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WILLIAM LORENZO EATON
PUPILS OF THE CONCORD SCHOOLS: You have been asked to come here to-day to participate in exercises in honor of Concord's foremost citizen. But he whom we to-day celebrate was much more than a citizen of Concord, for his name and fame have gone wherever men live and have regard for sincerity, and truth, and duty, and honor. Yet the Social Club, of which he was a member for more than forty years,
has arranged to-day's series of memorial exer. cises with the feeling that in a peculiar and limited sense he who lived here a neighbor to your fathers and grandfathers belonged to this town. The gentlemen of this club also thought that it was fitting that the children of the town should have a meeting arranged especially for them. For you, young people, are the hope of your native town. Your faces are toward the future. To you they look to maintain the high ideals, to carry forward the high purposes to which this town has been committed for so many generations. It is their expectation and belief that from this meeting you will carry away impressions of this great man that will help to make your lives nobler, and purer, and sweeter; that there will descend upon you something of that spirit, of that radiant personality that set Emerson apart and made him a transcendent power for noble living wherever his word has reached.
His personality was indeed a radiant one! No one came in contact with him during his life but felt it strongly and was the better for it. Those who have come under its influence through the printed volumes which he has left as a legacy to the world, feel and acknowledge its power. This spirit, this power, this intangible something, which fills this hall where his voice was heard so many times; which pervades these streets in which he walked; which rests upon these meadows and forests which he traversed; which clings to his home where he wrought through a long and fruitful lifetime, has entered into the lives of all of us with an uplifting force that we feel, though we may not define.
To you young people, as well as to your elders, must often come the query, What constitutes greatness ? Why do we accord greatness to this man and not to that man? What is its test? What the touchstone by which we recognize it? I suppose that you, as you grow older and think more deeply upon these matters, must come to the same conclusion that thinking people always reach, that a great man is great because he, more clearly than any one else, expresses the ideals and aspirations of his age. Especially is this true of great poets and great statesmen. We all know that Abraham Lincoln was a great man. Now, he was a great man because he had the power to see, and the power to express, in clear and decisive action, what all men, at the North at least, were thinking and were eager to express. He became
the God-given leader of the Northern conscience that found expression in the political action which has given a new and a nobler meaning to our great Nation.
To Mr. Emerson, also, we must accord a leadership of the men of his age. But were he the spokesman merely of his own age, and for his own age, he would fall short of that superlative greatness that we believe is now determined for him. The utterances of such a man become proverbial. Once they fall from his lips they are upon the lips of all men. For they reveal to all men and, at the same time, express for all men the truths which they have been feeling, and trying in vain adequately to express. They become the current coin of men's daily speech, and are used without conscious thought of their origin. You
ou are familiar, even at your age, with some of this coinage. Lines which have been embodied in the every-day language of the people readily recur to your minds. I need hardly recall them to you. They are such as these :
“ He builded better than he knew,
Obey thy heart.”
The gods arrive."
“ The silent organ loudest chants
The Master's requiem.”
As God lives is permanent."
When for the truth he ought to die.” Then you remember the lines which ring as a clarion call to every young soul who looks to live a noble and useful life,
“So nigh is Grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man;
The youth replies, 'I can.'' I need hardly say that the man who makes the proverbs, the current sayings, for the nation is the man who exerts an undisputed moral leadership which guides that nation onward and upward.
I have asked you to think of Emerson as a great poet. Did time permit I would ask you to consider him as a great lecturer and essayist. Above all I would have you know him as a man who was greater than his works. I would have you understand, too, that it was the young people of his day who heard and heeded his message rather than their elders. Believing as I do that he has the same message for
you, I urge you, therefore, young people of Concord, as you grow older to acquaint yourselves with Emerson. Go with him into the pine woods that he loved so well, and which whispered such
secrets into his ear. Perhaps you will hear those secrets also. Walk over these plains with him and with him spend a frequent holiday on his and your dream-giving Indian River. Scale the hills and take the distant view. See Wachusett and Monadnock beckoning you to their heights, as they did him. With him gaze at the sunset. Look into that deep, overarching sky. Hitch your wagon to yonder star, and with him travel into the unexplored and unexplained depths beyond. Gaze upon the rhodora where it blooms, and “ leave it on its stalk.” Watch the birds in their flight and where they nest, and name them “ without a gun.” Listen to the humble-bee's “mellow, breezy bass," and think what Emerson heard, and let it teach you the lesson it taught him. In the long winter evenings, when mayhap the snow is swirling around your house, and shuts you from the outer world, take down your volume of Emerson and, in “a tumultuous privacy of storm,” read and think, and think and read, until something coming to you out of that great spirit shall have shaped and moulded your lives to nobler thought and deeds.
I have spoken to you of some of the reasons why Emerson's life and teachings should interest and inspire you. In the main they are reasons that would apply to young people of your age anywhere in this broad land. But there are other reasons why the pupils in the Concord schools should have a closer and more personal interest in Emerson. As a boy, years before he came to live in Concord, he visited