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Short poem

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Ode, Inscribed to William H. Channing

              1Though loath to grieve
              2The evil time's sole patriot,
              3I cannot leave
              4My honied thought
              5For the priest's cant,
              6Or statesman's rant.

              7If I refuse
              8My study for their politique,
              9Which at the best is trick,
            10The angry Muse
            11Puts confusion in my brain.

            12But who is he that prates
            13Of the culture of mankind,
            14Of better arts and life?
            15Go, blindworm, go,
            16Behold the famous States
            17Harrying Mexico
            18With rifle and with knife!

            19Or who, with accent bolder,
            20Dare praise the freedom-loving mountaineer?
            21I found by thee, O rushing Contoocook!
            22And in thy valleys, Agiochook!
            23The jackals of the negro-holder.

            24The God who made New Hampshire
            25Taunted the lofty land
            26With little men; --
            27Small bat and wren
            28House in the oak: --
            29If earth-fire cleave
            30The upheaved land, and bury the folk,
            31The southern crocodile would grieve.

            32Virtue palters; Right is hence;
            33Freedom praised, but hid;
            34Funeral eloquence
            35Rattles the coffin-lid.

            36What boots thy zeal,
            37O glowing friend,
            38That would indignant rend
            39The northland from the south?
            40Wherefore? to what good end?
            41Boston Bay and Bunker Hill
            42Would serve things still; --
            43Things are of the snake.

            44The horseman serves the horse,
            45The neat-herd serves the neat,
            46The state may follow how it can,
            47As Olympus follows Jove.

            48Yet do not I implore
            49The wrinkled shopman to my sounding woods,
            50Nor bid the unwilling senator
            51Ask votes of thrushes in the solitudes.
            52Every one to his chosen work; --
            53Foolish hands may mix and mar;
            54Wise and sure the issues are.
            55Round they roll till dark is light,
            56Sex to sex, and even to odd; --
            57The over-god
            58Who marries Right to Might,
            59Who peoples, unpeoples, --
            60He who exterminates
            61Races by stronger races,
            62Black by white faces, --
            63Knows to bring honey
            64Out of the lion;
            65Grafts gentlest scion
            66On pirate and Turk.

            67The Cossack eats Poland,
            68Like stolen fruit;
            69Her last noble is ruined,
            70Her last poet mute;
            71Straight into double band
            72The victors divide;
            73Half for freedom strike and stand; --
            74The astonished Muse finds thousands at her side.


1] William Henry Channing (1810-84), minister and reformer for the abolition of slavery.

18] The United States and Mexico went to war in 1846-48.

21] Contoocook: belongiong to the Merrimack river in New Hampshire.

22] Agiochook: the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

32] palters: is evasive, mumbles.

36] boots: value has

41] Boston Bay: the "Boston Tea Party" took place here on December 16, 1773, when men disguised as Mohawk Indians dumped, into the bay, tea chests being exported by the East India Company to America, an act of defiance against the English crown. Bunker Hill: place in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where, on June 17, 1775, the first important battle of the American Revolutionary War occurred.

45] neat-herd: cow-herd. behoof: aid.

47] Mountain Olympus, mythic home of the gods of ancient Greece, and of Zeus (Jove), who presided over them all.

48] implore: corrected by Emerson from earlier "invite".

64] Yahweh, god of the monotheistic Israelites, filled the body of a lion killed by Samson with honey (Judges 14:5-10).

67] Russia occupied Poland at this time, which was subject to a local uprising in 1846.

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
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/12/24

Rhyme: irregularly rhyming

Other poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson