By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
No one has a better claim than Ralph Waldo Emerson to being the central figure in the whole history of American literature. All artists distill influences from the past to become, themselves, influences on the future, but in Emerson’s case the affiliations reach farther back and farther forward and more generally and consequentially in both directions. He inherits, for example, the inwardness of his Puritan ancestors—their struggle to adjust their lives and the world itself to an order above nature, their fear of losing touch with the immanence of the divine, and even their contempt for formalism in religion and their belief that each particular self is at last the only scene of regeneration. Emerson’s nineteenth-century reformation of such seventeenth-century motives was decisively influential on poets such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. His presence and example were deeply felt in American philosophy, religion, music, and education, both during his lifetime and into the twentieth century…
The majority of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s papers–including letters, journals, literary manuscripts, and personal account books–are deposited in the Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Association collection at the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
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