The Test

written by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Test

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hung my verses in the wind,
Time and tide their faults may find.
All were winnowed through and through,
Five lines lasted sound and true;
Five were smelted in a pot
Than the South more fierce and hot;
These the siroc could not melt,
Fire their fiercer flaming felt,
And the meaning was more white
Than July's meridian light.
Sunshine cannot bleach the snow,
Nor time unmake what poets know.
Have you eyes to find the five
Which five hundred did survive?

About the poet


Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson's father was a Unitarian minister who died leaving his son to be brought up by his mother and aunt. Educated at Harvard, Emerson began writing journals filled with observations and ideas which would form the basis of his later essays and poems. After a period of teaching, Emerson returned to Harvard to join the Divinity School where he was less than a perfect student owing to his poor health and a lack of conviction in religious dogma. He was ordained and was both effective and popular as a preacher, but felt compelled to resign because he did not feel he could conscientiously serve communion. In 1832 Emerson visited Europe, where he met Wordsworth, Coleridge and Carlyle through whom he became...

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