The following poem “My Garden,” was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1866, published by the Atlantic.
If I could put my woods in song, And tell what’s there enjoyed, All men would to my gardens throng, And leave the cities void. In my plot no tulips blow, Snow-loving pines and oaks instead, And rank the savage maples grow From spring’s faint flush to autumn red. My garden is a forest-ledge, Which older forests bound; The banks slope down to the blue lake-edge, Then plunge in depths profound. Here once the Deluge ploughed, Laid the terraces, one by one; Ebbing later whence it flowed, They bleach and dry in the sun. The sowers made haste to depart, The wind and the birds which sowed it; Not for fame, nor by rules of art, Planted these and tempests flowed it. Waters that wash my garden-side Play not in Nature’s lawful web, They heed not moon or solar tide, — Five years elapse from flood to ebb. Hither hasted, in old time, Jove, And every god, — none did refuse; And be sure at last came Love, And after Love, the Muse.
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Keen ears can catch a syllable, As if one spake to another In the hemlocks tall, untamable, And what the whispering grasses smother. Æolian harps in the pine Ring with the song of the Fates; Infant Bacchus in the vine, — Far distant yet his chorus waits. Canst thou copy in verse one chime Of the wood-bell’s peal and cry? Write in a book the morning’s prime, Or match with words that tender sky? Wonderful verse of the gods, Of one import, of varied tone; They chant the bliss of their abodes To man imprisoned in his own.
Ever the words of the gods resound, But the porches of man’s ear Seldom in this low life’s round Are unsealed that he may hear. Wandering voices in the air, And murmurs in the wold, Speak what I cannot declare, Yet cannot all withhold. When the shadow fell on the lake, The whirlwind in ripples wrote Air-bells of fortune that shine and break, And omens above thought. But the meanings cleave to the lake, Cannot be carried in book or urn; Go thy ways now, come later back, On waves and hedges still they burn These the fates of men forecast, Of better men than live to-day; If who can read them comes at last, He will spell in the sculpture, “Stay.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist, poet, and founder of The Atlantic. He was a leading figure in the transcendentalist movement and a noted advocate of individualism and emancipation.