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[358] declared, in Nature, that “the vision of genius comes by renouncing the too officious activity of the understanding, and giving leave and amplest privilege to the spontaneous sentiment,” he was stating in precise terms an idea familiar to Blake and to the romanticists of every land — the elevation of enthusiasm above judgment, of emotion above reason, of spontaneity above discipline, and of unlimited expansion above centripetal control. But there was another element as strongly formative of Emerson's disposition as was the current of romanticism, and that was his ancestral inheritance. Romantic spontaneity moved in various directions in accordance with the field in which it worked; in an Emerson, with all the divinity of Massachusetts in his veins, it might move to repudiate theological dogma and deny Jehovah, but it could not get out of hearing of the question “What is God?” It could not fall into the too common confusion of spiritual aspiration with the sicklier lusts of the flesh; it could never, for all its centrifugal wandering, overstep the bounds of character. Emersonianism may be defined as romanticism rooted in Puritan divinity.

In literary form and style the privilege of spontaneous sentiment showed itself with Emerson not in that fluency which in many of his contemporaries meant mere longwindedness, but in the habit of waiting for the momentary inspiration to the neglect of meditated construction and regularity. He has indeed succeeded in sustaining himself to the end in three or four poems of some compass, but his noblest work in verse must be sought in those quatrains which need no context for their comprehension and might be called spiritual ejaculations. Matthew Arnold has quoted for approval the two familiar stanzas,

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.

Though love repine and reason chafe,
There came a voice without reply:
'Tis man's perdition to be safe,
When for the truth he ought to die.

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