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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Poems. VII. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry Septimus Sutton (1825–1901)


AS robe majestic down a statue flows,

So noble thought down Emerson. Withal,

Such sweetness went, you even might suppose,

Spite of that bearing dignified and tall,

A woman’s gentle heart beat under all;

For while no prayers his constancy could shake,

No storm avail his spirit’s barque to make

From anchor of his settled purpose break,

His every action could not but confess

The tempering of ingrainëd tenderness.

Yet, while our young souls loved him, ’twas agreed

Amongst us that this man, though ever apt

For kind deed, and in self so little wrapped,

Almost too high for love was; had indeed

Of no man’s love or admiration need.

And yet he, loving, liked to be beloved;

And if at times it might appear he moved

Austerely calm and cold, that was because

Grand hearts may not transcend their nature’s laws

Either to beat more quickly or to pause.

There was the genial waiting on his friend

That friendship loves to feel. Absence would send

As much pain, as much pleasure presence lend

To him as one could wish; but the control

Was over all of a self-mastered soul.

Therefore in our brief intercourse was mixed,

With strangeness, intimacy; and a feud

There came our awe and confidence betwixt;

And moods of his there were that must be viewed

Like gated ways where none might dare intrude.

One foolish man, by his sweet mien betrayed,

An undue freedom took. Swift silence played

Line lambent lightning round, and on us fell

Awe of the great majestic soul that well

Knew, still or speaking, how to be obeyed.

So have I seen in festive season go

A summer barque, laugh-lightened, ’neath the flow

Of waving flags, the while, in their sweet pride,

On deck the youths and maidens gaily glide

With motions by sweet music justified.

Sudden, o’er sunken rock, harsh grates the keel;

From every mouth the merry laughter dies;

The founts of music freeze; astonished eyes

Gaze wide on eyes astonished; and all feel

The fears proud hearts indignantly conceal.

But, no new shock confirming what each dreads,

Again the music melts and flows; its threads

The dance reweaves; over each mouth there spreads

The young vermilion laughter; and once more

The fluttering flags wave wind-filled as before.