Ralph Waldo Emerson
Review: Essays and Poems. By JONES VERY.
Boston: C. C. Little and James Brown.
This little volume would have received an earlier notice, if we had been
at all careful to proclaim our favorite books. The genius of this
book is religious, and reaches an extraordinary depth of sentiment.
The author, plainly a man of a pure and kindly temper, casts himself into
the state of the high and transcendental obedience to the inward Spirit.
He has apparently made up his mind to follow all its leadings, though he
should be taxed with absurdity or even with insanity. In this enthusiasm
he writes most of these verses, which rather flow through him than from
him. There is no composition, no elaboration, no artifice
in the structure of the rhyme, no variety in the imagery; in short, no
pretension to literary merit, for this would be departure from his singleness,
and followed by loss of insight. He is not at liberty even to correct
these unpremeditated poems for the press; but if another will publish them,
he offers no objection. In this way they have come into the world,
and as yet have hardly begun to be known. With the exception of the
few first poems, which appear to be of an earlier date, all these verses
bear the unquestionable stamp of grandeur. They are the breathings
of a certain entranced devotion, which one would say, should be received
with affectionate and sympathizing curiosity by all men, as if no recent
writer had so much to show them of what is most their own. They are
as sincere a litany as the Hebrew songs of David or Isaiah, and only less
than they, because indebted to the Hebrew muse for their tone and genius.
This makes the singularity of the book, namely, that so pure an utterance
of the most domestic and primitive of all sentiments should in this age
of revolt and experiment use once more the popular religious language,
and so show itself secondary and morbid. These sonnets have little
range of topics, no extent of observation, no playfulness; there is even
a certain torpidity in the concluding lines of some of them, which reminds
one of church hymns; but, whilst they flow with great sweetness, they have
the sublime unity of the Decalogue or the Code of Menu, and
if as monotonous, yet are they almost as pure as the sounds of Surrounding
Nature. We gladly insert from a newspaper the following sonnet, which
appeared since the volume was printed.
THE BARBERRY BUSH.
The bush that has most briers and bitter
Wait till the frost has turned its green
Its sweetened berries will thy palate
And thou may'st find e'en there a homely
Upon the hills of Salem scattered wide,
Their yellow blossoms gain the eye in
And straggling e'en upon the turnpike's
Their ripened branches to your hand they
I 've plucked them oft in boyhood's early
That then I gave such name, and thought
But now I know that other fruit as sour
Grows on what now thou callest Me and
Yet, wilt thou wait the autumn that I
Will sweeter taste than these red berries