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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From the ‘Threnody’

By Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

(See full text.)


Life, sunshine and desire,

And on every mount and meadow

Breathes aromatic fire;

But over the dead he has no power,

The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;

And looking over the hills, I mourn

The darling who shall not return….

O child of paradise,

Boy who made dear his father’s home,

In whose deep eyes

Men read the welfare of the times to come,

I am too much bereft.

The world dishonored thou hast left.

O truth’s and Nature’s costly lie!

O trusted broken prophecy!

O richest fortune sourly crossed!

Born for the future, to the future lost!

The deep Heart answered, “Weepest thou?

Worthier cause for passion wild

If I had not taken the child.

And deemest thou as those who pore,

With agèd eyes, short way before,—

Think’st Beauty vanished from the coast

Of matter, and thy darling lost?

Taught he not thee—the man of eld,

Whose eyes within his eyes beheld

Heaven’s numerous hierarchy span

The mystic gulf from God to man?

To be alone wilt thou begin,

When worlds of lovers hem thee in?

To-morrow, when the masks shall fall

That dizen Nature’s carnival,

The pure shall see by their own will,

Which overflowing Love shall fill,

’Tis not within the force of fate

The fate-conjoined to separate.

But thou, my votary, weepest thou?

I gave thee sight—where is it now?

I taught thy heart beyond the reach

Of ritual, Bible, or of speech;

Wrote in thy mind’s transparent table,

As far as the incommunicable;

Taught thee each private sign to raise

Lit by the supersolar blaze.

Past utterance, and past belief,

And past the blasphemy of grief,

The mysteries of Nature’s heart;

And though no Muse can these impart,

Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,

And all is clear from east to west.

“I came to thee as to a friend;

Dearest, to thee I did not send

Tutors, but a joyful eye,

Innocence that matched the sky,

Lovely locks, a form of wonder,

Laughter rich as woodland thunder,

That thou might’st entertain apart

The richest flowering of all art:

And, as the great all-loving Day

Through smallest chambers takes its way,

That thou might’st break thy daily bread

With prophet, savior, and head;

That thou might’st cherish for thine own

The richest of sweet Mary’s Son,

Boy-Rabbi, Israel’s paragon.

And thoughtest thou such guest

Would in thy hall take up his rest?

Would rushing life forget her laws,

Fate’s glowing revolution pause?

High omens ask diviner guess;

Not to be conned to tediousness.

And know my higher gifts unbind

The zone that girds the incarnate mind.

When the scanty shores are full

With thought’s perilous, whirling pool;

When frail Nature can no more,

Then the Spirit strikes the hour:

My servant Death, with solving rite,

Pours finite into infinite.

Wilt thou freeze love’s tidal flow,

Whose streams through Nature circling go?

Nail the wild star to its track

On the half-climbed zodiac?

Light is light which radiates,

Blood is blood which circulates,

Life is life which generates,

And many-seeming life is one,—

Wilt thou transfix and make it none?

Its onward force too starkly pent

In figure, bone, and lineament?

Wilt thou, uncalled, interrogate,—

Talker!—the unreplying Fate?

Nor see the genius of the whole

Ascendant in the private soul?

Beckon it when to go and come,

Self-announced its hour of doom?

Fair the soul’s recess and shrine,

Magic-built to last a season;

Masterpiece of love benign,

Fairer that expansive reason

Whose omen ’tis, and sign.

Wilt thou not ope thy heart to know

What rainbows teach, and sunsets show?

Verdict which accumulates

From lengthening scroll of human fates,

Voice of earth to earth returned,

Prayers of saints that inly burned,—

Saying, What is excellent,

As God lives, is permanent;

Hearts are dust, hearts’ loves remain;

Heart’s love will meet thee again.

Revere the Maker; fetch thine eye

Up to his style, and manners of the sky.

Not of adamant and gold

Built he heaven stark and cold;

No, but a nest of bending reeds,

Flowering grass and scented weeds;

Or like a traveler’s fleeing tent,

Or bow above the tempest bent;

Built of tears and sacred flames,

And virtue reaching to its aims;

Built of furtherance and pursuing,

Not of spent deeds, but of doing.

Silent rushes the swift Lord

Through ruined systems still restored,

Broad-sowing, bleak and void to bless,

Plants with worlds the wilderness;

Waters with tears of ancient sorrow

Apples of Eden ripe to-morrow.

House and tenant go to ground,

Lost in God, in Godhead found.”