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)
Self-Reliance
 
HENCEFORTH, 1 please God, forever I forego
The yoke of men’s opinions. I will be
Light-hearted as a bird, and live with God.
I find him in the bottom of my heart,
I hear continually his voice therein.
*        *        *        *        *
        5
The little needle always knows the North,
The little bird remembereth his note,
And this wise Seer within me never errs.
I never taught it what it teaches me;
I only follow, when I act aright.
  October 9, 1832.
        10
 
AND when I am entombèd in my place,
Be it remembered of a single man,
He never, though he dearly loved his race,
For fear of human eyes swerved from his plan.
 
OH what is Heaven but the fellowship        15
Of minds that each can stand against the world
By its own meek and incorruptible will?
 
THE DAYS pass over me
And I am still the same;
The aroma of my life is gone        20
With the flower with which it came.
  1833.
 
Note 1. These lines, without title, however, were written at the time when he resigned his place as pastor of the Second Church.
  Mr. Emerson’s friend, Mr. Charles Eliot Norton, relates that when they were making the home voyage from England together in 1873, Mr. Emerson showed him his pocket-compass, which he said he carried with him in travelling, and added, “I like to hold the god in my hands.” [back]
 
 
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