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Complete Prose Works by Walt Whitman

Part 5 out of 13

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verdure or vines--the ample, calm, eternal rocks everywhere--the long
streaks of motley foam, a milk-white curd on the glistening breast
of the stream--the little two-masted schooner, dingy yellow, with
patch'd sails, set wing-and-wing, nearing us, coming saucily up the
water with a couple of swarthy, black-hair'd men aboard--the strong
shades falling on the light gray or yellow outlines of the hills all
through the forenoon, as we steam within gunshot of them--while ever
the pure and delicate sky spreads over all. And the splendid sunsets,
and the sights of evening--the same old stars, (relatively a little
different, I see, so far north) Arcturus and Lyra, and the Eagle,
and great Jupiter like a silver globe, and the constellation of the
Scorpion. Then northern lights nearly every night.


Grim and rocky and black-water'd as the demesne hereabout is, however,
you must not think genial humanity, and comfort, and good-living are
not to be met. Before I began this memorandum I made a first-rate
breakfast of sea-trout, finishing off with wild raspberries. I find
smiles and courtesy everywhere--physiognomies in general curiously
like those in the United States--(I was astonish'd to find the same
resemblance all through the province of Quebec.) In general the
inhabitants of this rugged country (Charlevoix, Chicoutimi and
Tadousac counties, and lake St. John region) a simple, hardy
population, lumbering, trapping furs, boating, fishing, berry-picking
and a little farming. I was watching a group of young boatmen eating
their early dinner--nothing but an immense loaf of bread, had
apparently been the size of a bushel measure, from which they cut
chunks with a jack-knife. Must be a tremendous winter country this,
when the solid frost and ice fully set in.

CEDAR-PLUMS LIKE-NAMES (_Back again in Camden and down in Jersey_)

One time I thought of naming this collection "Cedar-Plums Like" (which
I still fancy wouldn't have been a bad name nor inappropriate.) A
melange of loafing, looking, hobbling, sitting, traveling--a little
thinking thrown in for salt, but very little--not only summer but all
seasons--not only days but nights--some literary meditations--books,
authors examined, Carlyle, Poe, Emerson tried, (always under my
cedar-tree, in the open air, and never in the library)--mostly the
scenes everybody sees, but some of my own caprices, meditations,
egotism--truly an open air and mainly summer formation--singly, or
in clusters--wild and free and somewhat acrid--indeed more like
cedar-plums than you might guess at first glance.

But do you know what they are? (To city man, or some sweet parlor
lady, I now talk.) As you go along roads, or barrens, or across
country, anywhere through these States, middle, eastern, western, or
southern, you will see, certain seasons of the year, the thick woolly
tufts of the cedar mottled with bunches of china-blue berries, about
as big as fox-grapes. But first a special word for the tree itself:
everybody knows that the cedar is a healthy, cheap, democratic wood,
streak'd red and white--an evergreen--that it is not a _cultivated_
tree--that it keeps away moths--that it grows inland or seaboard, all
climates, hot or cold, any soil--in fact rather prefers sand and
bleak side spots--content if the plough, the fertilizer and the
trimming-axe, will but keep away and let it alone. After a long rain,
when everything looks bright, often have I stopt in my wood-saunters,
south or north, or far west, to take in its dusky green, wash'd clean
and sweet, and speck'd copiously with its fruit of clear, hardy blue.
The wood of the cedar is of use--but what profit on earth are those
sprigs of acrid plums? A question impossible to answer satisfactorily.
True, some of the herb doctors give them for stomachic affections, but
the remedy is as bad as the disease. Then in my rambles down in Camden
county I once found an old crazy woman gathering the clusters
with zeal and joy. She show'd, as I was told afterward, a sort of
infatuation for them, and every year placed and kept profuse bunches
high and low about her room. They had a strange charm on her uneasy
head, and effected docility and peace. (She was harmless, and lived
near by with her well-off married daughter.) Whether there is any
connection between those bunches, and being out of one's wits, I
cannot say, but I myself entertain a weakness for them. Indeed, I love
the cedar, anyhow--its naked ruggedness, its just palpable odor,
(so different from the perfumer's best,) its silence, its equable
acceptance of winter's cold and summer's heat, of rain or drouth--its
shelter to me from those, at times--its associations--(well, I never
could explain _why_ I love anybody, or anything.) The service I now
specially owe to the cedar is, while I cast around for a name for my
proposed collection, hesitating, puzzled--after rejecting a long, long
string, I lift my eyes, and lo! the very term I want. At any rate, I
go no further--I tire in the search. I take what some invisible kind
spirit has put before me. Besides, who shall say there is not affinity
enough between (at least the bundle of sticks that produced) many
of these pieces, or granulations, and those blue berries? their
uselessness growing wild--a certain aroma of Nature I would so like
to have in my pages--the thin soil whence they come--their content
in being let alone--their stolid and deaf repugnance to answering
questions, (this latter the nearest, dearest trait affinity of all.)

Then reader dear, in conclusion, as to the point of the name for the
present collection, let us be satisfied to _have_ a name--something to
identify and bind it together, to concrete all its vegetable, mineral,
personal memoranda, abrupt raids of criticism, crude gossip of
philosophy, varied sands and clumps--without bothering ourselves
because certain pages do not present themselves to you or me as coming
under their own name with entire fitness or amiability. (It is a
profound, vexatious never-explicable matter--this of names. I have
been exercised deeply about it my whole life.[11])

After all of which the name "Cedar-Plums Like" got its nose put out
of joint; but I cannot afford to throw away what I pencill'd down the
lane there, under the shelter of my old friend, one warm October noon.
Besides, it wouldn't be civil to the cedar tree.


[11] In the pocket of my receptacle-book I find a list of suggested
and rejected names for this volume, or parts of it--such as the

_As the wild bee hums in May,
& August mulleins grow,
& Winter snow-flakes fall,
& stars in the sky roll round._

_Away from Books--away from Art,
Now for the Day and Night--the lessons done,
Now for the Sun and Stars._

_Notes of a Half-Paralytic, As Voices in the Dusk, from
Week in and Week out, Speakers far or hid,
Embers of Ending Days, Autochthons....Embryons,
Ducks and Drakes, Wing-and-Wing,
Flood Tide and Ebb, Notes and Recalles.
Gossip at Early Candle-light, Only Mulleins and Bumble-Bees,
Echoes and Escapades, Pond-Babble....Tete-a-Tetes,
Such as I....Evening Dews, Echoes of a Life in the 19th
Notes and Writing a Book, Century in the New World,
Far and Near at 63, Flanges of Fifty Years,
Drifts and Cumulus, Abandons....Hurry Notes,
Maize-Tassels....Kindlings, A Life-Mosaic....Native Moments,
Fore and Aft....Vestibules, Types and Semi-Tones,
Scintilla at 60 and after, Oddments....Sand-Drifts,
Sands on the Shores of 64, Again and Again._


_Feb. 10, '81_.--And so the flame of the lamp, after long wasting and
flickering, has gone out entirely.

As a representative author, a literary figure, no man else will
bequeath to the future more significant hints of our stormy era, its
fierce paradoxes, its din, and its struggling parturition periods,
than Carlyle. He belongs to our own branch of the stock too; neither
Latin nor Greek, but altogether Gothic. Rugged, mountainous, volcanic,
he was himself more a French revolution than any of his volumes. In
some respects, so far in the Nineteenth century, the best equipt,
keenest mind, even from the college point of view, of all Britain;
only he had an ailing body. Dyspepsia is to be traced in every page,
and now and then fills the page. One may include among the lessons
of his life--even though that life stretch'd to amazing length--how
behind the tally of genius and morals stands the stomach, and gives a
sort of casting vote.

Two conflicting agonistic elements seem to have contended in the
man, sometimes pulling him different ways like wild horses. He was a
cautious, conservative Scotchman, fully aware what a foetid gas-bag
much of modern radicalism is; but then his great heart demanded
reform, demanded change--often terribly at odds with his scornful
brain. No author ever put so much wailing and despair into his books,
sometimes palpable, oftener latent. He reminds me of that passage in
Young's poems where as death presses closer and closer for his prey,
the soul rushes hither and thither, appealing, shrieking, berating, to
escape the general doom.

Of short-comings, even positive blur-spots, from an American point of
view, he had serious share.

Not for his merely literary merit, (though that was great)--not as
"maker of books," but as launching into the self-complacent atmosphere
of our days a rasping, questioning, dislocating agitation and shock,
is Carlyle's final value. It is time the English-speaking peoples had
some true idea about the verteber of genius, namely power. As if they
must always have it cut and bias'd to the fashion, like a lady's
cloak! What a needed service he performs! How he shakes our
comfortable reading circles with a touch of the old Hebraic anger and
prophecy--and indeed it is just the same. Not Isaiah himself more
scornful, more threatening: "The crown of pride, the drunkards of
Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: And the glorious beauty which
is on the head of the fat valley shall be a fading flower." (The word
prophecy is much misused; it seems narrow'd to prediction merely. That
is not the main sense of the Hebrew word translated "prophet;" it
means one whose mind bubbles up and pours forth as a fountain, from
inner, divine spontaneities revealing God. Prediction is a very minor
part of prophecy. The great matter is to reveal and outpour the
God-like suggestions pressing for birth in the soul. This is briefly
the doctrine of the Friends or Quakers.)

Then the simplicity and amid ostensible frailty the towering strength
of this man--a hardy oak knot, you could never wear out--an old
farmer dress'd in brown clothes, and not handsome--his very foibles
fascinating. Who cares that he wrote about Dr. Francia, and "Shooting
Niagara"--and "the Nigger Question,"--and didn't at all admire our
United States? (I doubt if he ever thought or said half as bad words
about us as we deserve.) How he splashes like leviathan in the seas of
modern literature and politics! Doubtless, respecting the latter, one
needs first to realize, from actual observation, the squalor, vice and
doggedness ingrain'd in the bulk-population of the British islands,
with the red tape, the fatuity, the flunkeyism everywhere, to
understand the last meaning in his pages. Accordingly, though he was
no chartist or radical, I consider Carlyle's by far the most indignant
comment or protest anent the fruits of feudalism to-day in Great
Britain--the increasing poverty and degradation of the homeless,
landless twenty millions, while a few thousands, or rather a few
hundreds, possess the entire soil, the money, and the fat berths.
Trade and shipping, and clubs and culture, and prestige, and guns,
and a fine select class of gentry and aristocracy, with every
modern improvement, cannot begin to salve or defend such stupendous

The way to test how much he has left his country were to consider,
or try to consider, for a moment, the array of British thought, the
resultant _ensemble_ of the last fifty years, as existing to-day, _but
with Carlyle left out_. It would be like an army with no artillery.
The show were still a gay and rich one--Byron, Scott, Tennyson, and
many more--horsemen and rapid infantry, and banners flying--but the
last heavy roar so dear to the ear of the train'd soldier, and that
settles fate and victory, would be lacking.

