« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ingness to offend, but rather an aggressive tolerance. Emerson would not merely grant to every man the allowance he takes,' but would even force him to take it. He was patient with the most obnoxious of reformers. And he could be tolerant with those who could tolerate nothing.
With pronounced and original views he had little solicitude to impose his views on others. He was without egotism. To state the truth as he apprehended it and to let the world come to his ideas if the world could and would, contented him. But he had no quarrel with the order of things. His good humor and smiling patience are manifest in everything he has written.
Emerson held firmly to the doctrine of the brotherhood of man, yet with no touch of the unctuous fraternizer. He had the rebuffs that all must encounter who try to break down the partition wall between classes. In an attempt to solve, according to the Golden Rule, the problem of a servant's status in the household, he was thoroughly beaten and laughingly acknowledged it. He did his share, but the servant refused to fraternize.
He was a good citizen, an excellent neighbor, prompt in the acknowledgment of all homely duties. His was a large-souled, benignant, and gracious nature. There was something healing in his mere presence, though no word was spoken.
Emerson gave sound advice on the art of writing, like a professor of rhetoric. He commended the sentences that would stand the test of the voice. This is applying physiology to literature. He laughed at the habit of exaggeration, though he also said, “The superlative is as good as the 'positive if it be alive. His rules are excellent, and if followed must give distinction to whatever page of writing they are applied. But while they go no deeper than other suggestions, they point out the obvious characteristics of his style.
For example, Emerson thought clarity all-important. He aimed at it, and attained it. He believed in the use of the right word, and was dissatisfied unless it could be found. The right word is always illuminating, and as a result Emerson's English is full of surprises. Even when the term employed shocks by its unexpectedness, we presently feel that after all the choice was not grotesque. In practice Emerson was no spendthrift of words, that currency which loses weight and value in the ratio of one's prodigality, but delighted in economy. No doubt his style is aphoristic — that is a natural result of writing aphorisms. But if no less aphoristic, it is far more logical than is commonly reported. The want of sequence in Emerson's work has been exaggerated, often to the point of absurdity.
There are writers who have two distinct literary styles, as they have two faces, one to be photographed in, and one for natural wear. Emerson had one style, which was dual-toned, each tone taking the color of his prevailing thought, and each shading imperceptibly into the other. A dozen pages picked at random from his best essays will hardly fail to show how sublimated his diction could be at times. Then does it come near to the line dividing poetry from prose, from which it presently falls away to the level of everyday need. Poetic as Emerson's diction frequently is, it is always controlled. On the other hand, when it sinks to plain prose it never loses the air of distinction and breeding.
NATURE, ADDRESSES, AND LECTURES
In the introduction of his first book, Nature, Emerson announces his favorite doctrine, the necessity of seeing the world through our own eyes, of being original, not imitative. He then proceeds with his interpretation. Nature not only exalts man, giving him a pleasure so tonic that it
admonishes to temperance, but also renders him certain services. They may be classified under Commodity, Beauty, Language, and Discipline. The first, albeit the lowest, is perfect in its kind; men everywhere comprehend the 'steady and 'prodigal provision' that has been made for their comfort. Beauty is the second, and meets a nobler want. Nature satisfies by its loveliness,' and without any mixture of corporeal benefit.' Give
' me health and a day, and I will make the pomp ‘of emperors ridiculous.' This is not enough, there must be a spiritual element. Such element is found in the will and virtue of man. An act of truth or heroism seems at once to draw to itself the sky as its temple.' Beauty in Nature also becomes an object of the intellect. It reforms itself in the mind, leads to a new creation, and hence Art.
Nature is the source of language, words being the signs of natural facts. But every natural fact ‘is a symbol of some spiritual fact.' In brief, 'the 'world is emblematic.' Nature is a discipline of the understanding, devoting herself to forming the common-sense. Nature is the discipline of the will, after which she becomes the ally of Religion. In short, so great is the part played by Nature in disciplining man that the 'noble doubt' perpetually arises 'whether the end be not the Final Cause
of the Universe ; and whether nature outwardly exists.'
What then? It makes no difference whether · Orion is up there in heaven or some god paints 'the image in the firmament of the soul.' Culture has the uniform effect of leading us to regard nature as a phenomenon, not a substance. Nature herself gives us the hint of Idealism. The poet teaches the same lesson. The philosopher seeking, not Beauty, but Truth, dissolves the solid seem‘ing block of matter' by a thought. Intellectual science begets invariably a doubt of the existence of matter. Ethics and religion have the same effect of degrading ‘nature and suggesting its de'pendence on spirit.' Back of all nature, then, is spirit. “The world
« proceeds from the same spirit as the body of man. It is a remoter and inferior incarnation of God.' At
present man has not come into his whole kingdom. He depends on his understanding alone. Let him apply all his powers, the reason as well as the
Brief as it is, this little book shows to perfection the richness of Emerson's thought, his skill in the apothegm, his economy of phrase, the poetic cast of his mind, and the beauty of his diction.
Nine addresses and lectures are printed along with Nature in the definitive edition of Emerson's writings. The first is the Phi Beta Kappa Oration, The American Scholar,' in which Emerson sounds with resonant tone that note of independence so marked in all his teaching. It was time,