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


By Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

BECAUSE I was content with these poor fields,

Low open meads, slender and sluggish streams,

And found a home in haunts which others scorned,

The partial wood-gods overpaid my love,

And granted me the freedom of their state,

And in their secret senate have prevailed

With the dear dangerous lords that rule our life,

Made moon and planets parties to their bond,

And through my rock-like, solitary wont

Shot million rays of thought and tenderness.

For me, in showers, in sweeping showers, the Spring

Visits the valley;—break away the clouds,—

I bathe in the morn’s soft and silvered air,

And planted world, and full executor

Of their imperfect functions.

But these young scholars who invade our hills—

Bold as the engineer who fells the wood,

And traveling often in the cut he makes—

Love not the flower they pluck, and know it not,

And all their botany is Latin names.

The old men studied magic in the flowers,

And human fortunes in astronomy,

And an omnipotence in chemistry,

Preferring things to names; for these were men,

Were unitarians of the united world,

And wheresoever their clear eye-beams fell,

They caught the footsteps of the SAME. Our eyes

Are armed, but we are strangers to the stars,

And strangers to the mystic beast and bird,

And strangers to the plant and to the mine.

The injured elements say, “Not in us;”

And night and day, ocean and continent,

Fire, plant, and mineral say, “Not in us;”

And haughtily return us stare for stare.

For we invade them impiously for gain;

We devastate them unreligiously,

And coldly ask their pottage, not their love.

Therefore they shove us from them, yield to us

Only what to our griping toil is due;

But the sweet affluence of love and song,

The rich results of the divine consents

Of man and earth, of world beloved and lover,

The nectar and ambrosia, are withheld;

And in the midst of spoils and slaves, we thieves

And pirates of the universe, shut out

Daily to a more thin and outward rind,

And loiter willing by yon loitering stream.

Sparrows far off, and nearer, April’s bird,

Blue-coated,—flying before from tree to tree,

Courageous sing a delicate overture

To lead the tardy concert of the year.

Onward and nearer rides the sun of May;

And wide around, the marriage of the plants

Is sweetly solemnized. Then flows amain

The surge of summer’s beauty; dell and crag,

Hollow and lake, hillside and pine arcade,

Are touched with genius. Yonder ragged cliff

Has thousand faces in a thousand hours.

Beneath low hills, in the broad interval

Through which at will our Indian rivulet

Winds mindful still of sannup and of squaw,

Whose pipe and arrow oft the plow unburies;

Here in pine houses built of new-fallen trees,

Supplanters of the tribe, the farmers dwell.

Traveler, to thee perchance a tedious road,

Or it may be, a picture; to these men,

The landscape is an armory of powers,

Which, one by one, they know to draw and use;

They harness beast, bird, insect, to their work;

They prove the virtues of each bed of rock,

And, like the chemist mid his loaded jars,

Draw from each stratum its adapted use

To drug their crops or weapon their arts withal.

They turn the frost upon their chemic heap,

They set the wind to winnow pulse and grain,

They thank the spring-flood for its fertile slime,

And, on cheap summit-levels of the snow,

Slide with the sledge to inaccessible woods

O’er meadows bottomless. So, year by year,

They fight the elements with elements

(That one would say, meadow and forest walked,

Transmuted in these men to rule their like),

And by the order in the field disclose

The order regnant in the yeoman’s brain.

What these strong masters wrote at large in miles,

I followed in small copy in my acre;

For there’s no rood has not a star above it;

The cordial quality of pear or plum

Ascends as gladly in a single tree

As in broad orchards resonant with bees;

And every atom poises for itself,

And for the whole. The gentle deities

Showed me the lore of colors and of sounds,

The innumerable tenements of beauty,

The miracle of generative force,

Far-reaching concords of astronomy

Felt in the plants and in the punctual birds;

Better, the linkèd purpose of the whole,

And—chiefest prize—found I true liberty

In the glad home plain-dealing Nature gave.

The polite found me impolite; the great

Would mortify me, but in vain; for still

I am a willow of the wilderness,

Loving the wind that bent me. All my hurts

My garden spade can heal. A woodland walk,

A quest of river grapes, a mocking thrush,

A wild rose, or rock-loving columbine,

Salve my worst wounds.

For thus the wood-gods murmured in my ear:

“Dost love our manners? Canst thou silent lie?

Canst thou, thy pride forgot, like nature pass

Into the winter night’s extinguished mood?

Canst thou shine now, then darkle,

And being latent, feel thyself no less?

As, when the all-worshiped moon attracts the eye,

The river, hill, stems, foliage, are obscure,

Yet envies none, none are unenviable.”