Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poet/Poetry Study - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet, essayist, and philosopher, was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and teaching briefly, Emerson began in the ministry and became an unwilling preacher.

Unable in conscience to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper after his nineteen-year-old wife died of tuberculosis, he resigned his pastorate in 1831.

The following year, he sailed for Europe and visited two people: Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He returned to New England and began challenging traditional thought.

In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson, and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. Emerson was known in the local literary circle as “The Sage of Concord," and became the spokesman for Transcendentalism, an American philosophic and literary movement that was a reaction against scientific rationalism.

Emerson’s first book, Nature, best captures his view of Transcendentalism - the belief that everything in our world (even a drop of dew) is a microcosm of the universe.

Ralph Waldo Emerson died of pneumonia on April 27, 1882.



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.

Sophia thought: Huh... The beginning was was beautiful. Towards the end it took on a bittersweet tone almost. It reminded me of a red rose because one of the things I think about when I think of beauty is a rose.

Olivia thought: I liked it, but it wasn't exactly my favorite. I liked the way it was said - the words. I didn't even notice that it rhymed. 


The Mountain and the Squirrel

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
“Little prig.”

Bun replied,
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.

And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.

Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut."

Sophia thought: That was cute. It was kind of funny that the squirrel told off the mountain. What does "prig" mean? (a self-righteously moralistic person who behaves as if superior to others). The beginning and ending was the best compared to the writing in the middle.

Olivia thought: That was really cute. I really liked that one because it sounded so funny. I liked the last part where the poet wrote about carrying forests on one's back and how the mountain can't crack a nut.


The Humble-Bee

Burly, dozing humble-bee,
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique,
Far-off heats through seas to seek;
I will follow thee alone,
Thou animated torrid-zone!

Zigzag steerer, desert cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines;
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.

Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;
Voyager of light and noon;
Epicurean of June;
Wait, I prithee, till I come
Within earshot of thy hum,—
All without is martyrdom.

When the south wind, in May days,
With a net of shining haze
Silvers the horizon wall,
And, with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance,
And, infusing subtle heats,
Turns the sod to violets,
Thou, in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace
With thy mellow, breezy bass.

Hot midsummer's petted crone,
Sweet to me thy drowsy tone
Tells of countless sunny hours,
Long days, and solid banks of flowers;
Of gulfs of sweetness without bound
In Indian wildernesses found;
Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure,
Firmest cheer, and bird-like pleasure.

Aught unsavory or unclean
Hath my insect never seen;
But violets and bilberry bells,
Maple-sap, and daffodels,
Grass with green flag half-mast high,
Succory to match the sky,
Columbine with horn of honey,
Scented fern, and agrimony,
Clover, catchfly, adder's-tongue
And brier-roses, dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste,
All was picture as he passed.

Wiser far than human seer,
Yellow-breeched philosopher!
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff, and take the wheat.

When the fierce northwestern blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast,
Thou already slumberest deep;
Woe and want thou canst outsleep;
Want and woe, which torture us,
Thy sleep makes ridiculous.

Sophia thought: That one was too long. The title was a little bit misguiding because I was expecting a bumblebee or honeybee. That's what I was imagining it to be about. I was thinking the poem would be more like the Mountain and Squirrel. I didn't really this one. It was a bit too involved. 

Olivia thought: This one was good. I liked the name and beginning of it, but not so much the end. I liked how at the beginning the poet described how the bee was going on its journey for nectar. 


Not poems, but famous quotes:

=> To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Sophia thought: I liked that. It certainly makes you want to be a better person. I think I've done some of these things. I need to work on leaving the world a better place.

Olivia thought: I liked the beginning of that one - especially the part about winning the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. I would agree that these are some of the things that make a person successful.

=> Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Sophia thought: That's kind of inspirational. I like the idea of making your own path and not simply following others.

Olivia thought: That one is good. When it said "Don't go on the path" I thought, "What if you don't know where to go if there's no path? You could get lost." 

=> You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

Sophia thought: That's kind of ominous. Do a good deed now or you may never get a chance to. I do think that has some truth to it.

Olivia thought: I like that one because it shows that you should do something right away rather than waiting and not being able to do it...and maybe regretting that you never did it.

=> What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.

Sophia thought: That's interesting. It kind of sounds like you could either be a really good or bad person. 

Olivia thought: It kind of reminds me of the past, present, and future thing. The first part is leaving the past behind you; the second part is not worrying about the things that will happen in the future; and the last part is about learning to live in the present moment.

=> To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Sophia thought: I don't think anyone has ever done that. There is always someone who can always change you for both the positive and negative.

Olivia thought: Makes sense. It shows that you should be yourself no matter what people say. 

1 comment:

Rita said...

Very interesting! I have been a fan of his quotes and I seem to remember I liked his poetry, but I didn't remember any of these at all. The quotes--I knew them all. :)