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ADDRESS TO THE SCHOOL
CHILDREN OF CONCORD, MAS-
MAY 25, 1903. Now and then we meet a man who seems to live high above the little things that vex our lives, and who makes us forget them. He may speak or he may be silent; it is enough that he lives and that we are with him. When we face him, we feel somewhat as we feel when we first see the ocean, or Niagara, or the Alps, or Athens, or when we first read the greatest poetry. Nothing, indeed, is more like great poetry than the soul of a great man; and when the great man is good, when he loves everything that is beautiful and true and makes his life like what he loves, his face becomes transfigured, or, as an old poet used to say, “throughshine;" for the soul within him is the light of the world.
Such a great man was Emerson. He was much beside: he was a philosopher. Sometimes a philosopher is a man who disbelieves everything worth believing, and spends a great deal of strength in making simple things hard; but Emerson was a philosopher in the best sense of the word, - a lover of wisdom and of truth. He was also a poet; not a poet like Homer who sang, but a poet like that Greek philosopher, Plato, who thought deep and high, and saw what no one else saw, and told what he saw as no one else could tell it. This is another way of saying that Emerson was a "seer.”
To many of you he may not seem a poet, for his verse is often homely and rough. It has lines and stanzas of noble music,
" Out from the heart of nature rolled
The burdens of the Bible old."
The rose of beauty burns.
Immortal youth returns ; ". but seldom many of them in succession. “ Though love repine and reason chafe,
There came a voice without reply,-"'Tis man's perdition to be safe,
When for the truth he ought to die.'» The first three of these lines are beyond the reach of most poets; the fourth line is prose.
"I am born a poet," he wrote to his betrothed ; "of a low class without doubt, yet a poet. That is my nature and vocation. My singing, be sure, is very husky, and is, for the most part, in prose.” “He lamented his hard fate,” says his biographer, Mr. Cabot, “in being only half a bard; or, as he wrote to Carlyle, 'not a poet, but a lover of poetry and poets, and merely serving as writer, etc, in
this empty America before the arrival of the poets.'" He questioned whether to print his poems, “uncertain always,” he wrote, “whether I have one true spark of that fire which burns in verse;" and in a little poem, called “The Test,” he says that in some five hundred of his verses
“ Five lines lasted, sound and true.”
When he wrote prose, he thought of a sentence by itself, and not of its connection with other sentences; and when he wrote verse, he thought, it would seem, of the form of each line, without much attention to the form or the length of its neighbors, or even to its own smoothness, — he whose ear for a prose sentence was trained so delicately.
Yet I, for one, would give up any other poetry of America rather than Emerson's; and I am certain that one secret of his power over men and women was his belief that every human soul is poetry