Ralph Waldo Emerson

(1803 - 1882 / Boston / United States)

Alphonso Of Castile


I Alphonso live and learn,
Seeing nature go astern.
Things deteriorate in kind,
Lemons run to leaves and rind,
Meagre crop of figs and limes,
Shorter days and harder times.
Flowering April cools and dies
In the insufficient skies;
Imps at high Midsummer blot
Half the sun's disk with a spot;
'Twill not now avail to tan
Orange cheek, or skin of man:
Roses bleach, the goats are dry,
Lisbon quakes, the people cry.
Yon pale scrawny fisher fools,
Gaunt as bitterns in the pools,
Are no brothers of my blood,—
They discredit Adamhood.

Eyes of gods! ye must have seen,
O'er your ramparts as ye lean,
The general debility,
Of genius the sterility,
Mighty projects countermanded,
Rash ambition broken-handed,
Puny man and scentless rose
Tormenting Pan to double the dose.
Rebuild or ruin: either fill
Of vital force the wasted rill,
Or, tumble all again in heap
To weltering chaos, and to sleep.

Say, Seigneurs, are the old Niles dry,
Which fed the veins of earth and sky,
That mortals miss the loyal heats
Which drove them erst to social feats,
Now to a savage selfness grown,
Think nature barely serves for one;
With. science poorly mask their hurt,
And vex the gods with question pert,
Immensely curious whether you
Still are rulers, or Mildew.
Masters, I'm in pain with you;
Masters, I'll be plain with you.
In my palace of Castile,
I, a king, for kings can feel;
There my thoughts the matter roll,
And solve and oft resolve the whole,
And, for I'm styled Alphonse the Wise,
Ye shall not fail for sound advice,
Before ye want a drop of rain,
Hear the sentiment of Spain.

You have tried famine: no more try it;
Ply us now with a full diet;
Teach your pupils now with plenty,
For one sun supply us twenty:
I have thought it thoroughly over,
State of hermit, state of lover;
We must have society,
We cannot spare variety.
Hear you, then, celestial fellows!
Fits not to be over zealous;
Steads not to work on the clean jump,
Nor wine nor brains perpetual pump;

Men and gods are too extense,—
Could you slacken and condense?
Your rank overgrowths reduce,
Till your kinds abound with juice;
Earth crowded cries, "Too many men,"—
My counsel is, Kill nine in ten,
And bestow the shares of all
On the remnant decimal.
Add their nine lives to this cat;
Stuff their nine brains in his hat;
Make his frame and forces square
With the labors he must dare;
Thatch his flesh, and even his years
With the marble which he rears;
There growing slowly old at ease,
No faster than his planted trees,
He may, by warrant of his age,
In schemes of broader scope engage:
So shall ye have a man of the sphere,
Fit to grace the solar year.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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