For the last three years we in America have had transmitted glimpses
of a thin-bodied, lonesome, wifeless, childless, very old man, lying
on a sofa, kept out of bed by indomitable will, but, of late, never
well enough to take the open air. I have noted this news from time to
time in brief descriptions in the papers. A week ago I read such an
item just before I started out for my customary evening stroll between
eight and nine. In the fine cold night, unusually clear, (Feb. 5,
'81,) as I walk'd some open grounds adjacent, the condition of
Carlyle, and his approaching--perhaps even then actual--death, filled
me with thoughts eluding statement, and curiously blending with the
scene. The planet Venus, an hour high in the west, with all her volume
and lustre recover'd, (she has been shorn and languid for nearly a
year,) including an additional sentiment I never noticed before--not
merely voluptuous, Paphian, steeping, fascinating--now with calm
commanding seriousness and hauteur--the Milo Venus now. Upward to the
zenith, Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon past her quarter, trailing in
procession, with the Pleiades following, and the constellation Taurus,
and red Aldebaran. Not a cloud in heaven. Orion strode through the
southeast, with his glittering belt--and a trifle below hung the sun
of the night, Sirius. Every star dilated, more vitreous, nearer than
usual. Not as in some clear nights when the larger stars entirely
outshine the rest. Every little star or cluster just as distinctly
visible, and just as nigh. Berenice's hair showing every gem, and
new ones. To the northeast and north the Sickle, the Goat and kids,
Cassiopeia, Castor and Pollux, and the two Dippers. While through the
whole of this silent indescribable show, inclosing and bathing my
whole receptivity, ran the thought of Carlyle dying. (To soothe and
spiritualize, and, as far as may be, solve the mysteries of death and
genius, consider them under the stars at midnight.)

And now that he has gone hence, can it be that Thomas Carlyle, soon to
chemically dissolve in ashes and by winds, remains an identity still?
In ways perhaps eluding all the statements, lore and speculations
of ten thousand years--eluding all possible statements to mortal
sense--does he yet exist, a definite, vital being, a spirit, an
individual--perhaps now wafted in space among those stellar systems,
which, suggestive and limitless as they are, merely edge more
limitless, far more suggestive systems? I have no doubt of it. In
silence, of a fine night, such questions are answer'd to the soul, the
best answers that can be given. With me, too, when depress'd by some
specially sad event, or tearing problem, I wait till I go out under
the stars for the last voiceless satisfaction.


_Later Thoughts and Jottings_

There is surely at present an inexplicable _rapport_ (all the more
piquant from its contradictoriness) between that deceas'd author and
our United States of America--no matter whether it lasts or not[13]
As we Westerners assume definite shape, and result in formations and
fruitage unknown before, it is curious with what a new sense our eyes
turn to representative outgrowths of crises and personages in the Old
World. Beyond question, since Carlyle's death, and the publication
of Froude's memoirs, not only the interest in his books, but every
personal bit regarding the famous Scotchman--his dyspepsia, his
buffetings, his parentage, his paragon of a wife, his career in
Edinburgh, in the lonesome nest on Craigenputtock moor, and then so
many years in London--is probably wider and livelier to-day in this
country than in his own land. Whether I succeed or no, I, too,
reaching across the Atlantic and taking the man's dark fortune-telling
of humanity and politics, would offset it all, (such is the fancy
that comes to me,) by a far more profound horoscope-casting of those
themes--G. F. Hegel's.[14]

First, about a chance, a never-fulfill'd vacuity of this pale cast of
thought--this British Hamlet from Cheyne row, more puzzling than the
Danish one, with his contrivances for settling the broken and
spavin'd joints of the world's government, especially its democratic
dislocation. Carlyle's grim fate was cast to live and dwell in, and
largely embody, the parturition agony and qualms of the old order,
amid crowded accumulations of ghastly morbidity, giving birth to the

But conceive of him (or his parents before him) coming to America,
recuperated by the cheering realities and activity of our people and
country--growing up and delving face-to-face resolutely among us here,
especially at the West--inhaling and exhaling our limitless air and
eligibilities--devoting his mind to the theories and developments
of this Republic amid its practical facts as exemplified in Kansas,
Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, or Louisiana. I say _facts_, and
face-to-face confrontings--so different from books, and all those
quiddities and mere reports in the libraries, upon which the man (it
was wittily said of him at the age of thirty, that there was no one in
Scotland who had glean'd so much and seen so little,) almost wholly
fed, and which even his sturdy and vital mind but reflected at best.

Something of the sort narrowly escaped happening. In 1835, after more
than a dozen years of trial and non-success, the author of "Sartor
Resartus" removing to London, very poor, a confirmed hypochondriac,
"Sartor" universally scoffed at, no literary prospects ahead,
deliberately settled on one last casting throw of the literary
dice--resolv'd to compose and launch forth a book on the subject of
_the French Revolution_--and if that won no higher guerdon or prize
than hitherto, to sternly abandon the trade of author forever, and
emigrate for good to America. But the venture turn'd out a lucky one,
and there was no emigration.

Carlyle's work in the sphere of literature as he commenced and carried
it out, is the same in one or two leading respects that Immanuel
Kant's was in speculative philosophy. But the Scotchman had none of
the stomachic phlegm and never-perturb'd placidity of the Konigsberg
sage, and did not, like the latter, understand his own limits, and
stop when he got to the end of them. He clears away jungle and
poisonvines and underbrush--at any rate hacks valiantly at them,
smiting hip and thigh. Kant did the like in his sphere, and it was all
he profess'd to do; his labors have left the ground fully prepared
ever since--and greater service was probably never perform'd by mortal
man. But the pang and hiatus of Carlyle seem to me to consist in
the evidence everywhere that amid a whirl of fog and fury and
cross-purposes, he firmly believ'd he had a clue to the medication of
the world's ills, and that his bounden mission was to exploit it.[15]

There were two anchors, or sheet-anchors, for steadying, as a last
resort, the Carlylean ship. One will be specified presently. The
other, perhaps the main, was only to be found in some mark'd form of
personal force, an extreme degree of competent urge and will, a man
or men "born to command." Probably there ran through every vein and
current of the Scotchman's blood something that warm'd up to this kind
of trait and character above aught else in the world, and which
makes him in my opinion the chief celebrater and promulger of it in
literature--more than Plutarch, more than Shakspere. The great masses
of humanity stand for nothing--at least nothing but nebulous raw
material; only the big planets and shining suns for him. To ideas
almost invariably languid or cold, a number-one forceful personality
was sure to rouse his eulogistic passion and savage joy. In such case,
even the standard of duty hereinafter rais'd, was to be instantly
lower'd and vail'd. All that is comprehended under the terms
republicanism and democracy were distasteful to him from the first,
and as he grew older they became hateful and contemptible. For an
undoubtedly candid and penetrating faculty such as his, the bearings
he persistently ignored were marvellous. For instance, the promise,
nay certainty of the democratic principle, to each and every State of
the current world, not so much of helping it to perfect legislators
and executives, but as the only effectual method for surely, however
slowly, training people on a large scale toward voluntarily ruling
and managing themselves (the ultimate aim of political and all other
development)--to gradually reduce the fact of _governing_ to its
minimum, and to subject all its staffs and their doings to the
telescopes and microscopes of committees and parties--and greatest of
all, to afford (not stagnation and obedient content, which went well
enough with the feudalism and ecclesiasticism of the antique and
medieval world, but) a vast and sane and recurrent ebb and tide action
for those floods of the great deep that have henceforth palpably
burst forever their old bounds--seem never to have enter'd Carlyle's
thought. It was splendid how he refus'd any compromise to the last. He
was curiously antique. In that harsh, picturesque, most potent voice
and figure, one seems to be carried back from the present of the
British islands more than two thousand years, to the range between
Jerusalem and Tarsus. His fullest best biographer justly says of him:

He was a teacher and a prophet, in the Jewish sense of the word. The
prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah have become a part of the permanent
spiritual inheritance of mankind, because events proved that they
had interpreted correctly the sign of their own times, and their
prophecies were fulfill'd. Carlyle, like them, believ'd that he had a
special message to deliver to the present age. Whether he was correct
in that belief, and whether his message was a true message, remains
to be seen. He has told us that our most cherish'd ideas of political
liberty, with their kindred corollaries, are mere illusions, and that
the progress which has seem'd to go along with them is a progress
towards anarchy and social dissolution. If he was wrong, he has
misused his powers. The principles of his teachings are false. He has
offer'd himself as a guide upon a road of which he had no knowledge;
and his own desire for himself would be the speediest oblivion both of
his person and his works. If, on the other hand, he has been right;
if, like his great predecessors, he has read truly the tendencies of
this modern age of ours, and his teaching is authenticated by facts,
then Carlyle, too, will take his place among the inspired seers.

To which I add an amendment that under no circumstances, and no matter
how completely time and events disprove his lurid vaticinations,
should the English-speaking world forget this man, nor fail to hold in
honor his unsurpass'd conscience, his unique method, and his honest
fame. Never were convictions more earnest and genuine. Never was there
less of a flunkey or temporizer. Never had political progressivism a
foe it could more heartily respect.

The second main point of Carlyle's utterance was the idea of _duty
being done_. (It is simply a new codicil--if it be particularly
new, which is by no means certain--on the time-honor'd bequest of
dynasticism, the mould-eaten rules of legitimacy and kings.) He seems
to have been impatient sometimes to madness when reminded by persons
who thought at least as deeply as himself, that this formula, though
precious, is rather a vague one, and that there are many other
considerations to a philosophical estimate of each and every
department either.

Altogether, I don't know anything more amazing than these persistent
strides and throbbings so far through our Nineteenth century of perhaps
its biggest, sharpest, and most erudite brain, in defiance and
discontent with everything; contemptuously ignoring, (either from
constitutional inaptitude, ignorance itself, or more likely because he
demanded a definite cure-all here and now,) the only solace and solvent
to be had.

There is, apart from mere intellect, in the make-up of every superior
human identity, (in its moral completeness, considered as _ensemble_,
not for that moral alone, but for the whole being, including
physique,) a wondrous something that realizes without argument,
frequently without what is called education, (though I think it the
goal and apex of all education deserving the name)--an intuition
of the absolute balance, in time and space, of the whole of this
multifarious, mad chaos of fraud, frivolity, hoggishness--this revel
of fools, and incredible make-believe and general unsettledness, we
call _the world_; a soul-sight of that divine clue and unseen thread
which holds the whole congeries of things, all history and time, and
all events, however trivial, however momentous, like a leash'd dog
in the hand of the hunter. Such soul-sight and root-centre for the
mind--mere optimism explains only the surface or fringe of it--Carlyle
was mostly, perhaps entirely without. He seems instead to have been
haunted in the play of his mental action by a spectre, never entirely
laid from first to last, (Greek scholars, I believe, find the
same mocking and fantastic apparition attending Aristophanes, his
comedies,)--the spectre of world-destruction.

How largest triumph or failure in human life, in war or peace, may
depend on some little hidden centrality, hardly more than a drop of
blood, a pulse-beat, or a breath of air! It is certain that all these
weighty matters, democracy in America, Carlyleism, and the temperament
for deepest political or literary exploration, turn on a simple point
in speculative philosophy.

The most profound theme that can occupy the mind of man--the problem
on whose solution science, art, the bases and pursuits of nations, and
everything else, including intelligent human happiness, (here to-day,
1882, New York, Texas, California, the same as all times, all lands,)
subtly and finally resting, depends for competent outset and argument,
is doubtless involved in the query: What is the fusing explanation and
tie--what the relation between the (radical, democratic) Me, the human
identity of understanding, emotions, spirit, &c., on the one side,
of and with the (conservative) Not Me, the whole of the material
objective universe and laws, with what is behind them in time and
space, on the other side? Immanuel Kant, though he explain'd
or partially explain'd, as may be said, the laws of the human
understanding, left this question an open one. Schelling's answer, or
suggestion of answer, is (and very valuable and important, as far as
it goes,) that the same general and particular intelligence, passion,
even the standards of right and wrong, which exist in a conscious
and formulated state in man, exist in an unconscious state, or in
perceptible analogies, throughout the entire universe of external
Nature, in all its objects large or small, and all its movements and
processes--thus making the impalpable human mind, and concrete nature,
notwithstanding their duality and separation, convertible, and in
centrality and essence one. But G. F. Hegel's fuller statement of the
matter probably remains the last best word that has been said upon it,
up to date. Substantially adopting the scheme just epitomized, he so
carries it out and fortifies it and merges everything in it, with
certain serious gaps now for the first time fill'd, that it becomes a
coherent metaphysical system, and substantial answer (as far as there
can be any answer) to the foregoing question--a system which, while I
distinctly admit that the brain of the future may add to, revise, and
even entirely reconstruct, at any rate beams forth to-day, in its
entirety, illuminating the thought of the universe, and satisfying the
mystery thereof to the human mind, with a more consoling scientific
assurance than any yet.

