Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

66

much more often reminds one of the at- crees. For example, take this, on the tempts of a seeress to induce in herself the dangers of the much-vaunted life of acecstasy which will not spontaneously visit tion: “A certain partiality, headiness, her. Yet the prose, both of Carlyle and of and want of balance is the tax which all Emerson, falls at times into that poetic action must pay. Act if you like, but you rhythm which indicates the highest glow of do it at your peril;” or this, on the dana powerful imaginative nature, though of gers of speculation : “Why should I vapor such passages the present writer, at least, and play the philosopher, instead of bal. could produce many more from Carlyle lasting, the best I can this dancing balthan from Emerson. We should say that loon ; or this, on the dangers of hero. a little of Emerson's verse is genuine po. worship: “Every hero becomes a bore etry, though not of the highest order, and at last. We balance one man with his that none of Carlyle's is poetry at all; opponent, and the health of the State debut that some of Carlyle's prose is as pends upon the see-saw;' or this, on the touching as any but the noblest poetry, Time-spirit: “We see now events forced while Emerson never reaches the same on which seem to retard or retrograde profound pathos. Nor is this the only the civility of ages. But the World-spirit side on which these two contemporary is a good swimmer, and storms and waves thinkers resemble each other. As think. cannot drown him." There is no thinker ers, both were eager transcendentalists, of our day who, for sentences that have and at the same time, rationalists too. the ring of oracles, can quite compare Both were intended for divines, and both with Emerson. Mr. Arnold, in a sonnet abandoned the profession, though Emer- written nearly forty years ago, on Emerson filled a pulpit for a year or two, while son's essays, said: Carlyle never even entered on the formal

A voice oracular has pealed to day; study of theology. Both, again, were in

To-day a hero's banner is unfurled. their way humorists, though Emerson's humor was a much less profound con. And the first line at least was true, whatstituent of his character than Carlyle's. ever may be said of the second. No man And finally, both would have called them- has compressed more authoritative insight selves the spokesmen of "the dim, com- into his sentences than Emerson. He mon populations,” the enemies of all self- discerns character more truly than Carish privilege, of all purely traditional dis-lyle, though he does not describe with tinctions between man and man, of all the half the fervent vigor. Carlyle worships artificial selfishness of class, of all the tyr- Goethe blindly, but Emerson discerns the anny of caste, and the cruelty of custoin. very core of the poet. Goethe can never

Yet Emerson and Carlyle were in their be dear to men. His is not even the devo. way very remarkable contrasts. Emerson tion to pure truth, but to truth for the was as benignant and gentle as Carlyle sake of culture.” And again, Goethe, he was arrogant and bitter. Mr. Ruskin has says, “has one test for all men: What asked, “What can you say of Carlyle, ex- can you teach me?” Hear him of Goethe cept that he was born in the clouds, and as artist: “His affections help him, like struck by lightning ?” Of Emerson, it women employed by Cicero to worm out might, perhaps, be also said that he was the secrets of conspirators.” Or take born in the clouds, but assuredly not that this, as summing up Goethe as a poet: he was struck by lightning. There is “These are not wild, miraculous songs, nothing scathed or marred about him, but elaborate poems, to which the poet nothing sublime, though something per- has confided the results of eighty years of haps better, - a little of the calm of true observation. . . . Still, he is a poet of a majesty. He has the keen kindliness of prouder laurel than any contemporary, the highest New England culture, with a and under this plague of microscopes (for touch of majesty about him that no other be seems to see out of every pore of his New England culture shows. He has the skin), strikes the harp with

a hero's art of saying things with a tone of au- strength and grace." There is something thority quite unknown to Carlyle, who far more royal and certain in Mr. Emercasts his thunderbolt, but never forgets son's insight, than in all the humorous that he is casting it at some unhappy mor. brilliance of Carlyle. tal whom he intends to slay. That is not Still, if we were to compare the two as Emerson's manner; he is never aggres. transcendental thinkers, we should not sive. He has that regal suavity which hesitate to declare Carlyle much the settles a troublesome matter without dis- greater of the two. Emerson never seems pute. His sentences are often like de. I to us so little secure of his ground as he

