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Short poem

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Each and All

              1Little thinks, in the field, yon red-cloaked clown,
              2Of thee from the hill-top looking down;
              3The heifer that lows in the upland farm,
              4Far-heard, lows not thine ear to charm;
              5The sexton, tolling his bell at noon,
              6Deems not that great Napoleon
              7Stops his horse, and lists with delight,
              8Whilst his files sweep round yon Alpine height;
              9Nor knowest thou what argument
            10Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent.
            11All are needed by each one;
            12Nothing is fair or good alone.
            13I thought the sparrow's note from heaven,
            14Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
            15I brought him home, in his nest, at even;
            16He sings the song, but it pleases not now,
            17For I did not bring home the river and sky; --
            18He sang to my ear, -- they sang to my eye.
            19The delicate shells lay on the shore;
            20The bubbles of the latest wave
            21Fresh pearls to their enamel gave;
            22And the bellowing of the savage sea
            23Greeted their safe escape to me.
            24I wiped away the weeds and foam,
            25I fetched my sea-born treasures home;
            26But the poor, unsightly, noisome things
            27Had left their beauty on the shore,
            28With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar.
            29The lover watched his graceful maid,
            30As 'mid the virgin train she stayed,
            31Nor knew her beauty's best attire
            32Was woven still by the snow-white choir.
            33At last she came to his hermitage,
            34Like the bird from the woodlands to the cage; --
            35The gay enchantment was undone,
            36A gentle wife, but fairy none.
            37Then I said, "I covet truth;
            38Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat;
            39I leave it behind with the games of youth:" --
            40As I spoke, beneath my feet
            41The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath,
            42Running over the club-moss burrs;
            43I inhaled the violet's breath;
            44Around me stood the oaks and firs;
            45Pine-cones and acorns lay on the ground;
            46Over me soared the eternal sky,
            47Full of light and of deity;
            48Again I saw, again I heard,
            49The rolling river, the morning bird; --
            50Beauty through my senses stole;
            51I yielded myself to the perfect whole.


1] red-cloaked clown: a minister, it seems.

5] sexton: church clerk responsible for its upkeep and for bell-ringing and grave-digging.

8] files: soldiers standing in lines from front to rear.

42] club-moss: Lycopodium clavatum, a creeping plant with upright spore-cases.

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

Composition date: May 1834
Composition date note: Richardson, Emerson: the Mind on Fire: a Biography (1996): 178.
Rhyme: couplets and quatrains

Other poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson