Note 1. Terminus was to the Romans the deity presiding over boundaries and landmarks. In the last days of the year 1866, when I was returning from a long stay in the Western States, I met my father in New York just starting for his usual winter lecturing trip, in those days extending beyond the Mississippi. We spent the night together at the St. Denis Hotel, and as we sat by the fire he read me two or three of his poems for the new May-Day volume, among them Terminus. It almost startled me. No thought of his ageing had ever come to me, and there he sat, with no apparent abatement of bodily vigor, and young in spirit, recognizing with serene acquiescence his failing forces; I think he smiled as he read. He recognized, as none of us did, that his working days were nearly done. They lasted about five years longer, although he lived, in comfortable health, yet ten years beyond those of his activity. Almost at the time when he wrote Terminus he wrote in his journal: Within I do not find wrinkles and used heart, but unspent youth. [back]
Note 2. Mr. Emerson wrote to his brother William in 1838, All Emersons are slender. There are only two or three sound stocks of that excellent tree. Journal, 1859. Shall I blame my mother, whitest of women, because she was not a gypsy and gave me no swarthy ferocity? Or my father because he came of a lettered race and had no porters shoulders? [back]
Note 3. There are in the verse-book lines in the last stanza which Mr. Emerson omitted in the poem. One pair, containing the nautical image, follows the line in the text,
Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime,
Is the sky dark? it saith, More near will stand
The pilot with unerring hand.
Another pair drop this image, for home surroundings, thus: