Note 1. This joyful and eminently characteristic poem seems to have been written by Mr. Emerson in 1859. His belief in the sure advance of life through the ages he had expressed long before, but now, though his belief needed no confirmation, the new and interesting lights on the subject and examples everywhere adduced by Darwin and his followers were inspiring to him, and here found expression. [back]
Note 2. There are in the manuscript varying expressions in the foregoing poem which are interesting. In the first, the gulf of space originally was the swallowing space. In the second, the last line ran,
In death new-born and strong.
In the fifth verse, Mr. Emerson hesitated long, as the various trials show, before he changed his line,
My apples ripened well,
by substituting gardens for the more lively image. [back]
Note 3. Readers who wish nothing unsolved are much troubled by this verse, but Nature is not statistical or immediately intelligible. Like the gods she says all things by indirection. When the young knight was angered by Merlins vagueness, Tennyson makes the wise man answer,
Know ye not, then, the riddling of the Bards?
Confusion, and illusion, and relation,
Elusion, and occasion, and evasion.
Nor can the editor say with authority who was meant in the third line of the next verse. Its very ambiguity was probably intentional and makes it harmonize better with the preceding verse. If it points to Egypt, some readers have suggested Moses, but Mr. Emerson would have been far more likely to refer to one of the great Alexandrian Neo-platonists. But Italy is more strictly
Over against the mouths of Nile,
and thus the genius of classic Rome or of the Italian Renaissance, without choosing a representative, might have been indicated. If a choice must be made, the Solution would point to Dante. It seems remarkable that in that poem Plato, the purple ancient of the richest strain [Mr. Emerson thus named him in his review of Carlyles Past and Present. See Papers from the Dial, in the volume Natural History of Intellect.], is not named, for the author owed far more to him than to Swedenborg. [back]
Note 4. In the note-book, Forces, 1863, is this entry:
The sun has lost no beams,
The earth no virtues,
Gravity is as adhesive,
Electricity as swift, heat as expansive, light as joyful,
Air as virtuous, water as medicinal, as in the beginning.
And the magazine of thought and the heart of morals