According to Hegel the whole earth, (an old nucleus-thought, as in the
Vedas, and no doubt before, but never hitherto brought so absolutely
to the front, fully surcharged with modern scientism and facts, and
made the sole entrance to each and all,) with its infinite variety,
the past, the surroundings of to-day, or what may happen in the
future, the contrarieties of material with spiritual, and of natural
with artificial, are all, to the eye of the _ensemblist_, but
necessary sides and unfoldings, different steps or links, in the
endless process of Creative thought, which, amid numberless apparent
failures and contradictions, is held together by central and
never-broken unity--not contradictions or failures at all, but
radiations of one consistent and eternal purpose; the whole mass
of everything steadily, unerringly tending and flowing toward the
permanent _utile_ and _morale_, as rivers to oceans. As life is the
whole law and incessant effort of the visible universe, and death only
the other or invisible side of the same, so the _utile_, so truth, so
health are the continuous-immutable laws of the moral universe, and
vice and disease, with all their perturbations, are but transient,
even if ever so prevalent expressions.

To politics throughout, Hegel applies the like catholic standard and
faith. Not any one party, or any one form of government, is absolutely
and exclusively true. Truth consists in the just relations of objects
to each other. A majority or democracy may rule as outrageously and do
as great harm as an oligarchy or despotism--though far less likely to
do so. But the great evil is either a violation of the relations just
referr'd to, or of the moral law. The specious, the unjust, the cruel,
and what is called the unnatural, though not only permitted but in a
certain sense, (like shade to light,) inevitable in the divine scheme,
are by the whole constitution of that scheme, partial, inconsistent,
temporary, and though having ever so great an ostensible majority, are
certainly destin'd to failures, after causing great suffering.

Theology, Hegel translates into science.[16] All apparent
contradictions in the statement of the Deific nature by different
ages, nations, churches, points of view, are but fractional and
imperfect expressions of one essential unity, from which they all
proceed--crude endeavors or distorted parts, to be regarded both as
distinct and united. In short (to put it in our own form, or summing
up,) that thinker or analyzer or overlooker who by an inscrutable
combination of train'd wisdom and natural intuition most fully accepts
in perfect faith the moral unity and sanity of the creative scheme, in
history, science, and all life and time, present and future, is
both the truest cosmical devotee or religioso, and the profoundest
philosopher. While he who, by the spell of himself and his
circumstance, sees darkness and despair in the sum of the workings of
God's providence, and who, in that, denies or prevaricates, is, no
matter how much piety plays on his lips, the most radical sinner and

I am the more assured in recounting Hegel a little freely here,[17]
not only for offsetting the Carlylean letter and spirit-cutting it
out all and several from the very roots, and below the roots--but to
counterpoise, since the late death and deserv'd apotheosis of Darwin,
the tenets of the evolutionists. Unspeakably precious as those are to
biology, and henceforth indispensable to a right aim and estimate in
study, they neither comprise or explain everything--and the last word
or whisper still remains to be breathed, after the utmost of those
claims, floating high and forever above them all, and above technical
metaphysics. While the contributions which German Kant and Fichte and
Schelling and Hegel have bequeath'd to humanity--and which English
Darwin has also in his field--are indispensable to the erudition of
America's future, I should say that in all of them, and the best of
them, when compared with the lightning flashes and flights of the old
prophets and _exaltes_, the spiritual poets and poetry of all lands,
(as in the Hebrew Bible,) there seems to be, nay certainly is,
something lacking--something cold, a failure to satisfy the deepest
emotions of the soul--a want of living glow, fondness, warmth, which
the old _exaltes_ and poets supply, and which the keenest modern
philosophers so far do not.

Upon the whole, and for our purposes, this man's name certainly
belongs on the list with the just-specified, first-class moral
physicians of our current era--and with Emerson and two or three
others--though his prescription is drastic, and perhaps destructive,
while theirs is assimilating, normal and tonic. Feudal at the core,
and mental offspring and radiation of feudalism as are his books, they
afford ever-valuable lessons and affinities to democratic America.
Nations or individuals, we surely learn deepest from unlikeness, from
a sincere opponent, from the light thrown even scornfully on dangerous
spots and liabilities. (Michel Angelo invoked heaven's special
protection against his friends and affectionate flatterers; palpable
foes he could manage for himself.) In many particulars Carlyle was
indeed, as Froude terms him, one of those far-off Hebraic utterers,
a new Micah or Habbakuk. His words at times bubble forth with abysmic
inspiration. Always precious, such men; as precious now as any time.
His rude, rasping, taunting, contradictory tones--what ones are
more wanted amid the supple, polish'd, money--worshipping,
Jesus-and-Judas-equalizing, suffrage-sovereignty echoes of current
America? He has lit up our Nineteenth century with the light of a
powerful, penetrating, and perfectly honest intellect of the first
class, turn'd on British and European politics, social life,
literature, and representative personages--thoroughly dissatisfied
with all, and mercilessly exposing the illness of all. But while he
announces the malady, and scolds and raves about it, he himself, born
and bred in the same atmosphere, is a mark'd illustration of it.


[13] It will be difficult for the future--judging by his books,
personal dissympathies, &c.,--to account for the deep hold this author
has taken on the present age, and the way he has color'd its method
and thought. I am certainly at a loss to account for it all as
affecting myself. But there could be no view, or even partial picture,
of the middle and latter part of our Nineteenth century, that did
not markedly include Thomas Carlyle. In his case (as so many others,
literary productions, works of art, personal identities, events,)
there has been an impalpable something more effective than the
palpable. Then I find no better text, (it is always important to have
a definite, special, even oppositional, living man to start from,) for
sending out certain speculations and comparisons for home use. Let us
see what they amount to--those reactionary doctrines, fears, scornful
analyses of democracy--even from the most erudite and sincere mind of

[14] Not the least mentionable part of the case, (a streak, it may
be, of that humor with which history and fate love to contrast their
gravity,) is that although neither of my great authorities during
their lives consider'd the United States worthy of serious mention,
all the principal works of both might not inappropriately be this day
collected and bound up under the conspicuous title: _Speculations for
the use of North America, and Democracy there with the relations
of the same to Metaphysics, including Lessons and Warnings
(encouragements too, and of the vastest,) from the Old World to the

[15] I hope I shall not myself fall into the error I charge upon
him, of prescribing a specific for indispensable evils. My utmost
pretension is probably but to offset that old claim of the exclusively
curative power of first-class individual men, as leaders and rulers,
by the claims, and general movement and result, of ideas. Something
of the latter kind seems to me the distinctive theory of America,
of democracy, and of the modern--or rather, I should say, it _is_
democracy, and _is_ the modern.

[16] I am much indebted to J. Gostick's abstract.

[17] I have deliberately repeated it all, not only in offset to
Carlyle' s everlurking pessimism and world-decadence, but as
presenting the most thoroughly _American points of view_ I know. In
my opinion the above formulas of Hegel are an essential and crowning
justification of New World democracy in the creative realms of time
and space. There is that about them which only the vastness,
the multiplicity and the vitality of America would seem able to
comprehend, to give scope and illustration to, or to be fit for, or
even originate. It is strange to me that they were born in Germany, or
in the old world at all. While a Carlyle, I should say, is quite the
legitimate European product to be expected.


_Latter April_.--Have run down in my country haunt for a couple of
days, and am spending them by the pond. I had already discover'd my
kingfisher here (but only one--the mate not here yet.) This fine
bright morning, down by the creek, he has come out for a spree,
circling, flirting, chirping at a round rate. While I am writing these
lines he is disporting himself in scoots and rings over the wider
parts of the pond, into whose surface he dashes, once or twice making
a loud _souse_--the spray flying in the sun--beautiful! I see his
white and dark-gray plumage and peculiar shape plainly, as he has
deign'd to come very near me. The noble, graceful bird! Now he
is sitting on the limb of an old tree, high up, bending over the
water--seems to be looking at me while I memorandize. I almost fancy
he knows me. _Three days later._--My second kingfisher is here with
his (or her) mate. I saw the two together flying and whirling around.
I had heard, in the distance, what I thought was the clear rasping
staccato of the birds several times already--but I couldn't be sure
the notes came from both until I saw them together. To-day at noon
they appear'd, but apparently either on business, or for a little
limited exercise only. No wild frolic now, full of free fun and
motion, up and down for an hour. Doubtless, now they have cares,
duties, incubation responsibilities. The frolics are deferr'd till

I don't know as I can finish to-day's memorandum better than with
Coleridge's lines, curiously appropriate in more ways than one:

All Nature seems at work--slugs leave their lair,
The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing,
And winter, slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring;
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.


_May 1, '81._--Seems as if all the ways and means of American travel
to-day had been settled, not only with reference to speed and
directness, but for the comfort of women, children, invalids, and old
fellows like me. I went on by a through train that runs daily from
Washington to the Yankee metropolis without change. You get in a
sleeping-car soon after dark in Philadelphia, and after ruminating an
hour or two, have your bed made up if you like, draw the curtains, and
go to sleep in it--fly on through Jersey to New York--hear in
your half-slumbers a dull jolting and bumping sound or two--are
unconsciously toted from Jersey City by a midnight steamer around
the Battery and under the big bridge to the track of the New Haven
road--resume your flight eastward, and early the next morning you wake
up in Boston. All of which was my experience. I wanted to go to the
Revere house. A tall unknown gentleman, (a fellow-passenger on his way
to Newport he told me, I had just chatted a few moments before with
him,) assisted me out through the depot crowd, procured a hack, put me
in it with my traveling bag, saying smilingly and quietly, "Now I want
you to let this be _my_ ride," paid the driver, and before I could
remonstrate bow'd himself off.

The occasion of my jaunt, I suppose I had better say here, was for
a public reading of "the death of Abraham Lincoln" essay, on the
sixteenth anniversary of that tragedy; which reading duly came off,
night of April 15. Then I linger'd a week in Boston--felt pretty well
(the mood propitious, my paralysis lull'd)--went around everywhere,
and saw all that was to be seen, especially human beings. Boston's
immense material growth--commerce, finance, commission stores, the
plethora of goods, the crowded streets and sidewalks--made of course
the first surprising show. In my trip out West, last year, I thought
the wand of future prosperity, future empire, must soon surely
be wielded by St. Louis, Chicago, beautiful Denver, perhaps San
Francisco; but I see the said wand stretch'd out just as decidedly in
Boston, with just as much certainty of staying; evidences of copious
capital--indeed no centre of the New World ahead of it, (half the big
railroads in the West are built with Yankees' money, and they take
the dividends.) Old Boston with its zigzag streets and multitudinous
angles, (crush up a sheet of letter-paper in your hand, throw it down,
stamp it flat, and that is a map of old Boston)--new Boston with
its miles upon miles of large and costly houses--Beacon street,
Commonwealth avenue, and a hundred others. But the best new departures
and expansions of Boston, and of all the cities of New England, are in
another direction.


