American Luminaries: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman
on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A thinker in the sublimest sense of the term is Emerson. His philosophy touches the core of all earthly problems. He came of poor parents, but had an indomitable will and an utter self-reliance.
America, the fairest land of freedom, opportunity and progress, inspired in Emerson the thought that his countrymen should utilise all her divine gifts to strive for the most divine aims of life. Indeed, America will gain her true stature when she lives up to her philosopher-son's towering aspirations.
For Emerson, poetry and philosophy were no mere intellectual embellishments. He was a true man of vision, and he used philosophy to sustain his vision and poetry to express it. He knew no compromise with his ingrained truth: "When he sings the world listens with the assurance that now a secret of God is be spoken."
Emerson's love of God was too deep for form and convention. He was truly a Prophet of Universal Faith, a seer visualising the future in the living present.
Emerson also offered really great service, not only to America but to the whole world. Very few souls as illumined as Emerson have come into the world. Emerson had light in abundant measure. With his illumined mind he served his country and the world. Emerson received his light, his ideas, from a very old tradition: the Upanishadic teachings. It came from within, his own inner cry. In the inner world there is no Indian, no American; there is only light. It is like a stream. Four thousand years ago that light was visible in one part of the world. Now the same light is being manifested elsewhere for the consciousness of humanity to see.
Whitman is nature. Whitman is vastness. Whitman is all inspiration. Solid and subtle, he is the body and soul of poetry that peers into Truth. His Leaves of Grass reveals the depth of his insight and the breadth of his outlook. His determined and forceful personality shines through these poems, which he referred to as, "New World Songs", and an "epic of Democracy."
When the wind and storm of today brings in the golden Tomorrow, Whitman will shine forth, haloed in a new glory on the new horizon. Who but the poet of Tomorrow could look across space and time into their very core? Do we not hear in him the Voice of the Infinite and the Eternal? Whitman's was the vision of the oneness of everything and in everything. Born ahead of his time, Whitman pointed to his nation and to the world the Path of Tomorrow. And by the Grace of the Supreme, the dawn-rays of Tomorrow have already become visible, however faintly, on today's horizon.
Emerson and Whitman are twin-souls of the Truth: Emerson, soft, sweet and luminous; and Whitman, dynamically fronting the Reality which is manifesting to an ever-increasing extent. Fellow-pilgrims on their way to the Home of God, the culmination of today's world, they march in stupendous glory.