Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXIX Address at Opening of Concord Free Public Library

XXIX
ADDRESS
AT THE OPENING OF THE CONCORD FREE
PUBLIC LIBRARY
 
THE bishop of Cavaillon, Petrarch’s friend, in a playful experiment locked up the poet’s library, intending to exclude him from it for three days, but the poet’s misery caused him to restore the key on the first evening. ,, And I verily believe I should have become insane,” says Petrarch, ” if my mind had longer been deprived of its necessary nourishment.”

THE people of Massachusetts prize the simple political arrangement of towns, each independent in its local government, electing its own officers, assessing its taxes, caring for its schools, its charities, its highways. That town is attractive to its native citizens and to immigrants which has a healthy site, good land, good roads, good sidewalks, a good hotel ; still more, if it have an adequate town hall, good churches, good preachers, good schools, and if it avail itself of the Act of the Legislature authorizing towns to tax themselves for the establishment of a public library. Happier, if it contain citizens who cannot wait for the slow growth of the population to make these advantages adequate to the desires of the people, but make costly gifts to education, civility and culture, as in the act we are met to witness and acknowledge today.

I think we cannot easily overestimate the benefit conferred. I n the details of this munificence, we may all anticipate a sudden and lasting prosperity to this ancient town, in the benefit of a noble library, which adds by the beauty of the building, and its skilful arrangement, a quite new attraction, – making readers of those who are not readers, – making scholars of those who only read newspapers or novels until now; and whilst it secures a new and needed culture to our citizens, offering a strong attraction to strangers who are seeking a country home to sit down here. And I am not sure that when Boston learns the good deed of Mr. Munroe, it will not be a little envious, nor rest until it has annexed Concord to the city. Our founder has found the many admirable examples which have lately honored the country, of benefactors who have not waited to bequeath colleges and hospitals, but have themselves built them, reminding us of Sir Isaac Newton’s saying, ” that they who give nothing before their death, never in fact give at all.”

I think it is not easy to exaggerate the utility of the beneficence which takes this form. If you consider what has befallen you when reading a poem, or a history, or a tragedy, or a novel, even, that deeply interested you, – how you forgot the time of day, the persons sitting in the room, and the engagements for the evening, you will easily admit the wonderful property of books to make all towns equal: that Concord Library makes Concord as good as Rome, Paris or Lon-don, for the hour; – has the best of each of those cities in itself. Robinson Crusoe, could he have had a shelf of our books, could almost have done without his man Friday, or even the arriving ship.

Every faculty casts itself into an art, and memory into the art of writing, that is, the book. The sedge Papyrus, which gave its name to our word paper, is of more importance to history than cotton, or silver, or gold. Its first use for writing is between three and four thousand years old, and though it hardly grows now in Egypt, where I lately looked for it in vain, I always remember with satisfaction that I saw that venerable plant in 1833, growing wild at Syracuse, in Sicily, near the fountain of Arethusa.

The chairman of Mr. Munroe’s trustees has told you how old is the foundation of our village library, and we think we can trace in our modest records a correspondent effect of culture amidst our citizens. A deep religious sentiment is, in all times, an inspirer of the intellect, and that was not wanting here. The town was settled by a pious company of non-conformists from England, and the printed books of their pastor and leader, Rev. Peter Bulkeley, sometime fellow of Saint John’s College in Cambridge, England, testify the ardent sentiment which they shared. ” There is no people,” said he to his little flock of exiles, ” but will strive to excel in something. What can we excel in if not in holiness ? If we look to number, we are the fewest ; if to strength, we are the weakest ; if to wealth and riches, we are the poorest of all the people of God through the whole world. We cannot excel, nor so much as equal other people in these things, and if we come short in grace and holiness too, we are the most despicable people under heaven. Strive we therefore herein to excel, and suffer not this crown to he taken away from us.” 1

The religious bias of our founders had its usual effect to secure an education to read their Bible and hymn-book, and thence the step was easy for active minds to an acquaintance with history and with poetry. Peter Bulkeley sent his son John to the first class that graduated at Harvard College in 1642, and two sons to later classes. Major Simon Willard’s son Samuel graduated at Harvard in 1659, and was for six years, from 1701 to 1707, vice-president of the college ; and his son Joseph was president of the college from 1781 to 1804; and Concord counted fourteen graduates of Harvard in its first century, and its representation there increased with its gross population.’

I possess the manuscript journal of a lady, native of this town (and descended from three of its clergymen), who removed into Maine, where she possessed a farm and a modest income. She was much addicted to journeying and not less to reading, and whenever she arrived in a town where was a good minister who had a library, she would persuade him to receive her as a boarder, and would stay until she had looked over all his volumes which were to her taste. On a very cold day, she writes in her diary, ” Life truly resembles a river – ever the same – never the same ; and perhaps a greater variety of internal emotions would be felt by remaining with books in one place than pursuing the waves which are ever the same. Is the melancholy bird of night, covered with the dark foliage of the willow and cypress, less gratified than the gay lark amid the flowers and suns? I think that you never enjoy so much as in solitude with a book that meets the feelings,” and in reference to her favorite authors, she adds, ” The delight in others’ superiority is my best gift from, God.”‘

Lemuel Shattuck, by his history of the town, has made all of us grateful to his memory as a careful student and chronicler ; but events so important have occurred in the forty years since that book was published, that it now needs a second volume.

Henry Thoreau we all remember as a man of genius, and of marked character, known to our farmers as the most skilful of surveyors, and indeed better acquainted with their forests and meadows and trees than themselves, but more widely known as the writer of some of the best books which have been written in this country, and which, I am persuaded, have not yet gathered half their fame. He, too, was an excellent reader. No man would have rejoiced more than he in the event of this day. In a private letter to a lady, he writes, ” Do you read any noble verses ? For my part, they have been the only things I remembered, – or that which occasioned them, – when all things else were blurred and defaced.2 All things have put on mourning but they : for the elegy itself is some victorious melody in you, escaping from the wreck. It is a relief to read some true books wherein all are equally dead, equally alive. think the best parts of Shakspeare would only be enhanced by the most thrilling and affecting events. I have found it so: and all the more, that they are not intended for consolation.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s residence in the Manse gave new interest to that house whose windows overlooked the retreat of the British soldiers in 1775, and his careful studies of Concord life and history are known wherever the English language is spoken.’

I know the word literature has in many ears a hollow sound. It is thought to be the harm-less entertainment of a few fanciful persons, and not at all to be the interest of the multitude. To these objections, which proceed on the cheap notion that nothing but what grinds corn, roasts mutton and weaves cotton, is anything worth, I have little to say. There are utilitarians who prefer that Jesus should have wrought as a carpenter, and Saint Paul as a tent-maker. But literature is the record of the best thoughts. Every attainment and discipline which increases a man’s acquaintance with the invisible world lifts his being. Everything that gives him a new perception of beauty multiplies his pure enjoyments. A river of thought is always running out of the invisible world into the mind of man. Shall not they who received the largest streams spread abroad the healing waters?

