Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

THE RHODORA
RALPH WALDO EMERSON

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 redbird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.

Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
10 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;
16 But in my simple ignorance suppose

The self-same power that brought me there brought you.

NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was a native of Boston, born not far from Franklin's birthplace; and he lived most of his life in Concord, near Boston. He was the oldest among that brilliant group of New England scholars and writers that developed under the influence of Harvard College. Emerson was a quiet boy, but that he had high ambitions and sturdy determination is shown by the fact that he worked his way through college. He is best known for his essays, full of noble ideas which won for him the title “Sage of Concord.” As a poet, he was not particular about meter, making his lines often purposely rugged; but his verse is always full of thought. His poems of nature are as clear-cut and vivid as snapshots.

Discussion. 1. Under what circumstances did the poet find the rhodora ? 2. What tells you the flower grew in a lonely place? 3. What comparison does the poet make between the color of the bird and the color of the flower? 4. Why is the poet not troubled at the thought of the rhodora's wasting its loveliness? 5. Mention ways in which we show that there is a use for beauty in the satisfaction it gives the eye. 6. Who can memorize these lines in the shortest time? 7. Read the fourth and last stanzas of "To a Waterfowl”; compare the thought in these stanzas with the thought in the last line of “The Rhodora.”

[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Spring came to the settlers on Sun Prairie with a wonderful message, like a pardon to imprisoned people. For five months they had been shut closely within their cabins. Nothing could

be sweeter than the joy they felt when the mild south wind began 8 to blow and the snow began to sink away, leaving warm, brown

patches of earth in the snowy fields. It seemed that the sun god had not forsaken them, after all.

The first island to appear in the midst of the ocean of slush and mud around the Stewart house was the chip pile; and there 10 the spring's work began. As soon as the slush began to gather,

Jack, the hired man, was set to work each morning, digging ditches and chopping canals in the ice so that the barn would not be inundated by the spring rains. During the middle of the

day he busied himself at sawing and splitting the pile of logs 15 which Mr. Stewart had been hauling during the open days of winter.

Jack came from far lands, and possessed, as Lincoln soon discovered, unusual powers of dancing and playing the fiddle.

[ocr errors]

He brought, also, stirring stories of distant forests, strange people, and many battles; and Lincoln, who had an eye for character, set himself to work to distinguish between what the

hired man knew, what he thought he knew, and what he merely 6 lied about.

There was plenty of work for the boys. They had cows to milk and the drains to keep open. It was their business also to pile the wood behind the men as they sawed and split the large

logs into short lengths. They used a crosscut saw, which made 10 pleasant music in the still, warm air of springtime. Afterwards

these pieces, split into small sticks ready for the stove, were thrown into a conical heap, which it was Lincoln's business to re-pile in shapely ricks.

Вс always insist upon having entertainment, even in their 15 work, and Lincoln found amusement in planning a new ditch

and in seeing it remove the puddle before the barn door. There was a certain pleasure also in piling wood neatly and rapidly, and in watching the deft and powerful swing of the shining axes,

as they lifted and fell, and rose again in the hands of the 20 strong men.

Then, too, the sap began to flow out of the maple logs, and Lincoln and Owen wore their tongues to the quick, licking the trickle from the rough wood. They also stripped out the inner

bark of the elm logs and chewed it. It had a sweet, nut-like 25 flavor, and was considered most excellent forage; moreover, the

residue made a sticky pellet, which could be thrown across the room in school and slapped against some boy's ear, when the teacher was not looking.

It was back-breaking work, piling wood, and the boys could 30 not have endured it had it not been for the companionship of the men and the hope they had of going skating at night.

Every hour of free time was improved by Lincoln and Rance and Milton, for they knew by experience how transitory the

skating season was. Early in the crisp spring air, when the 35 trees hung thick with frost, transforming the earth into fairyland,

and the cloudless sky was blue as a plowshare, they clattered away over the frozen hubbles to the nearest pond, where the

[ocr errors]

jay and the snowbird dashed amid the glorified willow trees, and the ice outspread like a burnished share. On such mornings the air was so crisp and still it seemed the whole earth waited for the sun.

At night during the full moon nearly all the boys and girls of the neighborhood met, to rove up and down the long swales and to play "gool” or “pom, pom, pull away" upon the frozen ponds. These games could be played with skates quite as well as in

any other way. There was a singular charm in these excursions 10 across the plain at night, or winding up the swales filled with

imprisoned and icebound water. Lincoln and Rance often skated off alone and in silence, far away from the others, and the niajesty of the night fell upon them with a light which silenced and made them afraid.

THE WONDERS OF SPRING

[ocr errors]

There was a singular charm about this time of the year. Travel was quite impossible, for the frost had left the roads bottomless; and so upon the chip pile the boys sat to watch the snow disappear from the fields and draw sullenly away from the

russet grass to take a final stand at the fence corners and in the 20 hedges. They watched the ducks as they came straggling back in

long flocks, lighting in the cornfields to find food. They came in enormous numbers, sometimes so great the sky seemed darkened with them, and when they alighted on the fields, they covered

the ground like some strange down-dropping storm from the sky, 25 and when alarmed they rose with a sound like the rumbling of

thunder. At times the lines were so long that those in the front rank were lost in the northern sky, while those in the rear were dim clouds beneath the southern sun. Many brant and geese

also passed, and it was always a great pleasure to Lincoln to see 30 these noble birds pushing their way boldly into the north. He

could imitate their cries, and often caused them to turn and waver in their flight, by uttering their resounding cries.

One day in late March at the close of a warm sunny day (just as the red disk of the sun was going down in a cloudless 36 sky in the west), down from a low hilltop, and thrilling through

15

the misty, wavering atmosphere, came a singular, soft, joyous, "boom, boom, boom, cutta, cutta, war-whoop!"

"Hooray!" shouted Lincoln. "Spring is here."

“What was that?” asked the hired man. 5 "That? Why, that's the prairie chicken. It means it is spring!”

There is no sweeter sound in the ears of a prairie-born man than the splendid morning chorus of these noble birds, for it is an

infallible sign that winter has broken at last. The drum of the 10 prairie cock carries with it a thousand associations of warm sun

and springing grass, which thrill the heart with massive joy of living. It is almost worth while to live through a long unbroken Western winter just for the exquisite delight which comes with the first exultant phrase of the vernal symphony.

Day by day this note is taken by others, until the whole horizon rings with the jocund call of hundreds of cocks and the whooping cries of thousands of hens, as they flock and dance about on the bare earth of the ridges. Here they battle for their

mates, and strut about till the ground is beaten hard and smooth 20 with their little feet.

About this time the banking was taken away from the house, and the windows, which had been sealed up for five months, were opened. It was a beautiful moment to Lincoln, when they sat at

dinner in the kitchen, with the windows and doors wide open to 25 the warm wind, and the sunshine floating in upon the floor. The

hens, caw-cawing, in a mounting ecstasy of greeting to the spring, voiced something he had never felt before.

As the woodpile took shape, Mr. Stewart called upon Lincoln and the hired man to help fan up the seed wheat. This the boys 30 hated because it was a dusty and monotonous job. It was of no

use to cry out; the work had to be done, and so on a bright afternoon, while Jack turned the crank of the mill, Lincoln dipped wheat from the bin into the hopper or held the sacks for his father

to fill. It seemed particularly hard to be confined there in the 35 dust and noise, while out in the splendid sunlight the ducks were

flying, the prairie chickens calling, and the ice was cracking and booming under the ring of the skaters' steel.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »