Thursday, October 22, 2009

sipping only what is sweet...

Many thanks to those who commented on yesterday's post. I don't very often venture into criticism believing that positive expression will always do more good than confrontation.
In that vein, James Freeman Clarke compares Emerson's influence (just after his death) to Theodore Parker in this excerpt from his "19th Century Questions.

"If the movements of thought are now much more independent and spontaneous; if to-day traditions have lost their despotic power; if even those who hold an orthodox creed are able to treat it as a dead letter, respectable for its past uses, but by no means binding on us now, this is largely owing to the manly position taken by Emerson. And yet, let it be observed, this influence was not exercised by attacking old opinions, by argument, by denial, by criticism. Theodore Parker did all this, but his influence on thought has been far less than that of Emerson. Parker was a hero who snuffed the battle afar off, and flung himself, sword in hand, into the thick of the conflict. But, much as we love and reverence his honesty, his immense activity, his devotion to truth and right, we must admit to-day, standing by these two friendly graves, that the power of Emerson to soften the rigidity of time-hardened belief was far the greater. It is the old fable of the storm and sun. The violent attacks of the tempest only made the traveler cling more closely to his cloak ; the genial heat of the sun compelled him to throw it aside. In all Emerson's writings there is scarcely any argument. He attacks no man's belief; he simply states his own. His method is always positive, constructive. He opens the windows- and lets in more light. He is no man's opponent; the enemy of no one. He states what he sees, and that which he does not see he passes by. He was often attacked, but never replied. His answer was to go forward, and say something else. He did not care for what he called the " bugbear consistency." If to-day he said what seemed like Pantheism, and to-morrow he saw some truth which seemed to reveal a divine personality, a supreme will, he uttered the last, as he had declared the first, always faithful to the light within. He left it to the spirit of truth to reconcile such apparent contradictions. He was like his own humble-bee —

" Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet;
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff and take the wheat."

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