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Ralph Waldo Emerson - Merlin

Thy trivial harp will never please 
Or fill my craving ear; 
Its chords should ring as blows the breeze, 
Free, peremptory, clear. 
No jingling serenader's art, 
Nor tinkle of piano strings, 
Can make the wild blood start 
In its mystic springs. 
The kingly bard 
Must smile the chords rudely and hard, 
As with hammer or with mace; 
That they may render back 
Artful thunder, which conveys 
Secrets of the solar track, 
Sparks of the supersolar blaze. 
Merlin's blows are strokes of fate, 
Chiming with the forest tone, 
When boughs buffet boughs in the wood; 
Chiming with the gasp and moan 
Of the ice-imprisoned hood; 
With the pulse of manly hearts; 
With the voice of orators; 
With the din of city arts; 
With the cannonade of wars; 
With the marches of the brave; 
And prayers of might from martyrs' cave.

Great is the art, 
Great be the manners, of the bard. 
He shall not his brain encumber 
With the coil of rhythm and number; 
But, leaving rule and pale forethought, 
He shall aye climb 
For his rhyme. 
"Pass in, pass in," the angels say, 
"In to the upper doors, 
Nor count compartments of the floors, 
But mount to paradise 
By the stairway of surprise." 

Blameless master of the games, 
King of sport that never shames, 
He shall daily joy dispense 
Hid in song's sweet influence. 
Forms more cheerly live and go, 
What time the subtle mind 
Sings aloud the tune whereto 
Their pulses beat, 
And march their feet, 
And their members are combined. 

By Sybarites beguiled, 
He shall no task decline; 
Merlin's mighty line 
Extremes of nature reconciled, 
Bereaved a tyrant of his will, 
And made the lion mild. 
Songs can the tempest still, 
Scattered on the stormy air, 
Mold the year to fair increase, 
And bring in poetic peace. 
He shall nor seek to weave, 
In weak, unhappy times, 
Efficacious rhymes; 
Wait his returning strength. 
Bird that from the nadir's floor 
To the zenith's top can soar, 
The roaring orbit of the muse exceeds that journey's length. 
Nor profane affect to hit 
Or compass that, by meddling wit, 
Which only the propitious mind 
Publishes when 'tis inclined. 
There are open hours 
When the God's will sallies free, 
And the dull idiot might see 
The flowing fortunes of a thousand years; 
Sudden, at unawares, 
Self-moved, fly-to the doors, 
Nor sword of angels could reveal 
What they conceal. 

The rhyme of the poet 
Modulates the king's affairs; 
Balance-loving Nature 
Made all things in pairs. 
To every foot its antipode; 
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; 
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. 
Light's far furnace shines, 
Smelting balls and bars, 
Forging double stars, 
Glittering twins and trines. 
The animals are sick with love, 
Lovesick with rhyme; 
Each with all propitious Time 
Into chorus wove. 

Like the dancers' ordered band, 
Thoughts come also hand in hand; 
In equal couples mated, 
Or else alternated; 
Adding by their mutual gage, 
One to other, health and age. 
Solitary fancies go 
Short-lived wandering to and ire, 
Most like to bachelors, 
Or an ungiven maid, 
Nor ancestors, 
With no posterity to make the lie afraid, 
Or keep truth undecayed. 
Perfect-paired as eagle's wings, 
Justice is the rhyme of things; 
Trade and counting use 
The self-same tuneful muse; 
And Nemesis, 
Who with even matches odd, 
Who athwart space redresses 
The partial wrong, 
Fills the just period, 
And finishes the song. 

Subtle rhymes, with ruin rife 
Murmur in the hour of life, 
Sung by the Sisters as they spin; 
In perfect time and measure they 
Build and unbuild our echoing clay. 
As the two twilights of the day 
Fold us music-drunken in.

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Added: Jan 31 2004 | Viewed: 10462 times | Comments and analysis of Merlin by Ralph Waldo Emerson Comments (20)

Merlin - Comments and Information

Poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poem: Merlin
Poem of the Day: Jan 5 2001

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