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he looked for a moment in silence at a beautiful rose in his garden, then lifted his hat gently, and said, “I take off my hat to it."
Emerson felt that his thoughts came to him, and those who heard him lecture say that he spoke as if he were listening, and repeating what he had heard. To picture beautiful scenes, to tell thrilling stories, to imitate human action, to crystallize into verse his love for those that were dear to him, that was not his calling; but to keep his soul open, his heart "at leisure from itself" to receive the thoughts that should come to him from above, that was his high vocation.
So it was that he was never inclined to join societies or parties, however much he might sympathize with their aims. Their work was good, but it was not his work. "No society can ever be so large as one man," he wrote (N. E. Reformers). He would make it hard for men to do wrong. by making it easy for them to think right. Let those who would struggle in darkness against darkness; his work was to let in the light. Yet in his hands the trumpet gave forth no uncertain sound. His friends in the audience held their breath when he quietly and as a matter of course made his bold speeches after the murder of Lovejoy and the John Brown raid.
But he believed that God's word comes to men directly as well as through the lessons of nature, that "There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word" (Spiritual Laws). Man, as the recipient of direct communication from God, rose to transcendent dignity in Emerson's mind. One or another might have listened to the word, and so it was that he gave his kindly sympathy to all, ever a learner, ever ready to welcome any truth that might have been revealed to the simplest spirit.
He was kept from the extremes of the "reformers" of his day partly by "the innate sentiment of equilibrium " which, according to "Jules Verne," qualifies one to walk in dangerous places, and partly by his sense of humor. He did not go so far as Longfellow and burlesque his own poetry, but he certainly did enjoy keenly a wicked little parody on his Brahma, and he even dared to jest at the earnest Brook Farmers, declaring that when they danced in the evening, the wooden clothes-pins rattled out of their pockets.
Emerson never shut himself into a world of his own. He joyed and sorrowed intensely. His friends were to him as a part of himself. His love for Thoreau stood the test of a two years' residence in the same house. In his last days of feebleness, when even his own home seemed unfamiliar, he looked lovingly at the portrait of Carlyle and said, "That is my man, my good man.'
Emerson's custom was to make a note of all thoughts of value that came to him. These notes he used afterwards in his essays, so that two adjacent sentences may be many years apart. It is perhaps this subtle distance that sometimes seems to permit us to think together with him, so slowly does he feel his way along from phrase to phrase. Sometimes his thoughts come to him in almost the very words in which he presents them to us; sometimes it is but the soul of the thought that is given him, and his materialization of it is difficult and imperfect; sometimes he seems trying to express a truth for which language has no adequate expression. No one, however, can fail to understand his message of good cheer:- Be yourself, rely upon God, and you cannot fail to be of value.
Emerson is not one of those writers that can be labeled and slipped comfortably into their proper literary pigeonholes. Call him a philosopher, and he flashes forth as a poet. Say that with him the thought is all, the expression
naught; and suddenly his diction becomes, as Lowell phrases it, "homespun cloth of gold." Say that his thoughts find their best illustration in the simple village life of New England, and lo! he has an inspiration that only the poetry of the land of "roses, wine, and nightingales" will enable him to embody. Say that his words are old and familiar, and presto! he has slipped away into some fourth dimension of the land of thought; say that they are new, and behold! he is but revealing to us the secrets of our own innermost heart. Call him poet, philosopher, puritan, liberal, what you will, but if you have learned to know him, you will own with joy that a message has been sent to you, and that you have been at the House of the Interpreter.
EVA MARCH TAPPAN.
The Master Yankee. - John Burroughs.
Every American has something of Emerson in him. — E. C. Stedman.
The many cannot miss his meaning, and only the few can find it.-Lowell.
The reading of him with understanding is a mental tonic. Brother Azarias.
Here comes our brave Emerson with news from the empyrean. - Carlyle.
All was known and familiar, as if I had thought or dreamed it a thousand times myself, and yet perfectly new, as if I were learning it for the first time. - Herman Grimm.
Emerson holds fast to happiness and hope. Matthew Arnold. It was good to meet him in the wood-paths. - Hawthorne.
Emerson was a first-rate neighbor, and one who always kept his fences up. One of Emerson's neighbors.