Ralph Waldo Emerson

(1803 - 1882 / Boston / United States)

Astræ Poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Himself it was who wrote
His rank, and quartered his own coat.
There is no king nor sovereign state
That can fix a hero's rate;
Each to all is venerable,
Cap-a-pie invulnerable,
Until he write, where all eyes rest,
Slave or master on his breast.

I saw men go up and down
In the country and the town,
With this prayer upon their neck,
"Judgment and a judge we seek."
Not to monarchs they repair,
Nor to learned jurist's chair,
But they hurry to their peers,
To their kinsfolk and their dears,
Louder than with speech they pray,
What am I? companion; say.
And the friend not hesitates
To assign just place and mates,
Answers not in word or letter,
Yet is understood the better;—
Is to his friend a looking-glass,
Reflects his figure that doth pass.
Every wayfarer he meets
What himself declared, repeats;
What himself confessed, records;
Sentences him in his words,
The form is his own corporal form,
And his thought the penal worm.

Yet shine for ever virgin minds,
Loved by stars and purest winds,
Which, o'er passion throned sedate,
Have not hazarded their state,
Disconcert the searching spy,
Rendering to a curious eye
The durance of a granite ledge
To those who gaze from the sea's edge.
It is there for benefit,
It is there for purging light,
There for purifying storms,
And its depths reflect all forms;
It cannot parley with the mean,
Pure by impure is not seen.
For there's no sequestered grot,
Lone mountain tam, or isle forgot,
But justice journeying in the sphere
Daily stoops to harbor there.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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