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and accept it unexpectedly. . .
... The hero fears not that if he withstood the avowal of a just and brave act, it will go unwitnessed and unloved. One knows it, — himself, — and is pledged by it to sweetness of peace and to nobleness of aim, which will prove in the end a better proclamation than the relating of the incident.”
The same indefeasible right to be exactly what one is, provided one only be authentic, spreads itself, in Emerson's way of thinking, from persons to things and to times and places. No date, no position is insignificant, if the life that fills it out be only genuine :
“In solitude, in a remote village, the ardent youth loiters and mourns. With inflamed eye, in this sleeping wilderness, he has read the story of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, until his fancy has brought home to the surrounding woods the faint roar of cannonades in the Milanese, and marches in Germany. He is curious concerning that man's day. What filled it? The crowded orders, the stern decisions, the foreign despatches, the Castilian etiquette? The soul answers — Behold his day here! In the sighing of these woods, in the quiet of these gray fields, in the cool breeze that sings out of these northern mountains; in the workmen, the boys, the maidens you meet, - in the hopes of the morning, the ennui of noon, and sauntering of the afternoon; in the disquieting comparisons; in the regrets at want of vigor; in the great idea and the puny execution :- behold
Charles the Fifth’s day; another, yet the same; behold Chatham's, Hampden's, Bayard's, Alfred's, Scipio's, Pericles's day, — day of all that are born of women. The difference of circumstance is merely costume. I am tasting the self-same life, - its sweetness, its greatness, its pain, — which I so admire in other men. Do not foolishly ask the inscrutable, obliterated past what it cannot tell, - the details of that nature, of that day, called Byron or Burke; but ask it of the enveloping Now. .. Be lord of a day and you can put up your history books.”
Thus does “the deep to-day which all men scorn” receive from Emerson superb revindication. “Other world! there is no other world.” All God's life opens into the individual particular, and here and now, or nowhere, is reality. “The present hour is the decisive hour, and every day is doomsday.”
Such a conviction that Divinity is everywhere may easily make of one an optimist of the sentimental type that refuses to speak ill of anything. Emerson's drastic perception of differences kept him at the opposite pole from this weakness. After you have seen men a few times, he could say, you find most of them as alike as their barns and pantries, and soon as musty and as dreary. Never was such a fastidious lover of significance and distinction, and never an eye so keen for their discovery. His optimism had nothing in common with that indiscriminate hurrahing for the Universe with which Walt Whitman has made us familiar. For Emerson, the indi
vidual fact and moment were indeed suffused with absolute radiance, but it was upon a condition that saved the situation — they must be worthy specimens,
— sincere, authentic, archetypal; they must have made connection with what he calls the Moral Sen. timent, they must in some way act as symbolic mouthpieces of the Universe's meaning. To know just which thing does act in this way, and which thing fails to make the true connection, is the secret (somewhat incommunicable, it must be confessed) of seership, and doubtless we must not expect of the seer too rigorous a consistency. Emerson himself was a real seer. He could perceive the full squalor of the individual fact, but he could also see the transfiguration. He might easily have found himself saying of some present-day agitator against our Philippine conquest what he said of this or that reformer of his own time. He might have called him, as a private person, a tedious bore and canter. But he would infallibly have added what he then added : “It is strange and horrible to say this, for I feel that under him and his partiality and exclusiveness is the earth and the sea, and all that in them is, and the axis round which the Universe revolves passes through his body where he stands."
Be it how it may, then, this is Emerson's revelation :- The point of any pen can be an epitome of reality ; the commonest person's act, if genuinely actuated, can lay hold on eternity. This vision is the head-spring of all his outpourings; and it is for this
truth, given to no previous literary artist to express in such penetratingly persuasive tones, that posterity will reckon him a prophet, and, perhaps neglecting other pages, piously turn to those that convey this message. His life was one long conversation with the invisible divine, expressing itself through individuals and particulars :-“So nigh is grandeur to our dust, so near is God to man!”
I spoke of how shrunken the wraith, how thin the echo, of men is after they are departed. Emerson's wraith comes to me now as if it were but the very voice of this victorious argument. His words to this effect are certain to be quoted and extracted more and more as time goes on, and to take their place among the Scriptures of humanity. “'Gainst death and all oblivious enmity shall you pace forth,” beloved Master. As long as our English language lasts, men's hearts will be cheered and their souls strengthened and liberated by the noble and musical pages with which you have enriched it.
The Chairman then said :
May I say on your behalf, citizens of Concord, that we greet with warm and peculiar affection our elder brother, George Frisbie Hoar.
GEORGE FRISBIE HOAR
I am proud and happy that I am counted among the children of Concord on this anniversary. There are many things we are all thinking that we cannot find time to say to-day. There are some things we are all thinking that Mr. Emerson would not like to have us say. His modest and discreet spirit would have found something of exaggeration in it, even coming from his neighbors and townsmen.
We are thinking, all of us, of that lovely and delightful personal quality, pure and sweet as that of an archangel. We are full of the love which every one of us who knew him felt for him, from the time he first took up his abode here in his sylvan home. But the town has had other citizens of that quality. That town is poor that has not had them. We are tempted to compare our philosopher and poet with other great men, with other thinkers, and writers, and poets. Some of us think Emerson the first American by the same title by which Shakespeare is the first Englishman. Some of us think of him as the only writer since Bacon, in whose essays a thought quoted from Bacon's essays seems to be in its natural place, — the setting quite as costly as the jewel. But I do not think he would have liked such comparisons. At any rate, if they are to be made, let them be made by men without the bias of a personal affection.