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
 
VI. Poems of Youth and Early Manhood (1823–1834)
To-day
 
I RAKE 1 no coffined clay, nor publish wide
The resurrection of departed pride.
Safe in their ancient crannies, dark and deep,
Let kings and conquerors, saints and soldiers sleep—
Late in the world,—too late perchance for fame,        5
Just late enough to reap abundant blame,—
I choose a novel theme, a bold abuse
Of critic charters, an unlaurelled Muse.
 
Old mouldy men and books and names and lands
Disgust my reason and defile my hands.        10
I had as lief respect an ancient shoe,
As love old things for age, and hate the new.
I spurn the Past, my mind disdains its nod,
Nor kneels in homage to so mean a God.
I laugh at those who, while they gape and gaze,        15
The bald antiquity of China praise.
Youth is (whatever cynic tubs pretend)
The fault that boys and nations soonest mend.

  1824.
 
Note 1. Dr. Holmes has named Mr. Emerson’s Phi Beta Kappa Address in 1837 as “Our intellectual Declaration of Independence,” but this boyish poem, written thirteen years earlier, shows the germ which grew into the “American Scholar.” [back]
 
 
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