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.
 
My Legacy
By Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885)
 
THEY told me I was heir: I turned in haste,
And ran to seek my treasure,
And wondered as, I ran, how it was placed,—
If I should find a measure
Of gold, or if the titles of fair lands        5
And houses would be laid within my hands.
 
I journeyed many roads; I knocked at gates;
I spoke to each wayfarer
I met, and said, “A heritage awaits
Me. Art not thou the bearer        10
Of news? some message sent to me whereby
I learn which way my new possessions lie?”
 
Some asked me in; nought lay beyond their door;
Some smiled, and would not tarry,
But said that men were just behind who bore        15
More gold than I could carry;
And so the morn, the noon, the day, were spent,
While empty handed up and down I went.
 
At last one cried, whose face I could not see,
As through the mists he hasted;        20
“Poor child, what evil ones have hindered thee,
Till this whole day is wasted?
Hath no man told thee that thou art joint heir
With one named Christ, who waits the goods to share?”
 
The one named Christ I sought for many days,        25
In many places vainly;
I heard men name his name in many ways;
I saw his temples plainly;
But they who named him most gave me no sign
To find him by, or prove the heirship mine.        30
 
And when at last I stood before his face,
I knew him by no token
Save subtle air of joy which filled the place;
Our greeting was not spoken;
In solemn silence I received my share,        35
Kneeling before my brother and “joint heir.”
 
My share! No deed of house or spreading lands,
As I had dreamed; no measure
Heaped up with gold; my elder brother’s hands
Had never held such treasure.        40
Foxes have holes, and birds in nests are fed:
My brother had not where to lay his head.
 
My share! The right like him to know all pain
Which hearts are made for knowing;
The right to find in loss the surest gain;        45
To reap my joy from sowing
In bitter tears; the right with him to keep
A watch by day and night with all who weep.
 
My share! To-day men call it grief and death;
I see the joy and life to-morrow;        50
I thank my Father with my every breath,
For this sweet legacy of sorrow;
And through my tears I call to each “joint heir
With Christ, make haste to ask him for thy share.”
 
 
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