In the letters we get from Dr. Schliemann (interesting but fishy)
about his excavations there in the far-off Homeric area, I notice
cities, ruins, &c., as he digs them out of their graves, are certain
to be in layers--that is to say, upon the foundation of an old
concern, very far down indeed, is always another city or set of ruins,
and upon that another superadded--and sometimes upon that still
another--each representing either a long or rapid stage of growth and
development, different from its predecessor, but unerringly growing
out of and resting on it. In the moral, emotional, heroic, and human
growths, (the main of a race in my opinion,) something of this kind
has certainly taken place in Boston. The New England metropolis of
to-day may be described as sunny, (there is something else that makes
warmth, mastering even winds and meteorologies, though those are
not to be sneez'd at,) joyous, receptive, full of ardor, sparkle, a
certain element of yearning, magnificently tolerant, yet not to be
fool'd; fond of good eating and drinking--costly in costume as its
purse can buy; and all through its best average of houses, streets,
people, that subtle something (generally thought to be climate, but
it is not--it is something indefinable in the _race_, the turn of
its development) which effuses behind the whirl of animation, study,
business, a happy and joyous public spirit, as distinguish'd from a
sluggish and saturnine one. Makes me think of the glints we get (as in
Symonds's books) of the jolly old Greek cities. Indeed there is a
good deal of the Hellenic in B., and the people are getting handsomer
too--padded out, with freer motions, and with color in their faces.
I never saw (although this is not Greek) so many _fine-looking
gray-hair'd women_. At my lecture I caught myself pausing more
than once to look at them, plentiful everywhere through the
audience--healthy and wifely and motherly, and wonderfully charming
and beautiful--I think such as no time or land but ours could show.


_April 16_.--A short but pleasant visit to Longfellow. I am not one of
the calling kind, but as the author of "Evangeline" kindly took the
trouble to come and see me three years ago in Camden, where I was ill,
I felt not only the impulse of my own pleasure on that occasion, but a
duty. He was the only particular eminence I called on in Boston, and
I shall not soon forget his lit-up face and glowing warmth and
courtesy, in the modes of what is called the old school.

And now just here I feel the impulse to interpolate something about
the mighty four who stamp this first American century with its
birthmarks of poetic literature. In a late magazine one of my
reviewers, who ought to know better, speaks of my "attitude of
contempt and scorn and intolerance" toward the leading poets--of my
"deriding" them, and preaching their "uselessness." If anybody cares
to know what I think--and have long thought and avow'd--about them,
I am entirely willing to propound. I can't imagine any better luck
befalling these States for a poetical beginning and initiation than
has come from Emerson, Longfellow, Bryant, and Whittier. Emerson, to
me, stands unmistakably at the head, but for the others I am at a loss
where to give any precedence. Each illustrious, each rounded, each
distinctive. Emerson for his sweet, vital-tasting melody, rhym'd
philosophy, and poems as amber-clear as the honey of the wild bee
he loves to sing. Longfellow for rich color, graceful forms and
incidents--all that makes life beautiful and love refined--competing
with the singers of Europe on their own ground, and, with one
exception, better and finer work than that of any of them. Bryant
pulsing the first interior verse-throbs of a mighty world--bard of the
river and the wood, ever conveying a taste of open air, with scents
as from hayfields, grapes, birch-borders--always lurkingly fond of
threnodies--beginning and ending his long career with chants of death,
with here and there through all, poems, or passages of poems, touching
the highest universal truths, enthusiasms, duties--morals as grim and
eternal, if not as stormy and fateful, as anything in Eschylus. While
in Whittier, with his special themes--(his outcropping love of heroism
and war, for all his Quakerdom, his verses at times like the measur'd
step of Cromwell's old veterans)--in Whittier lives the zeal, the
moral energy, that founded New England--the splendid rectitude and
ardor of Luther, Milton, George Fox--I must not, dare not, say the
wilfulness and narrowness--though doubtless the world needs now,
and always will need, almost above all, just such narrowness and


_April 18_.--Went out three or four miles to the house of Quincy Shaw,
to see a collection of J. F. Millet's pictures. Two rapt hours. Never
before have I been so penetrated by this kind of expression. I stood
long and long before "the Sower." I believe what the picture-men
designate "the first Sower," as the artist executed a second copy, and
a third, and, some think, improved in each. But I doubt it. There
is something in this that could hardly be caught again--a sublime
murkiness and original pent fury. Besides this masterpiece, there were
many others, (I shall never forget the simple evening scene, "Watering
the Cow,") all inimitable, all perfect as pictures, works of mere art;
and then it seem'd to me, with that last impalpable ethic purpose from
the artist (most likely unconscious to himself) which I am always
looking for. To me all of them told the full story of what went before
and necessitated the great French revolution--the long precedent
crushing of the masses of a heroic people into the earth, in abject
poverty, hunger--every right denied, humanity attempted to be put back
for generations--yet Nature's force, titanic here, the stronger
and hardier for that repression--waiting terribly to break forth,
revengeful--the pressure on the dykes, and the bursting at last--the
storming of the Bastile--the execution of the king and queen--the
tempest of massacres and blood. Yet who can wonder?

Could we wish humanity different?
Could we wish the people made of wood or stone?
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?

The true France, base of all the rest, is certainly in these pictures.
I comprehend "Field-People Reposing," "the Diggers," and "the Angelus"
in this opinion. Some folks always think of the French as a small
race, five or five and a half feet high, and ever frivolous and
smirking. Nothing of the sort. The bulk of the personnel of France,
before the revolution, was large-sized, serious, industrious as now,
and simple. The revolution and Napoleon's wars dwarf'd the standard of
human size, but it will come up again. If for nothing else, I should
dwell on my brief Boston visit for opening to me the new world of
Millet's pictures. Will America ever have such an artist out of her
own gestation, body, soul?

_Sunday, April 17._--An hour and a half, late this afternoon, in
silence and half light, in the great nave of Memorial hall, Cambridge,
the walls thickly cover'd with mural tablets, bearing the names of
students and graduates of the university who fell in the secession

_April 23._--It was well I got away in fair order, for if I had staid
another week I should have been killed with kindness, and with eating
and drinking.


_May 14._--Home again; down temporarily in the Jersey woods. Between
8 and 9 A.M. a full concert of birds, from different quarters, in
keeping with the fresh scent, the peace, the naturalness all around
me. I am lately noticing the russet-back, size of the robin or
a trifle less, light breast and shoulders, with irregular dark
stripes--tail long--sits hunch'd up by the hour these days, top of
a tall bush, or some tree, singing blithely. I often get near and
listen, as he seems tame; I like to watch the working of his bill and
throat, the quaint sidle of his body, and flex of his long tail. I
hear the woodpecker, and night and early morning the shuttle of the
whip-poor-will--noons, the gurgle of thrush delicious, and _meo-o-ow_
of the cat-bird. Many I cannot name; but I do not very particularly
seek information. (You must not know too much, or be too precise
or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft;
a certain free margin, and even vagueness--perhaps ignorance,
credulity--helps your enjoyment of these things, and of the sentiment
of feather'd, wooded, river, or marine Nature generally. I repeat it
--don't want to know too exactly, or the reasons why. My own notes have
been written off-hand in the latitude of middle New Jersey. Though
they describe what I saw--what appear'd to me--I dare say the expert
ornithologist, botanist or entomologist will detect more than one slip
in them.)


I ought not to offer a record of these days, interests, recuperations,
without including a certain old, well-thumb'd common-place book,[18]
filled with favorite excerpts, I carried in my pocket for three
summers, and absorb'd over and over again, when the mood invited.
I find so much in having a poem or fine suggestion sink into me (a
little then goes a great ways) prepar'd by these vacant-sane and
natural influences.


[18] _Samples of my common-place book down at the creek:_

I have--says old Pindar--many swift arrows in my quiver which speak to
the wise, though they need an interpreter to the thoughtless. Such a
man as it takes ages to make, and ages to understand. _H. D. Thoreau._

If you hate a man, don't kill him, but let him live.--_Buddhistic._
Famous swords are made of refuse scraps, thought worthless.

Poetry is the only verity--the expression of a sound mind speaking
after the ideal--and not after the apparent.--_Emerson_.

The form of oath among the Shoshone Indians is, "The earth hears me.
The sun hears me. Shall I lie?"

The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of
cities, nor the crops--no, but the kind of a man the country turns

The whole wide ether is the eagle's sway:
The whole earth is a brave man's fatherland.--_Euripides_.

Spices crush'd, their pungence yield,
Trodden scents their sweets respire;
Would you have its strength reveal'd?
Cast the incense in the fire.

Matthew Arnold speaks of "the huge Mississippi of falsehood called

The wind blows north, the wind blows south,
The wind blows east and west;
No matter how the free wind blows,
Some ship will find it best.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you, and
be silent.--_Epictetus_.

Victor Hugo makes a donkey meditate and apostrophize thus:

My brother, man, if you would know the truth,
We both are by the same dull walls shut in;
The gate is massive and the dungeon strong.
But you look through the key-hole out beyond,
And call this knowledge; yet have not at hand
The key wherein to turn the fatal lock.

"William Cullen Bryant surprised me once," relates a writer in a
New York paper, "by saying that prose was the natural language of
composition, and he wonder'd how anybody came to write poetry."

Farewell! I did not know thy worth;
But thou art gone, and now 'tis prized:
So angels walk'd unknown on earth,
But when they flew were recognized.--_Hood_.

John Burroughs, writing of Thoreau, says: "He improves with age--in
fact requires age to take off a little of his asperity, and fully
ripen him. The world likes a good hater and refuser almost as well as
it likes a good lover and accepter--only it likes him farther off."

_Louise Michel at the burial of Blanqui, (1881.)_

Blanqui drill'd his body to subjection to his grand conscience and his
noble passions, and commencing as a young man, broke with all that
is sybaritish in modern civilization. Without the power to sacrifice
self, great ideas will never bear fruit.

Out of the leaping furnace flame
A mass of molten silver came;
Then, beaten into pieces three,
Went forth to meet its destiny.
The first a crucifix was made,
Within a soldier's knapsack laid;
The second was a locket fair,
Where a mother kept her dead child's hair;
The third--a bangle, bright and warm,
Around a faithless woman's arm.

A mighty pain to love it is,
And'tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pain the greatest pain,
It is to love, but love in vain.

_Maurice F. Egan on De Guerin._

A pagan heart, a Christian soul had he,
He followed Christ, yet for dead Pan he sigh'd,
Till earth and heaven met within his breast:
As if Theocritus in Sicily
Had come upon the Figure crucified,
And lost his gods in deep, Christ-given rest.

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me,
Is, leave the mind that now I bear,
And give me Liberty.--_Emily Bronte._

I travel on not knowing,
I would not if I might;
I would rather walk with God in the dark,
Than go alone in the light;
I would rather walk with Him by faith
Than pick my way by sight


_July 25, '81_.--Far Rockaway, L. I._--A good day here, on a jaunt,
amid the sand and salt, a steady breeze setting in from the sea, the
sun shining, the sedge-odor, the noise of the surf, a mixture of
hissing and booming, the milk-white crest curling. I had a leisurely
bath and naked ramble as of old, on the warm-gray shore-sands, my
companions off in a oat in deeper water--(I shouting to them Jupiter's
menaces against the gods, from Pope's Homer) _July 28--to Long
Branch_--8-1/2 A.M., on the steamer "Plymouth Rock," foot of 23d
street, New York, for Long Branch. Another fine day, fine sights, the
shores, the shipping and bay--everything comforting to the body and
spirit of me. (I find the human and objective atmosphere of New York
city and Brooklyn more affiliative to me than any other.) _An hour
later_--Still on the steamer, now sniffing the salt very plainly--the
long pulsating _swash_ as our boat steams seaward--the hills of
Navesink and many passing vessels--the air the best part of all. At
Long Branch the bulk of the day, stopt at a good hotel, took all very
leisurely, had an excellent dinner, and then drove for over two hours
about the place, especially Ocean avenue, the finest drive one can
imagine, seven or eight miles right along the beach. In all directions
costly villas, palaces, millionaires--(but few among them I opine like
my friend George W. Childs, whose personal integrity, generosity,
unaffected simplicity, go beyond all worldly wealth.)


