The habitual readers of Emerson do not mind an occasional over-statement, extravagance, paradox, eccentricity; they find them amusing and not misleading. But the accountants, for whom two and two always make four, come upon one of these passages and shut the book up as wanting in sanity. Without a certain sensibility to the humorous, no one should venture upon Emerson. If he had seen the lecturer’s smile as he delivered one of his playful statements of a runaway truth, fact unhorsed by imagination, sometimes by wit, or humor, he would have found a meaning in his words which the featureless printed page could never show him.
The Essay on “Illusions” has little which we have not met with, or shall not find repeating itself in the Poems.
During this period Emerson contributed many articles in prose and verse to the “Atlantic Monthly,” and several to “The Dial,” a second periodical of that name published in Cincinnati. Some of these have been, or will be, elsewhere referred to.
1863-1868. AET. 60-65.
“Boston Hymn.”—“Voluntaries.”—Other Poems.—“May-Day and other Pieces.”—“Remarks at the Funeral Services of Abraham Lincoln.”—Essay on Persian Poetry.—Address at a Meeting of the Free Religious Association.—“Progress of Culture.” Address before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard University.—Course of Lectures in Philadelphia.—The Degree of LL.D. conferred upon Emerson by Harvard University.—“Terminus.”
The “Boston Hymn” was read by Emerson in the Music Hall, on the first day of January, 1863. It is a rough piece of verse, but noble from beginning to end. One verse of it, beginning “Pay ransom to the owner,” has been already quoted; these are the three that precede it:—
“I cause from every creature
His proper good to flow:
As much as he is and doeth
So much shall he bestow.
“But laying hands on another
To coin his labor and sweat,
He goes in pawn to his victim
For eternal years in debt.
“To-day unbind the captive,
So only are ye unbound:
Lift up a people from the dust,
Trump of their rescue, sound!”
“Voluntaries,” published in the same year in the “Atlantic Monthly,” is more dithyrambic in its measure and of a more Pindaric elevation than the plain song of the “Boston Hymn.”