Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
II. May-Day and Other Pieces
The Nun’s Aspiration
THE YESTERDAY 1 doth never smile,
The day goes drudging through the while,
Yet, in the name of Godhead, I
The morrow front, and can defy;
Though I am weak, yet God, when prayed,        5
Cannot withhold his conquering aid.
Ah me! it was my childhood’s thought,
If He should make my web a blot
On life’s fair picture of delight,
My heart’s content would find it right.        10
But O, these waves and leaves,—
When happy stoic Nature grieves,
No human speech so beautiful
As their murmurs mine to lull.
On this altar God hath built        15
I lay my vanity and guilt;
Nor me can Hope or Passion urge
Hearing as now the lofty dirge
Which blasts of Northern mountains hymn,
Nature’s funeral high and dim,—        20
Sable pageantry of clouds,
Mourning summer laid in shrouds.
Many a day shall dawn and die,
Many an angel wander by,
And passing, light my sunken turf        25
Moist perhaps by ocean surf,
Forgotten amid splendid tombs,
Yet wreathed and hid by summer blooms.
On earth I dream;—I die to be:
Time, shake not thy bald head at me.        30
I challenge thee to hurry past
Or for my turn to fly too fast.
Think me not numbed or halt with age,
Or cares that earth to earth engage,
Caught with love’s cord of twisted beams,        35
Or mired by climate’s gross extremes.
I tire of shams, I rush to be:
I pass with yonder comet free,—
Pass with the comet into space
Which mocks thy æons to embrace;        40
Æons which tardily unfold
Realm beyond realm,—extent untold;
No early morn, no evening late,—
Realms self-upheld, disdaining Fate,
Whose shining sons, too great for fame,        45
Never heard thy weary name;
Nor lives the tragic bard to say
How drear the part I held in one,
How lame the other limped away. 2
Note 1. This poem is but a metrical renderings of some fine and some touching passages from the journal of Miss Mary Moody Emerson, the sister of Mr. Emerson’s father. She was a person of great devoutness, the inspirer, the spur and the constant critic of her nephews, whom she loved and secretly admired. Mr. Emerson gives an account of her remarkable life in the volume Lectures and Biographical Sketches. In Mr. Cabot’s Memoir of Emerson are many extracts from the letters that passed between her and her nephews. [back]
Note 2. In spite of Miss Emerson’s temperamental eccentricities, of which she was aware, and alluded to them in her journal, she was loved by her nephews, and of her Mr. Emerson said: “She gave high counsels. It was the privilege of certain boys to have this immeasurably high standard indicated to their childhood; a blessing which nothing else in education could supply.” [back]

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