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Detailed Summary of Hamatreya

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sweetheart5 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 8, 2011 at 3:23 PM via web

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Detailed Summary of Hamatreya

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thahira | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:16 PM (Answer #1)

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Emerson opens "Hamatreya" with a list of some of the first settlers of Concord — "Minott, Lee, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint." (In the version of the poem printed in 1876 in Selected Poems, the first line was changed to begin with the name of the Concord founder who was Emerson's own ancestor and an alternate second name — Hunt — that prevented the repetition of sound that Lee would have created in juxtaposition with Bulkeley: "Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint.") These names are followed closely (in the third line) by a list of the products of the land from which these solid men benefited. The founders took satisfaction in their ownership of the trees and hills, and believed that the land would belong to them and to their descendants forever. They imagined that they shared a special sympathy with the land. Emerson asks where they are now, and answers "Asleep beneath their grounds," suggesting a kinship with the earth quite different from that which the founders thought they possessed. He writes of the Earth laughing at her "boastful boys" (an image borrowed from the Vedantic original), who were so proud of owning what was not actually theirs, but who could not avoid death. Emerson enumerates the ways in which they altered their land. These men appreciated the stability of their property as they sailed back and forth across the ocean, never dreaming that the land that awaited their return would outlast their claims to it. They did not realize that death would transform each of them into "a lump of mould," turning them back into the land they owned.

The "Earth-Song" begins with the lines "Mine and yours; / Mine, not yours," which recall the words of the original passage in the Vishnu Purana — "The words 'I and mine' constitute ignorance." In her song, the Earth points out that she herself endures, whereas men do not. She mocks the legal deeds by which the property of the first settlers was supposedly conveyed to their heirs, and she sings that the inheritors of the land are, like their progenitors, also gone, as are the lawyers and the laws through which ownership was effected. Every one of the men who controlled the land is gone, even though all of them wanted to stay. The Earth underscores her hold over the men who firmly believed that they held her.

In the third section of "Hamatreya," a four-line stanza (quatrain), the speaker of the poem states that the Earth-Song took away his bravery and avarice, "Like lust in the chill of the grave," thus ending the poem on a note of sober awareness

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