By Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom
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Extra resources for Emerson's Essays-Ralph Waldo Emerson (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations)
And that is the law for man. Live without interval: if you rest on your oars, if you stop, you fall. He only is wise who thinks now; who reproduces all his experience for the present exigency; as a man stands on his feet only by a perpetual play and adjustment of the muscles.... This old age; this ossification of the heart; this fat in the brain; this degeneracy; is the Fall of Man. Here Emerson recognizes that the life of the Soul must be without interval, as he does in ‘Circles’; but he recognizes, too, the impossibility of such a life for man, subject as he is to an ‘old age’ that must keep him from ever becoming part or parcel of God.
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest, Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight, Toss, sparkles of day and dusk—toss on the black stems that decay in the muck, Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs. I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night, I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected, And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small. ” I return to the formula for poetic sublimation ventured earlier in this discourse.
As a consequence he feels momentarily thrown back on the perception of the moment. ’ What matters is not any thought, but the thinking. In the immortal energy of mind lies the compensation for the mortality of truth. ‘Valor consists in the power of self-recovery, so that a man cannot have his flank turned, cannot be out-generalled, but put him where you will, he stands. ’ ‘Life only avails, not the having lived.... ’ This more personal and urgent application of Emerson’s old recommendation to live in the present accounts for the unusually restless mood of this essay.