Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

!

dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by-and-by I shall have the manhood to withhold."- Essays, p. 43.

Thus a certain twofoldness appears in his writings here and there, but take them all together they form a whole

of marvellous consistency ; take them in connection with his private character and life-we may challenge the world to furnish an example of a fairer and more consistent whole.

With the exceptions above stated, there is a remarkable balance of intellectual faculties, of creative and conservative, of the spontaneous and intuitive, and the voluntary and reflective powers. He is a slave to neither; all are balanced into lovely proportions and intellectual harmony. In many things Goethe is superior to Emerson : in fertility of invention, in a wide acquaintance with men, in that intuitive perception of character which seems an instinct in some men, in regular discipline of the understanding, in literary and artistic culture ; but in general harmony of the intellectual powers, and the steadiness of purpose which comes thereof, Emerson is incontestibly the superior even of the many-sided Goethe. He never wastes his time on trifles; he is too heavily fraught, and lies so deep in the sea that a little flaw of wind never drives him from his course. If we go a little further and inquire how the other qualities are blended with the intellectual, we find that the moral power a little outweighs the intellectual, and the relig. ious is a little before the moral, as it should be, but the affections seem to be less developed than the intellect. There is no total balance of all the faculties to correspond with the harmony of his intellectual powers.

This seems to us the greatest defect in his entire being, as lack of logical power is the chief defect in his intellect; there is love enough for almost any man--not enough to balance his intellect, his conscience, and his faith in God. Hence there appears a certain coldness in his ethics. He is a man running alone, and would lead others to isolation, not society. Notwithstanding his own intense individuality and his theoretic and practical respect for individuality, still persons seem of small value to him—of little value except as they represent or help develop an idea of the intellect. In this respect, in his writings he is one-sided, and while no one mental power has subdued another, yet his intellect and conscience seem to enslave and belittle the affections. Yet he never goes so far in this as Goethe, who used men, and women too, as cattle to ride, as food to eat. In Emerson's

1

66

religious writings there appears a worship of the infinite God, far transcending all we find in Taylor or Edwards, in Fenelon or Channing; it is reverence, it is trust, the worship of the conscience, of the intellect; it is obedience, the worship of the will; it is not love, the worship of the affections.

No writer in our language is more rich in ideas, none more suggestive of noble thought and noble life. We will select the axioms which occur in a single essay, which we take at random, that on Self-reliance : “ It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine.”

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” “ The virtue most in request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion."

“ No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature, the only wrong what is against it.”

“ Truth is bandsomer than the affectation of love.".
“ Your goodness must have some edge to it.”
“Do your work and you shall reinforce yourself.”
“ A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
“To be great is to be misunderstood.”
“ Character teaches above our wills."
“Greatness always appeals to the future."

“ The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and majesty of the soul.

“ If we live truly we shall see truly.”

“ It is as easy for the strong to be strong as it is for the weak to be weak."

When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.”

“ Virtue is the governor.” “Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man." “ Duty is our place, and the merry men of circumstance should follow as they may."

“My giant goes with me wherever I go."
“ It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model.”

“ That which each can do best none but his Maker can teach him."

“Every great man is an unique.” “ Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

His works abound also with the most genial wit; he clearly sees and sharply states the halfnesses of things and men, but his wit is never coarse, and wholly without that grain of malice 80 often the accompaniment thereof.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

236

Ralph Waldo Emerson. [March, Let us now say a word of the artistic style and rhetorical form of these remarkable books. Mr. Emerson always gravitates towards first principles, but never sets them in a row, groups them into a system, or makes of them a whole. Hence the form of all his prose writings is very defective and much of his rare power is lost. He never fires by companies, nor even by platoons, only man by man; nay, his soldiers are never ranked into line, but stand scattered, sundered and individual, each serving on his own account, and “fighting on his own hook.” Things are huddled and lumped together ; diamonds, pearls, bits of chalk and cranberries, thrown pellmell together. You can

“No joints and no contexture find,

Nor their loose parts to any method bring." Here is a specimen of the Lucretian “fortuitous concourse of atoms,” for things are joined by a casual connection, or else by mere caprice. This is so in the Orations, which were designed to be heard, not read, where order is the more needful. His separate thoughts are each a growth. Now and then it is 80 with a sentence, seldom with a paragraph ; but his essay is always a piece of composition, carpentry, and not growth.

