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equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form. The poet has a new thought: he has a whole new experience to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be the richer in his fortune.-Essays, 2d Series, pp. 9—11.
It is the office of the poet, he tells us, "by the beauty of things" to announce "a new and higher beauty. Nature offers all her creatures to him as a picture language." "The poorest experience is rich enough for all the purposes of expressing thought;""the world being put under the mind for verb and noun, the poet is he who can articulate it;" he "turns the world to glass, and shows us all things in their right series and proportions." For through that better perception he stands one step nearer things, and sees the flowing or metamorphosis, perceives that thought is multiform; that within the form of every creature is a force impelling it to ascend into a higher form, and, following with his eyes the life, uses the forms which express that life, and so his speech flows with the flowing of nature." "The poet alone knows astronomy, chemistry, vegetation and animation, for he does not stop at these facts, but employs them as signs."
"This insight, which expresses itself by what is called Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees, by sharing the path, or circuit of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others. The path of things is silent. Will they suffer a speaker to go with them? A spy they will not suffer; a lover, a poet, is the transcendency of their own nature, — him they will suffer. The condition of true naming, on the poet's part, is his resigning himself to the divine aura which breathes through forms, and accompanying that.
"It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect, he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect doubled on itself,) by abandonment to the nature of things; that, beside his privacy of power as an individual man, there is a great public power, on which he can draw, by unlocking, at all risks, his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him: then he is caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder, his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible as the plants and animals. The poet knows that he speaks adequately, then, only when he speaks somewhat wildly, or, with the flower of the mind;' not with the intellect, used as an organ, but with the intellect released from all service,
and suffered to take its direction from its celestial life; or, as the ancients were wont to express themselves, not with intellect alone, but with the intellect inebriated by nectar. As the traveller who has lost his way, throws his reins on his horse's neck, and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so we must do with the divine animal who carries us through this world. For if in any manner we can stimulate this instinct, new passages are opened for us into nature, the mind flows into and through things hardest and highest, and the metamorphosis is possible." Essays, 2d Series, pp. 28-30.
In reading criticisms on Emerson's poetry, one is sometimes reminded of a passage in Pepy's Diary, where that worthy pronounces judgment on some of the works of Shakspeare. Perhaps it may be thought an appropriate introduction to some strictures of our own.
"Aug. 20, 1666. To Deptford by water, reading Othello, Moor of Venice, which I have heretofore esteemed a mighty good play, but having so lately read the Adventures of Five Hours, it seems a mean thing. Sept. 29th, 1662. To the King's Theatre, where we saw Midsummer Night's Dream, which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid and ridiculous play, that ever I saw in my life."
Emerson is certainly one
"Quem tu, Melpomene, semel
Nascentem placido lumine videris;
Spissæ nemorum comæ
Fingent Æolio carmine nobilem."
Yet his best poetry is in his prose, and his poorest, thinnest and least musical prose is in his poems.
The "Ode to Beauty
a fair form:
contains some beautiful thoughts in
Who gave thee, O Beauty,
The keys of this breast, -
False waters of thirst;
Thy dangerous glances
New-born, we are melting
Into nature again.” — Poems, pp. 136 — 137.
The three pieces which seem the most perfect poems, both in matter and form, are the "Problem," from which we have already given liberal extracts above; "Each in all," which, however, is certainly not a great poem, but simple, natural and beautiful; and the "Sphinx," which has higher merits than the others, and is a poem of a good deal of beauty. The Sphinx is the creation of the old classic mythology. But her question is wholly modern, though she has been waiting so long for the seer to solve it, that she has become drowsy.
This is her problem :
"The fate of the man-child;
The meaning of man."
All the material and animal world is at peace :
"Erect as a sunbeam,
The elephant browses,
In beautiful motion
The thrush plies his wings;
Your silence he sings.
In his early age man shares the peace of the world:
"The babe by its mother
Lies bathed in joy;
Glide its hours uncounted,
The sun is its toy;
Shines the peace of all being,
In soft miniature lies."
But when the child becomes a man he is ill at ease:
"But man crouches and blushes,
Absconds and conceals;
He creepeth and peepeth,
He palters and steals;
Jealous glancing around,
He poisons the ground."
Mother Nature complains of his condition:
"Who has drugged my boy's cup?
Who has mixed my boy's bread?
Has turned the man-child's head?"
The Sphinx wishes to know the meaning of all this. A poet answers that this is no mystery to him; man is superior to nature, and its unconscious and involuntary happiness is not enough for him; superior to the events of his own history, so the joy which he has attained is always unsatisfactory :
"The fiend that man harries
Is love of the Best;
Can't trance him again,
Which his eyes seek in vain.
No goal will arrive;
The heavens that now draw him
With sweetness untold,
Once found, for new heavens
Even sad things turn out well:
Their shame them restores;
Thus the riddle is solved; then the Sphinx turns into beauti
"Uprose the merry Sphinx,
And crouched no more in stone;
She silvered in the moon;
She spired into a yellow flame;
She flowered in blossoms red;
She flowed into a foaming wave;
She stood Monadnoc's head."-Poems, pp.8-13.
We pass over the Threnody, where "well sung woes" might soothe a "pensive ghost." The Dirge contains some stanzas that are full of nature and well expressed:
"Knows he who tills this lonely field,
To reap its scanty corn,
What mystic fruit his acres yield
"The winding Concord gleamed below,
As when my brothers, long ago,
"But they are gone
-the holy ones
"My good, my noble, in their prime,
Who made this world the feast it was,
"I touch this flower of silken leaf,
Which once our childhood knew ;
"Hearken to yon pine-warbler
Singing aloft in the tree!
What he singeth to me?
"Not unless God made sharp thine ear
Out of that delicate lay could'st thou