Ralph Waldo Emerson

By George Edward Woodberry | Go to book overview

RALPH WALDO EMERSON

CHAPTER I
THE VOICE OBEYED AT PRIME

EMERSON leaves a double image on the mind that has dwelt long upon his memory. He is a shining figure as on some Mount of Transfiguration; and he was a parochial man. In one aspect he is of kin with old Ionian philosophers, with no more shreds of time and place than those sons of the morning who first brought the light of intellect into this world; in the other he is a Bostonian, living in a parish suburb of the city, stamped with peculiarity, the product of tradition, the creature of local environment. One is the image to the mind; the other to the senses. One is of the soul, of eternity; the other, of the body, of time. It is difficult to focus such a nature; to find the axis of identity; even the ray of truth is here doubly refracted, on one side into ideality, on the other into incompletion, the meaninglessness of matters of fact, unconcerning things. But to Emerson himself his life was of one piece, and seemed so, because he looked on it from a point within, from that centre of integrity upon which his being revolved as a personal law unto itself. It is there that the mind must fix its insight. The

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