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The poem A Nation’s Strength by William Ralph Emerson is in the form of rhetorical questions and finally the poet’s conclusion regarding what nation’s strength is and what is not. The poem has been divided into 6 stanzas having 4 lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB.
In the first stanza, compared with a building, the poet simply asks the readers in a rhetoric way what makes a nation’s pillars high and its foundations strong and what makes it mighty i.e. strong enough to defy or resist the foes (enemies) that round it throng or those who gather around to damage.
In the second stanza, the poet answers himself that it is neither materialistic things nor money that makes the nation’s kingdoms grand.
A country that is rich and has ample of resources is always prone to attacks from outside. Thus its foundation lays on sinking sand rather than abiding rock.
In the third stanza, the poet raises another rhetorical question. He asks whether it is the sword which makes a nation great, Sword here stands for power. The poet asks us to look into the past and see the big empires whose foundation was laid on blood and power.
According to the poet, the blood which was shed for the kingdoms has turned their stones to rust and their glory to decay. Hence power is also not something that makes a nation great.
In the fourth stanza, he wonders if it is the pride. According to him, pride is a bright crown that has always been something sweet to nations. They felt proud of their power, empire, and resources.
However, pride is not everlasting. God does not like it and hence those who felt proud of themselves and their possessions were brought down to ashes at His feet. Pride is also not something that makes a nation great.
According to the poet, it is not materialistic things but men who can make a nation great and strong. These are the men who stand and suffer for the sake of truth and honor. Thus a country that has such men will be great and strong.
These brave men work while others sleep. They dare to face problems when others run away. According to the poet, these are the only people who make the foundation of a nation strong and take their progress to the skies.
Thus, the nation’s strength is great men and they are what makes a nation great and strong.