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“What do we wish to know of any worthy person so much as how he has sped in the history of this sentiment? [Love.] What books in the circulating libraries circulate? How we glow over these novels of passion, when the story is told with any spark of truth and nature! And what fastens attention in the intercourse of life, like any passion betraying affection between two parties? Perhaps we never saw them before, and never shall meet them again. But we see them exchange a glance, or betray a deep emotion, and we are no longer strangers. We understand them, and take the warmest interest in the development of the romance. All mankind love a lover. The earliest demonstrations of complacency and kindness are nature's most winning pictures. It is the dawn of civility and grace in the coarse and rustic. The rude village boy teazes the girls about the school-house door; — but today he comes running into the entry, and meets one fair child arranging her satchel : he holds her books to help her, and instantly it seems to him as if she removed herself from him infinitely, and was a sacred precint. Among the throng of girls he runs rudely enough, but one alone distances him: and these two little neighbors that were so close just now, have learned to respect each other's personality. Or who can avert his eyes from the engaging, halfartful, half-artless ways of school girls who go into the country shops to buy a skein of silk or a sheet of paper, and talk half an hour about nothing, with the broad-faced, good-natured shop-boy. In the village, they are on a perfect equality, which love delights in, and without any coquetry the happy, affectionate nature of woman flows out in this pretty gossip. The girls may have little beauty, yet plainly do they establish between them and the good boy the most agreeable, confiding relations, what with their fun and their earnest, about Edgar, and Jonas, and Almira, and who was invited to the party, and who danced at the dancing school, and when the singing school would begin, and other nothings concerning which the parties cooed. By-and-by that boy wants a wife, and very truly and heartily will he know where to find a sincere and sweet mate, without any risk such as Milton deplores as incident to scholars and great men.”
“The passion re-makes the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant. Nature grows conscious. Every bird on the boughs of the tree sings now to his heart and soul. Almost the notes are articulate. The clouds have faces as he looks on them. The trees of the rest, the waving grass and the peeping flowers have grown intelligent: and almost be fears to trust them with the secret which they seem to invite. Yet nature soothes and sympathizes. In the green solitude he finds a dearer home than with men.”
“Behold there in the wood the fine madman! He is a palace of sweet sounds and sights; he dilates; he is twice a man ; he walks with arms akimbo; he soliloquizes; he accosts the grass and the trees; he feels the blood of the violet, the clover and the lily in his veins: and he talks with the brook that wets his foot." - Essays, pp. 142-143, 145, 146.
Emerson is a great master of language; therewith he sculptures, therewith he paints; he thunders and lightens in his speech, and in his speech also he sings. In Greece, Plato and Aristophanes were mighty masters of the pen, and have not left their equals in ancient literary art; so in Rome were Virgil and Tacitus ; four men so marked in individuality, so unlike and withal so skilful in the use of speech, it were not easy to find; four mighty masters of the art to write. In later times there have been in England, Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton, Taylor, Swift and Carlyle ; on the Continent, Voltaire, Rousseau and Goethe; all masters in this art, skilful to work in human speech. Each of them possessed some qualities which Emerson has not. In Bacon, Milton and Carlyle, there is a majesty, a dignity and giant strength, not to be claimed for him. Yet separating the beautiful from what men call sublime, no one of all that we have named, ancient or modern, has passages so beautiful as he. From what is called sublime if we separate what is simply vast, or merely grand, or only wide, it is in vain that we seek in all those men for anything to rival Emerson.
Take the following passage, and it is not possible, we think, to find its equal for the beautiful and the sublime in any tongue :
“ The lovers delight in endearments, in avowals of love, in comparisons of their regards. When alone, they solace themselves with the remembered image of the other. Does that other see the same star, the same melting cloud, read the same book, feel the same emotion that now delight me? They try and weigh their affection, and adding up all costly advantages, friends, opportunities, properties, exult in discovering that willingly, joyfully, they would give all as a ransom for the beautiful, the beloved head, not one hair of which shall be harmed. But the lot of humanity is on these children. Danger, sorrow, and pain arrive to them as to all. Love prays. It makes covenants with Eternal Power, in behalf of this dear mate. The union which is thus effected, and which adds a new value to every atom in nature, for it transmutes every thread throughout the whole web of relation into a golden ray, and bathes the soul in a new and sweeter element, is yet a temporary state. Not always can flowers, pearls, poetry, protestations, nor even home in another heart, content the awful soul that dwells
in clay. It arouses itself at last from these endearments, as toys, and puts on the harness, and aspires to vast and universal aims. The soul which is in the soul of each, craving for a perfect beatitude, detects incongruities, defects, and disproportion in the behavior of the other. Hence arise surprise, expostulation, and pain. Yet that which drew them to each other was signs of loveliness, signs of virtue ; and these virtues are there, however eclipsed. They appear and reappear, and continue to attract; but the regard changes, quits the sign, and attaches to the substance. This repairs the wounded affection. Meantime, as life wears on, it proves a game of permutation and combination of all possible positions of the parties, to extort all the resources of each, and acquaint each with the whole strength and weakness of the other. For, it is the nature and end of this relation, that they should represent the human race to each other. All that is in the world which is or ought to be known, is cunningly wrought into the texture of man, of woman.
