Page images
PDF
EPUB

EMERSON.

1803 RALPI WALDO EMERSON was born in Boston in 1803. He graduated at Harvard College in 1821, and, after pur a course of theolog study, was ordained pastor of the Second Unitarian Church of Boston. His niinistry was brief, however : a difference of opinion as to points of doctrine arose between himself and his people, and he resigned his charge. Retiring to the town of Concord, he gave himself up to the study of mental and moral philosophy. His first published writings - Man Thinking, Literary Ethics, and Nature, an Essay - instantly attracted the attention of thoughtful readers, and he at once took the position of a leader of philosophical opinion, not only in this country but in England. In 1847 he published his first volume of poens. He is best known by his Essays and lis Representatire Men. His impress on the thought of his time has been deep and lasting ; he has founded a school of philosophy and a literary style which are called Emersonian; and though he has failed to win a numerons following, he has done much towards molding the ethical opinions of New England, and, iu a less degree, of the whole country. His influence has not been limited to his own country. His books liare been widely read in England and Germany, and during his several visits to Europe he has been received by the foremost representatives of modern culture with the honors due to one of the master-minds of the age. His style can hardly be recommended as a model, though it possesses many striking beauties. In order thoroughly to appreciate it, one must be in such full synı patly with the writer's spirit as it is the privilege of few to attain.

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE.

NAPOLEON understood his business. Here was a man who in each moment and emergency knew what to do next. It is an immense comfort and refreshment to the spirits, not only of kings, but of citizens. Few men have any next; they live from hand to mouth, without plan, and are ever at the end of their line, and, after each action, wait for an impulse from abroad. Napoleon had been the first man of the world, if his ends had been purely public. As he is, he inspires confidence and vigor by the extraordinary unity of his action.

He is firm, sure, self-denying, self-postponing, sacrificing everything to his aim, — money, troops, generals, and his own safety also ; not misled, like common adventurers, by the splendor of his own

“Incidents ought not to govern policy,” he said, “ but policy incidents.” “ To be hurried away by every event, is to have 10 political system at all.” His victories were only so many doors, and he never for a moment lost sight of his way onward in the dazzle and uproar of the present circumstance. He knew what to do, and he flew to his mark.

He would shorten a straight line to come at his object. Horrible

means.

[ocr errors]

anecdotes may, no doubt, be collected from his history, of the price at which he bought his successes; but he must not, therefore, be set down as cruel, but only as one who knew no impediment to his will : not bloodthirsty, not cruel ; but woe to what thing or person stood in his way!

Sire, General Clarke cannot combine with General Junot for the dreadful fire of the Austrian battery.” Let him carry the battery.” “Sire, every regiment that approaches the heavy artillery is sacrificed. Sire, what orders ? ” Forward ! forward !

In the plenitude of his resources every obstacle seemed to vanish. “ There shall be no Alps,” he said ; and he built his perfect roads, climbing by graded galleries their steepest precipices, until Italy was as open to Paris as any town in France. Having decided what was to be done, he did that with might and main. He put out all his strength. He risked everything, and spared nothing, - neither ammunition, nor money, nor troops, nor generals, nor himself. If fighting be the best mode of adjusting national differences (as large majorities of men seem to agree), certainly Bonaparte was right in making it thorough.

* The grand principle of war,” he said, “was, that an army ought always to be ready, by day and by night, and at all hours, to make all the resistance it is capable of making.” He never economized his ammunition, but on a hostile position rained a torrent of iron, shells, balls, grape-shot, - to annihilate all defense. He went to the edge of his possibility, so heartily was he bent on his object. It is plain that in Italy he did what he could, and all that he could ; he came several times within an inch of ruin, and his own person was all but lost. He was flung into the marsh at Arcola.* The Austrians were between him and his troops in the confusion of the struggle, and he was brought off with desperate efforts. At Lonato, t and at other places, he was on the point of being taken prisoner.

He fought sixty battles. He had never enough. Each victory was a new weapon. “My power would fall, were I not to support it by new achievements. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” He felt, with every wise man, that as much life is needed for conservation as for creation. We are always in peril, always in a bad plight, just on the edge of destruction, and only to be saved by invention and courage. This vigor was guarded

ARCOLA. A village of Northern Italy. + LONATO. A small town near Lake Garda in Italy.

