The bush that has most briers and bitter fruit,
Wait till the frost has turned its green leaves red,
Its sweetened berries will thy palate suit,
And thou may’st find e’en there a homely bread.
Upon the hills of Salem scattered wide,
Their yellow blossoms gain the eye in Spring;
And straggling e’en upon the turnpike’s side,
Their ripened branches to your hand they bring,
I ‘ve plucked them oft in boyhood’s early hour,
That then I gave such name, and thought it true;
But now I know that other fruit as sour
Grows on what now thou callest Me and You;
Yet, wilt thou wait the autumn that I see,
Will sweeter taste than these red berries be.

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

1 Comment

  1. rose burkhart says:

    Poet Emerson sees fellow humans as comparable to the barberry bush. Innocuous as life begins but disallowing close contact. The human by a cool demeanor; the barberry by many pointed thorns. Neither presents a special look or seeming worth, other than, in the case of the barberry, to protect a robin or a sparrow and its family from a predator. In the case of the human, to protect from hurtful words and actions. Yet, as life progresses, beauty envelops the Barberry in the form of tiny blossoms, food for pollen gatherers. As life-forming pollen brushes aginst pistils, tiny berries begin to grow and continue day after day until the barberry’s striking maturity is reached as Autumn’s brilliant color fades.
    Thus so do certain humans. innocuous-looking in youth, reach full beauty when maturity is reached.

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