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
Forerunners
 
LONG 1 I followed happy guides,
I could never reach their sides;
Their step is forth, and, ere the day
Breaks up their leaguer, and away.
Keen my sense, my heart was young,        5
Right good-will my sinews strung,
But no speed of mine avails
To hunt upon their shining trails.
On and away, their hasting feet
Make the morning proud and sweet;        10
Flowers they strew,—I catch the scent;
Or tone of silver instrument
Leaves on the wind melodious trace;
Yet I could never see their face.
On eastern hills I see their smokes,        15
Mixed with mist by distant lochs.
I met many travellers
Who the road had surely kept;
They saw not my fine revellers,—
These had crossed them while they slept.        20
Some had heard their fair report,
In the country or the court.
Fleetest couriers alive
Never yet could once arrive,
As they went or they returned,        25
At the house where these sojourned.
Sometimes their strong speed they slacken,
Though they are not overtaken;
In sleep their jubilant troop is near,—
I tuneful voices overhear;        30
It may be in wood or waste,—
At unawares ’t is come and past.
Their near camp my spirit knows
By signs gracious as rainbows.
I thenceforward and long after        35
Listen for their harp-like laughter,
And carry in my heart, for days,
Peace that hallows rudest ways.
 
Note 1. As in the case of “The Problem,” almost no trace of work on this poem in honor of the fair Ideals remains. In the book which contains most of the poems included in Mr. Emerson’s first collection it appears in but one form, under the name “Guides,” with only one word altered and one erased. There is no date, but Mr. Emerson said that it came to him as he walked home from Wachusett.
  There is a passage about the promises, never quite fulfilled, by which Nature leads us, in the Essay of that name in the Second Series (p. 192). [back]
 
 
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