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

is in uttering his transcendentalisms, - hope materially to change the great stream Carlyle never so secure. Einerson on of tendencies which contains us; and he "Nature,” Emerson on the “Over-Soul,” made us feel, as hardly any other has Emerson on the law of “ Polarity,” Em- made us feel, how, in spite of all this arerson on “Intuition," does not seem to ray of immensities in which we are hardly us even instructive. He aims too wide, a distinguishable speck, the Spirit whose and hits only the vague. When he tells command brings us into being requires us, in his “Representative Men,” that of us the kind of life which defies neces"animated chlorine knows of chlorine, sity, and breathes into the order of our and incarnate zinc of zinc,” he attempts brief existence the spirit of impassioned to state his peculiar pantheism in words right and indomitable freedom. This was which not only do not make it more intel- but a narrow aim, compared with that of ligible, but rather illustrate the untruth Mr. Emerson's philosophy, but it sucof the general assertion that only like can ceeded, while Emerson's did not. The perceive like. “Shall we say,” he adds, various philosophic essays in which Em" that quartz mountains will pulverize into erson tried to assert the absolute unity of innumerable Werners, Von Buchs, and the material and spiritual laws of the Beaumonts, and that the laboratory of the universe, have always seemed to us, atmosphere holds in solution I know not though decidedly interesting, yet unques. what Berzeliuses and Davy's ? " - a questionable failures. You can rive a coach tion to which the present writer, at least, and six through almost any one of the would reply with a most emphatic "No," generalizations which pass for philosophy, if, at least, the object be, as it no doubt is, in these vague and imaginative, but unto explain discoverers by their latent real speculations. affinity with the thing discovered. Sup. Inferior in genius, as a man Emer. pose we put it thus, “ Animated bacteria son will compare favorably with Carlyle. know of bacteria, incarnate lymph of vac- He certainly possessed his soul in pacine:" — who would not see the absurd. tience, which Carlyle never did. He had ity? Is there really more of the bacteria a magnanimity in which Carlyle was altoin Professor Pasteur or Professor Koch, gether wanting. He sympathized ardently than there is in the cattle inoculated by with all the greatest practical movements the former, or the consumptive patients of his own day, while Carlyle held conwho die from the presence of tubercular temptuously aloof. Emerson was one of bacteria, according to the teaching of the the first to strike a heavy blow at the inlatter, that Professors Pasteur and Koch stitution of slavery. He came forward to discover their presence, while the pas encourage his country in the good cause, tients themselves discover nothing of the when slavery raised the flag of rebellion. nature of their own complaints ? Of He had a genuine desire to see all men course, Emerson would have said that he really free, while Carlyle only felt the did not mean his statements to be thus desire to see all men strongly governed, carnally understood. Very likely not; - which they might be without being free but have they any real meaning at all, un- at all. Emerson's spirit, moreover, was less thus carnally construed ? Mr. Emer- much the saner and more reverent of the son's transcendental essays are full of two, though less rich in power and humor. this kind of dark and vague symbolism, His mind was heartily religious, though which carries weight only in proportion to his transcendentalism always gave a certhe extent of our ignorance, not to the tain air of patronage to his manner in extent of our knowledge. Now, Carlyle, speaking of any of the greater religions. so far as he was a transcendentalist, stuck One of his youthful sermons was thus deto the very truth and reality of nature. scribed by a lady who heard it: “Waldo He showed us how small a proportion of Emerson came last Sunday, and preached our life we can realize in thought; how a sermon, with his chin in the air, in small a proportion of our thoughts we can scorn of the whole human race.” That figure forth in words; how immense is is caricature, but whenever Emerson the difference between the pretensions of spoke on any religion which claims a spehuman speech and the real life for which cial revelation, even in later life, his chin it stands; how vast the forces amidst seemed to be “in the air" still. He bad which the human spirit struggles for its the democratic transcendentalist's jeallittle modicum of purpose; how infinite ousy of any one who claimed to be nearer the universe, both in regard to space and God than the race at large. He was con. time, on which we make our little appear. temptuous of the pretensions of special ances only to subside again before we can access to God, and this, to our ears at