It was the symbolical custom of the ancient Mexican priests, after the annual extinction of the household fires of their land, to procure in the temple fire from the sun, and thence distribute it as a sacred gift to every hearth in the nation. It is a just type of the service rendered to mankind by wise men. Homer and Plato and Pindar and Shakspeare serve many more than have heard their names. Thought is the most volatile of all things. It cannot be contained in any cup, though you shut the lid never so tight. Once brought into the world, it runs over the vessel which received it into all minds that love it. The very language we speak thinks for us by the subtle distinctions which already are marked for us by its words, and every one of these is the contribution of the wit of one and another sagacious man in all the centuries of time.

Consider that it is our own state of mind at any time that makes our estimate of life and the world. If you sprain your foot, you will presently come to think that Nature has sprained hers. Everything begins to look so slow and inaccessible. And when you sprain your mind, by gloomy reflection on your failures and vexations, you come to have a bad opinion of life. Think how indigent Nature must appear to the blind, the deaf, and the idiot. Now if you can kindle the imagination by a new thought, by heroic histories, by uplifting poetry, instantly you expand, – are cheered, inspired, and become wise, and even prophetic. Music works this miracle for those who have a good ear; what omniscience has music ! so absolutely impersonal, and yet every sufferer feels his secret sorrow reached. Yet to a scholar the book is as good or better. There is no hour of vexation which on a little reflection will not find diversion and relief in the library. His companions are few : at the moment, he has none : but, year by year, these silent friends supply their place. Many times the reading of a book has made the fortune of the man,- has decided his way of life. It makes friends. ‘T is a tie between men to have been delighted with the same book. Every one of us is always in search of his friend, and when unexpectedly he finds a stranger enjoying the rare poet or thinker who is dear to his own solitude, – it is like finding a brother. Dr. Johnson hearing that Adam Smith, whom he had once met, relished rhyme, said, ” If I had known that, I should have hugged him.”

We expect a great man to be a good reader, or in proportion to the spontaneous power should be the assimilating power. There is a wonderful agreement among eminent men of all varieties of character and condition in their estimate of books. Julius Cesar, when ship-wrecked, and forced to swim for life, did not gather his gold, but took his Commentaries between his teeth and swam for the shore. Even the wild and warlike Arab Mahomet said, ” Men are either learned or learning : the rest are block-heads.” The great Duke of Marlborough could not encamp without his Shakspeare. The Duchess d’Abrantes, wife of Marshal Junot, tells us that Bonaparte, in hastening out of France to join his army in Germany, tossed his journals and hooks out of his travelling carriage as fast as he had read them, and strewed the highway with pamphlets. Napoleon’s reading could not be large, but his criticism is sometimes admirable, as reported by Las Casas ; and Napoleon was an excellent writer. Montesquieu, one of the greatest minds that France has produced, writes : ” The love of study is in us almost the only eternal passion. All the others quit us in proportion as this miserable machine which gives them to us approaches its ruin. Study has been for me the sovereign remedy against the disgusts of life, never having had a chagrin which an hour of reading has not put to flight.” Hear the testimony of Seldon, the oracle of the English House of Commons in Cromwell’s time. ” Patience is the chiefest fruit of study. A man, that strives to make himself a different thing from other men by much reading gains this chiefest good, that in all fortunes he hath some-thing to entertain and comfort himself withal.”

I have found several humble men and women who gave as affectionate, if not as judicious testimony to their readings. One curious witness was that of a Shaker who, when showing me the houses of the Brotherhood, and a very modest bookshelf, said there was Milton’s Paradise Lost, and some other books in the house, and added ” that he knew where they were, but he took up a sound cross in not reading them.”

In 1618 (8th March) John Kepler came upon the discovery of the law connecting the mean distances of the planets with the periods of their revolution about the sun, that the squares of the times vary as the cubes of the distances. And he writes, ” It is now eighteen months since I got the first glimpse of light,-three months since the dawn, – very few days since the unveiled sun, most admiral le to gaze on, burst out upon me. Nothing holds me. I will indulge in my sacred fury. I will triumph over mankind by the honest confession that I have stolen the golden vases of the Egyptians ` to build up a tabernacle for my God far away from the confines of Egypt. If you forgive me, I rejoice ; if you are angry, I can bear it: the die is cast ; the book is written ; to be read either now or by posterity. I care not which. It may well wait a century for a reader, since God has waited six thousand years for an observer like myself.”

In books I have the history or the energy of the past. Angels they are to us of entertainment, sympathy and provocation. With them many of us spend the most of our life, – these silent guides, – these tractable prophets, historians, and singers, whose embalmed life is the highest feat of art ; who now cast their moon-light illumination over solitude, weariness and fallen fortunes. You say, ‘t is a languid plea-sure. Yes, but its tractableness, coming and going like a dog at our bidding, compensates the quietness, and contrasts with the slowness of fortune and the inaccessibleness of persons.

You meet with a man of science, a good thinker or good wit, – but you do not know how to draw out of him that which he knows. But the book is a sure friend, always ready at your first leisure, – opens to the very page you desire, and shuts at your first fatigue, – as possibly your professor might not.

It is a tie between men to have read the same book, and it is a disadvantage not to have read the book your mates have read, or not to have read it at the same time, so that it may take the place in your culture it does in theirs, and you shall understand their allusions to it, and not give it more or less emphasis than they do. Yet the strong character does not need this sameness of culture. The imagination knows its own food in every pasture, and if it has not had the Arabian Nights, Prince Le Boo, or Homer or Scott, has drawn equal delight and terror from haunts and passages which you will hear of with envy.

In saying these things for books, I do not for a moment forget that they are secondary, mere means, and only used in the off-hours, only in the pause, and, as it were, the sleep, or passive state of the mind. The intellect reserves all its rights. Instantly, when the mind itself wakes, all books, all past acts are forgotten, huddled aside as impertinent in the august presence of the creator. Their costliest benefit is that they set us free from themselves ; for they wake the imagination and the sentiment,- and in their inspirations we dispense with books. Let me add then, – read proudly ; put the duty of being read invariably on the author. If he is not read, whose fault is it ? I am quite ready to be charmed, – but I shall not make believe  I am charmed.

But there is no end to the praise of books, to the value of the library. Who shall estimate their influence on our population where all the millions read and write ? It is the joy of nations that man can communicate all his thoughts, discoveries and virtues to records that may last for centuries.

But I am pleading a cause which in the event of this day has already won : and I am happy in the assurance that the whole assembly to whom I speak entirely sympathize in the feeling of this town in regard to the new Library, and its honored Founder.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXVIII Speech at Second Annual Meeting of Free

XXVIII SPEECH
AT THE SECOND ANNUAL MEETING OF THE FREE
RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION, AT TREMONT TEMPLE
FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1869

THOU metest him by centuries,
And lo! he passes like the breeze;
Thou seek’st in globe and galaxy,
He hides in pure transparency;
Thou ask’st in fountains and in fires,
He is the essence that inquires.

