Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
Merlin II
THE RHYME 1 of the poet
Modulates the king’s affairs;
Balance-loving Nature
Made all things in pairs.
To every foot its antipode;        5
Each color with its counter glowed;
To every tone beat answering tones,
Higher or graver;
Flavor gladly blends with flavor;
Leaf answers leaf upon the bough;        10
And match the paired cotyledons.
Hands to hands, and feet to feet,
In one body grooms and brides;
Eldest rite, two married sides
In every mortal meet. 2        15
Light’s far furnace shines,
Smelting balls and bars,
Forging double stars,
Glittering twins and trines.
The animals are sick with love,        20
Lovesick with rhyme;
Each with all propitious Time
Into chorus wove.
Like the dancers’ ordered band,
Thoughts come also hand in hand;        25
In equal couples mated,
Or else alternated;
Adding by their mutual gage,
One to other, health and age. 3
Solitary fancies go        30
Short-lived wandering to and fro,
Most like to bachelors,
Or an ungiven maid,
Not ancestors,
With no posterity to make the lie afraid,        35
Or keep truth undecayed. 4
Perfect-paired as eagle’s wings,
Justice is the rhyme of things;
Trade and counting use
The self-same tuneful muse;        40
And Nemesis,
Who with even matches odd,
Who athwart space redresses
The partial wrong,
Fills the just period,        45
And finishes the song.
Subtle rhymes, with ruin rife,
Murmur in the house of life,
Sung by the Sisters as they spin;
In perfect time and measure they        50
Build and unbuild our echoing clay.
As the two twilights of the day
Fold us music-drunken in. 5
Note 1. The second part of “Merlin” was omitted by Mr. Emerson in his Selected Poems, which is surprising, for it well expressed his favorite idea of correspondence, universal rhyme and harmony in Nature, and compensation in life. [back]
Note 2. With this passage may be compared that in the “Woodnotes,” II., beginning
  Come learn with me the fatal song
Which knits the world in music strong.
Note 3. The same thought is to be found in “Clubs,” Society and Solitude, p. 230. [back]
Note 4. “All the facts in natural history, taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren, like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and it is full of life,” etc.—Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 28.
  Pythagoras taught that “The world subsists by the rhythmical order of its elements. Everywhere in Nature appear the two elements of the finite and the infinite which give rise to the elementary opposites of the universe, the odd and even, one and many, right and left, male and female, fixed and moved, straight and curved, light and darkness, square and oblong, good and bad.” [back]
Note 5. Journal, August, 1838. “As they said that men heard the music of the spheres always and never, so are we drunk with beauty of the whole, and notice no particular.”
  The building power of music is a very ancient thought; the walls of Thebes rose to the music of Amphion’s harp. Tennyson makes Merlin tell Gareth at the gates of Camelot,
              “A Fairy King
And Fairy Queen have built the city, son;
They came from out a sacred mountain cleft
Towards the sunrise, each with harp in hand,
And built it to the music of their harps.”
  The idea is used by Mr. Emerson in his poem, “The House.” [back]
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