Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
 
I. Poems
Good-bye
 
GOOD-BYE, 1 proud world! I ’m going home:
Thou art not my friend, and I ’m not thine.
Long through thy weary crowds I roam;
A river-ark on the ocean brine,
Long I ’ve been tossed like the driven foam;        5
But now, proud world! I ’m going home.
 
Good-bye to Flattery’s fawning face;
To Grandeur with his wise grimace;
To upstart Wealth’s averted eye;
To supple Office, low and high;        10
To crowded halls, to court and street;
To frozen hearts and hasting feet;
To those who go, and those who come;
Good-bye, proud world! I ’m going home.
 
I am going to my own hearth-stone,        15
Bosomed in yon green hills alone,—
A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned;
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird’s roundelay,        20
And vulgar feet have never trod
A spot that is sacred to thought and God.
 
O, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,        25
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools and the learned clan;
For what are they all, in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet?        30
 
Note 1. Not without serious consideration has the editor removed the poem, which his father put at the beginning of his first volume of verse, to a later place. But he has always shared the feeling of regret that Dr. Holmes expressed in his book, that “Emerson saw fit to imitate the Egyptians by placing the Sphinx at the entrance of his temple of song.” In the mythology the Sphinx let no man pass who could not solve her riddle; and Emerson’s Sphinx has no doubt cut off, in the very portal, readers who would have found good and joyful words for themselves, had not her riddle been beyond their powers.
  There is some reason, from a list in the manuscript book in which are found most of the early poems, to think that the author once planned to put “Good-bye” first. It is the earliest of the poems published by him.
  Mr. Emerson sent these verses in February, 1839, to his friend Rev. James Freeman Clarke, at his request, to print in The Western Messenger. Mr. Clarke then lived in Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Emerson wrote: “They were written sixteen years ago, when I kept school in Boston, and lived in a corner of Roxbury called Canterbury. They have a slight misanthropy, a shade deeper than belongs to me; and as it seems nowadays I am a philosopher and am grown to have opinions, I think they must have an apologetic date, though I well know that poetry that needs a date is no poetry, and so you will wiselier suppress them. I heartily wish I had any verses which with a clear mind I could send you in lieu of these juvenilities. It is strange, seeing the delight we take in verses, that we can so seldom write them, and so are not ashamed to lay up old ones, say sixteen years, instead of improvising them as freely as the wind blows, whenever we and our brothers are attuned to music. I have heard of a citizen who made an annual joke. I believe I have in April or May an annual poetic conatus rather than afflatus, experimenting to the length of thirty lines or so, if I may judge from the dates of the rhythmical scraps I detect among my MSS. I look upon this incontinence as merely the redundancy of a susceptibility to poetry which makes all the bards my daily treasures, and I can well run the risk of being ridiculous once a year for the benefit of happy reading all the other days.”
  Mr. Emerson did not include “Good-bye” in the Selected Poems, published in 1876, but it has won its way with readers, and while this boyish utterance does not refer to his retirement to the country twelve years later, to study God in Nature, it seems a prophecy, though written in a different mood. The shy youth of nineteen, assistant in his brother William’s school for young ladies in Boston, when the day’s lessons were over thankfully fled to the beautiful wilderness in Roxbury (now the “Schoolmaster’s Field” in Franklin Park), for his mother established the home in that region for a time. [back]
 
 
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