Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
The Visit
ASKEST, 1 ‘How long thou shalt stay?’
Devastator of the day!
Know, each substance and relation,
Thorough nature’s operation,
Hath its unit, bound and metre;        5
And every new compound
Is some product and repeater,—
Product of the earlier found.
But the unit of the visit,
The encounter of the wise,—        10
Say, what other metre is it
Than the meeting of the eyes?
Nature poureth into nature
Through the channels of that feature,
Riding on the ray of sight,        15
Fleeter far than whirlwinds go,
Or for service, or delight,
Hearts to hearts their meaning show,
Sum their long experience,
And import intelligence.        20
Single look has drained the breast;
Single moment years confessed.
The duration of a glance
Is the term of convenance,
And, though thy rede be church or state,        25
Frugal multiples of that.
Speeding Saturn cannot halt;
Linger,—thou shalt rue the fault:
If Love his moment overstay,
Hatred’s swift repulsions play.        30
Note 1. These verses were published in the Dial in April, 1844. Great as was Mr. Emerson’s hospitality, it was so often overtaxed that he felt that a word of general counsel was due on the subject of visits. For a call he used to say that fifteen minutes was the limit, except in very unusual circumstances.
  Journal, 1842. “‘My evening visitors,’ said that excellent Professor Fortinbras, ‘if they cannot see the clock, should find the time in my face. As soon as it is nine, I begin to curse them with internal execrations that are minute-guns. And yet,’ he added, ‘the devil take half hospitalities, this self-protecting civility whose invitations to dinner are determined exclusions from the heart of the inviter, as if he said, ‘I invite you to eat because I will not converse with you.” If he dared only say it, that exclusion would be hospitality of angels, an admission to the thought of his heart.’” [back]

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