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 Past
THE DEBT 1 is paid,
The verdict said,
The Furies laid,
The plague is stayed.
All fortunes made;        5
Turn the key and bolt the door,
Sweet is death forevermore.
Nor haughty hope, nor swart chagrin,
Nor murdering hate, can enter in.
All is now secure and fast;        10
Not the gods can shake the Past;
Flies-to the adamantine door
Bolted down forevermore.
None can reënter there,—
No thief so politic,        15
No Satan with a royal trick
Steal in by window, chink, or hole,
To bind or unbind, add what lacked,
Insert a leaf, or forge a name,
New-face or finish what is packed,        20
Alter or mend eternal Fact. 2
Note 1. No trace of the history of this poem remains. [back]
Note 2. In the first pages of the essay on Memory, in Natural History of Intellect, it is said of remorseful recollection of the Past:—
  “Well, that is as it should be. That is the police of the Universe: the angels are set to punish you, so long as you are capable of such crime. But … the day comes when you are incapable of such crime. Then you suffer no more, you look on it as heaven looks on it, with wonder at the deed, and with applause at the pain it has cost you.” [back]

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