The Rhodora

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.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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On Her White Breast a Sparkling Cross She Wore

Not with more Glories, in th’ Ethereal Plain,
The Sun first rises o’er the purpled Main,
Than issuing forth, the Rival of his Beams
Launch’d on the Bosom of the Silver Thames.
Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone,
But ev’ry Eye was fix’d on her alone.
On her white Breast a sparkling Cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore.
Her lively Looks a sprightly Mind disclose,
Quick as her Eyes, and as unfix’d as those:
Favours to none, to all she Smiles extends,
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the Sun, her Eyes the Gazers strike,
And, like the Sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful Ease, and Sweetness void of Pride,
Might hide her Faults, if Belles had Faults to hide:
If to her share some Female Errors fall,
Look on her Face, and you’ll forget ’em all.

Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Canto II: ll. 1-18

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Study Me Then, You Who Shall Lovers Be

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

John Donne

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Oh You Rationalists!

“Oh you rationalists,” I replied, smiling. “Passion! Drunkenness! Madness! You moral creatures, so calm and so righteous! You abhor the drunken man and detest the eccentric; you pass by, like the Levite, and thank God, like the Pharisee, that you are not one of them. I have been drunk more than once, my passions have always bordered on madness, and I’m not ashamed to confess it. I’ve learned in my own way that all extraordinary men who have done great and improbable things have ever been decried by the world as drunk or insane. And in ordinary life too, is it not intolerable that no one can undertake anything noble or generous without having everybody shout, ‘That fellow is drunk, he is mad’? Shame on you, ye sages!”

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

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This Brother is the Pulse of the New Age

Only through a more exact knowledge of religion will one be able to judge the dreadful products of a religious sleep, those dreams and deliria of the sacred organ. Only then will one be able to assess properly the importance of such a gift. Where there are no gods, phantoms rule. The period of the genesis of European phantoms, which also rather completely explains their form, is the period of transition from Greek mythology to Christianity. So come then, you philanthropists and encyclopedists, into the peace making lodge and receive the kiss of brotherhood! Strip off your grey veil and look with young love at the miraculous magnificence of nature, history and humanity. I want to lead you to a brother who shall speak to you so that your hearts will open again, and so that your dormant intuition, now clothed with a new body, will again embrace and recognize what you feel and what your ponderous earthly intellect cannot grasp.

This brother is the pulse of the new age. Who has felt him does not doubt its coming, and with a sweet pride in his generation steps forward from the mass into the new band of disciples. He has made a new veil for the saints, which betrays their heavenly figure by fitting so close and yet which conceals them more chastely than before. The veil is for the virgin what the spirit is for the body: its indispensable organ, whose folds are the letters of her sweet annunciation. The infinite play of these folds is a secret music, for language is too wooden and impudent for the virgin, whose lips open only for song. To me it is nothing more than the solemn call to a new assembly, the powerful beating of wings of a passing angelic herald. They are the first labor pains; let everyone prepare himself for the birth.

Novalis

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The LORD is My Light and My Salvation

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes,
came upon me to eat up my flesh,
they stumbled and fell.

Though a host should encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear:
though war should rise against me,
in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the LORD,
that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion:
in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me;
he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up
above mine enemies round about me:
therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy;
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice:
have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face;
my heart said unto thee,
Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me;
put not thy servant away in anger:
thou hast been my help;
leave me not, neither forsake me,
O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me,
then the LORD will take me up.

Teach me thy way, O LORD,
and lead me in a plain path,
because of mine enemies.

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies:
for false witnesses are risen up against me,
and such as breathe out cruelty.

I had fainted, unless I had believed
to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD:
be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 27

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And It is a Good Thing

And it is a good thing in winter to be deep in the snow, in the autumn deep in the yellow leaves, in summer among the ripe corn, in spring amid the grass; it is a good thing to be always with the mowers and the peasant girls, in summer with a big sky overhead, in winter by the fireside, and to feel that it has always been and will always be so.

Van Gogh

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This is What You Shall Do

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured … others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches … and shall master all attachment.

Walt Whitman

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