Question by Mee: What does the poem “Forbearance”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, mean?

I can’t figure out what this peom is about.

Best answer:

Answer by EoC
“Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk?
At rich men’s tables eaten bread and pulse?
Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?
And loved so well a high behavior,
In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained,
Nobility more nobly to repay?
O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!”

1. the act of forbearing; a refraining from something.
2. forbearing conduct or quality; patient endurance; self-control.
3. an abstaining from the enforcement of a right.


So when we look at the poem, and then the definition of the title of this poem, we can see the restraint…the holding back…the patience that is being pondered. The self-control we are all taught, but rarely execute. The heart-pounding moments we can all feel when put in situations that heighten our anxiety and call for more of us holding our tounges, and/or our actions. When I read this, I had to really think about it, and then I had to know the true meaning of the word “Forebearance.” And when I understood the meaning of the word, I began to understand what Emerson was trying to say. My consensus is that he was saying despite all the moments we can act by the feelings that well up inside of us, that self-control is needed. Patience is a virture when used, and that though it can drive us crazy…we just need to learn how to lean on patience to get us through.

I find it helpful when I am faced with literature I do not understand fully, to look up definitions to words that confuse me. When I am better able to understand the words used, even in titles, the more I can come to a comprehension of what the author is discussing and/or portraying. Whenever you study any literature, always have a dictionary and thesaurus available. They are wonderful tools to help you when you need help, and someone cannot offer an awswer right away for you. Seek the answers yourself first, and then if you cannot still figure it out…then ask. I learned the hard way by doing it backwards, and I still find myself doing it. But this is how I learned how to better pick apart literature, and was better able to help others when tutoring them. Enjoy your learning, enjoy finding things for yourself…it is a journey. 🙂

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