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the town. It is said that he went to our schools. There is a tradition that, standing on a box or barrel, in the corner grocery, in the store now occupied by Richardson's Pharmacy, he would recite poems to the delight of those who frequented the store.
Later in life he did his duty on the School Committee of the town. We have a recently found copy of the records of the School Committee covering the years from 1826 to 1842. Several pages of these records were written and signed by Mr. Emerson, as Secretary of the School Board.
He enjoyed visiting the schools and listening to the children. He took a special delight in the school that so long was kept nearly opposite his house. The schoolhouse, as you know, was recently removed, and is now occupied by the Sloyd School, over whose entrance might well be placed the line from one of Emerson's Essays,
" Labor is God's education."
He visited that schoolhouse many times when it was on its original site, long after his duties on the School Committee required such visitation. Many pupils of those days now recall with great delight and pride his visits. He was specially pleased to hear the boys and girls declaim, or recite poetry, for he regarded such exercises as an important part of the education of the young. A gentleman who is now in active business in Boston, speaking to me of his experiences as a boy in the school, said that Mr.
Emerson, after listening awhile to the regular exercises, would, with the consent of the teacher, turn to him and say, “Has n't Henry something for us today ?” And Henry, all charged for the expected invitation, would rise and recite some choice bit of poetry or of prose, and receive the commendation of his auditor. That boy's name was Wheeler, and since the founding of this town our schools have never lacked a full supply of Wheelers. So, to-day, in introducing to you the part of the programme which is to follow, I will ask a boy, whose name is Wheeler, if he has not something for us to-day.
Then the following recitations were given by pupils of the High School:
HAMATREYA Hermon Temple Wheeler
Agnes Louise Garvey
Edward Bailey Caiger
Lucy Tolman Hosmer
Margaret Louise Eaton
Twenty-six years ago this very month I attended a meeting here when this hall was filled, floor and gallery, not as to-day with school-children, but with their natural friends, their teachers. They had come to this town from all parts of Middlesex County to discuss questions pertaining to the interests of their schools. In the course of the afternoon Mr. Emerson read to them a portion of his lecture Education. I well remember how he appeared on this platform and I distinctly recall his marvellous voice. There was a carrying power and strength in it the like of which I never heard in any other man. One passage in particular I recall, in which he characterized boys. It seems as if now I heard his voice, as he read:
I like boys, the masters of the playground and the street, — boys, who have the same liberal ticket of admission to all shops, factories, armories, townmeetings, caucuses, mobs, target-shootings, as flies have; quite unsuspected, coming in as naturally as the janitor, - known to have no money in their pockets, and themselves not suspecting the value of this poverty; putting nobody on his guard, but seeing the inside of the show, — hearing all the asides. There are no secrets from them, they know everything that befalls in the fire-company, the merits of every engine and of every man at the brakes, how to work it, and are swift to try their hands at every part; so too the merits of every locomotive on the
rails, and will coax the engineer to let them ride with him and pull the handles when it goes to the engine-house. They are there only for fun, and not knowing that they are at school, in the court-house, or at the cattle-sbow, quite as much and more than they were, an hour ago, in the arithmetic class.
The committee in charge of to-day's exercises desired to find some one to address
you who knew, and understood, and sympathized with young people. It was not unnatural that their thoughts at once turned to a man who, as a professor and an officer of Harvard College, had had wide and sympathetic dealings with thousands of young men. It was known also that his comprehensive interest in young people was not confined to the young men. The doors of Radcliffe and Wellesley colleges were always open to him, where the welcome accorded him was no less cordial than that which he was accustomed to extend to the Harvard boys summoned to the Dean's office. I have the pleasure of introducing to you today, therefore, Professor Le Baron Russell Briggs, for so many years the well-known and well-beloved Dean of Harvard College.
LE BARON RUSSELL BRIGGS
Now and then we meet a man who seems to live high above the little things that vex our lives, and who makes us forget them. He may speak or he may be silent; it is enough that he lives and that we are with him. When we face him, we feel somewhat as we feel when we first see the ocean, or Niagara, or the Alps, or Athens, or when we first read the greatest poetry. Nothing, indeed, is more like great poetry than the soul of a great man; and when the great man is good, when he loves everything that is beautiful and true and makes his life like what he loves, his face becomes transfigured, or, as an old poet used to say, “through-shine;" for the soul within him is the light of the world.
Such a great man was Emerson. He was much beside: he was a philosopher. Sometimes a philosopher is a man who disbelieves everything worth believing, and spends a great deal of strength in making simple things hard ; but Emerson was a philosopher in the best sense of the word a lover of wisdom and of truth. He was also a poet; not a poet like Homer who sang, but a poet like that Greek philosopher, Plato, who thought deep and high, and saw what no one else saw, and told what he saw as no one else could tell it. This is another way of saying that Emerson was a “ seer.”