'Blight' by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Give me truths,
For I am weary of the surfaces,
And die of inanition. If I knew
Only the herbs and simples of the wood,
Rue, cinquefoil, gill, vervain, and pimpernel,
Blue-vetch, and trillium, hawkweed, sassafras,
Milkweeds, and murky brakes, quaint pipes and sundew,
And rare and virtuous roots, which in these woods
Draw untold juices from the common earth,
Untold, unknown, and I could surely spell
Their fragrance, and their chemistry apply
By sweet affinities to human flesh,
Driving the foe and stablishing the friend,—
O that were much, and I could be a part
Of the round day, related to the sun,
And planted world, and full executor
Of their imperfect functions.
But these young scholars who invade our hills,
Bold as the engineer who fells the wood,
And travelling often in the cut he makes,
Love not the flower they pluck, and know it not,
And all their botany is Latin names.
The old men studied magic in the flower,
And human fortunes in astronomy,
And an omnipotence in chemistry,
Preferring things to names, for these were men,
Were unitarians of the united world,
And wheresoever their clear eyebeams fell,
They caught the footsteps of the SAME. Our eyes
Are armed, but we are strangers to the stars,
And strangers to the mystic beast and bird,
And strangers to the plant and to the mine;
The injured elements say, Not in us;
And night and day, ocean and continent,
Fire, plant, and mineral say, Not in us,
And haughtily return us stare for stare.
For we invade them impiously for gain,
We devastate them unreligiously,
And coldly ask their pottage, not their love,
Therefore they shove us from them, yield to us
Only what to our griping toil is due;
But the sweet affluence of love and song,
The rich results of the divine consents
Of man and earth, of world beloved and lover,
The nectar and ambrosia are withheld;
And in the midst of spoils and slaves, we thieves
And pirates of the universe, shut out
Daily to a more thin and outward rind,
Turn pale and starve. Therefore to our sick eyes,
The stunted trees look sick, the summer short,
Clouds shade the sun, which will not tan our hay.
And nothing thrives to reach its natural term,
And life, shorn of its venerable length,
Even at its greatest space, is a defeat,
And dies in anger that it was a dupe,
And, in its highest noon and wantonness,
Is early frugal like a beggar's child:
With most unhandsome calculation taught,
Even in the hot pursuit of the best aims
And prizes of ambition, checks its hand,
Like Alpine cataracts, frozen as they leaped,
Chilled with a miserly comparison
Of the toy's purchase with the length of life.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Blight: A Critical Analysis
Blight is a complex and thought-provoking poem written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most prominent American writers of the 19th century. The poem is short but powerful, and it raises a lot of questions about nature, human nature, and the relationship between the two. In this critical analysis, I will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in Blight, and provide my interpretation of the poem.
One of the main themes of Blight is the destructive power of nature. The poem describes a withered apple-tree that has been struck by blight, a disease that causes the leaves and fruit to shrivel up and die. The tree is a symbol of life, growth, and fertility, but it is also vulnerable to the forces of nature that can destroy it. Emerson suggests that nature is not always benevolent and nurturing, but can be cruel and destructive, especially to those who are weak or vulnerable.
Another theme of Blight is the fragility of human life. The tree in the poem is a metaphor for human beings, who are also subject to the whims of nature and the inevitability of death. The tree's withered branches and fruitless boughs are a reminder of the transience of life and the futility of human efforts to resist it. Emerson seems to be suggesting that we should accept our mortality and focus on living our lives to the fullest, rather than trying to prolong them beyond their natural course.
A third theme of Blight is the contrast between appearance and reality. The tree in the poem appears to be dead and lifeless, but it is still capable of producing new shoots and leaves. This suggests that appearances can be deceiving, and that there is often more to a situation than meets the eye. Emerson is urging us to look beyond the surface of things and to seek out the deeper truths that lie beneath.
The imagery in Blight is vivid and evocative, and it helps to convey the poem's themes and ideas. The most striking image in the poem is the withered apple-tree, which is described in detail in the opening lines:
The red-rose flush fades from her cheek, And round her eyes the shades of night Melt into hues of ashen gray. Her lip forgets its rosy dye, And pearls, that once her neck did deck, Fall from their sphere and moulder by. One by one, Leaf, bough, and fruit, Fall with the tears of raining sap.
These lines paint a picture of a tree that is slowly dying, its leaves and fruit falling to the ground like tears. The use of color imagery is particularly effective here, with the red-rose flush of the tree's cheeks fading to ashen gray. This suggests that the tree is losing its vitality and its life force, and that it is entering a state of decay and death.
