Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Rhodora

"The Rhodora" is one of my favorite poems from Emerson as it isn't one of his most famous or well-known. It could be likened to a "B-side," which quickly becomes your favorite.

It is a brief yet profound exploration of the relationship between humanity and nature. In the poem, Emerson encounters a solitary Rhodora flower blooming in the wilderness, seemingly unnoticed and unappreciated by the world.

However, rather than dismissing it as insignificant, Emerson celebrates its beauty and significance, arguing that even the humblest creations deserve admiration and respect. Through the Rhodora's delicate bloom, Emerson reflects on the interconnectedness of all living things and the inherent worth of every aspect of nature.

Ultimately, "The Rhodora" serves as a poignant reminder to appreciate and cherish the beauty and diversity of the natural world.

I give "my take" on what I believe is the TRUE meaning of this poem.

Summary of The Rhodora

"The Rhodora" by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a poem that reflects the beauty and significance of the Rhodora flower. The poem's speaker stumbles upon a Rhodora in the woods and is struck by its beauty and fragrance. The speaker ponders the flower's purpose and reflects on the idea that it exists solely for its own sake and not for the benefit of humans. Despite its small size and insignificance, the speaker sees the Rhodora as a symbol of the power and majesty of nature. In the end, the speaker concludes that the flower is a reflection of God's love and grace and that its beauty serves to uplift and inspire all who behold it. Through this poem, Emerson celebrates the beauty and wonder of nature and encourages readers to see the world with a sense of awe and reverence.

The beauty is its own excuse for Being

On being asked, whence is the flower.

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods
Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance

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