At the time of her death she was already engaged in getting together essays for a further volume, which she proposed to publish in the autumn of or the spring Of She also intended to publish a new book of short stories, including in it some or all of Monday or Tuesday, which has been long out of print.
I have been studying this essay for years. I consider it one of the most significant pieces of writing ever written. I once typed the whole essay word for word and printed it out on my computer as a booklet. I looked up all the words I didn't know, and made footnotes of definitions for each word on the page and there were a lot of them.
I put the essay on tape and listened to it over and over while driving. And I tried to apply it to my life. Then, to understand it even more deeply, I went over it line by line, trying to write what Emerson was saying in my own words.
That rewrite project is what follows. I do not feel I'm a better writer than Emerson. I love his writing. I think it's very powerful. Some of his sentences were so well-said, I included them in this translation just because I didn't want to leave them out.
My motivation for translating it came from an entirely different source. The idea was inspired by a Cliff Notes. I had always considered Cliff Notes as a kind of cheating.
If you didn't want to read the real book, you could read a condensed version that tells you everything you need to know to pass a class. Then one day I saw the movie Henry V.
I really liked it but I only understood about half of what was being said. They were speaking English, but three things were hindering my understanding: English was spoken differently back then. They commonly used words we are now unfamiliar with.
Shakespeare was a poet, so he often inverts sentences and uses unusual phrases in order to make things sound poetic. They were speaking with an English accent. Emerson's essay is difficult for a modern American today for the first two reasons.
Emerson used words that, although I can find them in a dictionary, I've never heard anyone say. And he was a poet, so some of his phrases were meant to be savored rather than read only for their direct meaning.
They explained terms and phrases I didn't know. I remember, for example, the phrase, "throwing down a gage. It is an archaic term that means throwing gloves at the feet of someone, which back then meant you were challenging the person to a duel. I could have watched Henry V fifty times and not ever figured that out.
But after I learned it, I understood better what was going on when I watched the movie again.
That's what I hope happens after you read my translation. I hope you go back and enjoy Emerson's original and eloquent essayand understand it better, and really appreciate his creative, powerful prose.
Whenever I read something truly original, I get a feeling. That feeling is far more valuable than the statements themselves. The feeling fills me with a recognition of a profound truth:Lucius Annaeus Seneca On the Shortness of Life translated by John W.
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