The Day's Ration

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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 distils into sidereal wine, And brims my little cup; heedless, alas! Of all he sheds how little it will hold, How much runs over on the desert sands. If a new muse draw me with splendid ray, And I uplift myself into her 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 starbright scroll of genius, The tiny cup will hold not a bead more, And all the costly liquor runs to waste, Nor gives the jealous time one diamond drop So to be husbanded for poorer 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 should I roam, Who cannot circumnavigate the sea Of thoughts and things at home, but still adjourn The nearest matters to another moon? Why see new men Who have not understood the old?