Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“David His Little Lad”

Miss A. F. Halsey
34 Post Crossing
Southampton, N.Y.

May 12, 1934—It is six year today since Billy died. Life in its fullness lived in his seven years. Here is the record of them on the little granite stone—the record the world reads:

Wilmun Haynes Halsey
“The child ministered unto the Lord.”

In one moment of anguish the sorrow of all time had become ours. Yet, today, there is no sorrow in the thought of Billy, only light in the radiance of his life has brought to all who loved him.

This evening, I have been reading THE HEART OF EMERSON’S Journals, edited by Bliss Perry. I have been tracing date by date and year by year the reference to his little boy, Waldo, who died at the age of five years in 1842, when Emerson was thirty-eight. We are told that “this was perhaps the sharpest sorrow” of his life. The child was born in October 1836.

Oct. 31—Last night at eleven o’clock my son Waldo was born to me. A lovely child. A lovely wonder to me, and which makes the Universe look friendly to me.

Nov. 5—This day I have been scrambling in the woods and with the help of Peter Howe I have got six hemlock trees to plant in my yard, which may grow whilst my boy is sleeping.

Apr. 8—Ah, my darling boy, so lately received out of Heaven, leave me not now. Please God, this sweet symbol of love and wisdom may be spared to rejoice, teach, and accompany me.

May 7—This day my boy was baptized in the old church by Dr. Ripley. They dressed him in the self same robe in which twenty-seven years before my brother Charles was baptized.

Oct .16—The babe stands alone today for the first time. A lovely afternoon and I went to Walden Water and read Goethe on the bank.

Dec. 8—Waldo walks alone.

1838 April 26—Lidian came into the study this afternoon and found the towerlet Waldo had built half and hour before of two spools, a card, an awl case and a flower box top, each perpendicularly balanced on the other, and could scarce believe her boy had built the pyramid, and then fell into such a fit of affection that she lay down by the structure and kissed it down and declared she could stay no longer with papa but must go off to the nursery to see with eyes the lovely creature; and so departed.

July 9—I like my boy with his endless sweet soliloquies and iterations, and his utter inability to conceive of why I should not leave my nonsense business and writing to come and tie up his toy horse, as if there was and could be any end to nature beyond his horse.

1840, June 4—Waldo says, “The flowers talk when the wind blows over them.” My little boy grows thin in the hot summer, and runs all to eyes and eye lashes.

1842, Jan. 28---Yesterday night, at fifteen minutes after eight, my little Waldo ended his life.

Jan. 30—The morning of Friday I woke at three o’clock and every cock in the barnyard was shrilling with the most unnecessary noises. The sun went up the morning sky with al his light, but the landscape was dishonored by this loss, for this boy in whose remembrance I have both slept and awaked so often, decorated for me the morning star, the evening cloud . . . A boy of early wisdom, of a grave even majestic deportment, of perfect gentleness.

Every tramper that ever tramped is abroad, but the little feet are still.

He gave up his little innocent breath like a bird.

Sorrow makes us all children again—destroys all difference of intellect. The wisest know nothing.

Mar. 20—I comprehend nothing of the fact (Waldo’s death), but its bitterness. Explanation I have none, consolation none that rises out of the fact itself; only diversion; only oblivion of this, and pursuit of new objects.

Apr. 6—I am defeated all the time; yet to Victory I am born.

June (undated)---Charles King Newcomb took us all captive . . . Let it be to his praise that when I carried his manuscript story to the woods and read it in the arm chair of the upturned root of a pine tree, I felt for the first time since Waldo’s death some efficient faith in the repairs of the Universe, some interdependence of natural relations whilst spiritual affinities are so perfect and compensating.

1844, Jan. 30—I wrote Mr. F that I had no experiences nor progress to reconcile me to the calamity whose anniversary returned for the second time last Saturday. The senses have a right to their method as well as the mind; there should be harmony in facts as well as in truths. Yet these ugly breaks happen there, which the continuity of theory does not contemplate. The amends are of a different kind from the mischief.

1864, June (undated)—I too am fighting my campaign. Within, I do not find wrinkles and used heart, but unspent youth.

The evening grows late, the fire on the hearth glows in embers. The desk light falls on Billy’s picture, taken when he was the age of little Waldo. Before I turn it out, I take up Emerson’s COMPENSATION to read again these words, “But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts.”

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