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
 
III. Elements and Mottoes
Experience
 
THE LORDS 1 of life, the lords of life,—
I saw them pass
In their own guise,
Like and unlike,
Portly and grim,—        5
Use and Surprise,
Surface and Dream,
Succession swift and spectral Wrong,
Temperament without a tongue,
And the inventor of the game        10
Omnipresent without name;—
Some to see, some to be guessed,
They marched from east to west:
Little man, least of all,
Among the legs of his guardians tall,        15
Walked about with puzzled look.
Him by the hand dear Nature took,
Dearest Nature, strong and kind,
Whispered, ‘Darling, never mind!
To-morrow they will wear another face,        20
The founder thou; these are thy race!’
 
Note 1. The thirteen poems which follow, beginning with “Experience,” were selected by Mr. Emerson from the mottoes of the Essays, of which they—all but two—bear the names, for publication in May-Day and Other Pieces in 1867. He there called the group “Elements.” The motto of the essay on Behavior he called “Manners,” the essay of that name having no original motto, but one from Ben Jonson. To the motto of “The Over-Soul” he gave the title “Unity.”
  It has seemed to the editor that the readers of the Poems would be glad to have the other mottoes which Mr. Emerson gave to his chapters included in this volume. They therefore are printed, with a few exceptions, after the thirteen which the author preferred. The exceptions are as follows: the motto of Self-Reliance is found where Mr. Emerson placed it among the Quatrains as “Power;” the motto to “The Poet,” with the exception of its first two lines, is a part of the long poem of that name in the Appendix; most of the lines of “Fate” belong among the fragments on “The Poet,” in the Appendix, and the last four lines form the ending of the poem “Fate;” the motto to “Considerations by the Way” seemed better placed with the “Song of Merlin.” The second motto of “Character” and that of “Beauty” are portions respectively of the “Ode to Beauty” and of “In Memoriam, E. B. E.” The titles “Promise” and “Caritas” seemed appropriate to the mottoes respectively of “Nominalist and Realist” and “New England Reformers.” “Love” had only a verse from the Koran as motto. The Essays in the volumes which followed Conduct of Life had no mottoes in Mr. Emerson’s lifetime, and, with Mr. Cabot’s sanction, I supplied these for Lectures and Biographical Sketches, in the Riverside Edition, from fragments of verse, never published by Mr. Emerson, which were printed in the Appendix. I have now ventured to do the same for Society and Solitude and Letters and Social Aims. [back]
 
 
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