_August_.--In the big city awhile. Even the height of the dog-days,
there is a good deal of fun about New York, if you only avoid fluster,
and take all the buoyant wholesomeness that offers. More comfort, too,
than most folks think. A middle-aged man, with plenty of money in his
pocket, tells me that he has been off for a month to all the swell
places, has disburs'd a small fortune, has been hot and out of kilter
everywhere, and has return' d home and lived in New York city the last
two weeks quite contented and happy. People forget when it is hot
here, it is generally hotter still in other places.

New York is so situated, with the great ozonic brine on both sides, it
comprises the most favorable health-chances in the world. (If only the
suffocating crowding of some of its tenement houses could be broken
up.) I find I never sufficiently realized how beautiful are the upper
two-thirds of Manhattan island. I am stopping at Mott Haven, and have
been familiar now for ten days with the region above One-hundredth
street, and along the Harlem river and Washington heights. Am dwelling
a few days with my friends Mr. and Mrs. J. H. J., and a merry houseful
of young ladies. Am putting the last touches on the printer's copy of
my new volume of "Leaves of Grass"--the completed book at last. Work
at it two or three hours, and then go down and loaf along the Harlem
river; have just had a good spell of this recreation. The sun
sufficiently veil'd, a soft south breeze, the river full of small or
large shells (light taper boats) darting up and down, some singly, now
and then long ones with six or eight young fellows practicing--very
inspiriting sights. Two fine yachts lie anchor'd off the shore. I
linger long, enjoying the sundown, the glow, the streak'd sky, the
heights, distances, shadows. _Aug. 10._--As I haltingly ramble an hour
or two this forenoon by the more secluded parts of the shore, or sit
under an old cedar half way up the hill, the city near in view, many
young parties gather to bathe or swim, squads of boys, generally twos
or threes, some larger ones, along the sand-bottom, or off an old pier
close by. A peculiar and pretty carnival--at its height a hundred lads
or young men, very democratic, but all decent behaving. The laughter,
voices, calls, re-responses--the springing and diving of the bathers
from the great string-piece of the decay'd pier, where climb or stand
long ranks of them, naked, rose-color'd, with movements, postures
ahead of any sculpture. To all this, the sun, so bright, the
dark-green shadow of the hills the other side, the amber-rolling
waves, changing as the tide comes in to a trans-parent tea-color--the
frequent splash of the playful boys, sousing--the glittering drops
sparkling, and the good western breeze blowing.


Went to-day to see this just-finish'd painting by John Mulvany, who
has been out in far Dakota, on the spot, at the forts, and among the
frontiersmen, soldiers and Indians, for the last two years, on purpose
to sketch it in from reality, or the best that could be got of it. Sat
for over an hour before the picture, completely absorb'd in the first
view. A vast canvas, I should say twenty or twenty-two feet by twelve,
all crowded, and yet not crowded, conveying such a vivid play of
color, it takes a little time to get used to it. There are no tricks;
there is no throwing of shades in masses; it is all at first painfully
real, overwhelming, needs good nerves to look at it. Forty or fifty
figures, perhaps more, in full finish and detail in the mid-ground,
with three times that number, or more, through the rest--swarms upon
swarms of savage Sioux, in their war-bonnets, frantic, mostly on
ponies, driving through the background, through the smoke, like a
hurricane of demons. A dozen of the figures are wonderful. Altogether
a western, autochthonic phase of America, the frontiers, culminating,
typical, deadly, heroic to the uttermost--nothing in the books like
it, nothing in Homer, nothing in Shakspere; more grim and sublime
than either, all native, all our own, and all a fact. A great lot
of muscular, tan-faced men, brought to bay under terrible
circumstances--death ahold of them, yet every man undaunted, not one
losing his head, wringing out every cent of the pay before they sell
their lives. Custer (his hair cut short stands in the middle), with
dilated eye and extended arm, aiming a huge cavalry pistol. Captain
Cook is there, partially wounded, blood on the white handkerchief
around his head, aiming his carbine coolly, half kneeling--(his
body was afterwards found close by Custer's.) The slaughter'd or
half-slaughter'd horses, for breastworks, make a peculiar feature.
Two dead Indians, herculean, lie in the foreground, clutching their
Winchester rifles, very characteristic. The many soldiers, their faces
and attitudes, the carbines, the broad-brimm'd western hats, the
powder-smoke in puffs, the dying horses with their rolling eyes
almost human in their agony, the clouds of war-bonneted Sioux in the
background, the figures of Custer and Cook--with indeed the whole
scene, dreadful, yet with an attraction and beauty that will remain
in my memory. With all its color and fierce action, a certain Greek
continence pervades it. A sunny sky and clear light envelop all.
There is an almost entire absence of the stock traits of European war
pictures. The physiognomy of the work is realistic and Western. I only
saw it for an hour or so; but it needs to be seen many times--needs to
be studied over and over again. I could look on such a work at brief
intervals all my life without tiring; it is very tonic to me; then it
has an ethic purpose below all, as all great art must have. The artist
said the sending of the picture abroad, probably to London, had been
talk'd of. I advised him if it went abroad to take it to Paris. I
think they might appreciate it there--nay, they certainly would. Then
I would like to show Messieur Crapeau that some things can be done in
America as well as others.


_Aug. 16._--"Chalk a big mark for today," was one of the sayings of
an old sportsman-friend of mine, when he had had unusually good
luck--come home thoroughly tired, but with satisfactory results of
fish or birds.

Well, to-day might warrant such a mark for me. Everything propitious
from the start. An hour's fresh stimulation, coming down ten miles of
Manhattan island by railroad and 8 o'clock stage. Then an excellent
breakfast at Pfaff's restaurant, 24th street. Our host himself, an old
friend of mine, quickly appear'd on the scene to welcome me and bring
up the news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in
the cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, '59 and '60, and the jovial
suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker street. Ah, the
friends and names and frequenters, those times, that place. Most
are dead--Ada Clare, Wilkins, Daisy Sheppard, O'Brien, Henry Clapp,
Stanley, Mullin, Wood, Brougham, Arnold--all gone. And there Pfaff and
I, sitting opposite each other at the little table, gave a remembrance
to them in a style they would have themselves fully confirm'd, namely,
big, brimming, fill'd-up champagne-glasses, drain'd in abstracted
silence, very leisurely, to the last drop. (Pfaff is a generous German
_restaurateur_, silent, stout, jolly, and I should say the best
selecter of champagne in America.)


Perhaps the best is always cumulative. One's eating and drinking one
wants fresh, and for the nonce, right off, and have done with it--but
I would not give a straw for that person or poem, or friend, or city,
or work of art, that was not more grateful the second time than the
first--and more still the third. Nay, I do not believe any grandest
eligibility ever comes forth at first. In my own experience, (persons,
poems, places, characters,) I discover the best hardly ever at first,
(no absolute rule about it, however,) sometimes suddenly bursting
forth, or stealthily opening to me, perhaps after years of unwitting
familiarity, unappreciation, usage.


_Concord, Mass._--Out here on a visit--elastic, mellow, Indian-summery
weather. Came to-day from Boston, (a pleasant ride of 40 minutes by
steam, through Somerville, Belmont, Waltham, Stony Brook, and other
lively towns,) convoy'd by my friend F. B. Sanborn, and to his ample
house, and the kindness and hospitality of Mrs. S. and their fine
family. Am writing this under the shade of some old hickories and
elms, just after 4 P.M., on the porch, within a stone's throw of
the Concord river. Off against me, across stream, on a meadow and
side-hill, haymakers are gathering and wagoning-in probably their
second or third crop. The spread of emerald-green and brown, the
knolls, the score or two of little haycocks dotting the meadow, the
loaded-up wagons, the patient horses, the slow-strong action of the
men and pitchforks--all in the just-waning afternoon, with patches of
yellow sun-sheen, mottled by long shadows--a cricket shrilly chirping,
herald of the dusk--a boat with two figures noiselessly gliding along
the little river, passing under the stone bridge-arch--the slight
settling haze of aerial moisture, the sky and the peacefulness
expanding in all directions and overhead--fill and soothe me.

_Same Evening._--Never had I a better piece of luck befall me: a long
and blessed evening with Emerson, in a way I couldn't have wish'd
better or different. For nearly two hours he has been placidly sitting
where I could see his face in the best light, near me. Mrs. S.'s
back-parlor well fill'd with people, neighbors, many fresh and
charming faces, women, mostly young, but some old. My friend A. B.
Alcott and his daughter Louisa were there early. A good deal of talk,
the subject Henry Thoreau--some new glints of his life and fortunes,
with letters to and from him--one of the best by Margaret Fuller,
others by Horace Greeley, Channing, &c.--one from Thoreau himself,
most quaint and interesting. (No doubt I seem'd very stupid to the
roomful of company, taking hardly any part in the conversation; but I
had "my own pail to milk in," as the Swiss proverb puts it.) My seat
and the relative arrangement were such that, without being rude, or
anything of the kind, I could just look squarely at E., which I did a
good part of the two hours. On entering, he had spoken very briefly
and politely to several of the company, then settled himself in his
chair, a trifle push'd back, and, though a listener and apparently an
alert one, remain'd silent through the whole talk and discussion. A
lady friend quietly took a seat next him, to give special attention. A
good color in his face, eyes clear, with the well-known expression of
sweetness, and the old clear-peering aspect quite the same.

_Next Day_.--Several hours at E.'s house, and dinner there. An
old familiar house, (he has been in it thirty-five years,) with
surroundings, furnishment, roominess, and plain elegance and fullness,
signifying democratic ease, sufficient opulence, and an admirable
old-fashioned simplicity--modern luxury, with its mere sumptuousness
and affectation, either touch'd lightly upon or ignored altogether.
Dinner the same. Of course the best of the occasion (Sunday, September
18, '81) was the sight of E. himself. As just said, a healthy color in
the cheeks, and good light in the eyes, cheery expression, and just
the amount of talking that best suited, namely, a word or short phrase
only where needed, and almost always with a smile. Besides Emerson
himself, Mrs. E., with their daughter Ellen, the son Edward and his
wife, with my friend F. S. and Mrs. S., and others, relatives and
intimates. Mrs. Emerson, resuming the subject of the evening before,
(I sat next to her,) gave me further and fuller information about
Thoreau, who, years ago, during Mr. E.'s absence in Europe, had lived
for some time in the family, by invitation.


Though the evening at Mr. and Mrs. Sanborn's, and the memorable family
dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Emerson's, have most pleasantly and permanently
fill'd my memory, I must not slight other notations of Concord. I
went to the old Manse, walk'd through the ancient garden, enter'd the
rooms, noted the quaintness, the unkempt grass and bushes, the little
panes in the windows, the low ceilings, the spicy smell, the creepers
embowering the light. Went to the Concord battle ground, which is
close by, scann'd French's statue, "the Minute Man," read Emerson's
poetic inscription on the base, linger'd a long while on the bridge,
and stopp'd by the grave of the unnamed British soldiers buried there
the day after the fight in April, '75. Then riding on, (thanks to my
friend Miss M. and her spirited white ponies, she driving them,) a
half hour at Hawthorne's and Thoreau's graves. I got out and went up
of course on foot, and stood a long while and ponder'd. They lie close
together in a pleasant wooded spot well up the cemetery hill, "Sleepy
Hollow." The flat surface of the first was densely cover'd by myrtle,
with a border of arbor-vitae, and the other had a brown headstone,
moderately elaborate, with inscriptions. By Henry's side lies his
brother John, of whom much was expected, but he died young. Then to
Walden pond, that beautiful embower'd sheet of water, and spent over
an hour there. On the spot in the woods where Thoreau had his solitary
house is now quite a cairn of stones, to mark the place; I too carried
one and deposited on the heap. As we drove back, saw the "School of
Philosophy," but it was shut up, and I would not have it open'd for
me. Near by stopp'd at the house of W.T. Harris, the Hegelian, who
came out, and we had a pleasant chat while I sat in the wagon. I shall
not soon forget those Concord drives, and especially that charming
Sunday forenoon one with my friend Miss M., and the white ponies.


