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Yet our celebration would be cold indeed, were we to leave out of it the human feeling, -- the feeling of pride and love, — in which we have a right to indulge as his townsmen and his countrymen.
When the young philosopher, in his first production which might be called public, - his Bowdoin Prize Essay, in 1820, - disclosed his aspiration and his ideal of excellence, he prefaced it with these lines. He was then seventeen years old.
“Guide my way
devolved his tuneful stream
Surely that aspiration was accomplished. Ah, sweetest of Evangelists ! Here in these fields of ours stood
uttered your message to mankind. You walked by our river and our ponds, like Lycidas, the very genius of the shore. You transplanted here, unblamed, the living blossoms of the groves of Academe. You waked again the echoes of the voice of Plato, mingled with Ilissus' tuneful murmurs, in our woods and fields and by our Indian stream.
I do not undertake to speak of Mr. Emerson's service to the youth of his cotintry, as a guide to
the best literature, or as a counsellor and inspirer to that noble and brave behavior of which he was, himself, so admirable an example. I will not speak of him as a critic, to whose almost infallible touchstone every man brought his metal to see if it were gold. I will not undertake to speak of him as a poet, or as an orator, rising, on fit occasion, to the loftiest eloquence.
I have time to speak of him in but one aspect. That is, the contribution he made to the knowledge by mankind of spiritual laws.
I think he had the farthest and clearest spiritual discernment of any man who has lived in modern times. His vision was not only keen and far-sighted, but he was singularly free from the things that distort or disturb. There was no local attraction, or temptation, or heat, or blur. So we may take him as the best witness we know of to the spiritual facts which are all around us and close to us, but yet so many of which we cannot know, or know but imperfectly, by any seeing or hearing of our own. What we see, he saw more clearly. What we hear, he heard more distinctly. And always he sees a face we cannot see, and hears a voice we cannot hear. Now, to what does this witness, the best witness we can find so far, certify? Whether any human intelligence be absolutely trustworthy, or any human judgment be absolutely sure, in its report of such things, or in determining their value and quality, we need not stop to inquire. This is, in our opinion, the best we have
at command. What are the things which this man of farthest and profoundest vision has to report ? What is the estimate of them by the judgment the most accurate in its poise? What do they weigh by these balances in which there is no dust?
I do not mean only that he saw what no other man can see. I mean, too, what other men see dimly and doubtfully, but are the more certain of because he saw it too. Persons on the deck see a dim object or a cloud of smoke in the horizon. Some conjecture one thing, and some another. Then comes the pilot with his far sight and his trained eye, and tells you that it is a steamer, or a ship. He knows the line to which she belongs, and the name of the vessel. He only, it may be, confirms what some of the rest have said. But what other men guessed, he knew.
Every man who is seeking a spiritual life finds in Emerson his own faith, if he have faith, as the Christian sects find theirs in the Saviour. Now, what are the things in which our confidence is strengthened and deepened by the fact that he tells us they are true ? Some of them -and we may thank God for it we may see also for ourselves. Some of them he reveals to us and makes clear to us. But we can take the courage that they give us from the fact that the clearest eyes, and the best intelligence, and the most dispassionate judgment that has appeared among men for many a day adds to the imperfect evidence of our intelligence, the more perfect evidence of his. I cannot, of course, in a few minutes, enumerate all
the things he has reported to us. It would take a long, and careful, and profound study to comprehend them myself.
He has taught us the virtue of completeness, and courage, and sincerity of utterance. In dealing with the things that pertain to the soul he utters no halftruths, no pious frauds. He gives us no milk for babes. The purpose of Emerson, like that of Milton, is to justify the ways of God to man, and they do not need to be clothed in a veil. God is not to be seen, as Moses saw him, from behind.
He affirms that inspiration, and the 'process of revelation, did not end with the Apostles and the Scriptures. It is going on to-day, and all the time, to him that hath ears to hear. The bush is burning
The spiritual message comes to each man for himself, which he can trust and which he must act upon. “ Trust thyself! Every nerve vibrates to that iron string.” The universe is for the building up of individual character. Each soul is to be a star and dwell apart. Men should greet each other every morning as coming from far countries like the Gods, who sit apart, and talk from peak to peak all around Olympus.
Mr. Emerson said of his own style that his works were made up of infinitely repellent particles. This is in a sense true of humanity - as he thought it should be. But he has reaffirmed for us, and taught us anew the value of the human affections, and
to prize the great virtues to which our race has attained thus far. He was a royal and noble lover. He loved wife, and children, and home, and neighbor, and friend, and town, and country. He loved liberty, and justice, and hope, and courage.
His picture of the New England Town, for which Concord sat; his Boston Hymn; his Fortune of the Republic, are the high-water mark which the love of country, and of birthplace, and of town had reached at that time.
Has any man spoken to us like him of the virtue of a good hope, since the Apostle placed it forever in the centre of the mighty group? He saw that crime and sin led all souls to the good. The cosmic results will be the same whatever the daily events
He was eminently a reconciler. His larger orbit enclosed all lesser orbits, and even all divergent lines.
One thing he saw which mankind have not seen. That is, that forever the slave is owner, and forever the victim is victor.
So, when Freedom, Virtue, Religion, Justice, Love, Patriotism, call their witnesses his name will be the first of our time to be called. So far as mortal testimony can prove it, they can rest the case with him.
He has made the best statement in all secular literature of the doctrine of immortality. He shows us that the world and the human soul are not only unreasonable, but inexplicable, without it. Yet he makes no absolute affirmation, except that we shall