You are on page 1of 8

Brahma by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Summary and Analysis


Brahma is a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, written in 1856. It is named after Brahma, the
Hindu god of creation. Brahma is one of the gods in Trinity (Consisting of Brahma, Vishnu and
Mahesh). Brahma is a poem that presents a faithful version of a basic idea stressed in the
Bhagawad Gita that is the souls' immortality.

Ralph W. Emerson (1803-1882)

Brahman, according to Hinduism, is the ultimate soul of the universe- "an uncreated, illimitable
and timeless essence of being". Brahma expresses his spiritual vision that comes from his
reading of eastern religion, especially Hinduism, Confucianism, and Islamic Sufism.

Brahma is the speaker in this poem and entire poem is his appreciation. Brahma presents
himself as the center of this universe. Whatever activities happen in this world they happen
because of Brahma. He is timeless, immortal and permanent. He can't be destroyed. He is
omnipresent. He symbolizes the creation of the human soul. A person may be killed physically,
but his soul is not killed. It passes from one person to another and thus, is eternal and
immortal. Nothing is secret to Him. Shadow and sunlight are the same for Him. He treats
shame and fame at the same level. The vanquished gods also appear to Him. He resides in
Heaven. He can't be doubted because He Himself is doubter and doubt. A slayer and the slain
are also the result of the same spirit. If anything is far or forgotten, that thing is very close to
Brahma. If anyone sings, Brahma is the music. If anyone flies, Brahma is the wings. Brahma is
also aware that human beings are competing to get him. But Brahma suggests mankind to
develop goodness and reach close to him. Brahma, the speaker, concludes the poem with a
suggestion that if people finds his way to Brahma's essence, he will have all that he needs for
all eternity.
This poem is the poetic extension of American romanticism known as transcendentalism.
According to this philosophy, we all of us are the product of the same One-soul. We are born
out of the same parent. If the father is same, children are equal. The self of one individual is as
important as the self of the other individual. But only thing is that we should learn to rely on
ourselves. From this point of view, self-reliance is an important aspect of American
transcendentalism.

Emerson through Brahma is trying to convey the same message. If we want to achieve
Brahma, goodness is the only solution and that goodness lies in our self. In this respect, this
poem is the celebration of the self. Emerson’s Brahma, the supreme Hindu god relies on Hindu
sources to assert a cosmic order beyond the limitation of sense perception. Brahma represents
the eternal, infinite soul of universe where every individual soul gets united.

The imagery used in this poem is partly based on the 'Vishnu Purana' to which Emerson
frequently refers in his journals. Emerson's poem Brahma is miraculous in its blend of Eastern
and Western thought. In the poem, Emerson assumes the role of Brahma, the Hindu God of
creation. Emerson is able to use clever, yet complex, paradoxical logic in order to present his
philosophy in poetic terms. Throughout the poem, Emerson alludes to Hindu mythology. The
knowledge of which he gained through reading the Bhagavad-Gita and other Hindu scriptures.

This poem has four stanzas with four lines in each. It is rhymed as abab written in Pyrrhic-
tetrameter. It is a lyric song.

Brahma Poem Analysis. This is an analysis of the


famous poem "Brahma," by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It explores the deep symbolism and explains the
Hindu vocabulary used. Includes direct quotations.
Essay by Xodus22, High School, 10th grade, A+, August 2002
download word file, 2 pages 4.0 1 reviews

Downloaded 25359 times


KeywordsPoetry, poem, Stanza, expresses, Ralph Waldo Emerson
0Like0

BRAHMA
In Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "Brahma" is miraculous in its blend of Eastern
and Western thought. In the poem, Emerson assumes the role of Brahma, the Hindu
God of creation. Emerson is able to use clever, yet complex paradoxical logic in
order to present his philosophy in poetic terms. Throughout the poem, Emerson
alludes to Hindu mythology. The knowledge of which he gained through reading the
Bhagavad-Gita and other Hindu scriptures. In Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem,
"Brahma", the overall theme is the divine relationship and continuity of life and the
unity of the universe.

In the first stanza, Emerson expresses the continuity of life. He says that if a killer
thinks he has killed another or if the dead think that they are truly well, they do not
fully realize his power; for he, Brahma, can create, destroy and re-create. In the end
the "red-slayer", or the Hindu God Krishna, and his victim are merged in the unity
of Brahma.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Español: Ralph Waldo Emerson....

English: Image of American philosopher/poet Ralph ...

English: This is a photograph taken of Ralph Waldo...

When Brahma re-creates or "turns again," it is known commonly as the concept of


reincarnation. Thus, the continuity of life is expressed through Brahma's eyes.

The ultimate unity if the universe is expressed through the second stanza. Emerson
uses such opposites such as shadow and sunlight, good and evil, in order to prove
this philosophical belief. In essence, Emerson states that all opposites are reconciled
in the ultimate unity of the universe. This is proven as he states that shadow and
sunlight are the same as are shame and fame. Thus, when it comes down to it, the
universe is built through harmony and not counteracting forces such as good and
evil.