_Oct. 10-13._--I spend a good deal of time on the Common, these
delicious days and nights--every mid-day from 11.30 to about 1--and
almost every sunset another hour. I know all the big trees, especially
the old elms along Tremont and Beacon streets, and have come to a
sociable silent understanding with most of them, in the sunlit air,
(yet crispy-cool enough,) as I saunter along the wide unpaved walks.
Up and down this breadth by Beacon street, between these same old
elms, I walk'd for two hours, of a bright sharp February mid-day
twenty-one years ago, with Emerson, then in his prime, keen,
physically and morally magnetic, arm'd at every point, and when he
chose, wielding the emotional just as well as the intellectual. During
those two hours he was the talker and I the listener. It was an
argument-statement, reconnoitring, review, attack, and pressing home,
(like an army corps in order, artillery, cavalry, infantry,) of
all that could be said against that part (and a main part) in the
construction of my poems, "Children of Adam." More precious than gold
to me that dissertion--it afforded me, ever after, this strange and
paradoxical lesson; each point of E.'s statement was unanswerable, no
judge's charge ever more complete or convincing, I could never hear
the points better put--and then I felt down in my soul the clear and
unmistakable conviction to disobey all, and pursue my own way. "What
have you to say then to such things?" said E., pausing in conclusion.
"Only that while I can't answer them at all, I feel more settled than
ever to adhere to my own theory, and exemplify it," was my candid
response. Whereupon we went and had a good dinner at the American
House. And thenceforward I never waver'd or was touch'd with qualms,
(as I confess I had been two or three times before.)


Nov., '81_.--Again back in Camden. As I cross the Delaware in long
trips tonight, between 9 and 11, the scene overhead is a peculiar
one--swift sheets of flitting vapor-gauze, follow'd by dense clouds
throwing an inky pall on everything. Then a spell of that transparent
steel-gray black sky I have noticed under similar circumstances, on
which the moon would beam for a few moments with calm lustre, throwing
down a broad dazzle of highway on the waters; then the mists careering
again. All silently, yet driven as if by the furies they sweep along,
sometimes quite thin, sometimes thicker--a real Ossianic night--amid
the whirl, absent or dead friends, the old, the past, somehow
tenderly suggested--while the Gael-strains chant themselves from
the mists--"Be thy soul blest, O Carril! in the midst of thy eddying
winds. O that thou wouldst come to my hall when I am alone by night!
And thou dost come, my friend. I hear often thy light hand on my harp,
when it hangs on the distant wall, and the feeble sound touches my
ear. Why dost thou not speak to me in my grief, and tell me when I
shall behold my friends? But thou passest away in thy murmuring blast;
the wind whistles through the gray hairs of Ossian."

But most of all, those changes of moon and sheets of hurrying vapor
and black clouds, with the sense of rapid action in weird silence,
recall the far-back Erse belief that such above were the preparations
for receiving the wraiths of just-slain warriors--["We sat that night
in Selma, round the strength of the shell. The wind was abroad in
the oaks. The spirit of the mountain roar'd. The blast came rustling
through the hall, and gently touch'd my harp. The sound was mournful
and low, like the song of the tomb. Fingal heard it the first. The
crowded sighs of his bosom rose. Some of my heroes are low, said the
gray-hair'd king of Morven. I hear the sound of death on the harp.
Ossian, touch the trembling string. Bid the sorrow rise, that their
spirits may fly with joy to Morven's woody hills. I touch'd the harp
before the king; the sound was mournful and low. Bend forward from
your clouds, I said, ghosts of my fathers! bend. Lay by the red terror
of your course. Receive the falling chief; whether he comes from a
distant land, or rises from the rolling sea. Let his robe of mist be
near; his spear that is form'd of a cloud. Place a half-extinguish'd
meteor by his side, in the form of a hero's sword. And oh! let his
countenance be lovely, that his friends may delight in his presence.
Bend from your clouds, I said, ghosts of my fathers, bend. Such was my
song in Selma, to the lightly trembling harp."]

How or why I know not, just at the moment, but I too muse and think
of my best friends in their distant homes--of William O'Connor, of
Maurice Bucke, of John Burroughs, and of Mrs. Gilchrist--friends of my
soul--stanchest friends of my other soul, my poems.


_Jan. 12, '82_.--Such a show as the Delaware presented an hour before
sundown yesterday evening, all along between Philadelphia and Camden,
is worth weaving into an item. It was full tide, a fair breeze from
the southwest, the water of a pale tawny color, and just enough motion
to make things frolicsome and lively. Add to these an approaching
sunset of unusual splendor, a broad tumble of clouds, with much golden
haze and profusion of beaming shaft and dazzle. In the midst of all,
in the clear drab of the afternoon light, there steam'd up the river
the large, new boat, "the Wenonah," as pretty an object as you could
wish to see, lightly and swiftly skimming along, all trim and white,
cover'd with flags, transparent red and blue, streaming out in the
breeze. Only a new ferry-boat, and yet in its fitness comparable with
the prettiest product of Nature's cunning, and rivaling it. High up
in the transparent ether gracefully balanced and circled four or five
great sea hawks, while here below, amid the pomp and picturesqueness
of sky and river, swam this creation of artificial beauty and motion
and power, in its way no less perfect.


_Camden, April, '82_.--I have just return'd from an old forest haunt,
where I love to go occasionally away from parlors, pavements, and the
newspapers and magazines--and where, of a clear forenoon, deep in the
shade of pines and cedars and a tangle of old laurel-trees and vines,
the news of Longfellow's death first reach'd me. For want of anything
better, let me lightly twine a sprig of the sweet ground-ivy trailing
so plentifully through the dead leaves at my feet, with reflections
of that half hour alone, there in the silence, and lay it as my
contribution on the dead bard's grave.

Longfellow in his voluminous works seems to me not only to be eminent
in the style and forms of poetical expression that mark the present
age, (an idiosyncrasy, almost a sickness, of verbal melody,) but to
bring what is always dearest as poetry to the general human heart
and taste, and probably must be so in the nature of things. He is
certainly the sort of bard and counteractant most needed for our
materialistic, self-assertive, money-worshipping, Anglo-Saxon races,
and especially for the present age in America--an age tyrannically
regulated with reference to the manufacturer, the merchant, the
financier, the politician and the day workman--for whom and among
whom he comes as the poet of melody, courtesy, deference--poet of the
mellow twilight of the past in Italy, Germany, Spain, and in Northern
Europe--poet of all sympathetic gentleness--and universal poet of
women and young people. I should have to think long if I were ask'd to
name the man who has done more, and in more valuable directions, for

I doubt if there ever was before such a fine intuitive judge and
selecter of poems. His translations of many German and Scandinavian
pieces are said to be better than the vernaculars. He does not urge or
lash. His influence is like good drink or air. He is not tepid either,
but always vital, with flavor, motion, grace. He strikes a splendid
average, and does not sing exceptional passions, or humanity's jagged
escapades. He is not revolutionary, brings nothing offensive or new,
does not deal hard blows. On the contrary, his songs soothe and heal,
or if they excite, it is a healthy and agreeable excitement. His very
anger is gentle, is at second hand, (as in the "Quadroon Girl" and the

There is no undue element of pensiveness in Longfellow's strains. Even
in the early translation, the Manrique, the movement is as of strong
and steady wind or tide, holding up and buoying. Death is not avoided
through his many themes, but there is something almost winning in his
original verses and renderings on that dread subject--as, closing "the
Happiest Land" dispute,

And then the landlord's daughter
Up to heaven rais'd her hand,
And said, "Ye may no more contend,
There lies the happiest land."

To the ungracious complaint-charge of his want of racy nativity and
special originality, I shall only say that America and the world may
well be reverently thankful--can never be thankful enough--for any
such singing-bird vouchsafed out of the centuries, without asking
that the notes be different from those of other songsters; adding what
I have heard Longfellow himself say, that ere the New World can be
worthily original, and announce herself and her own heroes, she must
be well saturated with the originality of others, and respectfully
consider the heroes that lived before Agamemnon.


_Reminiscences (From the "Camden Courier")_. As I sat taking my evening
sail across the Delaware in the staunch ferry-boat "Beverly," a night
or two ago, I was join'd by two young reporter friends. "I have a
message for you," said one of them; "the C. folks told me to say they
would like a piece sign'd by your name, to go in their first number.
Can you do it for them?" "I guess so," said I; "what might it be
about?" "Well, anything on newspapers, or perhaps what you've done
yourself, starting them." And off the boys went, for we had reach'd
the Philadelphia side. The hour was fine and mild, the bright
half-moon shining; Venus, with excess of splendor, just setting in the
west, and the great Scorpion rearing its length more than half up in
the southeast. As I cross'd leisurely for an hour in the pleasant
night-scene, my young friend's words brought up quite a string of

I commenced when I was but a boy of eleven or twelve writing
sentimental bits for the old "Long Island Patriot," in Brooklyn; this
was about 1832. Soon after, I had a piece or two in George P. Morris's
then celebrated and fashionable "Mirror," of New York city. I remember
with what half-suppress'd excitement I used to watch for the big, fat,
red-faced, slow-moving, very old English carrier who distributed the
"Mirror" in Brooklyn; and when I got one, opening and cutting the
leaves with trembling fingers. How it made my heart double-beat to see
_my piece_ on the pretty white paper, in nice type.

My first real venture was the "Long Islander," in my own beautiful
town of Huntington, in 1839. I was about twenty years old. I had been
teaching country school for two or three years in various parts of
Suffolk and Queens counties, but liked printing; had been at it while
a lad, learn'd the trade of compositor, and was encouraged to start
a paper in the region where I was born. I went to New York, bought
a press and types, hired some little help, but did most of the work
myself, including the press-work. Everything seem'd turning out well;
(only my own restlessness prevented me gradually establishing a
permanent property there.) I bought a good horse, and every week went
all round the country serving my papers, devoting one day and night to
it. I never had happier jaunts--going over to south side, to Babylon,
down the south road, across to Smithtown and Comac, and back home. The
experiences of those jaunts, the dear old-fashion'd farmers and their
wives, the stops by the hay-fields, the hospitality, nice dinners,
occasional evenings, the girls, the rides through the brush, come up
in my memory to this day.

I next went to the "Aurora" daily in New York city--a sort of free
lance. Also wrote regularly for the "Tattler," an evening paper. With
these and a little outside work I was occupied off and on, until I
went to edit the "Brooklyn Eagle," where for two years I had one of
the pleasantest sits of my life--a good owner, good pay, and easy work
and hours. The troubles in the Democratic party broke forth about
those times (1848-'49) and I split off with the radicals, which led to
rows with the boss and "the party," and I lost my place.

Being now out of a job, I was offer'd impromptu, (it happen'd between
the acts one night in the lobby of the old Broadway theatre near Pearl
street, New York city,) a good chance to go down to New Orleans on the
staff of the "Crescent," a daily to be started there with plenty of
capital behind it. One of the owners, who was north buying material,
met me walking in the lobby, and though that was our first
acquaintance, after fifteen minutes' talk (and a drink) we made a
formal bargain, and he paid me two hundred dollars down to bind the
contract and bear my expenses to New Orleans. I started two days
afterwards; had a good leisurely time, as the paper wasn't to be
out in three weeks. I enjoy'd my journey and Louisiana life much.
Returning to Brooklyn a year or two afterward I started the
"Freeman," first as a weekly, then daily. Pretty soon the secession
war broke out, and I, too, got drawn in the current southward, and
spent the following three years there, (as memorandized preceding.)

