Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
January 27
Threnody
By Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
 
          On Jan. 27, 1842, Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his (then) only son, a lovely child of five years. As in Milton’s Lycidas and Shelley’s “Adonais,” his grief found expression in verse.

THE SOUTH-WIND brings
Life, sunshine and desire,
And on every mound and meadow
Breathes aromatic fire;
But over the dead he has no power,        5
The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;
And, looking over the hills, I mourn
The darling who shall not return.
 
I see my empty house,
I see my trees repair their boughs;        10
And, he, the wondrous child,
Whose silver warble wild
Outvalued every pulsing sound
Within the air’s cerulean round,—
The hyacinthine boy, for whom        15
Morn well might break and April bloom,—
The gracious boy, who did adorn
The world whereinto he was born,
And by his countenance repay
The favor of the loving Day,—        20
Has disappeared from the Day’s eye;
Far and wide she cannot find him;
My hopes pursue, they cannot bind him.
Returned this day, the south-wind searches,
And finds young pines and budding birches;        25
But finds not the budding man;
Nature, who lost, cannot remake him;
Fate let him fall, Fate can’t retake him;
Nature, Fate, men, him seek in vain.
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