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)
Webster
 
1831

LET 1 Webster’s lofty face
Ever on thousands shine,
A beacon set that Freedom’s race
Might gather omens from that radiant sign.
 
FROM THE PHI BETA KAPPA POEM
1834
ILL fits the abstemious Muse a crown to weave
        5
For living brows; ill fits them to receive:
And yet, if virtue abrogate the law,
One portrait—fact or fancy—we may draw;
A form which Nature cast in the heroic mould
Of them who rescued liberty of old;        10
He, when the rising storm of party roared,
Brought his great forehead to the council board,
There, while hot heads perplexed with fears the state,
Calm as the morn the manly patriot sate;
Seemed, when at last his clarion accents broke,        15
As if the conscience of the country spoke.
Not on its base Monadnoc surer stood,
Than he to common sense and common good:
No mimic; from his breast his counsel drew,
Believed the eloquent was aye the true;        20
He bridged the gulf from th’ alway good and wise
To that within the vision of small eyes.
Self-centred; when he launched the genuine word
It shook or captivated all who heard,
Ran from his mouth to mountains and the sea,        25
And burned in noble hearts proverb and prophecy.
 
1854
WHY did all manly gifts in Webster fail?
He wrote on Nature’s grandest brow, For Sale.
 
Note 1. The first of these fragments on New England’s idol—until his apostasy to the cause of human Freedom, in the interests of Union—was the last verse of those beginning,
  Has god on thee conferred
A bodily presence mean as Paul’s,
printed a few pages earlier in this book. The second was the best passage in the Phi Beta Kappa poem, not otherwise remarkable. The third was written sadly after Webster’s death. [back]
 
 
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