1876, the second division had the title “The Dæmonic and Celestial Love,” and their treatment was a little confused,—passages really belonging to the “Celestial Love” coming in the second division; the third had no title. The poem as here printed is Mr. Emerson’s final arrangement, but the matter, with a few omissions and corrections, is the same as in the first, the ethical confusion having been removed by taking the passage of twenty-six lines, beginning “But God said,” from the “Dæmonic Love,” as an introduction of the “Celestial Love.”
  This poem on the loves on ascending planes carries farther the theme of “Hermione,” expounded in full in the essay on Love. The imagery is from the Banquet of Plato, of which Mr. Emerson says (Representative Men, p. 70) that it “is a teaching … that the love of the sexes is initial, and symbolizes at a distance the passion of the soul for that immense lake of beauty it exists to seek…. Body cannot teach wisdom;—God only.” There Plato tells of a plane of Dæmonic life between those of the mortal and celestial. In the chapter on Swedenborg, in Representative Men, Mr. Emerson says, “In Nature is no end, but everything at the end of one use is lifted into a superior, and the ascent of these things climbs into dæmonic and celestial natures.” [back]
Note 2. Mr. Emerson in several copies of the Poems corrected this line to
  Like leaping lions on their prey,
but did not make the change in Selected Poems. [back]
Note 3. The sentence in the early form was thus finished:—
  God-like,—but ’t is for his fine pelf,
The social quintessence of self.
Well said I he is hypocrite,
And folly the end of his subtle wit.
Note 4. Two lines in the first poem are here omitted:—
  Arguments, love, poetry,
Action, service, badinage.

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