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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900. 1900.

By Ralph WaldoEmerson

160 Merlin

THY trivial harp will never please

Or fill my craving ear;

Its chords should ring as blows the breeze,

Free, peremptory, clear.

No jingling serenader’s art,

Nor tinkle of piano strings,

Can make the wild blood start

In its mystic springs.

The kingly bard

Must smite the chords rudely and hard,

As with hammer or with mace;

That they may render back

Artful thunder, which conveys

Secrets of the solar track,

Sparks of the supersolar blaze.

Merlin’s blows are strokes of fate,

Chiming with the forest tone,

When boughs buffet boughs in the wood;

Chiming with the gasp and moan

Of the ice-imprisoned flood;

With the pulse of manly hearts;

With the voice of orators;

With the din of city arts;

With the cannonade of wars;

With the marches of the brave;

And prayers of might from martyrs cave.

Great is the art,

Great be the manners, of the bard.

He shall not his brain encumber

With the coil of rhythm and number;

But, leaving rule and pale forethought,

He shall aye climb

For his rhyme.

“Pass in, pass in,” the angels say,

“Into the upper doors,

Nor count compartments of the floors,

But mount to paradise

By the stairway of surprise.”

Blameless master of the games,

King of sport that never shames,

He shall daily joy dispense

Hid in song’s sweet influence.

Forms more cheerly live and go,

What time the subtle mind

Sings aloud the tune whereto

Their pulses beat,

And march their feet,

And their members are combined.

By Sybarites beguiled,

He shall no task decline;

Merlin’s mighty line

Extremes of nature reconciled,

Bereaved a tyrant of his will,

And made the lion mild.

Songs can the tempest still,

Scattered on the stormy air,

Mould the year to fair increase,

And bring in poetic peace.

He shall not seek to weave,

In weak, unhappy times,

Efficacious rhymes;

Wait his returning strength.

Bird that from the nadir’s floor

To the zenith’s top can soar,—

The soaring orbit of the muse exceeds that journey’s length.

Nor profane affect to hit

Or compass that, by meddling wit,

Which only the propitious mind

Publishes when ’t is inclined.

There are open hours

When the God’s will sallies free,

And the dull idiot might see

The flowing fortunes of a thousand years;

Sudden, at unawares,

Self-moved, fly-to the doors,

Nor sword of angels could reveal

What they conceal.