“The person love does to us fit,
Like manna, has the taste of all in it." “The world rolls: the circumstances vary, every hour. All the angels that inhabit this temple of the body appear at the windows, and all the gnomes and vices also. By all the virtues, they are united. If there be virtue, all the vices are known as such; they confess and flee. Their once flaming regard is sobered by time in either breast, and losing in violence what it gains in extent, it becomes a thorough good understanding. They resign each other without complaint to the good offices which man and woman are severally appointed to discharge in time, and exchange the passion which once could not lose sight of its object, for a cheerful disengaged furtherance, whether present or absent, of each other's designs. At last they discover that all which at first drew them together,—those once sacred features, that magical play of charms, was deciduous, had a prospective end, like the scaffolding by which the house was built ; and the purification of the intellect and the heart, from year to year, is the real marriage, foreseen and prepared from the first, and wholly above their consciousness. Looking at these aims with which two persons, a man and a woman, so variously and correlatively gifted, are shut up in one house to spend in the nuptial society forty or fifty years, I do not wonder at the emphasis with which the heart prophesies this crisis from early infancy, at the profuse beauty with which the instincts deck the nuptial bower, and nature and intellect and art emulate each other in the gifts and the melody they bring to the epithalamium.
“ Thus are we put in training for a love which knows not sex, nor person, nor partiality, but which seeketh virtue and wisdom everywhere, to the end of increasing yirtue and wisdom. We are NO. X.
by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. But we are often made to feel that our affections are but tents of a night Though slowly and with pain, the objects of the affections change, as the objects of thought do. There are moments when the affections rule and absorb the man, and make his happiness dependent on a person or persons. But in health the mind is presently seen again, its overarching vault, bright with galaxies of immutable lights, and the warm loves and fears that swept over us as clouds, must lose their finite character, and blend with God, to attain their own perfection. But we need not fear that we can lose any thing by the progress of the soul. The soul may be trusted to the end. That which is so beautiful and attractive as these relations, must be succeeded and supplanted only by what is more beautiful, and so on for ever.”—Essays, pp. 152–155.
We can now only glance at the separate works named above. His Nature is more defective in form than any of his pieces, but rich in beauty ; a rare prose poem is it, a book for one's bosom. The first series of Essays contains the fairest blossoms and fruits of his genius. Here his wondrous mind reveals itself in its purity, its simplicity, its strength, and its beauty too. The second series of Essays is inferior to the first; the style is perhaps clearer, but the water is not so deep. He seems to let himself down to the capacity of his hearers. Yet there is an attempt at order which is seldom successful, and reminds one of the order in which figures are tattooed upon the skin of a South Sea Islander, rather than of the organic symmetry of limbs or bones. He sets up a scaffold, not a living tree, a scaffold, too, on which none but himself can walk.
Some of his Orations and Addresses are noble efforts : old as the world is, and much and long as men are given to speak, it is but rare in human history that such Sermons on the Mount get spoken as the Address to the students of Theology, and that before the Phi Beta Kappa, at Cambridge. They are words of lofty cheer.
The last book on “ Representative Men,” does not come up to the first Essays, neither in matter nor in manner. know not a man, living and speaking English, that could have written one so good. The lecture on Plato contains exaggerations not usual with Emerson ; it fails to describe the man by genus or species. He gives you neither the principles nor the method of Plato, not even his conclusions. Nay, he does not give you the specimens to judge by. The article in the last
classical dictionary, or the History of Philosophy for the French Normal schools gives you a better account of the philosopher and the man. The lecture on Swedenborg is a masterly appreciation of that great man, and, to our way of thinking, the best criticism that has yet appeared. He appreciates but does not exaggerate him. The same may be said of that upon Montaigne ; those on Shakspeare and Goethe are adequate and worthy of the theme. In the lecture on Napoleon, it is sarprising that not a word is said of his greatest faculty, his legislative, organizing power, for we cannot but think with Carlyle, that he “ will be better known for his laws than his battles.” But the other talents of Napoleon are sketched with a faithful hand, and his faults justly dealt with, not enlarged but not hid—though, on the whole, it seems to us, no great admirers of Napoleon, that he is a little undervalued.
We must briefly notice M. Emerson's volume of Poems. He has himself given us the standard by which to try him, for he thus defines and describes the poet :
“ The sign and credentials of the poet are, that he announces that which no man foretold. He is the true and only doctor ; he knows and tells; he is the only teller of news, for he was present and privy to the appearance which he describes. He is a beholder of ideas, and an utterer of the necessary and causal. For we do not speak now of men of poetical talents, or of industry and skill in metre, but of the true poet. I took part in a conversation the other day, concerning a recent writer of lyrics, a man of subtle mind, whose head appeared to be a music box of delicate tunes and rhythms, and whose skill, and command of language we could not sufficiently praise. But when the question arose, whether he was not only a lyrist, but a poet, we were obliged to confess that he is plainly a contemporary, not an eternal man. He does not stand out of our low limitations, like a Chimborazo under the line, running up from the torrid base through all the climates of the globe, with belts of the herbage of every latitude on its high and mottled sides; but this genius is the lanscape-garden of a modern house, adorned with fountains and statues, with wellbred men and women standing and sitting in the walks and terraces. We hear through all the varied music the ground tone of conventional life. Our poets are men of talents who sing, and not the children of music. The argument is secondary, the finish of the verses is primary.
For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument, that makes a poem, - a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are