Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The World-Soul

Thanks to the morning light,
   Thanks to the foaming sea,
To the uplands of New Hampshire,
   To the green-haired forest free;
Thanks to each man of courage,
   To the maids of holy mind,
To the boy with his games undaunted
   Who never looks behind.
 
Cities of proud hotels,
   Houses of rich and great,
Vice nestles in your chambers,
   Beneath your roofs of slate.
It cannot conquer folly,—
   Time-and-space-conquering steam,—
And the light-outspeeding telegraph
   Bears nothing on its beam.

The politics are base;
   The letters do not cheer;
And ’t is far in the deeps of history,
   The voice that speaketh clear.
Trade and the streets ensnare us,
   Our bodies are weak and worn;
We plot and corrupt each other,
   And we despoil the unborn.
 
Yet there in the parlor sits
   Some figure of noble guise,—
Our angel, in a stranger’s form,
   Or woman’s pleading eyes;
Or only a flashing sunbeam
   In at the window-pane;
Or Music pours on mortals
   Its beautiful disdain.
 
The inevitable morning
   Finds them who in cellars be;
And be sure the all-loving Nature
   Will smile in a factory.
Yon ridge of purple landscape,
   Yon sky between the walls,
Hold all the hidden wonders
   In scanty intervals.
 
Alas! the Sprite that haunts us
   Deceives our rash desire;
It whispers of the glorious gods,
   And leaves us in the mire.
We cannot learn the cipher
   That ’s writ upon our cell;
Stars taunt us by a mystery
   Which we could never spell.
 
If but one hero knew it,
   The world would blush in flame;
The sage, till he hit the secret,
   Would hang his head for shame.
Our brothers have not read it,
   Not one has found the key;
And henceforth we are comforted,—
   We are but such as they. 
 
Still, still the secret presses;
   The nearing clouds draw down;
The crimson morning flames into
   The fopperies of the town.
Within, without the idle earth,
   Stars weave eternal rings;
The sun himself shines heartily,
   And shares the joy he brings.
 
And what if Trade sow cities
   Like shells along the shore,
And thatch with towns the prairie broad
   With railways ironed o’er?—
They are but sailing foam-bells
   Along Thought’s causing stream,
And take their shape and sun-color
   From him that sends the dream.
 
For Destiny never swerves
   Nor yields to men the helm;
He shoots his thought, by hidden nerves,
   Throughout the solid realm.
The patient Dæmon sits,
   With roses and a shroud;
He has his way, and deals his gifts,—
   But ours is not allowed.
 
He is no churl nor trifler,
   And his viceroy is none,—
Love-without-weakness,—
   Of Genius sire and son.
And his will is not thwarted;
   The seeds of land and sea
Are the atoms of his body bright,
   And his behest obey.
 
He serveth the servant,
   The brave he loves amain;
He kills the cripple and the sick,
   And straight begins again;
For gods delight in gods,
   And thrust the weak aside;
To him who scorns their charities
   Their arms fly open wide.
 
When the old world is sterile
   And the ages are effete,
He will from wrecks and sediment
   The fairer world complete.
He forbids to despair;
   His cheeks mantle with mirth;
And the unimagined good of men
   Is yeaning at the birth.
 
Spring still makes spring in the mind
   When sixty years are told;
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
   And we are never old;
Over the winter glaciers
   I see the summer glow,
And through the wild-piled snow-drift
   The warm rosebuds below.

Credit


This poem is in the public domain.

Author


Ralph Waldo Emerson

American poet, essayist, and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston.

Date Published: 1847-01-02

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/world-soul