SPEECH
AT SECOND ANNUAL MEETING OF THE
FREE RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION

FRIENDS : I wish I could deserve anything of the kind expression of my friend, the President, and the kind good will which the audience signifies, but it is not in my power to-day to meet the natural demands of the occasion, and, quite against my design and my will, I shall have to request the attention of the audience to a few written remarks, instead of the more extensive statement which I had hoped to offer them.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXVII Remarks at Organization of Free Religious Association

XXVII
REMARKS
AT THE MEETING FOR ORGANIZING THE FREE
RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION, BOSTON
MAY 30, 1867

IN many forms we try
To utter God’s infinity,
But the Boundless hath no form,
And the Universal Friend
Doth as far transcend
An angel as a worm.
The great Idea baffles wit,
Language falters under it,
It leaves the learned in the lurch;
Nor art, nor power, nor toil can find
The measure of the eternal Mind,
Nor hymn nor prayer nor church.

REMARKS
AT THE MEETING FOR ORGANIZING
THE FREE RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION

MR. CHAIRMAN : I hardly felt, in finding this house this morning, that I had come into the right hall. I came, as I sup-posed myself summoned, to a little committee meeting, for some practical end, where I should happily and humbly learn my lesson ; and I supposed myself no longer subject to your call when I saw this house. I have listened with great pleasure to the lessons which we have heard. To many, to those last spoken, I have found so much in accord with my own thought that I have little left to say. I think that it does great honor to the sensibility of the committee that they have felt the universal demand in the community for just the movement they have be-gun. I say again, in the phrase used by my friend, that we began many years ago, – yes, and many ages before that. But I think the necessity very great, and it has prompted an equal magnanimity, that thus invites all classes, all religious men, whatever their connections, whatever their specialties, in whatever relation they stand to the Christian Church, to unite in a movement of benefit to men, under the sanction of religion. We are all very sensible -it is forced on us every day-of the feeling that churches are outgrown ; that the creeds are outgrown ; that a technical theology no longer suits us. It is not the ill will of people -no, indeed, but the incapacity for confining themselves there. The church is not large enough for the man ; it can-not inspire the enthusiasm which is the parent of everything good in history, which makes the romance of history. For that enthusiasm you must have something greater than yourselves, and not less.

The child, the young student, finds scope in his mathematics and chemistry or natural history, because he finds a truth larger than he is ; finds himself continually instructed. But, in churches, every healthy and thoughtful mind finds itself in something less ; it is checked, cribbed, confined. And the statistics of the American, the English and the German cities, showing that the mass of the population is leaving off going to church, indicate the necessity, which should have been foreseen, that the Church should always be new and extemporized, be-cause it is eternal and springs from the sentiment of men, or it does not exist.1 One wonders some-times that the churches still retain so many votaries, when he reads the histories of the Church. There is an element of childish infatuation in them which does not exalt our respect for man. Read in Michelet, that in Europe, for twelve or fourteen centuries, God the Father had no temple and no altar. The Holy Ghost and the Son of Mary were worshipped, and in the thirteenth century the First Person began to appear at the side of his Son, in pictures and in sculpture, for worship, but only through favor of his Son. These mortifying puerilities abound in religious history. But as soon as every man is apprised of the Divine Presence within his own mind, – is apprised that the perfect law of duty corresponds with the laws of chemistry, of vegetation, of astronomy, as face to face in a glass ; that the basis of duty, the order of society, the power of character, the wealth of culture, the perfection of taste, all draw their essence from this moral sentiment, then we have a religion that exalts, that commands all the social and all the private action.

What strikes me in the sudden movement which brings together to-day so many separated friends, – separated but sympathetic, –and what I expected to find here, was some    practical suggestions by which we were to re-animate and reorganize for ourselves the true Church, the pure worship. Pure doctrine always bears fruit in pure benefits. It is only by good works, it is only on the basis of active duty, that worship finds expression. What is best in the ancient religions was the sacred friendships between heroes, the Sacred Bands, and the relations of the Pythagorean disciples. Our Masonic institutions probably grew from the like origin. The close association which bound the first disciples of Jesus is another example ; and it were easy to find more. The soul of our late war, which will always be re-membered as dignifying it, was, first, the desire to abolish slavery in this country, and secondly, to abolish the mischief of the war itself, by healing and saving the sick and wounded soldiers, – and this by the sacred bands of the Sanitary Commission. I wish that the various beneficent institutions which are springing up, like joyful plants of wholesomeness, all over this country, should all be remembered as within the sphere of this committee, – almost all of them are represented here, – and that within this little band that has gathered here to-day, should grow friendship. The interests that grow out of a meeting like this should bind us with new strength to the old eternal duties.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXVI Speech at Banquet in Honor of Chinese Embassy

XXVI
SPEECH
AT BANQUET IN HONOR OF THE CHINESE EMBASSY
BOSTON, 1860

NATURE creates in the East the uncontrollable yearning to escape from limitation into the vast and boundless, to use a freedom of fancy which plays with all works of Nature, great or minute, galaxy or grain of dust, as toys and words of the mind; inculcates a beatitude to be found in escape from all organization and all personality, and makes ecstasy an institution.
 
SPEECH
AT THE BANQUET IN HONOR OF
THE CHINESE EMBASSY

MR. MAYOR : I suppose we are all of one opinion on this remarkable occasion of meeting the embassy sent from the oldest Empire in the world to the youngest Republic. All share the surprise and pleasure when the venerable Oriental dynasty- hitherto a roman-tic legend to most of us – suddenly steps into the fellowship of nations. This auspicious event, considered in connection with the late innovations in Japan, marks a new era, and is an irresistible result of the science which has given us the power of steam and the electric telegraph. It is the more welcome for the surprise. We had said of China, as the old prophet said of Egypt, ” Her strength is to sit still.” Her people had such elemental conservatism that by some wonderful force of race and national manners, the wars and revolutions that occur in her annals have proved but momentary swells or surges on the pacific ocean of her history, leaving no trace. But in its immovability this race has claims. China is old, not in time only, but in wisdom, which is gray hair to a nation, or, rather, truly seen, is eternal youth. As we know, China had the magnet centuries before Europe ; and block-printing or stereotype, and lithography, and gunpowder, and vaccination, and canals ; had anticipated Linnæus’s nomenclature of plants ; had codes, journals, clubs, hackney coaches, and, thirty centuries before New York, had the custom of New Year’s calls of comity and reconciliation. I need not mention its useful arts, – its pottery indispensable to the world, the luxury of silks, and its tea, the cordial of nations. But I must remember that she has respectable remains of astronomic science, and historic records of forgotten time, that have supplied important gaps in the ancient history of the western nations. Then she has philosophers who cannot be spared. Confucius has not yet gathered all his fame. When Socrates heard that the oracle declared that he was the wisest of men, he said, it must mean that other men held that they were wise, but that he knew that he knew nothing. Confucius had already affirmed this of himself: and what we call the GOLDEN RULE of Jesus, Confucius had uttered in the same terms five hundred years before. His morals, though addressed to a state of society unlike ours, we read with profit to-day. His rare perception appears in his GOLDEN MEAN, his doctrine of Reciprocity, his unerring insight, – putting always the blame of our misfortunes on ourselves ; as when to the governor who complained of thieves, he said, ” If you, sir, were not covetous, though you should re-ward them for it, they would not steal.” His ideal of greatness predicts Marcus Antoninus. At the same time, he abstained from paradox, and met the ingrained prudence of his nation by saving always, ” Bend one cubit to straighten eight.”