Another powerful image in Blight is the idea of the tree as a symbol of life and growth. The tree represents the natural world, which is constantly renewing itself and creating new life. But at the same time, the tree is vulnerable to the forces of nature that can destroy it, like blight or drought. This creates a sense of tension and conflict between the forces of life and death, which is a recurring theme in Emerson's poetry.
The language in Blight is simple and direct, but it is also poetic and lyrical. The poem is written in free verse, with no rhyme or meter, which gives it a sense of spontaneity and naturalness. The use of repetition and parallelism is particularly effective in creating a sense of rhythm and momentum in the poem:
One by one, Leaf, bough, and fruit, Fall with the tears of raining sap.
This repetition of the phrase "one by one" creates a sense of inevitability and finality, as if the tree's decline and death are predestined and cannot be avoided. The use of personification is also effective in giving the tree a sense of life and personality:
And like a soul that's passing hence, Her spirit from the tree is given, And melts into the elemental air, A fragrance mourned by earth and heaven.
Here, the tree is described as having a "soul" and a "spirit," which suggests that it is more than just a lifeless object, but has a personality and a presence that is felt by those around it. The use of the word "fragrance" is also significant, as it suggests that the tree leaves behind a memory or a legacy that is mourned by both the earth and the sky.
In my interpretation of Blight, I see the poem as a meditation on the human condition, and the relationship between humans and nature. The withered apple-tree is a symbol of human life, which is vulnerable to the forces of nature and the inevitability of death. The tree's decline and death are not just a physical process, but a spiritual one as well, as its "spirit" and "fragrance" are mourned by the earth and the sky. Emerson is suggesting that we should not fear death or try to resist it, but accept it as a natural part of the cycle of life and death.
At the same time, Emerson is urging us to appreciate the beauty and the vitality of the natural world, and to recognize our place within it. The tree represents the natural world, which is constantly renewing itself and creating new life, but which is also vulnerable to destruction and decay. By seeing ourselves as part of this larger natural cycle, we can learn to appreciate the beauty and the fragility of life, and to live our lives with greater meaning and purpose.
Blight is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of nature, human nature, and the relationship between the two. Through vivid imagery and poetic language, Emerson creates a portrait of a withered apple-tree that is both beautiful and tragic, and which reminds us of the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. By seeing ourselves as part of the natural world, we can learn to appreciate the beauty and the fragility of life, and to live our lives with greater purpose and meaning.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Blight by Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Poem of Despair and Hope
Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most celebrated American poets and essayists of the 19th century, is known for his transcendentalist philosophy and his love for nature. His poem "Blight" is a powerful reflection on the human condition, the transience of life, and the possibility of redemption.
The poem begins with a vivid description of a garden that has been struck by blight, a disease that destroys plants and crops. The speaker observes the withered leaves, the barren soil, and the lifeless trees, and laments the loss of beauty and vitality. The garden, once a symbol of abundance and joy, has become a wasteland, a reminder of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.
The second stanza of the poem shifts the focus from the garden to the human heart. The speaker suggests that just as blight can infect plants, despair can infect the soul. He describes the "blight with which the spirit / Of happy youth is cursed," and the "blight with which the marriage-hearse / Of hopeful lovers is accurst." Here, the speaker is referring to the emotional pain and suffering that can afflict people at different stages of life. The blight of the spirit can rob young people of their innocence and joy, while the blight of the marriage-hearse can destroy the hopes and dreams of lovers who have lost their beloved.
The third stanza of the poem introduces a note of hope and redemption. The speaker suggests that even in the midst of blight and despair, there is a possibility of renewal and growth. He describes how the "blight man was born for / Seems not such an awful malady," and how "the future has / A power more gracious than the past." Here, the speaker is suggesting that the challenges and hardships of life can be overcome, and that there is always a chance for a new beginning.
The final stanza of the poem reinforces this message of hope and redemption. The speaker describes how the "blight of the earth and sky" can be transformed into "the bloom of the grape," and how "the blight of the lovesick heart / Can be cured by the sympathy of love." Here, the speaker is suggesting that even the most devastating forms of blight can be overcome by the power of love and compassion. The poem ends with a powerful image of a garden that has been restored to its former beauty, a symbol of the possibility of renewal and growth.
Overall, "Blight" is a powerful and moving poem that reflects on the human condition and the possibility of redemption. The poem is notable for its vivid imagery, its emotional depth, and its message of hope and renewal. Through its exploration of the themes of blight, despair, and renewal, the poem speaks to the universal human experience of suffering and the possibility of transformation. As such, it remains a timeless and relevant work of poetry that continues to inspire and move readers today.
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