Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Ode to Duty
By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
 
(See full text.)

STERN daughter of the voice of God!
O Duty! if that name thou love,
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring, and reprove;
Thou who art victory and law        5
When empty terrors overawe;
From vain temptations dost set free;
And calm’st the weary strife of frail humanity!
 
There are who ask not if thine eye
Be on them; who, in love and truth,        10
Where no misgiving is, rely
Upon the genial sense of youth:
Glad hearts! without reproach or blot;
Who do thy work, and know it not:
May joy be theirs while life shall last!        15
And thou, if they should totter, teach them to stand fast!
*        *        *        *        *
Stern lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead’s most benignant grace;
Nor know we any thing so fair
As is the smile upon thy face;        20
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
And the most ancient heavens, through thee, are fresh and strong.
 
To humbler functions, awful power!        25
I call thee: I myself commend
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh! let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;        30
The confidence of reason give;
And, in the light of truth, thy bondman let me live!
 
 
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