China interests us at this moment in a point of politics. I am sure that gentlemen around me bear in mind the bill which the Hon. Mr. Jenckes of Rhode Island has twice attempted to carry through Congress, requiring that candidates for public offices shall first pass examinations on their literary qualifications for the same. Well, China has preceded us, as well as England and France, in this essential correction of a reckless usage ; and the like high esteem of education appears in China in social life, to whose distinctions it is made an indispensable passport.

It is gratifying to know that the advantages of the new intercourse between the two countries are daily manifest on the Pacific coast. The immigrants from Asia come in crowds. Their power of continuous labor, their versatility in adapting themselves to new conditions, their stoical economy, are unlooked-for virtues. They send back to their friends, in China, money, new products of art, new tools, machinery, new foods, etc., and are thus establishing a commerce without limit. I cannot help adding, after what I have heard to-night, that I have read in the journals a statement from an English source, that Sir Frederic Bruce attributed to Mr. Burlingame the merit of the happy reform in the relations of foreign governments to China. I am quite sure that I heard from Mr. Burlingame in New York, in his last visit to America, that the whole merit of it belonged to Sir Frederic Bruce. It appears that the ambassadors were emulous in their magnanimity. It is certainly the best guaranty for the interests of China and of humanity.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXV Walter Scott

XXV
WALTER SCOTT
REMARKS AT THE CELEBRATION BY THE MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF THE CENTENNIAL NNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH,
AUGUST 15, 1871

Scott, the delight of generous boys.
 
As far as Sir Walter Scott aspired to be known for a fine gentleman, so far our sympathies leave him. . . . Our concern is only with the residue, where the man Scott was warmed with a divine ray that clad with beauty every sheet of water, every bald hill in the country he looked upon, and so reanimated the well-nigh obsolete feudal history and illustrated every hidden corner of a barren and disagreeable territory.    

Lecture, ” Being and Seeing,” 1838.
 
WALTER SCOTT
THE memory of Sir Walter Scott is dear to this Society, of which he was for ten years an honorary member. If only as an eminent antiquary who has shed light on the history of Europe and of the English race, he had high claims to our regard. But to the rare tribute of a centennial anniversary of his birth? day, which we gladly join with Scotland, and indeed with Europe, to keep, he is not less en? titled – perhaps he alone among literary men of this century is entitled – by the exceptional debt which all English-speaking men have gladly owed to his character and genius. I think no modern writer has inspired his readers with such affection to his own personality. I can well re? member as far back as when The Lord of the Isles was first republished in Boston, in 1815, – my own and my school-fellows’ joy in the book.’ Marmion and The Lay had gone be? fore, but we were then learning to spell. I n the face of the later novels, we still claim that his poetry is the delight of boys. But this means that when we reopen these old books we all consent to be boys again. We tread over our youthful grounds with joy. Critics have found them to be only rhymed prose. But I believe that many of those who read them in youth, when, later, they come to dismiss finally their school-days’ library, will make some fond exception for Scott as for Byron.

It is easy to see the origin of his poems. His own ear had been charmed by old ballads crooned by Scottish dames at firesides, and writ-ten down from their lips by antiquaries ; and finding them now outgrown and dishonored by the new culture, he attempted to dignify and adapt them to the times in which he lived. Just so much thought, so much picturesque detail in dialogue or description as the old ballad required, so much suppression of details and leaping to the event, he would keep and use, but without any ambition to write a high poem after a classic model. He made no pretension to the lofty style of Spenser, or Milton, or Wordsworth. Compared with their purified songs, purified of all ephemeral color or material, his were vers de société. But he had the skill proper to vers de société, – skill to fit his verse to his topic, and not to write solemn pentameters alike on a hero or a spaniel. His good sense probably elected the ballad to make his audience larger. He apprehended in advance the immense enlargement of the reading public, which almost dates from the era of his books,-which his books and Byron’s inaugurated ; and which, though until then unheard of, has become familiar to the present time.

If the success of his poems, however large, was partial, that of his novels was complete. The tone of strength in Waverley at once announced the master, and was more than justified by the superior genius of the following romances, up to the Bride of Lammermoor, which almost goes back to Æschylus for a counterpart as a painting of Fate, – leaving on every reader the impression of the highest and purest tragedy.’

His power on the public mind rests on the singular union of two influences. By nature, by his reading and taste an aristocrat, in a time and country which easily gave him that bias, he had the virtues and graces of that class, and by his eminent humanity and his love of labor escaped its harm. He saw in the English Church the symbol and seal of all social order ; in the historical aristocracy the benefits to the state which Burke claimed for it; and in his own reading and research such store of legend and renown as won his imagination to their cause. Not less his eminent humanity delighted in the sense and virtue and wit of the common people. In his own household and neighbors he found characters and pets of humble class, with whom he established the best relation,- small farmers and tradesmen, shepherds, fishermen, gypsies, peasant-girls, crones, – and came with these into real ties of mutual help and good will. From these originals he drew so genially his Jeanie Deans, his Dinmonts and Edie Ochiltrees, Caleb Balderstones and Fairservices, Cud-die Headriggs, Dominies, Meg Merrilies, and Jenny Rintherouts, full of life and reality ; making these, too, the pivots on which the plots of his stories turn ; and meantime without one word of brag of this discernment, – nay, this extreme sympathy reaching down to every beggar and beggar’s dog, and horse and cow. In the number and variety of his characters he approaches Shakspeare. Other painters in verse or prose have thrown into literature a few type-figures ; as Cervantes, De Foe, Richardson, Goldsmith, Sterne and Fielding ; but Scott portrayed with equal strength and success every figure in his crowded company.
His strong good sense saved him from the faults and foibles incident to poets, – from nervous egotism, sham modesty or jealousy. He played ever a manly part.1 With such a fortune and such a genius, we should look to see what heavy toll the Fates took of him, as of Rousseau or Voltaire, of Swift or Byron. But no : he had no insanity, or vice, or blemish. He was a thoroughly upright, wise and great-hearted man, equal to whatever event or fortune should try him. Disasters only drove him to immense exertion. What an ornament and safeguard is humor ! Far better than wit for a poet and writer. It is a genius itself, and so defends from the insanities.