Besides starting them as aforementioned, I have had to do, one time or
another, during my life, with a long list of papers, at divers places,
sometimes under queer circumstances. During the war, the hospitals at
Washington, among other means of amusement, printed a little sheet
among themselves, surrounded by wounds and death, the "Armory Square
Gazette," to which I contributed. The same long afterward, casually,
to a paper--I think it was call'd the "Jimplecute"--out in Colorado
where I stopp'd at the time. When I was in Quebec province, in Canada,
in 1880, I went into the queerest little old French printing-office
near Tadousac. It was far more primitive and ancient than my Camden
friend William Kurtz's place up on Federal street. I remember, as a
youngster, several characteristic old printers of a kind hard to be
seen these days.


My thoughts went floating on vast and mystic currents as I sat to-day
in solitude and half-shade by the creek--returning mainly to two
principal centres. One of my cherish'd themes for a never-achiev'd
poem has been the two impetuses of man and the universe--in the
latter, creation's incessant unrest,[19] exfoliation, (Darwin's
evolution, I suppose.) Indeed, what is Nature but change, in all its
visible, and still more its invisible processes? Or what is humanity
in its faith, love, heroism, poetry, even morals, but _emotion_?


[19] "Fifty thousand years ago the constellation of the Great Bear
or Dipper was a starry cross; a hundred thousand years hence the
imaginary Dipper will be upside down, and the stars which form the
bowl and handle will have changed places. The misty nebulae are
moving, and besides are whirling around in great spirals, some one
way, some another. Every molecule of matter in the whole universe is
swinging to and fro; every particle of ether which fills space is
in jelly-like vibration. Light is one kind of motion, heat another,
electricity another, magnetism another, sound another. Every human
sense is the result of motion; every perception, every thought is
but motion of the molecules of the brain translated by that
incomprehensible thing we call mind. The processes of growth, of
existence, of decay, whether in worlds, or in the minutest organisms,
are but motion."


_May 6, '82._--We stand by Emerson's new-made grave without
sadness--indeed a solemn joy and faith, almost hauteur--our
soul-benison no mere

"Warrior, rest, thy task is done,"

for one beyond the warriors of the world lies surely symboll'd here. A
just man, poised on himself, all-loving, all-inclosing, and sane and
clear as the sun. Nor does it seem so much Emerson himself we are here
to honor--it is conscience, simplicity, culture, humanity's attributes
at their best, yet applicable if need be to average affairs, and
eligible to all. So used are we to suppose a heroic death can only
come from out of battle or storm, or mighty personal contest, or amid
dramatic incidents or danger, (have we not been taught so for ages
by all the plays and poems?) that few even of those who most
sympathizingly mourn Emerson's late departure will fully appreciate
the ripen'd grandeur of that event, with its play of calm and fitness,
like evening light on the sea.

How I shall henceforth dwell on the blessed hours when, not long
since, I saw that benignant face, the clear eyes, the silently smiling
mouth, the form yet upright in its great age--to the very last, with
so much spring and cheeriness, and such an absence of decrepitude,
that even the term _venerable_ hardly seem'd fitting.

Perhaps the life now rounded and completed in its mortal development,
and which nothing can change or harm more, has its most illustrious
halo, not in its splendid intellectual or esthetic products, but as
forming in its entirety one of the few (alas! how few!) perfect and
flawless excuses for being, of the entire literary class.

We can say, as Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, It is not we who come to
consecrate the dead--we reverently come to receive, if so it may be,
some consecration to ourselves and daily work from him.


_A letter to a German friend--extract_

_May 31, '82._--"From to-day I enter upon my 64th year. The paralysis
that first affected me nearly ten years ago, has since remain'd, with
varying course--seems to have settled quietly down, and will probably
continue. I easily tire, am very clumsy, cannot walk far; but my
spirits are first-rate. I go around in public almost every day--now
and then take long trips, by railroad or boat, hundreds of miles--live
largely in the open air--am sunburnt and stout, (weigh 190)--keep up
my activity and interest in life, people, progress, and the questions
of the day. About two-thirds of the time I am quite comfortable. What
mentality I ever had remains entirely unaffected; though physically
I am a half-paralytic, and likely to be so, long as I live. But the
principal object of my life seems to have been accomplish'd--I
have the most devoted and ardent of friends, and affectionate
relatives--and of enemies I really make no account."


I tried to read a beautifully printed and scholarly volume on "the
Theory of Poetry," received by mail this morning from England--but
gave it up at last for a bad job. Here are some capricious pencillings
that follow'd, as I find them in my notes:

In youth and maturity Poems are charged with sunshine and varied pomp
of day; but as the soul more and more takes precedence, (the sensuous
still included,) the Dusk becomes the poet's atmosphere. I too have
sought, and ever seek, the brilliant sun, and make my songs according.
But as I grow old, the half-lights of evening are far more to me.

The play of Imagination, with the sensuous objects of Nature for
symbols and Faith--with Love and Pride as the unseen impetus and
moving-power of all, make up the curious chess-game of a poem.

Common teachers or critics are always asking "What does it mean?"
Symphony of fine musician, or sunset, or sea-waves rolling up the
beach--what do they mean? Undoubtedly in the most subtle-elusive sense
they mean something--as love does, and religion does, and the best
poem;--but who shall fathom and define those meanings? (I do not
intend this as a warrant for wildness and frantic escapades--but to
justify the soul's frequent joy in what cannot be defined to the
intellectual part, or to calculation.)

At its best, poetic lore is like what may be heard of conversation in
the dusk, from speakers far or hid, of which we get only a few broken
murmurs. What is not gather'd is far more--perhaps the main thing.

Grandest poetic passages are only to be taken at free removes, as we
sometimes look for stars at night, not by gazing directly toward them,
but off one side.

(_To a poetic student and friend._)--I only seek to put you in
rapport. Your own brain, heart, evolution, must not only understand
the matter, but largely supply it.


So draw near their end these garrulous notes. There have doubtless
occurr'd some repetitions, technical errors in the consecutiveness of
dates, in the minutiae of botanical, astronomical, &c., exactness,
and perhaps elsewhere;--for in gathering up, writing, peremptorily
dispatching copy, this hot weather, (last of July and through August,
'82,) and delaying not the printers, I have had to hurry along, no
time to spare. But in the deepest veracity of all--in reflections of
objects, scenes, Nature's outpourings, to my senses and receptivity,
as they seem'd to me--in the work of giving those who care for it,
some authentic glints, specimen-days of my life--and in the _bona
fide_ spirit and relations, from author to reader, on all the subjects
design'd, and as far as they go, I feel to make unmitigated claims.

The synopsis of my early life, Long Island, New York city, and so
forth, and the diary-jottings in the Secession war, tell their own
story. My plan in starting what constitutes most of the middle of the
book, was originally for hints and data of a Nature-poem that should
carry one's experiences a few hours, commencing at noon-flush, and so
through the after-part of the day--I suppose led to such idea by my
own life-afternoon now arrived. But I soon found I could move at
more ease, by giving the narrative at first hand. (Then there is a
humiliating lesson one learns, in serene hours, of a fine day or
night. Nature seems to look on all fixed-up poetry and art as
something almost impertinent.)

Thus I went on, years following, various seasons and areas, spinning
forth my thought beneath the night and stars, (or as I was confined to
my room by half-sickness,) or at midday looking out upon the sea, or
far north steaming over the Saguenay's black breast, jotting all down
in the loosest sort of chronological order, and here printing from my
impromptu notes, hardly even the seasons group'd together, or anything
corrected--so afraid of dropping what smack of outdoors or sun or
starlight might cling to the lines, I dared not try to meddle with
or smooth them. Every now and then, (not often, but for a foil,) I
carried a book in my pocket--or perhaps tore out from some broken or
cheap edition a bunch of loose leaves; most always had something of
the sort ready, but only took it out when the mood demanded. In that
way, utterly out of reach of literary conventions, I re-read many

I cannot divest my appetite of literature, yet I find myself
eventually trying it all by Nature--_first premises_ many call it, but
really the crowning results of all, laws, tallies and proofs. (Has it
never occur'd to any one how the last deciding tests applicable to a
book are entirely outside of technical and grammatical ones, and that
any truly first-class production has little or nothing to do with the
rules and calibres of ordinary critics? or the bloodless chalk of
Allibone's Dictionary? I have fancied the ocean and the daylight, the
mountain and the forest, putting their spirit in a judgment on our
books. I have fancied some disembodied human soul giving its verdict.)


Democracy most of all affiliates with the open air, is sunny and
hardy and sane only with Nature--just as much as Art is. Something is
required to temper both--to check them, restrain them from excess,
morbidity. I have wanted, before departure, to bear special testimony
to a very old lesson and requisite. American Democracy, in its myriad
personalities, in factories, work-shops, stores, offices--through
the dense streets and houses of cities, and all their manifold
sophisticated life--must either be fibred, vitalized, by regular
contact with out-door light and air and growths, farm-scenes, animals,
fields, trees, birds, sun-warmth and free skies, or it will certainly
dwindle and pale. We cannot have grand races of mechanics, work
people, and commonalty, (the only specific purpose of America,) on
any less terms. I conceive of no flourishing and heroic elements of
Democracy in the United States, or of Democracy maintaining itself
at all, without the Nature-element forming a main part--to be its
health-element and beauty-element--to really underlie the whole
politics, sanity, religion and art of the New World.

Finally, the morality: "Virtue," said Marcus Aurelius, "what is it,
only a living and enthusiastic sympathy with Nature?" Perhaps indeed
the efforts of the true poets, founders, religions, literatures,
all ages, have been, and ever will be, our time and times to come,
essentially the same--to bring people back from their persistent
strayings and sickly abstractions, to the costless average, divine,
original concrete.



Though the ensuing COLLECT and preceding SPECIMEN DAYS are both
largely from memoranda already existing, the hurried peremptory needs
of copy for the printers, already referr'd to--(the musicians' story
of a composer up in a garret rushing the middle body and last of his
score together, while the fiddlers are playing the first parts down
in the concert-room)--of this haste, while quite willing to get the
consequent stimulus of life and motion, I am sure there must have
resulted sundry technical errors. If any are too glaring they will be
corrected in a future edition.

A special word about PIECES IN EARLY YOUTH at the end. On jaunts over
Long Island, as boy and young fellow, nearly half a century ago,
I heard of, or came across in my own experience, characters,
true occurrences, incidents, which I tried my 'prentice hand at
recording--(I was then quite an "abolitionist" and advocate of the
"temperance" and "anti-capital-punishment" causes)--and publish'd
during occasional visits to New York city. A majority of the sketches
appear'd first in the "Democratic Review," others in the "Columbian
Magazine," or the "American Review," of that period. My serious wish
were to have all those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropp'd in
oblivion--but to avoid the annoyance of their surreptitious issue, (as
lately announced, from outsiders,) I have, with some qualms, tack'd
them on here. _A Dough-Face Song_ came out first in the "Evening
Post"--_Blood-Money_, and _Wounded in the House of Friends_, in the

_Poetry To-day in America_, &c., first appear'd (under the name of
"_The Poetry of the Future_,") in "The North American Review" for
February, 1881. _A Memorandum at a Venture_, in same periodical, some
time afterward.

