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

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