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
Mithridates
 
I CANNOT 1 spare water or wine,
  Tobacco-leaf, or poppy, or rose;
From the earth-poles to the Line,
  All between that works or grows,
Every thing is kin of mine.        5
 
Give me agates for my meat;
Give me cantharids to eat;
From air and ocean bring me foods,
From all zones and altitudes;—
 
From all natures, sharp and slimy,        10
  Salt and basalt, wild and tame:
Tree and lichen, ape, sea-lion,
  Bird, and reptile, be my game.
 
Ivy for my fillet band;
Blinding dog-wood in my hand;        15
Hemlock for my sherbet cull me,
And the prussic juice to lull me;
Swing me in the upas boughs,
Vampyre-fanned, when I carouse.
 
Too long shut in strait and few,        20
Thinly dieted on dew,
I will use the world, and sift it,
To a thousand humors shift it,
As you spin a cherry.
O doleful ghosts, and goblins merry!        25
O all you virtues, methods, mights,
Means, appliances, delights,
Reputed wrongs and braggart rights,
Smug routine, and things allowed,
Minorities, things under cloud!        30
Hither! take me, use me, fill me,
Vein and artery, though ye kill me! 2
 
Note 1. Mithridates Eupator, king of Pontus, who gave the Romans so much trouble by his wiles in the first century B.C., was a man of extraordinary and varied learning. Familiar with the lore of other nations, a botanist and skilled in physic, he studied antidotes, and is reputed to have fed on poisons until he rendered himself immune from their noxious effects. Thus his name stands here as symbolic of the wise man who can find virtue in all things and escape the harm.
  The poem was written in 1846. [back]
Note 2. In the first edition the poem ended with these lines:—
  God! I will not be an owl,
But sun me in the Capitol.
 [back]
 
 
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