THE DAY'S RATION
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 - 1882
When I was born,
From all the seas of strength Fate filled a chalice,
Saying, "This be thy portion, child; this chalice.
Less than a lily's, thou shalt daily draw
From my great arteries --- nor less nor more."
All substances the cunning chemist Time
Melts down into that liquor of my life ---
Friends, foes, joys, fortunes, beauty, and disgust;
And whether I am angry or content,
Indebted or insulted, loved or hurt,
All he distills into sidereal wine,
And brims my little cup; heedless, alas !
Of all he sheds, how little it will hold,
How much rains over on the desert sands.
If a new Muse draw me with splendid ray,
And I uplift myself into its heaven,
The needs of the first sight absorb my blood,
And all the following hours of the day
Drag a ridiculous age.
To-day, when friends approach, and every hour
Brings book, or star-bright scroll of genius,
The little cup will hold not a bead more,
And all the costly liquor runs to waste;
Nor gives the jealous lord one diamond-drop,
So to be husbanded for future days.
Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
Why need I galleries, when a pupil's draught,
After the master's sketch, fills and o'erfills
My apprehension? Why seek Italy,
Who cannot circumnavigate the sea
Of thoughts and things at home, but still adjourn
The nearest matters for a thousand days?
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