"essen

[ocr errors]

least, always spoils his tone, when he pigeons, however different in appearance
speaks of Christ and Christianity. But and even in anatomy, remained
towards man, he is always reverent- tially pigeons.". This is the stupidity
which Carlyle seldom is - and he is al. against which the gods themselves fight
ways reverent, too, in relation to the in vain; and it was fitting and congruous
Divine Mind itself. “I conceive a man that the same intellect should perceive in
as always spoken to from behind,” he Emerson nothing but a second-rate and
once wrote, “and unable to turn his head eccentric essayist. As Darwin vexed the
and see the speaker. In all the millions souls of those good naturalists who had
who have heard the voice, none ever saw cut up the boundless continuity of nature
the face. As children in their play run into little bits, and safely classed and
behind each other, and seize one by the stowed away genera and species, as they
ears, and make him walk before them, so thought, each to remain so labelled on its
is the Spirit our unseen pilot." Those proper shelf till the end of the world, so
are the words of a truly reverent mind, did Emerson plague and confound the
though of a mind as jealously devoted to good orderly souls for whom every man
a sort of false spiritual democracy, as it is who deals in thoughts must bave his
reverent in its attitude and poetic in its proper shelf too, and be assignable to
inmost thought.

some recognized class of the writing
variety of man, on pain of being set down
as a deceiver and babbler out of season.

There would be nothing more difficult,

as there is happily nothing more needless, From The Saturday Review.

than to specify with what kind of authors MR. EMERSON.

Emerson ought to be ranked. He was On this side of the Atlantic we were neither the follower nor the founder of still newly mourning for the greatest of any school. He learnt from many and English leaders in science, when it was owed allegiance to none, and he taught told us that another life had fallen of one without making disciples. Even in his no less widely held in reverence by Enlightest work he was always many-sided glish-speaking men; the life of the only and unexpected; not for the sake of being man, perhaps, if comparison may be made unexpected, but because the natural works between fields of action so widely differ- ing of his mind led him in paths that were ent, who exercised on the ideas of a gen- not as other men's. If he criticised, it eration younger than his own an influence was with a certain ardor of practical apcomparable in its depth and penetration plication and looking to things to be done to Mr. Darwin's. In one way, at least, in life. If he exhorted, it was with a the parallel is not fanciful. Some of those tempered edge of criticism barely conwho have been forward in taking up and cealed. He was discursive with dominant advancing the impulse given by Darwin, ideas, and spread out oracular axioms into not only on the special ground whence it a train of epigrams. He philosophized started, but as a source of energy in the like a poet, and wrote poetry like a philos. wider applications of scientific thought, opher; wherefore specialists in both kinds have once and again openly declared that are disappointed with him. Yet for this they owe not a little to Émerson. The very reason his work has a higher strain parallel holds, again, in the sort of people and a subtler charm than faultless verse who failed to appreciate the power of the or rigorous dialectic often attains. As great men whom America and England for those who go seeking after definite have jointly lost; we say jointly, not sev precepts, Emerson is their despair. All erally, for the loss to either nation is the he has to say to them, if perchance they loss of both. It is needless to refute the would hear it, is that they are not even shallow criticism which affected to treat beginning to seek rightly, and will have Emerson as an imitator of Carlyle; but to begin over again. He is a more deadly we met with it not many years ago, and it enemy to formulas than Carlyle, because proceeded, strangely enough, from a per a profounder one. The resemblance be. son who had taken on himself at the meet tween their thoughts (as between their ing of some obscure society to refute styles, in so far as there is any) lies only Darwinisın in a nutshell. Mr. Darwin's on the surface. Carlyle taught me to observations on the variation of domesti- mock at formulas, Emerson to rise above cated animals proved nothing in this them. Carlyle's prophesyings and testilearned gentleman's opinion; for, when monies became at last a string of opposi. all was said, all the artificial breeds of tion formulas after their own kind, and

[ocr errors]

ones.

