Pictures · Poems

Poem: What’s out there

Royal Holloway 2008

After Emerson

When the act of reflection takes place in the mind,

when we look at ourselves in the light of thought,

we discover that our life is embosomed in beauty.

Behind us,

as we go,

all things assume pleasing forms,

as clouds do far off.

Not only things familiar and stale,

but even the tragic and terrible,

are comely as they take their place in the pictures of memory.

The river-bank,

the weed at the water-side,

the old house,

the foolish person –

however neglected in the passing –

have a grace in the past.

Even the corpse that has lain in the chambers has added a solemn ornament in the house.

The soul will not know either deformity or pain.


in the hours of clear reason,

we should speak the severest truth,

we should say,

that we had never made a sacrifice.

In these hours the mind seems so great that nothing can be taken from us that seems much.

All loss,

all pain,

is particular;

the universe remains to the heart unhurt.

Neither vexations nor calamities abate our trust.

No man ever stated his griefs as lightly as he might.

Allow for exaggeration in the most patient and sorely ridden hack that ever was driven.

For it is only the finite that has wrought and suffered;

the infinite lies stretched in smiling repose.

From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay ‘Spiritual Laws’. This is the first paragraph.

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