Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Emerson's Description of the New England Spring Of 1820

Recently I began reading the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  At age sixteen he began his journal, which his dedicatory entry described as a "Common Place book," because he was not only recording his own thoughts, but gathering quotations and ideas and reflecting on them.  The following entry is from 2  April 1820, only a few days from the time Joseph Smith went into the grove near Palmyra, New York, on what he called a "beautiful, clear day in the Spring of 1820."  Here is Emerson's reaction to the same Spring.  Keep in mind he was sixteen when he wrote this; Joseph Smith was fourteen. There must have been something special in the air for these young adolescent titans that Spring which brought out the best in them!

Emerson on the Spring of 1820 in Cambridge, Mass.

April 2.  "Spring has returned and has begun to unfold her beautiful array, to throw herself  on wildflower couches, to walk abroad on the hills and summon her songsters to do her sweet homage.  The Muses have issued from the library and costly winter dwelling of their votaries, and are gone to build their bowers on Parnassus, and to melt their ice-bound fountains.  Castalia is flowing rapturously and lifting her foam on high. The hunter and the shepherd are aboard on the rock and the vallies echo to the merry, merry horn. The Poet, of course, is wandering, while Nature’s thousand melodies are warbling to him. This soft bewitching luxury of vernal gales and accompanying beauty overwhelms. It produces a lassitude which is full of mental enjoyment and which we would not exchange for more vigorous pleasure.  Although so long as the spell endures, little or nothing is accomplished, nevertheless, I believe it operates to divest the mind of old and worn-out contemplations and bestows new freshness upon life, and leaves behind it imaginations of enchantment for the mind to mould into splendid forms and gorgeous fancies which shall long continue to fascinate, after the physical phenomena which woke them have ceased to create delight."
Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes, eds., Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1909), vol. 1, pp. 19-20, entry of 2 April 1820, at Cambridge, Mass, age 16!

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