On being asked, Whence is the flower?

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem The Rhodora


  1. mansuetoavanzado says:

    This poem was taught to us during HS by our best teacher in literature T.D.B.

  2. anny says:

    beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as indicated by Emerson: the beauty of nature comes from the beauty of the mind.

  3. crystal says:

    The speaker marvels at the beauty and transformative power of blossoms of the Rhodora which he encounters in a damp, dark: comer of the woods. Its tiny petals alone are able to interact with and even change the character of the other elements within the surrounding environment, as displayed when these “purple petals, fallen in the pool,/ Made the black water with their beauty gay” (lines 5-6). By merely exuding its natural beauty in an effortless appeal to the senses, the flower is able to exert a more visually dominant outstanding force over the more physically predominant water. Such beauty needs no explanation; it exists for the sole purpose of being appreciated as a sensory pleasure. “Beauty is its own excuse for being. …” (Line 12) and requires no other justification. It need not be tangible and is meant to be enjoyed in and of itself; for, as Emerson notes in “Nature,” “Nature satisfies by its loveliness. …Without any corporeal benefit” (Emerson 192). The simple observation of nature and its elements is pure delight.

  4. Jason says:

    Wow. What I wouldn’t give to have a man tell me that! – Leslie

    Isn’t that the message of the poem? It’s great how we didn’t expect to find grace from a man, and it’s analogous to the poem’s message of finding unexpected beauty.

  5. eylül, gülriz, gülşah says:

    ıt is the most meaningfull poem we have ever read.ıt reflects the differences between looking and seeing. Rhodara is the beauty among bad things. how many of us can see this kind of beauty?

  6. Marlena says:

    whence is the flower?

  7. Joan says:

    I have memorized the last few lines of this poem many, many years ago for one of my classes. Beauty can be discovered where we thought there could be no beauty.

  8. Leslie says:

    Wow. What I wouldn’t give to have a man tell me that!

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