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
Compensation
 
WHY 1 should I keep holiday
  When other men have none?
Why but because, when these are gay,
  I sit and mourn alone?
 
And why, when mirth unseals all tongues,        5
  Should mine alone be dumb?
Ah! late I spoke to silent throngs,
  And now their hour is come.
 
Note 1. The friendship of Montaigne, as related by himself, with Étienne de la Boéce (or Boetie) has, like that of David and Jonathan, become proverbial. Both were educated for the law at Bordeaux, and they later found themselves in the same parliament or court. When they first met, they ran into each other’s arms, as if long acquainted. Étienne was a man who seemed made for whatever he undertook. “The happy strength of his genius rejoiced in difficulties.” In troublous times he wrote a purely philosophic work, Discours de la servitude volontaire, a brave protest against the tyranny of kings. It was widely read, but brought him disfavor at court. He also wrote graceful, imaginative poems. He died in 1563, at the age of thirty-three.
  Mr. Emerson used this name to stand for the perfect friend, utterly loyal, yet austere. In this poem is the spirit of the fourth verse of “Give All to Love.” Its thought may be found in “Friendship” (Essays, First Series, p. 208) and in “New England Reformers” (Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 273).
  It seems probable that the poem was written in 1833. In the journal of that year, opposite the account of his coming on Montaigne’s Essays when a boy, Mr. Emerson writes of friends, “Echo them, and you will see fast enough that you have nothing for them. They came to you for somewhat new. A man loves a man.” [back]
 
 
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