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A funeral director proposed the following reading for a service. This poem by Emerson:

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget then as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

I obtained from a library The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vol IX, Poems - A variorum Edition and scanned the fat volume to find the name of this poem, and some background information. It was a fine introduction to Emerson's poetry, but now I look at the proposed text and it looks like it is taken from Emerson's prose. Emerson's poems do not look like this, although I was given a card on which these words were displayed in a more poemy fashion, center-justified.

Can you help me to pinpoint the source? Ideally, can you point me to the exact spot within Project Gutenberg (https://gutenberg.org/) so I can study the surrounding text?

Or is it a poem after all, and in my drowsyness, I have flipped past it?

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This passage is assembled (in the common fashion of inspirational texts) from bits and pieces, mostly but not entirely by Emerson. Let’s take it sentence by sentence.

One of the illusions is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1870). Society and Solitude, p. 157. Boston: Fields, Osgood.

A farmer said “he should like to have all the land that joined his own.” Bonaparte, who had the same appetite, endeavored to make the Mediterranean a French lake. Czar Alexander was more expansive, and wished to call the Pacific my ocean; and the Americans were obliged to resist his attempts to make it a close sea. But if he had the earth for his pasture, and the sea for his pond, he would be a pauper still. He only is rich who owns the day. There is no king, rich man, fairy, or demon who possesses such power as that.

Emerson (1870), p. 150.

Note the omission of “only” from the assembled text, which significantly alters the sense.

“He only is rich who owns the day” said Emerson; and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with worry and fret and anxiety.

Lilian Whiting (1900). The Spiritual Significance, p. 105. Boston: Little, Brown.

Whoever assembled the text seems to have found it unimportant to distinguish Emerson’s words from Whiting’s commentary.

The remainder, as identified by Spagirl in the other answer, consists of fragments from a letter to Emerson’s daughter Ellen:

You must finish a term & finish every day, & be done with it For manners, & for wise living, it is a vice to remember You have done what you could — some blunders & absurdities no doubt crept in forget them as fast as you can tomorrow is a new day You shall begin it well & serenely, & with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense This day for all that is good & fair. It is too dear with its hopes & invitations to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays Mr Cheney told me just now that Birdie had a capital letter from you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (8th April 1854). Letter to Ellen Emerson. In Ralph L. Rusk, ed. (1939). The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, volume IV, p. 439. New York: Columbia University Press.

Who assembled these fragments into the passage quoted in the question? The earliest instance I can find is in Charles K. Field (1940), Cheerio’s Book of Days, p. 146.

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The lines were written in a letter to one of his daughters and appear on page 489 of volume II of 'A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson by James Elliot Cabot'.

However, the extract quoted there is absent the first two lines, so either the letter to his daughter is reproduced elsewhere, that I have not been able to find, of they have been appended by someone else at some stage.

To one of his daughters who was away from home, at school, he writes :

“ Finish every day and be done with it. For manners and for wise living it is a vice to remember. You have done what you could ; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in ; forget them as soon as you can . To -morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old non sense. This day for all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays. ”

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