Emerson, “The Rhodora;” find the essence, the core meaning.

“The Rhodora”

On being asked, whence is the flower?

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1834

“The Rhodora” poem is Emerson’s reply to the question,

“Whence is the Flower?”

In the heading, “whence” doesn’t necessarily mean when, but from where, or from what origin. Therefore, the heading of the poem implies that someone asked the speaker where the flower came from. Emerson describes the beauty, and personifies the flower by speaking to it, addressing it.

It should be noted that one of the defining features of transcendentalism, is the connection between humans and nature and the divine essence which thrives all the living. By simply changing the meaning, from whence does the flower come? The meaning of the poem looks toward what brought the flower to us, and what brings us to the flower. From whence? To whence?

I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

These final last lines of the poem contain its thematic meaning. The God who created both human and nature, from whence the flower came from, compels us to the flower, the very same power. The essence, the core of being, is what Emerson proposes we all strive for. Why should we ask the details of the flower, when we should be concerns with where the flower came from? Who gave the flower its essence. Seeking the essence and core meaning is what drives life. It is what brings us to wake up every morning, what brings us to have the urge to “find ourselves” day in and out.

Notice, that in the poem, Emerson prefers the wild rhododendron to the indoor tamed rose. Because the Rhodora is true to its essence, and by doing so creates beauty in nature and meaning. It is not tamed, conformed or brought indoors like the rose.

Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.

Stay true to the essence, the Rhodora.

-cvirginia

~ by cvirginia on September 21, 2009.

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