Take any one of his volumes, the first series of Essays, for example, the book does not make an organic whole, by itself, and so produce a certain totality of impression. The separate essays are not arranged with reference to any progress in the reader's mind, or any consecutive development of the author's ideas. Here are the titles of the several papers in their present order :- History, Self-Reliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws, Love, Friendship, Prudence, Heroism, The Over-Soul, Circles, Intellect, Art. In each essay there is the same want of organic completeness and orderly distribution of the parts. There is no logical arrangement of the separate thoughts, which are subordinate to the main idea of the piece. They are shot together into a curious and disorderly mass of beauty, like the colors in a kaleidoscope, not laid together like the gems in a collection; still less grown into a whole like the parts of a rose, where beauty of form, fragrance, and color make up one whole of loveliness. The lines he draws do not converge to one point; there is no prog. ress in his drama. Towards the end the interest deepens, not from an artistic arrangement of accumulated thoughts, but only because the author finds his heart warmed by his efforts,

and beating quicker. Some artists produce their effect almost wholly by form and outline ; they sculpture with their pencil; the Parcæ of Michael Angelo is an example; so some writers discipline their pupils by the severity of their intellectual method and scientific forms of thought. Other artists have we known produce the effect almost wholly by their coloring; the drawing was bad, but the color of lip and eye, of neck and cheek, and hair, was perfect; the likeness all men saw, and felt the impression. But the perfect artist will be true to both, will keep the forms of things, and only clothe them with appropriate hues. We know some say that order belongs not to poetic minds, but the saying is false. In all Milton's high poetic works, the form is perfect as the coloring : this appears in the grouping of the grand divisions of the Paradise Lost, and in the arrangement of the smallest details in L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, and then the appropriate hue of morning, of mid-day, or of night is thrown upon the whole.

His love of individuality has unconsciously deprived him of the grace of order; his orations or essays are like a natural field: here is common grass, only with him not half so common as wild roses and violets, for his common grasses are flowers—and then rocks, then trees, brambles, thorns, now flowers, now weeds, here a decaying log with raspberry bushes on the one side and strawberry vines on the other, and potentillas creeping among them all. There are emmets and wood-worms, earth-worms, slugs, grasshoppers and, more obvious, sheep and oxen, and above and about them, the brown thrasher, the hen-hawk and the crow—making a scene of beautiful and intricate confusion which belongs to nature, not to human art.

His marked love of individuality appears in his style. His thoughts are seldom vague, all is distinct; the outlines sharply drawn, things are always discrete from one another. to particularize. He talks not of flowers, but of the violet, the clover, the cowslip and anemone; not of birds, but the nuthatch, and the wren; not of insects, but of the Volvex Globator; not of men and maids, but of Adam, John, and Jane. Things are kept from things, each surrounded by its own atmosphere. This gives great distinctness and animation to his works, though latterly he seems to imitate himself a little in this respect. It is remarkable to what an extent this individualization is carried. The essays in his books are separate and stand apart from one another, only mechanically bound by the lids of the volume ; his paragraphs in each essay are dis

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tinct and disconnected, or but loosely bound to one another ; it is so with sentences in the paragraph, and propositions in the sentence. Take for example his essay on Experience; it is distributed into seven parts, which treat respectively of Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality and Subjectiveness. These seven brigadiers are put in one army with as little unity of action as any seven Mexican officers; not subject to one head, nor fighting on the same side. The subordinates under these generals are in no better order and discipline ; sometimes the corporal commands the king.

But this very lack of order gives variety of form. You can never anticipate him. One half the essay never suggests the rest. If he have no order, he never sets his method a going, and himself with his audience goes to sleep, trusting that he, they, and the logical conclusion will all come out alive and waking at the last.

He trusts nothing to the discipline of his camp; all to the fidelity of the individual soldiers.

His style is one of the rarest beauty ; there is no affectation, no conceit, no effort at effect. He alludes to everybody and imitates nobody. No writer that we remember, except Jean Paul Richter, is so rich in beautiful imagery; there are no blank walls in his building. But Richter's temple of poesy is a Hindoo pagoda, rich, elaborate, of costly stone, adorned with costly work, but as a whole, rather grotesque than sublime, and more queer than beautiful; you wonder how any one could have brought such wealth together, and still more that any one could combine things so oddly together. Emerson builds a rambling Gothic Church, with an irregular outline, a chapel here, and a tower there, you do not see why; but all parts are beautiful and the whole constrains the soul to love and trust. His manifold images come from his own sight, not from the testimony of other men. His words are pictures of the things daguerreotyped from nature. Like Homer, Aristotle and Tacitus, he describes the thing, and not the effect of the thing. This quality he has in common with the great writers of classic antiquity, while his wealth of sentiment puts him with the classics of modern times. Like Burke he lays all literature under contribution, and presses the facts of every day life into his service. He seems to keep the sun and moon as his retainers and levy black-mail on the cricket and the tit-mouse, on the dawdling preacher and the snow storm which seemed to rebuke his unnatural whine. His works teem with beauty. Take for example this:

« AnkstesnisTęsti »