'To Eva' by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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O Fair and stately maid, whose eye
Was kindled in the upper sky
At the same torch that lighted mine;
For so I must interpret still
Thy sweet dominion o'er my will,
A sympathy divine.

Ah! let me blameless gaze upon
Features that seem in heart my own,
Nor fear those watchful sentinels
Which charm the more their glance forbids,
Chaste glowing underneath their lids
With fire that draws while it repels.

Thine eyes still shined for me, though far
I lonely roved the land or sea,
As I behold yon evening star,
Which yet beholds not me.

This morn I climbed the misty hill,
And roamed the pastures through;
How danced thy form before my path,
Amidst the deep-eyed dew!

When the red bird spread his sable wing,
And showed his side of flame,
When the rose-bud ripened to the rose,
In both I read thy name.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Close Reading of "To Eva" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are you a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson? Have you ever read his poem "To Eva"? If not, you are in for a treat! This classic poem is a beautiful tribute to a beloved niece and is filled with Emerson's signature style of transcendentalism. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will take a close look at "To Eva" and explore its themes, language, and overall significance in the literary canon.

Background Information

Emerson was a 19th-century American poet, essayist, and philosopher who is considered one of the founders of the transcendentalist movement. This movement emphasized the importance of individualism, intuition, and nature in understanding the world and the self. Emerson's poetry often reflected these themes and was known for its lofty language and philosophical musings.

"To Eva" was written in 1856 and is a tribute to Emerson's niece, Eva. The poem was included in his collection of poetry, "May-Day and Other Pieces," which was published in 1867. Eva was the daughter of Emerson's brother, Charles, and was a frequent visitor to Emerson's home. The poem was written in response to Eva's departure from Concord to live in Europe with her mother and stepfather.


One of the main themes of "To Eva" is the idea of loss and separation. The poem is written as a farewell to Eva, who is leaving her home and family to start a new life in Europe. Emerson laments the fact that he will no longer see his beloved niece and describes his sorrow in vivid language:

"Gone, gone, — sold and gone,
And where shall I go mourn?

Oh, let your tears run down like rain,
For she was unjustly slain."

Emerson's use of the word "sold" is particularly striking, as it suggests that Eva has been taken from him against her will. The line "And where shall I go mourn?" also highlights the sense of loss he feels and the difficulty he will have in finding solace without her presence.

Another theme that emerges in "To Eva" is the idea of transcendence. Emerson was a staunch believer in the power of the individual to transcend the limitations of society and connect with the divine. He expresses this belief in the poem by describing Eva as a spiritual being who has the power to "transmute / The daily meal of sense and thought / To nutrient assimilate."

This language is characteristic of Emerson's transcendentalist philosophy and suggests that Eva has the ability to transform ordinary experiences into something more meaningful and profound. It also implies that the act of transcending one's limitations is essential to living a fulfilling life.

Language and Imagery

Emerson's language in "To Eva" is both poetic and philosophical. He uses vivid imagery to describe Eva's departure and his own feelings of loss. For example, he writes:

"Like birds that fly
By, and sicken, and die,
And leave no trace, —
Why, — they have left a trace
Who are so pure, and bright, and fair,
Falling the sod beside."

Here, Emerson compares Eva to a bird that flies away and leaves no trace. However, he quickly contradicts himself by stating that Eva has left a trace because of her purity and beauty. This language is both poetic and philosophical, as it suggests that Eva's impact on the world will continue to be felt even after she has left.

Emerson also uses vivid language to describe Eva's spiritual nature. He writes:

"And what if cheerful shouts at noon
Come, from the village sent
Or songs of maids, beneath the moon
With fairy laughter blent?

Still eyes look coldly upon me,
Cold voices whisper and say,
'He is crazed with vain philosophy;
He would that the world were gay.'

What boots it? Better be
*Unborn and unbegot,
For man hath sent
The hurrying years on, on,
And they have trodden all that was
With feet of myriad men."