Under what rare conjunction of stars was this man born, that, wherever he lived, he found superior men, passed all his life in the best company, and still found himself the best of the best ! He was apprenticed at Edinburgh to a Writer to the Signet, and became a Writer to the Signet, and found himself in his youth and manhood and age in the society of Mackintosh, Horner, Jeff-rev, Playfair, Dugald Stewart, Sydney Smith, Leslie, Sir William Hamilton, Wilson, Hogg, De Quincey, – to name only some of his literary neighbors, and, as soon as he died, all this brilliant circle was broken up.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXIV Humboldt

XXIV
HUMBOLDT
AN ABSTRACT OF MR. EMERSON’S REMARKS MADE
AT THE CELEBRATION OF THE CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT, SEPTEMBER 14, 1869
 
“If a life prolonged to an advanced period bring with it several inconveniences to the individual, there is a compensation in the delight of being able to compare older states of know-ledge with that which now exists, and to see great advances in knowledge develop themselves under our eyes in departments which had long slept in inactivity.”
HUMBOLDT, Letter to Ritter.

HUMBOLDT was one of those wonders of the world, like Aristotle, like Julius Cæsar, like the Admirable Crichton, who appear from time to time, as if to show us the possibilities of the human mind, the force and the range of the faculties, – a universal man, not only possessed of great particular talents, but they were symmetrical, his parts were well put together. As we know, a man’s natural powers are often a sort of committee that slowly, one at a time, give their attention and action ; but Humboldt’s were all united, one electric chain, so that a university, a whole French Academy, travelled in his shoes. With great propriety, he named his sketch of the results of science Cosmos. There is no other such survey or surveyor. The wonderful Humboldt, with his solid centre and expanded wings, marches like an army, gathering all things as he goes. How he reaches from science to science, from law to law, folding away moons and asteroids and solar systems in the clauses and parentheses of his encyclopædic paragraphs ! There is no book like it ; none indicating such a battalion of powers. You could not put him on any sea or shore but his instant recollection of every other sea or shore illuminated this.

He was properly a man of the world ; you could not lose him ; you could not detain him ; you could not disappoint him, for at any point on land or sea he found the objects of his re-searches. When he was stopped in Spain and could not get away, he turned round and interpreted their mountain system, explaining the past history of the continent of Europe. He belonged to that wonderful German nation, the foremost scholars in all history, who surpass all others in industry, space and endurance. A German reads a literature whilst we are reading a book. One of their writers warns his country-men that it is not the Battle of Leipsic, but the Leipsic Fair Catalogue, which raises them above the French. I remember Cuvier tells us of fossil elephants ; that Germany has furnished the greatest number ; – not because there are more elephants in Germany, – oh no; but because in that empire there is no canton without some well-informed person capable of making re-searches and publishing interesting results. I know that we have been accustomed to think they were too good scholars, that because they reflect, they never resolve, that ” in a crisis no plan-maker was to be found in the empire ; ” but we have lived to see now, for the second time in the history of Prussia, a statesman of the first class, with a clear head and an inflexible will.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXIII Shakespeare

XXIII
REMARKS
AT THE CELEBRATION OF THE THREE HUNDREDTH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF SHAKSPEARE
BY THE SATURDAY CLUB AT THE
REVERE HOUSE, BOSTON, 1864

ENGLAND’S genius filled all measure
Of heart and soul, of strength and pleasure,
Gave to mind its emperor
And life was lager than before;
And centuries brood, nor can attain
The sense and bound of Shakspeare’s brain:
The men who lived with him became
Poets, for the air was fame.

SHAKSPEARE

TIS not our fault if we have not made this evening’s circle still richer than it is. We seriously endeavored, besides our brothers and our seniors, on whom the ordinary lead of literary and social action falls-and falls because of their ability – to draw out of their retirements a few rarer lovers of the muse-” seld-seen flamens “-whom this day seemed to elect and challenge. And it is to us a painful disappointment that Bryant and Whittier as guests, and our own Hawthorne, – with the best will to come,-should have found it impossible at last; and again, that a well-known and honored compatriot, who first in Boston wrote elegant verse, and on Shakspeare, and whose American devotion through forty or fifty years to the affairs of a bank, has not been able to bury the fires of his genius, – Mr. Charles Sprague, – pleads the infirmities of age as an absolute bar to his presence with us.

We regret also the absence of our members Sumner and Motley.

We can hardly think of an occasion where so little need be said. We are all content to let Shakspeare speak for himself. His fame is settled on the foundations of the moral and intellectual world. Wherever there are men, and in the degree in which they are civil – have power of mind, sensibility to beauty, music, the secrets of passion, and the liquid expression of thought, he has risen to his place as the first poet of the world.

Genius is the consoler of our mortal condition, and Shakspeare taught us that the little world of the heart is vaster, deeper and richer than the spaces of astronomy. What shocks of surprise and sympathetic power, this battery, which he is, imparts to every fine mind that is born ! We say to the young child in the cradle,
Happy, and defended against Fate ! for here is Nature, and here is Shakspeare, waiting for you!

‘T is our metre of culture. He is a cultivated man -who can tell us something new of Shakspeare. All criticism is only a making of rules out of his beauties. He is as superior to his countrymen, as to all other countrymen. He fulfilled the famous prophecy of Socrates, that the poet most excellent in tragedy would be most excellent in comedy, and more than fulfilled it by making tragedy also a victorious melody which healed its own wounds. In short, Shakspeare is the one resource of our life on which no gloom gathers ; the fountain of joy which honors him who tastes it; day without night; pleasure without repentance ; the genius which, in unpoetic ages, keeps poetry in honor and, in sterile periods, keeps up the credit of the human mind.

His genius has reacted on himself. Men were so astonished and occupied by his poems that they have not been able to see his face and condition, or say, who was his father and his brethren ; or what life he led ; and at the short distance of three hundred years he is mythical, like Orpheus and Homer, and we have already seen the most fantastic theories plausibly urged, as that Raleigh and Bacon were the authors of the plays.

Yet we pause expectant before the genius of Shakspeare-as if his biography were not yet written ; until the problem of the whole English race is solved.

I see, among the lovers of this catholic genius, here present, a few, whose deeper know-ledge invites me to hazard an article of my literary creed ; that Shakspeare, by his transcendant reach of thought, so unites the extremes, that, whilst he has kept the theatre now for three centuries, and, like a street-bible, furnishes sayings to the market, courts of law, the senate, and common discourse, – he is vet to all wise men the companion of the closet. The student finds the solitariest place not solitary enough to read him ; and so searching is his penetration, and such the charm of his speech, that he still agitates the heart in age as in youth, and will, until it ceases to beat.

Young men of a contemplative turn carry his sonnets in the pocket. With that book, the shade of any tree, a room in any inn, becomes a chapel or oratory in which to sit out their happiest hours. Later they find riper and manlier lessons in the plays.

And secondly, he is the most robust and potent thinker that ever was. I find that it was not history, courts and affairs that gave him lessons, but he that gave grandeur and prestige to them. There never was a writer who, seeming to draw every hint from outward history, the life of cities and courts, owed them so little. You shall never find in this world the barons or kings he depicted. ‘T is fine for Englishmen to say, they only know history by Shakspeare. The palaces they compass earth and sea to enter, the magnificence and personages of royal and imperial abodes, are shabby imitations and caricatures of his, – clumsy pupils of his instruction. There are no Warwicks, no Talbots, no Bolingbrokes, no Cardinals, no Harry Fifth, in real Europe, like his. The loyalty and royalty he drew were all his own. The real Elizabeths, Jameses and Louises were painted sticks before this magician.

