A Nation's Strength

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes a nation's pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?
It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.
Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.
And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.
Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

Poems by This Author

Brahma by Ralph Waldo Emerson
If the red slayer think he slays
Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson
By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Days by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days
Fable by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The mountain and the squirrel
Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint
Song of Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mine are the night and morning,
Teach me I am forgotten by the dead by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Teach me I am forgotten by the dead
The Problem by Ralph Waldo Emerson
I like a church; I like a cowl;
The Snow Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
The Sphinx by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Sphinx is drowsy,
Water by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The water understands

Further Reading

American Revolution
America, a Prophecy, Plates 3 and 4
by William Blake
A Farewell to America
by Phillis Wheatley
A Political Litany
by Philip Freneau
by Walt Whitman
American Liberty
by Philip Freneau
Daniel Boone
by Stephen Vincent Benét
England in 1819
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
His Excellency General Washington
by Phillis Wheatley
I Hear America Singing
by Walt Whitman
Occasioned by General Washington's Arrival in Philadelphia, On His Way to His Residence in Virginia
by Philip Freneau
On Being Brought from Africa to America
by Phillis Wheatley
Paul Revere's Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poems of the American Revolution
Song of Myself, III
by Walt Whitman
The Star-Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key
To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth
by Phillis Wheatley
When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd
by Walt Whitman