Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the best-loved figures in nineteenth-century American literature. Though he earned his central place in our culture as an essayist and philosopher, since his death his reputation as a poet has grown as well.
Known for challenging traditional thought and for his faith in the individual, Emerson was the chief spokesman for the Transcendentalist movement. His poems speak to his most passionately held belief: that external authority should be disregarded in favor of one’s own experience. From the embattled farmers who “fired the shot heard round the world” in the stirring “Concord Hymn,” to the flower in “The Rhodora,” whose existence demonstrates “that if eyes were made for seeing, / Then Beauty is its own excuse for being,” Emerson celebrates the existence of the sublime in the human and in nature.
Combining intensity of feeling with his famous idealism, Emerson’s poems reveal a moving, more intimate side of the man revered as the Sage of Concord.
Table of Contents
From POEMS (1847) The Rhodora The Humble-Bee Fable Astræa Etienne de la Boe´ce Suum Cuique Compensation Forbearance Berrying Thine Eyes Still Shined Eros Loss and Gain Hamatreya The Snow-Storm Painting and Sculpture Holidays From the Persian of Hafiz Ghaselle Xenophanes The Day’s Ration Blight Musketaquid Hymn (‘By the rude bridge that arched the flood’) The Sphinx Each and All The Problem To Rhea The Visit Uriel The World-Soul
From MAY-DAY AND OTHER PIECES (1867) Brahma Nemesis Fate Freedom Ode Sung in the Town Hall Boston Hymn Love and Thought Lover’s Petition Una Letters Rubies Merlin’s Song The Test Nature I Nature II The Romany Girl My Garden The Titmouse Days Sea-Shore Two Rivers Waldeinsamkeit Terminus The Past Experience Compensation Culture Politics Heroism Character Friendship Beauty Manners Art Spiritual Laws Unity Worship Quatrains
From SELECTED POEMS (1876) The Nun’s Aspiration Hymn (‘We love the venerable house’) Cupido Boston Silence The Three Dimensions Motto to ‘The Poet’ Motto to ‘Gifts’ Motto to ‘Nature’ Motto to ‘Nominalist and Realist’ Motto to ‘History’ South Wind
From THE UNPUBLISHED POEMS ‘William does thy frigid soul’ ‘Perhaps thy lot in life is higher’ Song ‘I spread my gorgeous sail’ ‘O what is Heaven but the fellowship’ ‘Ah strange strange strange’ ‘See yonder leafless trees against the sky’ ‘Do that which you can do’ ‘Few are free’ Van Buren The Future Rex ‘And when I am entombed in my place’ ‘Bard or dunce is blest, but hard’ ‘It takes philosopher or fool’ ‘Tell men what they knew before’ ‘I use the knife’ ‘There is no evil but can speak’ ‘The sea reflects the rosy sky’ ‘In this sour world, O summerwind’ ‘Look danger in the eye it vanishes’ ‘As I walked in the wood’ ‘I sat upon the ground’ ‘Good Charles the spring’s adorer’ ‘Around the man who seeks a noble end’ ‘In the deep heart of man a poet dwells’ ‘O what are heroes prophets men’ ‘Yet sometime to the sorrow stricken’ The Bohemian Hymn ‘Kind & holy were the words’ ‘Divine Inviters! I accept’ ‘Go if thou wilt ambrosial Flower’ ‘In Walden wood the chickadee’ ‘Star seer Copernicus’ ‘At last the poet spoke’ ‘I grieve that better souls than mine’ Nantasket Water ‘Where the fungus broad & red’ ‘From the stores of eldest Matter’ ‘And the best gift of God’ ‘Stout Sparta shrined the god of Laughter’ ‘Brother, no decrepitude’ ‘Who knows this or that’ ‘Saadi loved the new & old’ ‘And as the light divided the dark’ ‘When devils bite’ ‘Comfort with a purring cat’ ‘I cannot find a place so lonely’ ‘This shining hour is an edifice’ ‘The sparrow is rich in her nest’ ‘Bended to fops who bent to him’ Elizabeth Hoar ‘Cloud upon cloud’ ‘Since the devil hopping on’ ‘Poets are colorpots’ ‘Thanks to those who go & come’ ‘I must not borrow light’ ‘Comrade of the snow & wind’ ‘God only knew how Saadi dined’ ‘Friends to me are frozen wine’ ‘That each should in his house abide’ New England Capitalist ‘On a raisin stone’ ‘Go out into Nature and plant trees’ ‘Pale Genius roves alone’ ‘Burn your literary verses’ ‘Intellect gravely broods apart on joy’ ‘The civil world will much forgive’ ‘Mask thy wisdom with delight’ ‘Roomy Eternity’ Terminus ‘More sweet than my refrain’ ‘O Boston city lecture-hearing’ ‘A patch of meadow & upland’ ‘And he like me is not too proud’ ‘Park & ponds are good by day’ ‘For Lyra yet shall be the pole’ ‘A score of airy miles will smooth’ ‘All things rehearse’ ‘Pedants all’ ‘I leave the book, I leave the wine’ ‘Easy to match what others do’ ‘If wishes would carry me over the land’ Maia ‘Seyd planted where the deluge ploughed’ ‘Forbore the ant hill, shunned to tread’ ‘Borrow Urania’s subtile wings’ ‘The comrade or the book is good’ ‘Is the pace of nature slow?’ ‘Why honor the new men’ ‘Think not the gods receive thy prayer’ ‘Inspired we must forget our books’ ‘Upon a rock yet uncreate’
LONGER POEMS Woodnotes I May-Day The Adirondacs From The Poet
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882) was a renowned lecturer and writer, whose ideas on philosophy, religion, and literature influenced many writers, including Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. After an undergraduate career at Harvard, he studied at Harvard Divinity School and became an ordained minister, continuing a long line of ministers in his family. He traveled widely and lectured, and became well known for his publications Essays and Nature.