'Suum Cuique' by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The rain has spoiled the farmer's day;
Shall sorrow put my books away?
Thereby are two days lost:
Nature shall mind her own affairs,
I will attend my proper cares,
In rain, or sun, or frost.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Suum Cuique: A Masterpiece in Emerson's Poetry

Ralph Waldo Emerson is known for his profound philosophical and literary works that have left an indelible mark on American literature. His poem "Suum Cuique" is no exception. Written in 1847, this piece is a masterpiece that speaks of the human struggle to find purpose and meaning in life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the poem's themes, language, structure, and symbolism to uncover its hidden depths and the significance it holds for readers today.


The poem centers on the idea of "to each his own," which is the literal translation of "Suum Cuique" from Latin. However, the poem goes beyond a simple translation and explores the implications of this phrase on human life. Throughout the poem, Emerson reflects on the human condition and the various challenges we face in our search for meaning.

One of the key themes in the poem is individuality. Emerson emphasizes the importance of being true to oneself and living one's life according to one's own beliefs and values. He writes, "He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness." This line highlights the idea that we must not be constrained by societal expectations or the opinions of others, but rather seek our own truth and live accordingly.

Another theme that Emerson explores is the nature of success. He challenges the conventional notion of success as being measured by wealth or status and suggests that true success lies in fulfilling one's own potential. He writes, "And he is great who confers the most benefits. He is base — and that is the one base thing in the universe — to receive favors and render none." This line suggests that true greatness lies in using one's talents and abilities to benefit others.

The poem also deals with the notion of fate. Emerson suggests that our destiny is not predetermined but rather shaped by our own choices and actions. He writes, "The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end." This line suggests that we have the power to shape our own destiny and that our choices create ripples that affect the world around us.


Emerson's use of language in the poem is both beautiful and profound. He employs a range of literary devices such as metaphor, alliteration, and repetition to convey his message. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which gives it a musical quality and adds to its poetic appeal.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the use of metaphor. Emerson uses a range of metaphors to convey his message, such as "The eye is the first circle," "Hitch your wagon to a star," and "The world globes itself in a drop of dew." These metaphors are rich in meaning and add depth to the poem.

Emerson also uses repetition to great effect in the poem. The phrase "Suum Cuique" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing its importance as a central theme. Additionally, the phrase "to each his own" is repeated in several different contexts, highlighting its relevance to various aspects of human life.


The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different focus. The first stanza deals with the theme of individuality and the importance of being true to oneself. The second stanza focuses on the nature of success and the idea that true greatness lies in using one's talents to benefit others. The third stanza deals with the concept of fate and the power we have to shape our own destiny.

The structure of the poem is significant as it reflects the poem's themes. The three stanzas are distinct but interconnected, reflecting the idea that these themes are interrelated and cannot be understood in isolation.


Emerson employs a range of symbols in the poem to convey his message. One of the most significant symbols is the "immortal palms." This symbol represents the rewards that come from living a life of purpose and fulfilling one's own potential. Emerson suggests that these rewards are not material but rather spiritual and can only be attained by those who are true to themselves.

Another significant symbol in the poem is the "world globing itself in a drop of dew." This symbol represents the interconnectedness of all things and the idea that every action we take has a ripple effect that affects the world around us. It emphasizes the importance of being mindful of our actions and their consequences.


In conclusion, "Suum Cuique" is a masterpiece that speaks to the human condition and the challenges we face in our search for meaning. The poem explores themes such as individuality, success, and fate, and employs a range of literary devices and symbols to convey its message. Emerson's use of language, structure, and symbolism is both beautiful and profound, adding depth and richness to the poem. "Suum Cuique" is a must-read for anyone interested in philosophy, poetry, or the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Suum Cuique: A Masterpiece of Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American philosopher, poet, and essayist, is known for his transcendentalist ideas and his emphasis on self-reliance. His poem, Suum Cuique, is a masterpiece that embodies these ideas and serves as a guide for individuals to find their own path in life.

The title, Suum Cuique, is a Latin phrase that means "to each his own." This phrase encapsulates the central theme of the poem, which is the importance of individuality and self-reliance. Emerson believed that each person has a unique purpose in life and that it is up to them to discover it and pursue it.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with its own message and meaning. The first stanza begins with the lines, "Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, / As the swift seasons roll!" These lines encourage the reader to strive for greatness and to constantly improve themselves. Emerson believed that individuals should never be satisfied with their current state and should always be striving for something greater.

The second stanza begins with the lines, "Speak thy truth, and sing thy song, / And keep thy conscience clear." These lines emphasize the importance of honesty and integrity. Emerson believed that individuals should always speak their truth and never compromise their values for the sake of others. He also believed that individuals should express themselves through their art, whether it be poetry, music, or any other form of creative expression.

The third and final stanza begins with the lines, "So nigh is grandeur to our dust, / So near is God to man." These lines remind the reader of their mortality and the importance of living a meaningful life. Emerson believed that individuals should strive for greatness not for their own personal gain, but for the betterment of society as a whole. He also believed that individuals should have a strong connection to the divine and that this connection would guide them on their path in life.

Throughout the poem, Emerson uses vivid imagery and metaphors to convey his message. For example, in the first stanza, he compares the soul to a mansion, emphasizing the importance of constantly improving oneself. In the second stanza, he compares the truth to a song, emphasizing the importance of creative expression. In the third stanza, he compares grandeur to dust, emphasizing the fleeting nature of life.

Emerson's message in Suum Cuique is timeless and universal. It speaks to individuals of all ages and backgrounds and encourages them to embrace their individuality and pursue their own path in life. The poem is a call to action for individuals to live a meaningful life and to make a positive impact on the world.

In conclusion, Suum Cuique is a masterpiece of self-reliance and individuality. Emerson's message is clear and powerful, and his use of imagery and metaphors adds depth and meaning to the poem. Suum Cuique serves as a guide for individuals to find their own path in life and to live a meaningful and fulfilling existence. It is a timeless work of art that will continue to inspire and motivate individuals for generations to come.

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