William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Knowing and Not Knowing

While reading Emerson’s journal this morning, I came to a one-line entry of such a painful, personal nature that even now, almost two hundred years after it was written, I feel I have invaded the poor man’s privacy. Yet I am glad I read it. Had I been the editor, I would have thought long and hard about including it, but I am sure I would have done so — it is that pertinent and indicative of character. At the same time, the line is familiar; I feel I have read it before, or read of it. Does it also appear in The Heart of Emerson’s Journals, edited by Bliss Perry in 1926? Did James Elliot Cabot touch upon the sad subject in his 1887 two-volume memoir of Emerson? Both are possible; both seem at least a little unlikely. It might easily have been elsewhere. Being unsure, not remembering or knowing, is very much like me. Well. No matter. This is the line, from journal Q, dated 29 March and written in 1832, when Emerson was not quite twenty-nine years old: I visited Ellen’s tomb & opened the coffin.

December 8, 2020. Late afternoon.

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