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figurative ? What is the best line in the poem? Why? Is it literal or figurative ?
THE HUMBLE-BEE. 16. Emerson's son calls attention to the fact that his father's early verses scan and rhyme perfectly, but lack the originality of his later work. Emerson himself writes (The Poet) that what makes a poem is not metres, but “a thought so passionate and alive that ... it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing."
57. Cf. Emerson's lines To J. W. :
"Life is too short to waste
In critic peep or cynic bark." Why would Emerson be more inclined to write on a bee than on a nightingale or a skylark? How is imagination shown in line 2? Why does Emerson connect the bee with the torrid zone? In stanza 3, which is the most poetical line ? How is green applicable to silence ? Why had the bee seen no evil ? Would lines 54-55 be a good motto? Which adjectives or epithets applied to the bee show observation, and which show imagination ? What words show that Emerson noticed color, light, sound, motion, fragrance ? Judging from this poem, which of these seemed to give him most pleasure ? Where is the most beautiful description ? Which lines would make the best pictures ? Why does Emerson call the bee wise ? What lines of the poem are apart from his personal experience ? Explain the last two lines. Why would the metre of the Snow-Storm have been inappropriate to this subject ?
Emerson had little sympathy with a purely scientific knowledge of nature. He says, in Blight : –
“But these young scholars who invade our hills,
And all their botany is Latin names." 3. Daniel i. 8-14.
Is a man likely to be a better naturalist because he is a good sportsman? What pleasures has the one addressed in the poem given up ?
Does he receive any compensation? What is “high behavior"? What kind of ideals lead to it? What kind of speech is meant in line 6? Does Emerson mean that he would not express his appreciation ? What qualities does he desire in a friend ?
Describe the home of the rhodora. Why does Emerson describe the place before the flower ? Which seems to have been first in his mind, the picture or the moral ? Is the moral contained in lines 9-12, or 13-16 ? Why is beauty “its own excuse for being”? Does Emerson suggest that the rhodora's beauty is of any use ? Can beauty of any kind be wasted ? What do you mean by a thing's being wasted ?
EACH AND ALL.
Emerson's belief that “all are needed by each one,” he carried into the world of human beings as well as that of nature. He himself said that much of the best society he had ever known was in a club at Concord called the Social Circle, consisting always of twenty-five citizens, — doctor, lawyer, farmer, trader, miller, mechanic, etc., solidest of men, who yielded the solidest of gospel. His son says that Emerson always liked to speak with the fishermen, wood-choppers, and drivers of cattle whom he met on his walks. He never took an attitude of superiority. The story is told of a working woman who admitted that she did not understand his lectures. “But,” she said, “I like to go and see him stand up there and look as if he thought every one was as good as he was." In this Emerson is like Whittier, who, Mrs. Field says, liked nothing better than going into “the store” at Amesbury, and sitting on a barrel to hear “ folks talk.”
32. Choir : a company moving rhythmically.
In what part of a poem is the main thought usually placed ? Is Emerson careful to follow the custom ? Which two lines give the main thought of this poem? Which of these two do lines 1-10 illustrate ? In how many ways ? Is there any climax in these illustrations ? What are Emerson's three illustrations of the second line of the main thought? Is there any special arrangement of the objects enumerated in lines 40-47 ? In lines 1–36, why has he found beauty deceptive ? In lines 37-39, does he mean that truth is opposed to beauty ? (Cf. line 12.) Is it beauty, or his interpretation of beauty, that has deceived him ? Can one person see all the beauty in a landscape ? Why? Can one person see all the truth on any subject ? Would Emerson's reasoning in line 12 apply to truth ? What happens if we give up trying to see more truth ? (Cf. Self-Reliance, 26, sentence 2; also Matthew xxv. 29.) What lines seem to you best worth remenbering ?
An exquisite little poem, expressing metaphorically the thought that even if perfection is unattainable, the nearer one comes to it, the more perfect is one's possession of the “peace that hallows rudest ways." Do not try to interpret the metaphors literally.
4. Leaguer: camp.
36. Laughter: here, as also in the World-Soul, 102, Emerson thinks of laughter as a mark of joy, rather than of amusement. He says in his journal, “ The wise are always cheerful”' ; but he had no sympathy with the “loud laugh that shows the vacant mind.”
