Ralph Waldo Emerson

(1803 - 1882 / Boston / United States)

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Good-by, proud world, I'm going home,
Thou'rt not my friend, and I'm not thine;
Long through thy weary crowds I roam;
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  • Douglas Williams (6/6/2008 1:46:00 PM)

    I have stood at Emerson's grave in Concord, and it is, indeed, under the pines.

    This is a poem, quite literally, of a goodbye to the world. The ark that he speaks of is a familiar Christian metaphor of the body as an ark carrying the spirit on the ocean of the material world, ever in danger of foundering, until the soul is restored to God. The lines

    For what are they all in their high conceit,
    When man in the bush with God may meet.

    conclude the thought: All must ultimately leave the world; death comes for all, and in anticipating the burial of his body on the quiet hill above Concord, under a great stone, Emerson-a little ironically perhaps for a world-famous essayist and philosopher-celebrates the irrelevance of worldly anonymity of an individual such as him, compared to the greatness of Ancient Greece or the pride of the Roman Empire. They, the great Pagan measures of wisdom and power, are as nothing compared to his secret spot, sacred to God, where the ark of his spirit rests broken, its task done, and the spirit glories in its communion with God. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (6/6/2008 11:30:00 AM)

    From the metaphor of a vessel caught in a storm at sea to the sylvan paradise he portrays in the final two stanzas where peace reigns supreme, Emerson brings to vivid life the contrast of city and country life. The second stanza brings to mind a speech from one of Shakespeare's plays (perhaps the 'Seven Ages of Man' or one of Hamlet's soliloquies) . Emerson personifies the various vices found in cities and the busy lives of their inhabitants. Who hasn't seen the flatterer as he sucks up to a superior? Or the great man who delivers a verdict with a glance? Or the wealthy person who ignores us as the rabble we are? Or the politician who can weasel his way out of any promise at any time? And, of course, the uncaring crowds and the anonymous citizens that fill city streets night and day, all provoke the speaker (perhaps Emerson or his friend Thoreau?) to abandon the turmoil and retreat to green arbors!

    Far from the glory that was ancient Greece and the grandeur that was Rome, the speaker will stretch out beneath pine and spruce and be king of all he surveys in his sylvan surroundings. Other writers, such as Edward Abbey in his 'Desert Solitaire', come close to expressing a similar tranquillity in their work. Yes, many writers and poets share Emerson's outlook! (Report) Reply

  • Daphne Grant (6/8/2007 4:11:00 PM)

    I like this poem: it reminds me a song called 'Linden Lea' It starts Beneath the Ashgrove, timber shaded by the oaks tree's mossy moot. The write turned their back on factory's, and went back to the country, as here Ralph Waldo Emerson Lived on an Island in the lake. He turns his abck on wealth & fame, to live the simple life again. Well-expressed. (Report) Reply

  • Martin Fruchtman (4/27/2007 7:28:00 AM)

    Emerson's reputation is well deserved.Undoubtedly many share his philosophy as here recorded but none can express it as well as he. (Report) Reply

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