Ralph Waldo Emerson

(1803 - 1882 / Boston / United States)

Brahma


If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bahihs Redid (1/3/2014 1:52:00 PM)

    @Mr. Lemberger Meaning is a vague and subtle thing, I cannot know what Emerson thought, but I can tell you my own interpretation: To turn your back on heaven is to let go of the idea of recompense and reciprocity. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the tax collectors do the same? In the same way, if you do good because you love heaven, or even God, then you do not understand. For the irony of singularity is infinity. The only way to eliminate selfishness is to invert the self. Good IS God, not for God. (Report) Reply

  • Matthew Lemberger (4/29/2007 9:51:00 AM)

    I have always like this poem; . I hink it was in a textbook either high school or college. Emerson was the father of transcendtalis. I believe he studied in Germany where he came in contact with Hinduism. We might say that Emerson brought Hinduism to America.

    What I like about the poem is that it accepts the contraictions in duality as One.
    What I have trouble with or I am not sure of where at the end he states that the believer 'turns' his back on heaven.
    Emerson was the seven Emerson who were Christians ministers in America. Was he saying the believer turned his back on the God of the Bible?
    I'm curious for your response? (Report) Reply

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