Note the words used in an unusual manner; the comparisons; the musical lines ; the delicacy of the traces left by the “happy guides." Comparing this poem with the Humble-Bee, in which are color, sound, fragrance, more distinct ? Why? In line 3, what is the subject of breaks ? What are the associations with the harp (line 36)? Why compare this laughter to the harp, rather than to the flute or the piano ? Is any part of this poem literal ?
This description of the “forest seer” applies so well to Emerson's friend Thoreau that it has often, but erroneously, been thought to picture him.
Much of it was written before Emerson knew Thoreau, and seems to be a kind of presaging of the friend to come. See biographical sketch of Thoreau in Emerson's works (Riverside edition, Vol. X., page 421).
1-12. Even this slight and almost conventional touch of repining is omitted in later editions.
30. Fantastic : unreal.
Lines 13–16: cf. Forbearance, lines 1-2. Line 22: is the poet glad because of this, or does he repine ? Line 35 : illustrate nature's use of the number five and the star-form. Lines 40-42 : how does Emerson's thought suddenly broaden? Cf. Each and All, lines 9–10.
How was this lover of nature a "seer"'? What is the natural
What is the derivation of harbinger ? What “spheres are meant ? Why are they coupled with tides in Emerson's thought ? Can one know nature if he does not love her ? Can you understand a person whom you dislike? Why? In line 58, what does and connect ? What is meant by “its long-descended race" ?
Line 82 : from whom does the Linnæa take its name? Who is the man of flowers "'? Lines 89–93: explain plant, living towers, green tents. How were the tents “by eldest Nature dressed”? Line 97 : how could his “ great heart” make him a hermit ? Why did he not need to ask his way ? Cf. line 105; also Self-Reliance, 39, “The wise man,”
From the change of metre do you expect a lighter or a more serious theme? Line 117: why is the peasant “ lowly great”? Line 123 : why does Emerson call the shadows “proud”? How has he shown his knowledge of nature and his sympathy with her ? What irregularities of metre do you notice ? Are they a blemish? What is the moral of this poem ?
THE WORLD-SOUL. Emerson thinks of the world as possessing a soul, and as being capable of good and of evil. Over the world is its guardian spirit, or dæmon, that will lead it to final good. In the first stanza, Emerson hopes for good from the analogy of nature; in the second and third, he pictures the evil in the world; in stanzas 4-8, the nearness of good ; in 6-10, the certainty that good will triumph.
3. Emerson makes many references to New Hampshire. He liked to use tools that lay at hand, and he valued especially the view of
Mount Monadnock that could be had from Concord. It was to the White Mountains that he went when the most difficult decision of his life was to be made. See Cabot's Memoir of Emerson,
25. A quaint reference to the parlors of earlier New England, sacred to weddings, funerals, and the minister's calls.
31-32. A marvelous phrase to come from one who could not surely recognize the commonest airs." But Emerson had what he called " musical eyes." He believed that the same moods that melodies waken in the lovers of audible music were aroused in him by the beauty that he saw everywhere in nature. As he put it, “That which others hear, I see."
40. Intervals : spaces. Cf. Compensation, 13, 14. 41. Sprite : spirit, i.e., the wish for perfection.
48. Spell: as used by Milton, — to learn the meaning of anything by study.
78. Roses and a shroud: gifts of life and of death. Cf. quotation from Caliph Ali in Self-Reliance, 49.
84. The genius, with Emerson, is he who can interpret truth.
89–96. The Spirit of final good, whose viceroy is Love without weakness, appreciates and saves all that is good.
92. Emerson's favorite idea of laying aside the past and making a fresh beginning. See second note to Compensation, 48.
105. Emerson says that a walk in the woods is one of the secrets for dodging old age.”
Why is Emerson grateful to the light, sea, uplands, etc.? What does he learn from women ? (Cf. Self-Reliance, 20.) What does he learn from boys ? (Cf. Self-Reliance, 5.) In line 13, what is the antecedent of “it”? What is the prose order of lines 14, 15? What does Emerson wish to keep pace with the new inventions ? (Line 20; cf. Hymn, line 4.) Explain “the shot heard round the world." Was its meaning any more “clear” than the shots of the Civil War ? What is the original meaning of angel? Why should music “ disdain" mortals? Do we generally use the word inevitable of pleasant or of unpleasant things ? Why does Emerson speak of men as being in a cell ? What does he mean by the “cipher" and the “sccret" ? In line 61, what does “ within, without” mean ? What are the "eternal rings"? In lines 65–72, what comfort does he find for lines 9–24 ? Why does he speak of Thought as having a “causing stream"? Which are more real and powerful to Emerson's mind,