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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Theme Analysis


Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,

Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,

And marching single in an endless file,

Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.

To each they offer gifts after his will,

Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.

I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,

Forgot my morning wishes, hastily

Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day

Turned and departed silent. I, too late,

Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write it on your heart

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Ralph Waldo Emerson presents a variety of themes in his array of essays and poems. The theme of his essays reflects aspects of philosophy. Some themes in his essays reflect education, religion the purpose and use of nature. As far as education is discussed Emerson viewed society as being taught by nature. His works also feature themes of morality which he feels individuals evolve into higher forms as they go through life and encounter new experiences. The two poems that I will be looking for this theme are "Write it on your Heart" and "Days"

To begin with in the poem "Write it on your heart" Emerson presents the key theme of education. The poem consists of the speaker giving advice to the audience about how to live life to the fullest. The first line of the poem begins with the title as it reiterates the concept of "write in on your heart". When the speaker gives this order they are referring to the fact that the audience should cherish each day to the fullest. Thus this reflects one of Emerson's popular themes of education. Further more this emphasizes some of the philosophies of the Transcendental movement which Emerson is known for founding.

To convey this theme of education Emerson uses a variety of literary devices. For example in this third line of the poem, the author presents both a paradox and an apostrophe in the line when it says "He is rich who owns the day, and on one owns the day". The paradox occurs because Emerson presents that contradiction that that if someone owns the day then they are rich and then refutes this statement by saying that no one owns the day. However the next line of the poem characterizes the negative qualities that cause individuals to be unable to take advantage and accomplish tasks during the day. According to the poem these two factors are "fret and anxiety". At the same time Emerson's reference to "he" is an apostrophe as it is referring to an absent individual. Together the apostrophe and antithesis help assert that this concept of ceasing the day is general and can be useful to all of mankind.

Overall it is the didactic tone of the poem that helps depict the theme. The speaker of the poem directly refers to the audience as "you" which shows that the words and message of the poem are meant for the reader to understand and hopefully gain from. Also Emerson uses a series of imperatives sentences which direct advice being depicted in the poem. For example "Finish every day and be done with it. Forget them as soon as you can..."are imperative sentences that help achieve this point. Finally the presence of personification helps convey the theme of the poem.

The speaker describes how the day may not being going as an individual had hoped but it is necessary to look past these times of weakness. To emphasize this point the speaker personifies the "blunders and absurdities" as creatures that have "crept" and managed to have caused problems. Also the personification of the day shows how powerful each day can be. The day is personified as an individual who is positive with "hopes and invitations." This helps reiterate the fact that each day should be cherished and the lesson learned on a particular day should be carried on for another .

A poem of Emerson's that shares a similar theme is "Days" The poem presents a similar theme of cherishing the day however Emerson portrays this theme in a different manner. Throughout the poem, the days are personified to show their significance and lack of notice of this by the speaker. The poem begins with a personification as days are referred to as the "daughters of time." He further personifies days as he refers to them as "hypocritic days." This characteristic of the days infer that to any individual they may be deceiving as a person is unaware of the pleasures or misfortunes that can occur. This personification continues throughout the poem as Emerson uses similes to further describe the day. For example days are also referred to as "muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes." This shows that the days come and go bring "diadems and fagots" without a care. Thus days come and go but it is whether or not an individual chooses to make the best of the day. In this particular poem the speaker realizes this fact a little too late when they declare "I too late".

Thus in both poems the central message is to make the best of the day and its opportunities. Emerson also reflected this idea in his own journal writings as he once said, "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them silently away." This is the central message that he reflected in both his poems "Write it out on my heart" and "Days". Thus the theme of education and everyday life are reflecting in these works by Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Rusell , Goodman . "Ralph Waldo Emerson." Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 31 Dec 2004. Standford. 16 Jan 2008 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/emerson/ >.

Baker, Carlos. Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait. USA: Viking Penguin, 1996.