Dirge (Emerson)

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For works with similar titles, see Dirge.
Dirge  (1847) 
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Published in Poems


Concord, 1838

I reached the middle of the mount
    Up which the incarnate soul must climb,
And paused for them, and looked around,
    With me who walked through space and time

Five rosy boys with morning light
    Had leaped from one fair mother's arms,
Fronted the sun with hope as bright,
    And greeted God with childhood's psalms.

Knows he who tills this lonely field
    To reap its scanty corn,
What mystic fruit his acres yield
    At midnight and at morn?

In the long sunny afternoon
    This plain was full of ghosts;
I wandered up, I wandered down,
    Beset by pensive hosts.

The winding Concord gleamed below,
    Pouring as wide a flood
As when my brothers, long ago,
    Came with me to the wood.

But they are gone,—the holy ones
    Who trod with me this lovely vale;
The strong, star-bright companions
    Are silent, low and pale.

My good, my noble, in their prime,
    Who made this world the feast it was,
Who learned with me the lore of time,
    Who loved this dwelling-place!

They took this valley for their toy,
    They played with it in every mood;
A cell for prayer, a hall for joy,—
    They treated Nature as they would.

They colored the horizon round;
    Stars flamed and faded as they bade,
All echoes hearkened for their sound,—
    They made the woodlands glad or mad.

I touch this flower of silken leaf,
    Which once our childhood knew;
Its soft leaves wound me with a grief
    Whose balsam never grew.

Hearken to yon pine-warbler
    Singing aloft in the three!
Hearest thou, O traveller,
    What he singeth to me?

Not unless God made sharp thine ear
    With sorrow such as mine,
Out of that delicate lay could'st thou
    Its heavy tale divine

'Go, lonely man,' it saith;
    'They loved thee from their birth;
Their hands were pure, and pure their faith,—
    There are no such hearts on earth.

'Ye drew one mother's milk.
    One chamber held ye all;
A very tender history
    Did in your childhood fall.

'You cannot unlock your heart,
    They key is gone with them;
The silent organ loudest chants
    The master's requiem.'

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.