Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson Short Poems

from: Emerson, Ralph Waldo.  Early Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York, Boston, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company: 1899. Introduction by Nathan Haskell Dole. 

Your picture smiles as first it smiled,
The ring you gave is still the same,
Your letter tells, O changing child,
No tidings since it came.

Give me an amulet
That keeps intelligence with you,
Red when you love, and rosier red,
And when you love not, pale and blue.

Alas, that neither bonds nor vows
Can certify possession;
Torments me still the fear that love
Died in its last expression.

"May be true what I had heard,
Earth's a howling wilderness
Truculent with fraud and force,"
Said I, strolling through the pastures,
And along the riverside.
Caught among the blackberry vines,
Feeding on the Ethiops sweet,
Pleasant fancies overtook me:
I said, "What influence me preferred
Elect to dreams thus beautiful?"
The vines replied, "And didst thou deem
No wisdom to our berries went?"

Why should I keep holiday,
When other men have none?
Why but because when these are gay,
I sit and mourn alone.

And why when mirth unseals all tongues
Should mine alone be dumb?
Ah! late I spoke to silent throngs,
And now their hour is come.

The sense of the world is short,
Long and various the report,—
To love and be beloved;
Men and gods have not outlearned it,
And how oft soe'er they've turned it,
'Tis not to be improved.

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun;
Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk;
At rich men's tables eaten bread and pulse;
Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust;
And loved so well a high behavior
In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained,
Nobility more nobly to repay?—
O be my friend, and teach me to be thine!

The sinful painter drapes his goddess warm,
Because she still is naked, being drest;
The godlike sculptor will not so deform
Beauty, which bones and flesh enough invest.

Seek not the Spirit, if it hide,
Inexorable to thy zeal:
Baby, do not whine and chide;
Art thou not also real?
Why should'st thou stoop to poor excuse?
Turn on the Accuser roundly; say,
"Here am I, here will I remain
Forever to myself soothfast,
Go thou, sweet Heaven, or, at thy pleasure stay."—
Already Heaven with thee its lot has cast,
For it only can absolutely deal.

The rain has spoiled the farmer's day;
Shall sorrow put my books away?
Thereby are two days lost:
Nature shall mind her own affairs,
I will attend my proper cares,
In rain, or sun, or frost.

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson left the ministry to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. Emerson became one of America's best known and best-loved 19th-century figures.
More About Emerson

Emerson Quotes

"Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 
– Ralph Waldo Emerson