In the last stanza, Emerson calls upon the reader to do something. He states, "Find
me (Brahma), and turn thy back on heaven, this is a definite allusion to the statement
in the eighteenth chapter in the Bhagavad-Gita which says, "Abandoning all
religious duties, seek me as thy refuge. I will deliver thee from all sin." In lines
before he makes this request, he states that the sacred seven, the highest priests, and
the strong gods, the Hindu gods Indra, Agni, and Yama, pray to him in vain and ask
for his asylum. Thus, he is saying that praying to him for material goods will not
accomplish anything. Thus, the request that he makes is for the reader to join him in
the ultimate unity of the universe, also known as the Hindu philosophy of Mukhti.

In Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "Brahma", the overall theme is the divine
relationship and continuity of life and the unity of the universe. To begin with, this
is explained through the concept of re-incarnation, which is expressed in the first
stanza. Second, Emerson clarifies it the second stanza in which he states that the
universe lives in harmony ad not opposing forces such as good and evil. Lastly,
Emerson calls upon the reader to abandon praying for material thoughts or asking
him, Brahma, for asylum as join him in the ultimate unity of the universe. In writing
"Brahma," Emerson boldly crosses new bounds by assuming the perspective of a
God and by cleverly mixing Eastern and Western thought

Poem Analysis

Brahma - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Brahma is a philosophical poem from the view of the Hindu god of creation,

Brahma. In the first stanza, Brahma states that life does not end with death, and

that the souls of people are reincarnated back into other beings, or their soul joins

with him. In the second stanza, Emerson uses the concept of binary/dichotomy to

illustrate how everything, no matter how different, is encapsulated by Brahma. For

example, “Far… to me is near” and “Shadow and sunlight are the same” are both

references to opposite notions that are both part of Brahma’s creation, which he is a

part of. In the third stanza, Brahma goes on to further illustrate how he is part of

everything, like bird and even abstract concepts like that of a hymn. He again uses
dichotomy by claiming to be “the doubter and the doubt.’ In the last stanza, he says

that he is even seen as a god amongst gods, as they always seek to be on his side,

and even the sacred seven gods will “pine in vain” for his favor. In the last two lines,

he addresses the reader, telling him to turn his back on heaven, as he will find

Brahma more completely by being on earth rather than in heaven.

I found this poem fascinating in that it is written from the viewpoint of a god,

which I have rarely, if ever, seen. I believe that Emerson did a very good job of

portraying how Brahma thinks and views his own followers. After doing some

researching, it appears that pretty much everything Brahma claims is true. For

example he is the father of the father of all human beings, and ranks second in the

god hierarchy to Vishnu, who created him. Brahma probably believes that people

should be able to find him in his creation, rather than spending all of their time

praying to them. He is proud of his creation and wants to share it with the world. By

admiring his creation, Brahma is more appreciative of his followers.

In conclusion, this story is about how the universe is connected through this

celestial being, and how this being influences everything that happens.

Poem: Brahma
BRAHMA

If the red slayer think he slays,


Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;


Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,


And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

"Brahma" is miraculous in its blend of Eastern and


Western thought. Emerson claimed that those baffled by
the poem might be aided if they replaced the Brahma of
the title (Brahman is the Hindu god of creation) with
Jehova, indicating a belief that Eastern and Western
religions could in large part be reconciled. Emerson is
able to use clever, yet complex paradoxical logic in order
to present his philosophy in poetic terms. Throughout the
poem, Emerson alludes to Hindu mythology. The
knowledge of which he gained through reading the
Bhagavad-Gita and other Hindu scriptures. In Ralph
Waldo Emerson's poem, "Brahma", the overall theme is
the divine relationship and continuity of life and the unity
of the universe.
The poem has been described as one that explores the
'continuity of life and the unity of the universe', the 'I' in
the poem being God who is in all things, thus explaining
why all seeming contradictions are as one. The overall
theme of Brahma is the divine relationship and continuity
of life and the unity of the universe. To begin with, this is
explained through the concept of re-incarnation, which is
expressed in the first stanza. He says that if a killer thinks
he has killed another or if the dead think that they are
truly well, they do not fully realize his power; for he,
Brahma, can create, destroy and re-create. In the end the
"red-slayer", or the Hindu God Krishna, and his victim are
merged in the unity of Brahma. When Brahma re-creates
or "turns again," it is known commonly as the concept of
reincarnation. Thus, the continuity of life is expressed
through Brahma's eyes. Second, Emerson clarifies it the
second stanza in which he states that the universe lives
in harmony ad not opposing forces such as good and
evil. Lastly, Emerson calls upon the reader to abandon
praying for material thoughts or asking him, Brahma, for
asylum as join him in the ultimate unity of the universe.
Thus, the request that he makes is for the reader to join
him in the ultimate unity of the universe, also known as
the Hindu philosophy of Mukti.

In writing "Brahma," Emerson boldly crosses new


bounds by assuming the perspective of a God and by
cleverly mixing Eastern and Western thought.