Guests in Eden

"good works" and from gossip; to close her doors to the world, and open her heart to the earth; to exclude the Reverend Doldrums, and include God; to ignore extension because she was busy with intention; to refuse to kill time because she made eternity live: is this frustration or defeat? Of all the peo­ple then living in Amherst-of most of the people then living in America-how many others were truly alive? She was a living Ariel among a world of daylight ghosts! From the chosen bride-chamber of her heart she shut the ambulant dead-that she might keep honeymoon with the universe.

She lived as the poet and the saint and the hero must always live, in the divine loneliness where one at last ceases to be alone.

And in that high ecstasy, that grace in the sun, she found­ for herself, for us-the center of being. Careless of time be­ cause secure in eternity, she wrote:

"The soul unto itself
Is an imperial friend . . . "

She wrote:

"Reverse cannot befall that fine prosperity
Whose sources are interior."

She wrote, in the greatest expression of naked power in all American literature,

"To be alive is power,
Existence in itself,
Without a further function,
Omnipotence enough."
Here, in the great tradition of the American spirit at its high­est, she inhabited, with Thoreau and Whitman, the Inner Kingdom. Beyond price, she found value; beyond mood, she found meaning; beyond quantity, she found quality. And therefore, to her, Nature and Life were indeed "omnipotence enough"-full of magic, wonder, the fountain of youth and rainbow, the dawn that is forever. From this came her delight in the hummingbird (that "resonance of emerald"), or in the sea (that "everywhere of silver with ropes of sand . . ."); thence came, too, her rich sense of the dark powers--the snake

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Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
Maintained by Lara Vetter <>
Last updated on March 10, 2008

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