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Short poem

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

The Rhodora

On Being Asked, Whence Is the Flower?

              1In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
              2I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
              3Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
              4To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
              5The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
              6Made the black water with their beauty gay;
              7Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
              8And court the flower that cheapens his array.
              9Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
            10This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
            11Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
            12Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
            13Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
            14I never thought to ask, I never knew;
            15But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
            16The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.


1] rhodora: flowering scrub common to Canada and New England, Rhododendron canadense.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Poems< (1846: London: Chapman, 1847). PS 1624 .A1 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1839
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/12/24

Composition date: May 1834
Composition date note: written May 1834 (Richardson, Emerson: the Mind on Fire: a Biography, 177).
Rhyme: couplets and quatrains

Other poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson