After all our criticisms, our selections, our analyses, our comparisons, we have to recognize that there is a charm in Emerson’s poems which cannot be defined any more than the fragrance of a rose or a hyacinth,—any more than the tone of a voice which we should know from all others if all mankind were to pass before us, and each of its articulating representatives should call us by name.
All our crucibles and alembics leave unaccounted for the great mystery of style. “The style is of [a part of] the man himself,” said Buffon, and this saying has passed into the stronger phrase, “The style is the man.”
The “personal equation” which differentiates two observers is not confined to the tower of the astronomer. Every human being is individualized by a new arrangement of elements. His mind is a safe with a lock to which only certain letters are the key. His ideas follow in an order of their own. His words group themselves together in special sequences, in peculiar rhythms, in unlooked-for combinations, the total effect of which is to stamp all that he says or writes with his individuality. We may not be able to assign the reason of the fascination the poet we have been considering exercises over us. But this we can say, that he lives in the highest atmosphere of thought; that he is always in the presence of the infinite, and ennobles the accidents of human existence so that they partake of the absolute and eternal while he is looking at them; that he unites a royal dignity of manner with the simplicity of primitive nature; that his words and phrases arrange themselves, as if by an elective affinity of their own, with a curiosa felicitas which captivates and enthrals the reader who comes fully under its influence, and that through all he sings as in all he says for us we recognize the same serene, high, pure intelligence and moral nature, infinitely precious to us, not only in themselves, but as a promise of what the transplanted life, the air and soil and breeding of this western world may yet educe from their potential virtues, shaping themselves, at length, in a literature as much its own as the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi.
Recollections of Emerson’s Last Years.—Mr. Conway’s Visits.—Extracts from Mr. Whitman’s Journal.—Dr. Le Baron Russell’s Visit.—Dr. Edward Emerson’s Account.—Illness and Death.—Funeral Services.
Mr. Conway gives the following account of two visits to Emerson after the decline of his faculties had begun to make itself obvious:—