Hats Off

Commenting on Emerson’s late-life aphasia, West writes:

…In his aphasia he often turned to action to supplement failing speech.  Some of his gestures attained an uncanny purity of expression beyond anything in the language of nature dreamed of by Condillac.  One morning Mrs. Emerson and his doctor led him into the garden to see the roses.  Struck by one unusually fine specimen, the doctor repeated a line from George Herbert’s “Vertue,” which Emerson had recited to him at length many years before.  Emerson gazed at the rose in admiration, then as if on impulse gently lifted his hat and said with a low bow, “I take my hat off to it”.  That was the heroic act of a very great orator, who, as words failed him, still contrived with diminished vocabulary to match the eloquence of his prose.

Michael West, Transcendental Wordplay

One response

  1. Such a wonderful spirit was Emerson’s! Of course you know the praise Nietzsche bestowed on him, but it bears repeating:

    “Emerson has the sort of kind and witty cheerfulness that discourages any seriousness; he just does not know how old he already is and how young he still will be –…. His spirit always finds reasons to be satisfied and even grateful; and every once in a while he touches on the cheerful transcendence of the honest man who came back from an amorous encounter “as if the deed had been well done.” “Though the power is lacking,” he said with gratitude, “the lust is praiseworthy.”

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