Ralph Waldo Emerson

(1803 - 1882 / Boston / United States)

Beauty - Poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Was never form and never face
So sweet to SEYD as only grace
Which did not slumber like a stone,
But hovered gleaming and was gone.
Beauty chased he everywhere,
In flame, in storm, in clouds of air.
He smote the lake to feed his eye
With the beryl beam of the broken wave;
He flung in pebbles well to hear
The moment's music which they gave.
Oft pealed for him a lofty tone
From nodding pole and belting zone.
He heard a voice none else could hear
From centred and from errant sphere.
The quaking earth did quake in rhyme,
Seas ebbed and flowed in epic chime.
In dens of passion, and pits of woe,
He saw strong Eros struggling through,
To sun the dark and solve the curse,
And beam to the bounds of the universe.
While thus to love he gave his days
In loyal worship, scorning praise,
How spread their lures for him in vain
Thieving Ambition and paltering Gain!
He thought it happier to be dead,
To die for Beauty, than live for bread.


Comments about Beauty by Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Amar Agarwala (4/30/2017 9:25:00 PM)


    I enjoy elegiac verses... but this is the first I've read of Emerson. I quite liked it! (Report) Reply

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  • (4/30/2017 11:42:00 AM)


    To die for beauty, than live for bread.
    Quest for beauty can be deadly too and it's realization! Great poem.
    (Report) Reply

  • Lantz Pierre (4/30/2017 10:53:00 AM)


    I too am a huge fan of Emerson. I don't think this is a particularly good representation though. The writing is pretty good, but the content is not especially representative of his ideas. His ideas about beauty are better expressed elsewhere. Here, as I read it, he's putting himself in the shoes of Seyd (Said, or Saadi) and expressing a viewpoint that's not exactly his own. It's less nuanced and much narrower than what he says elsewhere speaking for himself.

    That said, I think he marvelously captures the transitory and fleeting aspect of beauty that so entrances and bedevils his narrator. Beauty here is not anything that can be captured and hung on to. It is evanescent, to attracts variously through all the senses but then dissipates and disappears. There is no way to own it, to keep it and pore one's adulations upon it without work and effort to capture it anew each time. It is that endless questing after, that active pursuit of beauty that drives the life of the narrator. It nourishes him in a spiritual way that life-giving force of food never can. It's very well written, it's just not entirely indicative of Emerson's own philosophy of aesthetics and beauty.
    (Report) Reply

  • Hans Vr (4/30/2017 10:03:00 AM)


    he thought it happier to be dead
    to die for beauty, than live for bread
    Wow! Emerson at his best. I have read many of his essays and whenever I manage to read Emerson, I discover a whole world hidden in his texts. My own favorite, and strong recommendation: the American scholar and divinity school address. Masterpieces of wisdom! . Circles, the oversoul, and of course his mos famous one, compensation. All are available for free on the internet. You got this message from an Emerson fan.
    (Report) Reply

  • Tom Allport (4/30/2017 4:05:00 AM)


    a wonderful poem of true enlightenment? bravo writing at it's best. (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (4/30/2017 2:36:00 AM)


    The moment's music.... thanks for posting..... (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (4/30/2017 2:08:00 AM)


    Struggling through! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • Alexander Julian (4/30/2017 1:40:00 AM)


    So beauty can be something that stops working for the reflection to come back toward an adventuring vision. (Report) Reply

  • (5/20/2014 2:14:00 AM)


    To die for beauty than live for bread a nice idea and good poem. (Report) Reply

  • (11/25/2010 2:53:00 AM)


    He thought it happier to be dead,
    To die for Beauty, than live for bread.

    Generations yet unborn shall hear about Emerson, one of my chief inspirers!
    (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poem Edited: Thursday, November 27, 2014


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