The unaffected joy of the comedy, – he lives in a gale, – contrasted with the grandeur of the tragedy, where he stoops to no contrivance, no pulpiting, but flies an eagle at the heart of the problem ; where his speech is a Delphi,- the great Nemesis that he is and utters. What a great heart of equity is he! How good and sound and inviolable his innocency, that is never to seek, and never wrong, but speaks the pure sense of humanity on each occasion. He dwarfs all writers without a solitary exception. No egotism. The egotism of men is immense. It concealed Shakspeare for a century. His mind has a superiority such that the universities should read lectures on him, and conquer the unconquerable if they can.
�
There are periods fruitful of great men ; others, barren ; or, as the world is always equal to itself, periods when the heat is latent, – others when it is given out.

They are like the great wine years, – the vintage of 1847, is it ? or 1835 ?-which are not only noted in the carte of the table d’h�te, but which, it is said, are always followed by new vivacity in the politics of Europe. His birth marked a great wine year when wonderful grapes ripened in the vintage of God, when Shakspeare and Galileo were born within a few months of each other, and Cervantes was his exact contemporary, and, in short space before and after, Montaigne, Bacon, Spenser, Raleigh and Jonson. Yet Shakspeare, not by any inferiority of theirs, but simply by his colossal proportions, dwarfs the geniuses of Elizabeth as easily as the wits of Anne, or the poor slipshod troubadours of King Rene.

In our ordinary experience of men there are some men so born to live well that, in whatever company they fall, – high or low, -they fit well, and lead it ! but, being advanced to a higher class, they are just as much in their element as before, and easily command : and being again preferred to selecter companions, find no obstacle to ruling these as they did their earlier mates ; I suppose because they have more humanity than talent, whilst they have quite as much of the last as any of the company. It would strike you as comic, if I should give my own customary examples of this elasticity, though striking enough to me. I could name in this very company – or not going far out of it -very good types, but in order to be parliamentary, Franklin, Burns and Walter Scott are examples of the rule ; and king of men, by this grace of God also, is Shakspeare.

The Pilgrims came to Plymouth in 162o. The plays of Shakspeare were not published until three years later. Had they been published earlier, our forefathers, or the most poetical among them, might have stayed at home to read them.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXII Robert Burns

XXII
ROBERT BURNS
SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE CELEBRATION OF THE BURNS CENTENARY, BOSTON JANUARY 25, 1859

“His was the music to whose tone
The common pulse of man keeps time
In cot or castle’s mirth or moan,
In cold or sunny clime.

Praise to the bard! his words are driven,
Like Rower-seeds by the far winds sown,
Where’er, beneath the sky of heaven,
The birds of tame have flown.”

HALLECK.

ROBERT BURNS

MR. PRESIDENT, AND GENTLEMEN: I do not know by what untoward accident it has chanced, and I forbear to inquire, that, in this accomplished circle, it should fall to me, the worst Scotsman of all, to receive your commands, and at the latest hour too, to respond to the sentiment just offered, and which indeed makes the occasion. But 1 am told there is no appeal, and I must trust to the inspirations of the theme to make a fitness which does not otherwise exist. Yet, Sir, I heartily feel the singular claims of the occasion. At the first announcement, from I know not whence, that the 25th of January was the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, a sudden consent warmed the great English race, in all its kingdoms, colonies and states, all over the world, to keep the festival. We are here to hold our parliament with love and poesy, as men were wont to do in the Middle Ages. Those famous parliaments might or might not have had more stateliness and better singers than we,-though that is yet to be known, – but they could not have better reason. I can only explain this singular unanimity in a race which rarely acts together, but rather after their watch-word, Each for himself, – by the fact that Robert Burns, the poet of the middle class, re-presents in the mind of men to-day that great uprising of the middle class against the armed and privileged minorities, that uprising which worked politically in the American and French Revolutions, and which, not in governments so much as in education and social order, has changed the face of the world.

In order for this destiny, his birth, breeding and fortunes were low. His organic sentiment was absolute independence, and resting as it should on a life of labor. No man existed who could look down on him. They that looked into his eyes saw that they might look down the sky as easily.’ His muse and teaching was common sense, joyful, aggressive, irresistible. Not Latimer, nor Luther struck more telling blows against false theology than did this brave singer. The Confession of Augsburg, the Declaration of Independence, the French Rights of Man, and the Marseillaise, are not more weighty documents in the history of freedom than the songs of Burns. His satire has lost none of its edge. His musical arrows yet sing through the air. He is so substantially a reformer that I find his grand plain sense in close chain with the greatest masters, – Rabelais, Shakspeare in comedy, Cervantes, Butler, and Burns. If I should add another name, I find it only in a living country-man of Burns.’

He is an exceptional genius. The people who care nothing for literature and poetry care for Burns. It was indifferent – they thought who saw him – whether he wrote verse or not : he could have done anything else as well. Yet how true a poet is he ! And the poet, too, of poor men, of gray hodden and the guernsey coat and the blouse. He has given voice to all the experiences of common life ; he has endeared the farmhouse and cottage, patches and poverty, beans and barley ; ale, the poor man’s wine ; hardship ; the fear of debt ; the dear society of weans and wife, of brothers and sisters, proud of each other, knowing so few and finding amends for want and obscurity in books and thoughts.’ What a love of Nature, and, shall I say it ? of middle-class Nature. Not like Goethe, in the stars, or like Byron, in the ocean, or Moore, in the luxurious East, but in the homely landscape which the poor see around them, – bleak leagues of pasture and stubble, ice and sleet and rain and snow-choked brooks ; birds, hares, field-mice, thistles and heather, which he daily knew. How many ” Bonny Doons ” and ” John Anderson my jo’s ” and ” Auld lang synes ” all around the earth have his verses been applied to ! And his love-songs still woo and melt the youths and maids ; the farm-work, the country holiday, the fishing-cobble are still his debtors to-day.

And as he was thus the poet of the poor, anxious, cheerful, working humanity, so had he the language of low life. He grew up in a rural district, speaking a patois unintelligible to all but natives, and he has made the Lowland Scotch a Doric dialect of fame. 1t is the only example in history of a language made classic by the genius of a single man. But more than this. He had that secret of genius to draw from the bottom of society the strength of its speech, and astonish the ears of the polite with these artless words, better than art, and filtered of all offence through his beauty. It seemed odious to Luther that the devil should have all the best tunes ; he would bring them into the churches ; and Burns knew how to take from fairs and gypsies, black-smiths and drovers, the speech of the market and street, and clothe it with melody. But I am detaining you too long. The memory of Burns, – I am afraid heaven and earth have taken too good care of it to leave us anything to say. The west winds are murmuring it. Open the windows behind you, and hearken for the incoming tide, what the waves say of it. The doves perching always on the eaves of the Stone Chapel opposite, may know something about it. Every name in broad Scotland keeps his fame bright. The memory of Burns, – every man’s, every boy’s and girl’s head carries snatches of his songs, and they say them by heart, and, what is strangest of all, never learned them from a book, but from mouth to mouth. The wind whispers them, the birds whistle them, the corn, barley, and bulrushes hoarsely rustle them, nay, the music-boxes at Geneva are framed and toothed to play them ; the hand-organs of the Savoyards in all cities repeat them, and the chimes of hells ring them in the spires. They are the property and the solace of mankind.’

