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Short poem

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)


              1That you are fair or wise is vain,
              2Or strong, or rich, or generous;
              3You must have also the untaught strain
              4That sheds beauty on the rose.
              5There is a melody born of melody,
              6Which melts the world into a sea:
              7Toil could never compass it;
              8Art its height could never hit;
              9It came never out of wit;
            10But a music music-born
            11Well may Jove and Juno scorn.
            12Thy beauty, if it lack the fire
            13Which drives me mad with sweet desire,
            14What boots it? what the soldier's mail,
            15Unless he conquer and prevail?
            16What all the goods thy pride which lift,
            17If thou pine for another's gift?
            18Alas! that one is born in blight,
            19Victim of perpetual slight:
            20When thou lookest on his face,
            21Thy heart saith, "Brother, go thy ways!
            22None shall ask thee what thou doest,
            23Or care a rush for what thou knowest,
            24Or listen when thou repliest,
            25Or remember where thou liest,
            26Or how thy supper is sodden;"
            27And another is born
            28To make the sun forgotten.
            29Surely he carries a talisman
            30Under his tongue;
            31Broad are his shoulders, and strong;
            32And his eye is scornful,
            33Threatening, and young.
            34I hold it of little matter
            35Whether your jewel be of pure water,
            36A rose diamond or a white,
            37But whether it dazzle me with light.
            38I care not how you are dressed,
            39In the coarsest or in the best;
            40Nor whether your name is base or brave;
            41Nor for the fashion of your behavior;
            42But whether you charm me,
            43Bid my bread feed and my fire warm me,
            44And dress up Nature in your favor.
            45One thing is forever good;
            46That one thing is Success, --
            47Dear to the Eumenides,
            48And to all the heavenly brood.
            49Who bides at home, nor looks abroad,
            50Carries the eagles, and masters the sword.


1] Later entitled "Destiny."

14] boots: value has.

47] Eumenides: the (female) Erinyes or Furies, who came from the underworld to torment the guilty.

50] Carries the eagles: bore the ensigns (in war).

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: couplets and quatrains

Other poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson