Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I opened my eyes

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 11, 1834

Went yesterday to Cambridge and spent most of the day at Mount Auburn [Cemetery]; got my luncheon at Fresh Pond, and went back again to the woods. After much wandering and seeing many things, four snakes gliding up and down a hollow for no purpose that I could see — not to eat, not for love, but only gliding; then a whole bed of Hepatica triloba, cousins of the Anemone, all blue and beautiful, but constrained by niggard nature to wear their last year's faded jacket of leaves; then a black-capped titmouse, who came upon a tree, and when I would know his name, sang chick-a-dee-dee; then a far-off tree full of clamorous birds, I know not what, but you might hear them half a mile. I forsook the tombs, and found a sunny hollow where the east wind would not blow, and lay down against the side of a tree to most happy beholdings. At least I opened my eyes and let what would pass through them into the soul. I saw no more my relation, how near and petty, to Cambridge or Boston; I heeded no more what minute or hour our Massachusetts clocks might indicate — I saw only the noble earth on which I was born, with the great Star which warms and enlightens it. I saw the clouds that hang their significant drapery over us. It was Day — that was all Heaven said. The pines glittered with their innumerable green needles in the light, and seemed to challenge me to read their riddle. The drab oak-leaves of the last year turned their little somersets and lay still again. And the wind bustled high overhead in the forest top. This gay and grand architecture, from the vault to the moss and lichen on which I lay, — who shall explain to me the laws of its proportions and adornments?
This moment of enlightenment, a secular revelation, is a Joycean epiphany: an "apprehension of beauty involves the recognition of integrity, wholeness, symmetry, and radiance" (Bernard Richards, from The English Review).

Mount Auburn Cemetery was only a few years old when Emerson went there. The first American cemetary created as a public park, it was then and still is a beautiful place.

{Fresh Pond, Cambridge, MA: source}

Hepatica triloba, source}

{black-capped titmouse, source}

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