Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
BECAUSE 1 I was content with these poor fields,
Low, open meads, slender and sluggish streams,
And found a home in haunts which others scorned,
The partial wood-gods overpaid my love,
And granted me the freedom of their state,        5
And in their secret senate have prevailed
With the dear, dangerous lords that rule our life, 2
Made moon and planets parties to their bond,
And through my rock-like, solitary wont
Shot million rays of thought and tenderness.        10
For me, in showers, in sweeping showers, the Spring
Visits the valley;—break away the clouds,—
I bathe in the morn’s soft and silvered air,
And loiter willing by yon loitering stream.
Sparrows far off, and nearer, April’s bird,        15
Blue-coated,—flying before from tree to tree,
Courageous sing a delicate overture
To lead the tardy concert of the year.
Onward and nearer rides the sun of May;
And wide around, the marriage of the plants        20
Is sweetly solemnized. Then flows amain
The surge of summer’s beauty; dell and crag,
Hollow and lake, hillside and pine arcade,
Are touched with genius. Yonder ragged cliff
Has thousand faces in a thousand hours.        25
Beneath low hills, in the broad interval
Through which at will our Indian rivulet
Winds mindful still of sannup and of squaw,
Whose pipe and arrow oft the plough unburies,
Here in pine houses built of new-fallen trees,        30
Supplanters of the tribe, the farmers dwell.
Traveller, to thee, perchance, a tedious road,
Or, it may be, a picture; to these men,
The landscape is an armory of powers,
Which, one by one, they know to draw and use.        35
They harness beast, bird, insect, to their work;
They prove the virtues of each bed of rock,
And, like the chemist ’mid his loaded jars,
Draw from each stratum its adapted use
To drug their crops or weapon their arts withal.        40
They turn the frost upon their chemic heap,
They set the wind to winnow pulse and grain,
They thank the spring-flood for its fertile slime,
And, on cheap summit-levels of the snow,
Slide with the sledge to inaccessible woods        45
O’er meadows bottomless. So, year by year,
They fight the elements with elements
(That one would say, meadow and forest walked,
Transmuted in these men to rule their like),
And by the order in the field disclose        50
The order regnant in the yeoman’s brain.
What these strong masters wrote at large in miles,
I followed in small copy in my acre;
For there ’s no rood has not a star above it; 3
The cordial quality of pear or plum        55
Ascends as gladly in a single tree
As in broad orchards resonant with bees;
And every atom poises for itself,
And for the whole. The gentle deities
Showed me the lore of colors and of sounds,        60
The innumerable tenements of beauty,
The miracle of generative force,
Far-reaching concords of astronomy 4
Felt in the plants and in the punctual birds;
Better, the linked purpose of the whole,        65
And, chiefest prize, found I true liberty
In the glad home plain-dealing Nature gave.
The polite found me impolite; the great
Would mortify me, but in vain; for still
I am a willow of the wilderness,        70
Loving the wind that bent me. All my hurts
My garden spade can heal. A woodland walk,
A quest of river-grapes, a mocking thrush,
A wild-rose, or rock-loving columbine,
Salve my worst wounds.        75
For thus the wood-gods murmured in my ear:
‘Dost love our manners? Canst thou silent lie?
Canst thou, thy pride forgot, like Nature pass
Into the winter night’s extinguished mood?
Canst thou shine now, then darkle,        80
And being latent, feel thyself no less?
As, when the all-worshipped moon attracts the eye,
The river, hill, stems, foliage are obscure,
Yet envies none, none are unenviable.’
Note 1. Though born in Boston, Mr. Emerson loved the ancestral village on the Musketaquid. The dear associations of childhood and youth with it are shown in a poem which I have called “At the Old Manse,” written when he was twenty-four years old, now for the first time printed, in the Appendix. There also are found the homesick verses written at Naples in 1834. In a letter to his Aunt Mary soon after he settled in Concord, he wrote, “As men say that the apple never falls far from the stem, I shall hope that another year will draw your eyes and steps to this old, dear odious haunt of the race.” [back]
Note 2. A passage in the essay on Experience (Essays, Second Series, pp. 82, 83), and also the poem of that name, printed in this volume, which served as its motto, name “The Lords of Life.” [back]
Note 3. Two passages from the journal of 1840 are suggested by these three lines:—
  “Cyrus Stow wanted his bog-meadow brought into grass. He offered Antony Colombe, Sol Wetherbee, and whomsoever else seed and manure and team and the whole crop, which they accepted and went to work, and reduced the tough roots, the tussocks of grass, the uneven surface, and gave the whole field a good rotting and breaking and sunning, and now he finds no longer any difficulty in getting good English grass from the smooth and friable land. What Stow does with his field, what the Creator does with his planet, the Yankees are now doing with America. It will be friable, arable, habitable to men and angels yet!”
  “Over every chimney is a star; in every field is an oaken garland or a wreath of parsley, laurel or wheat-ears. Nature waits to decorate every child.” [back]
Note 4. Were it not for the passage in his chapter on Swedenborg (Representative Men, pp. 113, 114), it would seem unlikely that in this line Mr. Emerson played on the word “concords;” but because of his interest at that time in Swedenborg’s Animal World, with its doctrine of Microcosm and Macrocosm, the possibility may be recognized. [back]

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