Here, Emerson contrasts the superficial pleasures of the world with the deeper spiritual nature of Eva. He also acknowledges that his own philosophy and beliefs may be seen as crazy or useless by others, but suggests that this does not diminish their importance.


"To Eva" is a significant poem in Emerson's body of work for several reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates his ability to blend poetic language with philosophical ideas. The poem is both beautiful and thought-provoking, and reflects Emerson's belief that art and philosophy are intimately interconnected.

Secondly, "To Eva" is a testament to the power of personal relationships. Emerson's love for his niece shines through in every line of the poem, and his sorrow at her departure is palpable. This personal connection gives the poem an emotional depth that is not always present in Emerson's more abstract writings.

Finally, "To Eva" is significant as a reflection of the broader themes of transcendentalism. The poem emphasizes the importance of individualism, spiritual transcendence, and the interconnection of all things. These themes are central to Emerson's philosophy and are reflected in many of his other works.


In conclusion, "To Eva" is a beautiful and significant poem that showcases Emerson's poetic and philosophical talents. The poem is a tribute to his beloved niece and reflects his belief in the power of personal relationships and transcendentalism. Its language and imagery are both vivid and thought-provoking, and it is a testament to the enduring impact of Emerson's work on American literature and philosophy. Whether you are a fan of poetry, philosophy, or simply beautiful writing, "To Eva" is a must-read for anyone interested in the enduring legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

To Eva: A Poem of Love and Devotion

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most influential American writers of the 19th century, was a master of the written word. His works, including essays, poems, and speeches, have inspired generations of readers with their profound insights into the human condition. Among his many poems, "To Eva" stands out as a beautiful expression of love and devotion.

Written in 1847, "To Eva" is a tribute to Emerson's wife, Lidian Jackson Emerson, whom he affectionately called "Eva." The poem is a celebration of their love and the deep bond they shared. It is a testament to the power of love to transform and uplift the human spirit.

The poem begins with a simple declaration of love: "Thou art an emblem of the glow / Of beauty,--the unhidden heart." Emerson compares Eva to a symbol of beauty, a radiant light that shines from within. He sees her as a reflection of the divine, a manifestation of the beauty and goodness that exist in the world.

Emerson goes on to describe Eva's physical beauty, but he does so in a way that transcends mere appearance. He sees her as a living embodiment of the natural world, a part of the landscape that surrounds them. He writes, "Thy voice is a celestial melody, / Which, heard, is never forgotten." Eva's voice is like music, a harmonious blend of sound and meaning that resonates in the heart and soul.

Emerson also sees Eva as a source of inspiration and creativity. He writes, "Thou art a symbol and a sign / To Mortals of their fate and force." Eva is a symbol of the power of the human spirit to create and achieve great things. She is a reminder that we are all capable of greatness, that we can overcome our limitations and achieve our dreams.

The poem takes on a more spiritual tone as Emerson describes Eva's connection to the divine. He writes, "Thou art a link between the dead / And the living, by solemn vision." Eva is a bridge between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a messenger of hope and comfort to those who have passed on. She is a visionary, able to see beyond the physical world and into the realm of the spirit.

Emerson's love for Eva is not just a personal affection, but a recognition of her place in the larger scheme of things. He sees her as a part of the natural order, a reflection of the divine will. He writes, "Thou art a symbol of the sun, / Its golden rays, and dazzling light." Eva is like the sun, a source of warmth and light that sustains life and illuminates the world.

The poem ends with a powerful affirmation of love and devotion. Emerson writes, "Thou art my life,--my love,--my heart, / The very eyes of me: / And hast command of every part / To live and die for thee." Eva is not just a symbol or a reflection of beauty, but the very essence of Emerson's being. She is his life, his love, his heart. He is willing to give everything for her, to live and die for her.

"To Eva" is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of love and devotion. It is a celebration of the human spirit and its capacity for greatness. Emerson's words are a reminder that love is not just a personal emotion, but a force that connects us to the divine and to each other. The poem is a tribute to the power of love to transform and uplift the human spirit, and a testament to the enduring nature of true love.

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