“My dear friend, you should have had this letter and these messages by the last steamer; but when it sailed, my son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all. What would it avail to tell you anecdotes of a sweet and wonderful boy, such as we solace and sadden ourselves with at home every morning and evening? From a perfect health and as happy a life and as happy influences as ever child enjoyed, he was hurried out of my arms in three short days by scarlatina. We have two babes yet, one girl of three years, and one girl of three months and a week, but a promise like that Boy’s I shall never see. How often I have pleased myself that one day I should send to you this Morning Star of mine, and stay at home so gladly behind such a representative. I dare not fathom the Invisible and Untold to inquire what relations to my Departed ones I yet sustain.”
This was the boy whose memory lives in the tenderest and most pathetic of Emerson’s poems, the “Threnody,”—a lament not unworthy of comparison with Lycidas for dignity, but full of the simple pathos of Cowper’s well-remembered lines on the receipt of his mother’s picture, in the place of Milton’s sonorous academic phrases.
1843-1848. AET. 40-45.
“The Young American.”—Address on the Anniversary of the Emancipation of the Negroes in the British West Indies.—Publication of the Second Series of Essays.—Contents: The Poet.—Experience.—Character. —Manners.—Gifts.—Nature.—Politics.—Nominalist and Realist.—New England Reformers.—Publication of Poems.—Second Visit to England.
[Footnote 1: These two addresses are to be found in the first and eleventh volumes, respectively, of the last collective edition of Emerson’s works, namely, “Nature, Addresses, and Lectures,” and “Miscellanies.”]
Emerson was American in aspect, temperament, way of thinking, and feeling; American, with an atmosphere of Oriental idealism; American, so far as he belonged to any limited part of the universe. He believed in American institutions, he trusted the future of the American race. In the address first mentioned in the contents, of this chapter, delivered February 7, 1844, he claims for this country all that the most ardent patriot could ask. Not a few of his fellow-countrymen will feel the significance of the following contrast.