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XXI Consecration of Sleepy Hollow Cemetary

XXI ADDRESS
TO THE INHABITANTS OF CONCORD AT THE
CONSECRATION OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
SEPTEMBER 29, 1855

SLEEPY HOLLOW

“No abbey’s gloom, nor dark cathedral stoops,
No winding torches paint the midnight air;
Here the green pines delight, the aspen droops
Along the modest pathways, and those fair
Pale asters of the season spread their plumes
Around this field, fit garden for our tombs.

And shalt thou pause to hear some funeral-bell
Slow stealing o’er the heart in this calm place,
Not with a throb of pain, a feverish knell,
But in its kind and supplicating grace,
It says, Go, pilgrim, on thy march, be more
Friend to the friendless than thou vast before;

Learn from the loved one’s rest serenity;
To-morrow that soft bell for thee shall sound,
And thou repose beneath the whispering tree,
One tribute more to this submissive ground; –
Prison thy soul from malice, bar out pride,
Nor these pale flowers nor this still field deride:

Rather to those ascents of being turn
Where a ne’er-setting sun illumes the year
Eternal, and the incessant watch-fires burn
Of unspent holiness and goodness clear, –
Forget man’s littleness, deserve the best,
God’s mercy in thy thought and life confest.”
WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING.

ADDRESS
TO THE INHABITANTS OF CONCORD AT THE
CONSECRATION OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
SEPTEMBER 29, 1855

CITIZENS AND FRIENDS: The committee to whom was confided the charge of carrying out the wishes of the town in opening the cemetery, having proceeded so far as to enclose the ground, and cut the necessary roads, and having laid off as many lots as are likely to be wanted at present, haye thought it fit to call the inhabitants together, to show you the ground, now that the new avenues make its advantages appear ; and to put it at your disposition.

They have thought that the taking possession of this field ought to be marked by a public meeting and religious rites : and they haye re-quested me to say a few words which the serious and tender occasion inspires.

And this concourse of friendly company assures me that they haye rightly interpreted your wishes. [Here followed, in the address, about three pages of matter which Mr. Emerson used later in his essay on Immortality, which may be found in the volume Letters and Social aims, beginning on page 324, ” The credence of men,” etc., and ending on pages 326-27 with the sentence, ” Meantime the true disciples saw, through the letters, the doctrine of eternity which dissolved the poor corpse and nature also, and gave grandeur to the passing hour.”]

In these times we see the defects of our old theology ; its inferiority to our habit of thoughts. Men go up and down ; Science is popularized ; the irresistible democracy – shall I call it ? – of chemistry, of vegetation, which recomposes for new life every decomposing particle, – the race never dying, the individual never spared, – have impressed on the mind of the age the futility of these old arts of preserving. We give our earth to earth. We will not jealously guard a few atoms under immense marbles, selfishly and impossibly sequestering it from the vast circulations of Nature, but, at the same time, fully admitting the divine hope and love which belong to our nature, wishing to make one spot tender to our children, who shall come hither in the next century to read the dates of these liyes.

Our people accepting this lesson from science, yet touched by the tenderness which Christianity breathes, have found a mean in the consecration of gardens. A simultaneous movement has, in a hundred cities and towns in this country, selected some convenient piece of undulating ground with pleasant woods and waters ; every family chooses its own clump of trees ; and we lay the corpse in these leafy colonnades.

A grove of trees, – what benefit or ornament is so fair and great ? they make the landscape; they keep the earth habitable ; their roots run down, like cattle, to the water-courses ; their heads expand to feed the atmosphere. The life of a tree is a hundred and a thousand years ; its decays ornamental ; its repairs self-made : they grow when we sleep, they grew when we were unborn. Man is a moth among these longevities. He plants for the next millennium. Shadows haunt them ; all that ever liyed about them cling to them. You can almost see behind these pines the Indian with bow and arrow lurking yet exploring the traces of the old trail.

Modern taste has shown that there is no ornament, no architecture alone, so sumptuous as well disposed woods and waters, where art has been employed only to remoye superfluities, and bring out the natural advantages. In cultiyated grounds one sees the picturesque and opulent effect of the familiar shrubs, barberry, lilac, privet and thorns, when they are disposed in masses, and in large spaces. What work of man will compare with the plantation of a park ? It dignifies life. It is a seat for friendship, counsel, taste and religion. I do not wonder that they are the chosen badge and point of pride of European nobility. But how much more are they needed by us, anxious, oyerdriyen Americans, to stanch and appease that fury of temperament which our climate bestows !

This tract fortunately lies adjoining to the Agricultural Society’s ground, to the New Burial Ground, to the Court House and the Town House, making together a large block of public ground, permanent property of the town and county, – all the ornaments of either adding so much value to all.

I suppose all of us will readily admit the value of parks and cultivated grounds to the pleasure and education of the people, but I have heard it said here that we would gladly spend for a park for the living, but not for a cemetery ; a garden for the living, a home of thought and friendship. Certainly the liying need it more than the dead ; indeed, to speak precisely, it is given to the dead for the reaction of benefit on the living. But if the direct regard to the living be thought expedient, that is also in your power. This ground is happily so divided by Nature as to admit of this relation between the Past and the Present. In the valley where we stand will be the Monuments. On the other side of the ridge, towards the town, a portion of the land is in full yiew of the cheer of the village and is out of sight of the Monuments ; it admits of being reserved for secular purposes ; for games, – not such as the Greeks honored the dead with, but for games of education ; the distribution of school prizes ; the meeting of teachers ; patriotic eloquence, the utterance of the principles of national liberty to private, social, literary or religious fraternities. Here we may establish that most agreeable of all museums, and agreeable to the temper of our times, – an arboretum, – wherein may be planted, by the taste of every citizen, one tree, with its name recorded in a book ; every tree that is native to Massachusetts, or will grow in it; so that every child may be shown growing, side by side, the eleven oaks of Massachusetts ; and the twenty willows ; the beech, which we have allowed to die out of the eastern counties ; and here the vast firs of California and Oregon.