Several of the convalescent out-door scenes and literary items,
preceding, originally appear'd in the fortnightly "Critic," of New


As the greatest lessons of Nature through the universe are perhaps the
lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the greatest lessons
also in New World politics and progress. If a man were ask'd, for
instance, the distinctive points contrasting modern European and
American political and other life with the old Asiatic cultus, as
lingering-bequeath'd yet in China and Turkey, he might find the amount
of them in John Stuart Mill's profound essay on Liberty in the future,
where he demands two main constituents, or sub-strata, for a truly
grand nationality--1st, a large variety of character--and 2d, full
play for human nature to expand itself in numberless and even
conflicting directions--(seems to be for general humanity much like
the influences that make up, in their limitless field, that perennial
health-action of the air we call the weather--an infinite number
of currents and forces, and contributions, and temperatures, and
cross-purposes, whose ceaseless play of counterpart upon counterpart
brings constant restoration and vitality.) With this thought--and not
for itself alone, but all it necessitates, and draws after it--let me
begin my speculations.

America, filling the present with greatest deeds and problems,
cheerfully accepting the past, including feudalism, (as, indeed, the
present is but the legitimate birth of the past, including feudalism,)
counts, as I reckon, for her justification and success, (for who, as
yet, dare claim success?) almost entirely on the future. Nor is that
hope unwarranted. To-day, ahead, though dimly yet, we see, in vistas,
a copious, sane, gigantic offspring. For our New World I consider far
less important for what it has done, or what it is, than for results
to come. Sole among nationalities, these States have assumed the
task to put in forms of lasting power and practicality, on areas of
amplitude rivaling the operations of the physical kosmos, the moral
political speculations of ages, long, long deferr'd, the democratic
republican principle, and the theory of development and perfection by
voluntary standards, and self-reliance. Who else, indeed, except the
United States, in history, so far, have accepted in unwitting faith,
and, as we now see, stand, act upon, and go security for, these
things? But preluding no longer, let me strike the key-note of the
following strain. First premising that, though the passages of it have
been written at widely different times, (it is, in fact, a collection
of memoranda, perhaps for future designers, comprehenders,) and though
it may be open to the charge of one part contradicting another--for
there are opposite sides to the great question of democracy, as to
every great question--I feel the parts harmoniously blended in my own
realization and convictions, and present them to be read only in such
oneness, each page and each claim and assertion modified and temper'd
by the others. Bear in mind, too, that they are not the result
of studying up in political economy, but of the ordinary sense,
observing, wandering among men, these States, these stirring years of
war and peace. I will not gloss over the appaling dangers of universal
suffrage in the United States. In fact, it is to admit and face these
dangers I am writing. To him or her within whose thought rages the
battle, advancing, retreating, between democracy's convictions,
aspirations, and the people's crudeness, vice, caprices, I mainly
write this essay. I shall use the words America and democracy as
convertible terms. Not an ordinary one is the issue. The United States
are destined either to surmount the gorgeous history of feudalism, or
else prove the most tremendous failure of time. Not the least doubtful
am I on any prospects of their material success. The triumphant future
of their business, geographic and productive departments, on larger
scales and in more varieties than ever, is certain. In those respects
the republic must soon (if she does not already) outstrip all examples
hitherto afforded, and dominate the world.[20]

Admitting all this, with the priceless value of our political
institutions, general suffrage, (and fully acknowledging the latest,
widest opening of the doors,) I say that, far deeper than these,
what finally and only is to make of our western world a nationality
superior to any hither known, and out-topping the past, must be
vigorous, yet unsuspected Literatures, perfect personalities and
sociologies, original, transcendental, and expressing (what, in
highest sense, are not yet express'd at all,) democracy and the
modern. With these, and out of these, I promulge new races of
Teachers, and of perfect Women, indispensable to endow the birth-stock
of a New World. For feudalism, caste, the ecclesiastic traditions,
though palpably retreating from political institutions, still hold
essentially, by their spirit, even in this country, entire possession
of the more important fields, indeed the very subsoil, of education,
and of social standards and literature.

I say that democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, until it
founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, schools,
theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been produced
anywhere in the past, under opposite influences. It is curious to me
that while so many voices, pens, minds, in the press, lecture-rooms,
in our Congress, &c., are discussing intellectual topics, pecuniary
dangers, legislative problems, the suffrage, tariff and labor
questions, and the various business and benevolent needs of America,
with propositions, remedies, often worth deep attention, there is one
need, a hiatus the profoundest, that no eye seems to perceive, no
voice to state. Our fundamental want to-day in the United States, with
closest, amplest reference to present conditions, and to the future,
is of a class, and the clear idea of a class, of native authors,
literatuses, far different, far higher in grade than any yet known,
sacerdotal, modern, fit to cope with our occasions, lands, permeating
the whole mass of American mentality, taste, belief, breathing into it
a new breath of life, giving it decision, affecting politics far
more than the popular superficial suffrage, with results inside and
underneath the elections of Presidents or Congresses--radiating,
begetting appropriate teachers, schools, manners, and, as its grandest
result, accomplishing, (what neither the schools nor the churches and
their clergy have hitherto accomplish'd, and without which this nation
will no more stand, permanently, soundly, than a house will stand
without a substratum,) a religious and moral character beneath the
political and productive and intellectual bases of the States. For
know you not, dear, earnest reader, that the people of our land may
all read and write, and may all possess the right to vote--and yet the
main things may be entirely lacking?--(and this to suggest them.)

View'd, to-day, from a point of view sufficiently over-arching,
the problem of humanity all over the civilized world is social and
religious, and is to be finally met and treated by literature. The
priest departs, the divine literatus comes. Never was anything more
wanted than, to-day, and here in the States, the poet of the modern is
wanted, or the great literatus of the modern. At all times, perhaps,
the central point in any nation, and that whence it is itself
really sway'd the most, and whence it sways others, is its national
literature, especially its archetypal poems. Above all previous lands,
a great original literature is surely to become the justification and
reliance, (in some respects the sole reliance,) of American democracy.

Few are aware how the great literature penetrates all, gives hue to
all, shapes aggregates and individuals, and, after subtle ways, with
irresistible power, constructs, sustains, demolishes at will. Why
tower, in reminiscence, above all the nations of the earth, two
special lands, petty in themselves, yet inexpressibly gigantic,
beautiful, columnar? Immortal Judah lives, and Greece immortal lives,
in a couple of poems.

Nearer than this. It is not generally realized, but it is true, as the
genius of Greece, and all the sociology, personality, politics and
religion of those wonderful states, resided in their literature or
esthetics, that what was afterwards the main support of European
chivalry, the feudal, ecclesiastical, dynastic world over
there--forming its osseous structure, holding it together for
hundreds, thousands of years, preserving its flesh and bloom, giving
it form, decision, rounding it out, and so saturating it in the
conscious and unconscious blood, breed, belief, and intuitions of men,
that it still prevails powerful to this day, in defiance of the mighty
changes of time--was its literature, permeating to the very marrow,
especially that major part, its enchanting songs, ballads, and

To the ostent of the senses and eyes, I know, the influences which
stamp the world's history are wars, uprisings or downfalls of
dynasties, changeful movements of trade, important inventions,
navigation, military or civil governments, advent of powerful
personalities, conquerors, etc.. These of course play their part; yet,
it may be, a single new thought, imagination, abstract principle,
even literary style, fit for the time, put in shape by some great
literatus, and projected among mankind, may duly cause changes,
growths, removals, greater than the longest and bloodiest war, or the
most stupendous merely political, dynastic, or commercial overturn.

In short, as, though it may not be realized, it is strictly true, that
a few first-class poets, philosophs, and authors, have substantially
settled and given status to the entire religion, education, law,
sociology, &c., of the hitherto civilized world, by tinging and often
creating the atmospheres out of which they have arisen, such also must
stamp, and more than ever stamp, the interior and real democratic
construction of this American continent, to-day, and days to come.
Remember also this fact of difference, that, while through the antique
and through the mediaeval ages, highest thoughts and ideals realized
themselves, and their expression made its way by other arts, as much
as, or even more than by, technical literature, (not open to the
mass of persons, or even to the majority of eminent persons,) such
literature in our day and for current purposes, is not only more
eligible than all the other arts put together, but has become the only
general means of morally influencing the world. Painting, sculpture,
and the dramatic theatre, it would seem, no longer play an
indispensable or even important part in the workings and mediumship
of intellect, utility, or even high esthetics. Architecture remains,
doubtless with capacities, and a real future. Then music, the
combiner, nothing more spiritual, nothing more sensuous, a god, yet
completely human, advances, prevails, holds highest place; supplying
in certain wants and quarters what nothing else could supply. Yet in
the civilization of to-day it is undeniable that, over all the arts,
literature dominates, serves beyond all--shapes the character of
church and school--or, at any rate, is capable of doing so. Including
the literature of science, its scope is indeed unparallel'd.

Before proceeding further, it were perhaps well to discriminate on
certain points. Literature tills its crops in many fields, and some
may flourish, while others lag. What I say in these Vistas has its
main bearing on imaginative literature, especially poetry, the stock
of all. In the department of science, and the specialty of journalism,
there appear, in these States, promises, perhaps fulfilments, of
highest earnestness, reality, and life, These, of course, are modern.
But in the region of imaginative, spinal and essential attributes,
something equivalent to creation is, for our age and lands,
imperatively demanded. For not only is it not enough that the new
blood, new frame of democracy shall be vivified and held together
merely by political means, superficial suffrage, legislation, &c., but
it is clear to me that, unless it goes deeper, gets at least as firm
and as warm a hold in men's hearts, emotions and belief, as, in their
days, feudalism or ecclesiasticism, and inaugurates its own perennial
sources, welling from the centre forever, its strength will be
defective, its growth doubtful, and its main charm wanting. I suggest,
therefore, the possibility, should some two or three really original
American poets, (perhaps artists or lecturers,) arise, mounting the
horizon like planets, stars of the first magnitude, that, from their
eminence, fusing contributions, races, far localities, &c., together,
they would give more compaction and more moral identity, (the quality
to-day most needed,) to these States, than all its Constitutions,
legislative and judicial ties, and all its hitherto political,
warlike, or materialistic experiences. As, for instance, there could
hardly happen anything that would more serve the States, with all
their variety of origins, their diverse climes, cities, standards,
&c., than possessing an aggregate of heroes, characters, exploits,
sufferings, prosperity or misfortune, glory or disgrace, common to
all, typical of all--no less, but even greater would it be to possess
the aggregation of a cluster of mighty poets, artists, teachers, fit
for us, national expressers, comprehending and effusing for the men
and women of the States, what is universal, native, common to all,
inland and seaboard, northern and southern. The historians say of
ancient Greece, with her ever-jealous autonomies, cities, and states,
that the only positive unity she ever own'd or receiv'd, was the sad
unity of a common subjection, at the last, to foreign conquerors.
Subjection, aggregation of that sort, is impossible to America; but
the fear of conflicting and irreconcilable interiors, and the lack of
a common skeleton, knitting all close, continually haunts me. Or, if
it does not, nothing is plainer than the need, a long period to come,
of a fusion of the States into the only reliable identity, the moral
and artistic one. For, I say, the true nationality of the States, the
genuine union, when we come to a moral crisis, is, and is to be, after
all, neither the written law, nor, (as is generally supposed,) either
self-interest, or common pecuniary or material objects--but the fervid
and tremendous IDEA, melting everything else with resistless heat,
and solving all lesser and definite distinctions in vast, indefinite,
spiritual, emotional power.

It may be claim'd, (and I admit the weight of the claim,) that common
and general worldly prosperity, and a populace well-to-do, and with
all life's material comforts, is the main thing, and is enough. It may
be argued that our republic is, in performance, really enacting to-day
the grandest arts, poems, &c., by beating up the wilderness into
fertile farms, and in her railroads, ships, machinery, &c. And it
may be ask'd, Are these not better, indeed, for America, than any
utterances even of greatest rhapsode, artist, or literatus?

I too hail those achievements with pride and joy: then answer that the
soul of man will not with such only--nay, not with such at all--be

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