66

and tempered by the coldest prudence and punctuality. A thunderbolt in the attack, he was found invulnerable in his intrenchments. His very attack was never the inspiration of courage, but the result of calculation. His idea of the best defense consisted in being always the attacking party. - My ambition,” he says, was great, but was of a cold nature.”

Everything depended on the nicety of his combinations: the stars were not more punctual than his arithmetic. His personal attention descended to the smallest particulars. At Montebello I ordered Kellermann to attack with eight hundred horse; and with these he separated the six thousand Hungarian grenadiers before the very eyes of the Austrian cavalry. This cavalry was half a league off, and required a quarter of an hour to arrive on the field of action; and I have observed it is always these quarters of an hour that decide the fate of a battle.”

Before he fought a battle Bonaparte thought little about what he should do in case of success, but a great deal about what he should do in case of a reverse of fortune. The same prudence and good sense marked all his behavior. His instructions to his secretary at the palace are worth remembering : “During the night, enter my chamber as seldom as possible. Do not awake me when you have any good news to communicate; with that there is no hurry: but when you bring bad news, rouse me instantly, for then there is not a moment to be lost.” His achievement of business was immense, and enlarges the known powers of man.

There have been many working kings, from Ulysses to William of Orange, but none who accomplished a tithe pf this man's performance.

To these gifts of nature Napoleon added the advantage of having been born to a private and humble fortune. In his later days he had the weakness of wishing to add to his crowns and badges the prescription of aristocracy; but he knew his debt to his austere education, and made no secret of his contempt for the born kings, and for “the hereditary donkeys,” as he coarsely styled the Bourbons. He said that, in their exile, "they had learned nothing, and forgot nothing.” Bonaparte had passed through all the degrees of military service; but, also, was citizen before he was emperor, and so had the key to citizenship. His remarks and estimates discovered the information and justness of measurement of the middle class.

Those who had to deal with him found that he was not to be im

وو

posed upon, but could cipher as well as another man. When the expenses of the empress, of his household, of his palaces, had accumulated great debts, Napoleon examined the bills of the creditors himself, detected overcharges and errors, and reduced the claims by considerable sums.

His grand weapon, namely, the millions whom he directed, he owed to the representative character which clothed him. He interests us as he stands for France ard for Europe; and he exists as captain and king only as far as the Revolution or the interests of the industrious masses found an organ and a leader in him.

In the social interests he knew the meaning and value of labor, and threw himself naturally on that side. The principal works that have survived him are his magnificent roads. He filled his troops with his spirit, and a sort of freedom and companionship grew up between him and them, which the forms of his court never permitted between the officers and himself. They performed under his eye that which no others could do. The best document of his relation to his troops is the order of the day on the morning of the battle of Austerlitz, in which Napoleon promises the troops that he will keep his person out of reach of fire. This declaration, which is the reverse of that ordinarily made by generals and sovereigns on the eve of a battle, sufficiently explains the devotion of the army to their leader.

GOOD BY, PROUD WORLD!

GOOD BY, proud world! I'm going home;

Thou art not my friend ; I am not thine :
Too long through weary crowds I roam,

A river ark on the ocean brine,
Too long I am tossed like the driven foam ;
But now, proud world, I'm going home.

Good by to Flattery's fawning face ;
To Grandeur with his wise grimace:
To upstart Wealth's averted eye;
To supple Office, low and high ;
To crowded halls, to court and street,
To frozen hearts, and hasting feet,
To those who go, and those who come,
Good by, proud world, I'm going home.

*

I go to seek my own hearth-stone,
Bosomed in yon green hills alone;
A secret lodge in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned,
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird's roundelay,
And evil men have never trod
A spot that is sacred to thought and God.

O, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I mock at the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools, and the learned clan;
For what are they all in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet ?

THE SEA.

BEHOLD the Sea, The opaline, the plentiful and strong, Yet beautiful as is the rose in June, Fresh as the trickling rainbow of July: Sea full of food, the nourisher of kinds, Purger of earth, and medicine of men ; Creating a sweet climate by my breath, Washing out harms and griefs from memory, And, in my mathematic ebb and flow, Giving a hint of that which changes not. Rich are the sea-gods :— who gives gifts but they? They grope the sea for pearls, but more than pearls : They pluck Force thence, and give it to the wise. For every wave is wealth to Dædalus, Wealth to the cunning artist who can work This matchless strength. Where shall he find, O waves ! A load your Atlas shoulders cannot lift ?

« PreviousContinue »