[ocr errors]

just as easy, when a man had learnt them, good word for the sceptics, and celebrated to make intellectual counters of as the old Montaigne as their patron saint. If it

We greatly doubt if any one ever were not evident that he never wanted a succeeded in extracting a formula from system, we might say that he would not Emerson. This fluent quality of his afford himself one, thinking the best of thought makes him first repulsive and possible systems too dear at the price of then fascinating. There is nothing pro- narrowing the mind's activity and the posed, no argument; you cannot see what play of intellectual sympathies. And yet the man is driving at. No more can one his difference from the philosophers in a see what the wind and the cloud-fleeces in stricter sense is less than it seems. All a sunny sky are driving at. But the sun of them who have preserved a lasting and air chase cobwebs out of the brain, power have done it by something which and leave the senses in better harmony transcends their systems, and is more with the world; and Emerson leaves one vital than the theories in which it is with a serener belief in the nature of clothed. Emerson has this something things and the hopefulness of man's es without any pretence of a system at all. tate, combined with a modest, but not In Emerson's later work he was more abject, resignation to the imperfection of condescending to the plainer sort of readall individual achievement. The happy ers, and even allowed himself to become composition of spiritual forces by which didactic. These essays of his old age are this is brought about is precisely the good by way of a gentle introduction to secret of Emerson, and it is incommuni. his manner, which has to be learnt and cable. He would have said himself that fallen in with ; but we miss in them the the only clue to it is to go about one's full and unique power of the man. What own business, and work altogether in Emerson has to say on the reading of one's own way; and that if we find no books, for example, is the advice of a wise successful issue in this, we cannot have and ripe scholar; but it has the unreality been in earnest, or must have been de that clings to all specific advice of that luding ourselves all the time, and really sort. A fixed rule never to read a book working in somebody else's way.

less than a year old is not only impracReason and usage demand that Emer. ticable, but a derogation from Emerson's son should be called a philosopher; and own best mood. If a ew book be good, yet he was a philosopher standing alone. why not now? If not, why a year hence ? He imbued himself with speculation, but But there remained always the clear constripped it of its forms. The student of templation, the condensed and pointed philosophy who comes back to Emerson words, and the fresh sincerity of manner. finds himself walking in a familiar air, but Originality is one of the attributes most cannot make out the landmarks. No commonly ascribed to Emerson, and justmodern writer is fuller of the philosophi. ly. Nevertheless, like most men of creacal spirit, or less explicit on particular tive mind, he thought very meanly of philosophical questions. Perhaps Emer- originality in the popular sense. One son had an opinion on the technical merits cannot imagine him, if questions of priorof the Nominalist and Realist controversy. ity had been possible in his line of work, But whether he had, or what it was, are disputing one with anybody. Neither did the last things his essay called “ Nominal- his speculative turn exclude practical ist and Realist” will tell us. He contem. activities. He was a powerful and attracplated not only without dogmatizing, but tive speaker; Mr. Lowell has preserved a without criticising in the ordinary sense. record of the impression he used to make He found Plato's greatness not so much in that quality. What is more, he could in his eloquence or intellectual subtilty as speak effectively on questions of urgent in his being "a balanced soul," "a man political interest, and so as to command who could see two sides of a thing." He the respectful ear of a hostile audience. relished the Oriental mystics, and enjoyed This contemplator was no dreamer; like the active life of the modern world; not the ideal Athenian described by Pericles, alternately, or as correctives one to the he was in no wise unmanned by philoso other, but at the same time, and with full phy. Emerson, in fine, was a man of consciousness of both being good in their notable and singular power in English kind and embodying truth. Emerson is letters; a thinker the operation of whose called a transcendentalist, and so he was. works is more easily reflected on than But he did not regard transcendental sys. described, more easily felt than reflected tems as exhausting the world and man on, and goes deeper than that of instruc. more than any other systems. He had a tors who make more formal professions.

a

a

[graphic]

From Public Opinion. geographers and philologists, to show THE LITERATURE OF TIFLIS.