This spot for twenty years has borne the name of Sleepy Hollow. Its seclusion from the village in its immediate neighborhood had made it to all the inhabitants an easy retreat on a Sabbath day, or a summer twilight, and it was inevitably chosen by them when the design of a new cemetery was broached, if it did not suggest the design, as the fit place for their final repose. In all the multitudes of woodlands and hillsides, which within a few years have been laid out with a similar design, I have not known one so fitly named. S l e e p y Hollow. I n this quiet valley, as in the palm of Nature’s hand, we shall sleep well when we have finished our day. What is the Earth itself but a surface scooped into nooks and caves of slumber – according to the Eastern fable, a bridge full of holes, into one or other of which all the passengers sink to silence ? Nay, when I think of the mystery of life, its round of illusions, our ignorance of its beginning or its end, the speed of the changes of that glittering dream we call existence, – I think sometimes that the vault of the sky arching there upward, under which our busy being is whirled, is only a Sleepy Hollow, with path of Suns, instead of foot-paths; and Milky Ways, for truck-roads.

The ground has the peaceful character that belongs to this town ; – no lofty crags, no glittering cataracts ; – but I hold that every part of Nature is handsome when not deformed by bad Art. Bleak sea-rocks and sea-downs and blasted heaths have their own beauty ; and though we make much ado in our praises of Italy or Andes, Nature makes not so much difference. The morning, the moonlight, the spring day, are magical painters, and can glorify a meadow or a rock.
But we must look forward also, and make our-selves a thousand years old ; and when these acorns, that are falling at our feet, are oaks over-shadowing our children in a remote century, this mute green bank will be full of history: the good, the wise and great will have left their names and virtues on the trees ; heroes, poets, beauties, sanctities, benefactors, will have made the air timeable and articulate.

And hither shall repair, to this modest spot of God’s earth, every sweet and friendly influence ; the beautiful night and beautiful day will come in turn to sit upon the grass. Our use will not displace the old tenants. The well-beloved birds will not sing one song the less, the high-holding woodpecker, the meadow-lark, the oriole, robin, purple finch, bluebird, thrush and red-eyed warbler, the heron, the bittern will find out the hospitality and protection from the gun of this asylum, and will seek the waters of the meadow ; and in the grass, and by the pond, the locust, the cricket and the hyla, shall shrilly play.

We shall bring hither the body of the dead, but how shall we catch the escaped soul ? Here will burn for us, as the oath of God, the sublime belief. I have heard that death takes us away from ill things, not from good. I have heard that when we pronounce the name of man, we pronounce the belief of immortality. All great natures delight in stability ; all great men find eternity affirmed in the promise of their faculties. Why is the fable of the Wandering Jew agreeable to men, but because they want more time and land to execute their thoughts in? Life is not long enough for art, nor long enough for friendship. The evidence from intellect is as valid as the evidence from love. The being that can share a thought and feeling so sublime as confidence in truth is no mushroom. Our dissatisfaction with any other solution is the blazing evidence of immortality.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE XI - Miscellanies

XIX Address to Kossuth

XIX
ADDRESS TO KOSSUTH
AT CONCORD, MAY 11, 1852

God said, I am tired of kings,
I suffer them no more;
Up to my ear the morning brings
The outrage of the poor.

My angel, – his name is Freedom, –
Choose him to be your king;
He shall cut pathways east and west,
And fend you with his wing.
 
ADDRESS TO KOSSUTH
SIR, – The fatigue of your many public visits, in such unbroken succession as may compare with the toils of a campaign, forbid us to detain you long. The people of this town share with their countrymen the admiration of valor and perseverance ; they, like their compatriots, have been hungry to see the man whose extraordinary eloquence is seconded by the splendor and the solidity of his actions. But, as it is the privilege of the people of this town to keep a hallowed mound which has a place in the story of the country ; as Concord is one of the monuments of freedom ; we knew before-hand that you could not go by us ; you could not take all your steps in the pilgrimage of American liberty, until you had seen with your eyes the ruins of the bridge where a handful of brave farmers opened our Revolution. Therefore, we sat and waited for you.

And now, Sir, we are heartily glad to see you, at last, in these fields. We set no more value than you do on cheers and huzzas. But we think that the graves of our heroes around us throb to-day to a footstep that sounded like their own:-

“The mighty tread
Brings from the dust the sound of liberty.”

Sir, we have watched with attention your progress through the land, and the varying feeling with which you have been received, and the unvarying tone and countenance which you have maintained. We wish to discriminate in our regard. We wish to reserve our honor for actions of the noblest strain. We please our-selves that in you we meet one whose temper was long since tried in the fire, and made equal to all events ; a man so truly in love with the greatest future, that he cannot be diverted to any less.

It is our republican doctrine, too, that the wide variety of opinions is an advantage. I believe I may say of the people of this country at large, that their sympathy is more worth, because it stands the test of party. It is not a blind wave ; it is a living soul contending with living souls. It is, in every expression, antagonized. No opinion will pass but must stand the tug of war. As you see, the love you win is worth something; for it has been argued through ; its foundation searched ; it has proved sound and whole; it may be avowed ; it will last, and it will draw all opinion to itself.
 
We have seen, with great pleasure, that there is nothing accidental in your attitude. We have seen that you are organically in that cause you plead. The man of Freedom, you are also the man of Fate. You do not elect, but you are elected by God and your genius to the task. We do not, therefore, affect to thank you. We only see in you the angel of freedom, crossing sea and land ; crossing parties, nationalities, private interests and self-esteems ; dividing populations where you go, and drawing to your part only the good. We are afraid that you are growing popular, Sir ; you may be called to the dangers of prosperity. But, hitherto, you have had in all centuries and in all parties only the men of heart. I do not know but you will have the million yet. Then, may your strength be equal to your day. But remember, Sir, that everything great and excellent in the world is in minorities.’

Far be from us, Sir, any tone of patronage ; we ought rather to ask yours. We know the austere condition of liberty – that it must be reconquered over and over again ; yea, day by day ; that it is a state of war ; that it is always slipping from those who boast it to those who fight for it : and you, the foremost soldier of freedom in this age,- it is for us to crave your judgment ; who are we that we should dictate to you? You have won your own. We only affirm it. This country of workingmen greets in you a worker. This republic greets in you a republican. We only say, ` Well done, good and faithful.’ – You have earned your own nobility at home. We admit you ad eundem (as they say at College). We admit you to the same degree, without new trial. We suspend all rules before so paramount a merit. You may well sit a doctor in the college of liberty. You have achieved your right to interpret our Washington. And I speak the sense not only of every generous American, but the law of mind, when I say that it is not those who live idly in the city called after his name, but those who, all over the world, think and act like him, who can claim to explain the sentiment of Washington.

Sir, whatever obstruction from selfishness, indifference, or from property (which always sympathizes with possession) you may encounter, we congratulate you that you have known how to convert calamities into powers, exile into a campaign, present defeat into lasting victory. For this new crusade which you preach to willing and to unwilling ears in America is a seed of armed men. You have got your story told in every palace and log hut and prairie camp, throughout this continent. And, as the shores of Europe and America approach every month, and their politics will one day mingle, when the crisis arrives it will find us all instructed beforehand in the rights and wrongs of Hungary, and parties already to her freedom.