Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Rhodora

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

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

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.

What does the poem The Rhodora mean?

The official name of the poem is "The Rhodora, On Being Asked, Whence Is the Flower", and was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1834. Emerson uniquely describes a wonderful and inciteful spiritual connection with nature in a primitive, deified manner. The focus of the poem is to showcase to Emerson's audience that a person who has the embedded ability to share and experience a kindred relationship with God through the beauty of Nature. The Rhodora is presented as a flower as beautiful as the rose, but which remains humble and does not seek broader fame.

What is a Rhodora flower?

Rhodora FlowerThe Rhodora can be described as a scrawny deciduous shrub that usually grows to 3-4 feet in height.  The well-known attraction to The Rhodora are it lavender flowers. The northern version of the shrubbery the lavender flowers are quite showy.

Where is the setting of the poem The Rhodora?

The narrator of the famous poem by Emerson is located outside in the springtime in the New England area and has found a beautiful Rhodora, "Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook," and is reflecting on the ability to bring beauty to such a dismal location and setting.

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