what a useful literary activity the Rus. Tiflis, so distant from the two capitals sians have shown in their new provinces. of Russia, from the two centres of intel. Many good papers are published in Tiflis, lectual life of that vast country, seems several of which contain great stores of hardly the place from whence to expect information concerning the ethnology of the publication of original works in the that part of Asia. A few years ago there Russian language; for of all towns Tiflis had been a sort of revival of the Georgian appears to be the least Russian. In the literature. A group of noble-minded and old, narrow, and tortuous streets of the devoted young men had gathered together ancient capital of Georgia, in the dark round the native gazette, Droéba (the passages of the immense buildings called Times), and the magazine, Krébonii, and bazaars, at every step one is struck with employed all their varied talents to extend the Asiatic manners and costumes of the the knowledge of the native literature, people. In the lanes down near the banks which could boast of so many masterly of the Kura, or even higher up, near the poets in ancient times; they have pub. steps leading to St. David's Mountain lished many fine works, especially poems and the famous monastery where now rest and tales (for instance, “Katsi Adamia. the remains of the celebrated poet Gri- ni," by Prince Tchavtchavadze), and some boyédov, killed by the Persians, nowhere works of George Sand. Unfortunately does the Russian type prevail, except in the Georgian nobility, the only people the new part of the town, near the palace likely to protect that attempt, were either of the viceroy. Throughout the town too vain, too fond of pleasure, and stranone hears a medley of all sorts of lan-gers to any noble feelings of pride and guages: here the guttural and energetic love of their small but magnificent counsounds of the Georgian are intermingled try, or else too engrossed in paying their with the sonorous and broad sounds of respects to the Russian government, in the Armenian, in which the shopkeepers order to get some decorations or situaaddress one; there the active Persians (the tions, to condescend to take any notice of water-carriers, builders, in short, the gen- that attempt to bring about a renaissance eral workers of those countries) speak in of their own language ; and though Droéba their soft, sweet, and poetic language, or still exists, it has not the influence it de in the rougher Aderbedjan Tartar. The serves to have. The Georgian and Armemountaineers of the chain of the Caucasus nian authors (whose organ is the Mshak) discuss the news in their innumerable have been overpowered by their more dialects, Ossetian, Lugoush, Koomik, powerful and more fortunate competitors, Kazikoomik, Karaboolak, Adighe, etc., the Russian journalists. Among many and hundreds of others belonging to dif. Russian newspapers Tiflis possesses also ferent families, like the Ossetian to the a caricature journal well worthy of attenArian, and the Avar and its many dialects tion. The Russians have always been to the Turcoman. In that continual mix- fond of caricature, and in spite of the ture of languages, belonging to all sorts fetters imposed upon the press by the of races, it seems hardly possible that the censure, the oppressive laws, and the adRussian language, which is really only ministrative wrongs, they manage to have spoken by the Russian officials and trades. perhaps a larger number of caricature men, and by the young native noblemen papers than any nation in Europe, some and students, should be actively culti- of which bear comparison with the best vated, and that many books should be of the sort. Yet it was not without appreprinted there. Yet this is not the case. hension that we took up the Goosli(this is There is at Tiflis a very active book trade, the name of the Tiflis journal). Georgia though it is not promoted or kept up by is so different from Russia, their manners any college or university. The local are so opposed, that one feared the cari. geography and ethnology have been espe- cature would fall short of expectations, cially studied of late years, and most fruit- that what the French call a fausse note ful works have been published. We need would be heard. We were soon reas. only name the “Sbopnik svédénié o Kav- sured however. The Goosli (goosli or kazskikh gortsakh" (recueil of informa- goozli is the ancient Slavonian's harp) is tion about the Caucasian mountaineers), full of a true, honest, and humane humor. or the numerous monographs of Generals It is not full of nonsensical conundrums Ooslar and Berget, the " Journal of the or puns, all the wit of which consists in Caucasian Geographical Society," all of the repetition of a word or a syllable to which have rendered immense services to be taken in a wrong sense - jeux de mots

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »