For Ralph Waldo Emerson

This poem is dedicated to Emerson, the 19th century American essayist and poet.

You were born in a young country of ideals
In a country with no king and no one kneels
But this country with its new constitution
Was created through a bloody revolution

On the other hand, your purpose was to find
A way to create a revolution of the mind
Your intent was to show us how to be
Self-reliant and intellectually free

Don’t always quote others, you said,
But truly speak your mind instead
And when you feel the need to conform
Know that only honesty can transform

What would you think of our life today?
What words of wisdom would you say?
With whom would you have a good talk,
Or through the woods take a walk?

Are we any better off for your essays,
Or are we still conformists in our ways?
Is this the land of the living or the dead?
Is there any hope for our world ahead?

You said compensation was nature’s law
And that every good thing here has a flaw
But how long can we stay above the flow
Of pain, and resist sorrow’s undertow?

You didn’t have all the answers, nor do we
But from your vantage point we can see
That every sorrow has a hidden delight
And that every wrong will be made right

Faithful perseverance is your gift
And, even now, it serves to lift
Us from the malaise and despair
That surround us like the air

You made God known to each one individually
While others sought to know Him mutually
You taught people how to leave the crowd
When the din rises and becomes too loud

From the nineteenth century to the twenty-first
Your words have satisfied many people’s thirst
You are a prophet still, and your words are germane
For your ideals, as a society, we have yet to attain