The First Meeting of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jones Very, A Quick Recounting

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photo: davy carren

Jones Very just showed up at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s door one day. It was raining. Jones was drenched. His clothes were covered in mud. He’d been thrashing around in the forest, tumbling in the flowers, talking to trees and squirrels, like he was St. Francis of Assisi or something. Emerson liked him immediately and invited him in, soiled, wet clothes and all.

They talked about Hamlet for a bit, both agreeing that the poor prince was merely feigning to feign madness, which made him quite mad, and a hero too. Jones told Ralph that Christ was speaking through him fairly often these days. The second coming was here, and Jones was it, kindly donating his body as a vessel for good old JC to speak through. He showed him some sonnets he’d written while under this divine influence. Ralph thought them badly written, and told him that the holy spirit could do with some grammar and spelling lessons. But while in an ecstatic revelry, well, really, who could possibly concentrate on such mundane things? It was a ghost surging through his veins, and when it spoke to him he had no choice but to listen.

Ralph made them some tea. He then proceeded to whine about how much he was at the mercy of the disturbances of daily life, and they spoke of the meteorology of thought, acute loneliness and the paradoxical need for solitude, and about how life was at bottom only flux, transition, and undulation. Jones wasn’t reticent in the least, and told Ralph that maybe they should flee to the mountains for a spell. Ralph guffawed, drank some tea, told him that everyone was dying of miscellany these days, and invited Jones to a meeting of his Transcendental Club. He even offered to print some of Jones’ poems in his tidy, little magazine called The Dial. They were both very excited about the divine nature and mystical prospects of this serendipitous encounter.

Ralph told Jones about his recalcitrant, garrulous friend Henry David Thoreau, whom he thought would get along splendidly with this wild, crazed fellow who was born out-of-wedlock to a couple of first cousins. They chatted about how life was all circles with no circumference, and how around every circle another one can be drawn, meaning that everything was without end, that it all just went on and on. Though the night was clawing and scratching at the hours, their small time together seemed essential and immortal. Jones stood on a chair and recited a few of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Ralph looked on, softly smiling, beaming with gratitude for this strange man’s special sort of madness. ‘My eyes are like raindrops,’ he thought. ‘I will not let the days carry their gifts silently away. Fuck it. Politeness was invented by wise men to keep fools at a distance. I will marry this fellow to the infinitely repellent orb of my ways.’

Ralph then also stood up on his chair. He screamed at Jones, “Alone is wisdom! Alone is happiness! Society only makes us all low-spirited and hopeless! Alone! Alone is heaven alone!” Jones looked down at his muddy shoes, his sopping and shredded clothes flecked with bits of fern, and he ran his hands through his disheveled hair, and softly said, “Mr. Emerson. I am the second coming of Christ. I am in the midst of going completely mad, but I, my good fellow, am not quite sure how to do so. Surely somebody else will speak for me, for I cannot.”

The wind trilled. Rustling came and went. A mouse scampered by over creak-mines in the floorboards. Nothing happened. They both plopped back down on some hardback chairs and silently contemplated what it meant to be alive, to be this particular person who they happened to be at this particular juncture in time, and felt damn lucky to be living just then, no matter what the hell else was ever going to happen to them. Then they both retreated to separate rooms and fell asleep.

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