On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History
Thomas Carlyle
ISBN 1 843 27084 6
©The Electric Book Company 2001

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Thomas Carlyle

Transcribed from the Everyman edition published by J. M. Dent & Sons, London 1908

On Heroes and Hero Worship


Click on number to go to page Contents ...................................................................................................4 LECTURE I THE HERO AS DIVINITY. ODIN. PAGANISM: SCANDINAVIAN MYTHOLOGY. ...............................5 LECTURE II THE HERO AS PROPHET. MAHOMET: ISLAM. ...................................................................................................51 LECTURE III THE HERO AS POET. DANTE: SHAKSPEARE. ....................................................................................92 LECTURE IV THE HERO AS PRIEST. LUTHER; REFORMATION: KNOX; PURITANISM......................................134 LECTURE V THE HERO AS MAN OF LETTERS. JOHNSON, ROUSSEAU, BURNS. .................................................178 LECTURE VI THE HERO AS KING. CROMWELL, NAPOLEON: MODERN REVOLUTIONISM. ...............................225

Thomas Carlyle

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[Tuesday, 5th May 1840.}


e have undertaken to discourse here for a little on Great Men, their manner of appearance in our world’s business, how they have shaped themselves in the world’s history, what ideas men formed of them, what work they did;—on Heroes, namely, and on their reception and performance; what I call Hero-worship and the Heroic in human affairs. Too evidently this is a large topic; deserving quite other treatment than we can expect to give it at present. A large topic; indeed, an illimitable one; wide as Universal History itself. For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these. Too clearly it is a topic we shall do no justice to in this place! One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are

On Heroes and Hero Worship


profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of Heaven; a flowing light-fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness;—in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them. On any terms whatsoever, you will not grudge to wander in such neighbourhood for a while. These Six classes of Heroes, chosen out of widely distant countries and epochs, and in mere external figure differing altogether, ought, if we look faithfully at them, to illustrate several things for us. Could we see them well, we should get some glimpses into the very marrow of the world’s history. How happy, could I but, in any measure, in such times as these, make manifest to you the meanings of Heroism; the divine relation (for I may well call it such) which in all times unites a Great Man to other men; and thus, as it were, not exhaust my subject, but so much as break ground on it! At all events, I must make the attempt. It is well said, in every sense, that a man’s religion is the chief fact with regard to him. A man’s, or a nation of men’s. By religion I do not mean here the church-creed which he professes, the articles of faith which he will sign and, in words or otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many cases not this at all. We see men of all kinds of professed creeds attain to almost all degrees of worth or worthlessness under each or any of them. This is not what I call religion, this profession and assertion; which is often only a profession and assertion from the outworks of the man, from the
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—doubt as to all this. it will be good to direct our survey chiefly to that religious phasis of the matter. faith in an Invisible. or perhaps unbelief and flat denial? Answering of this question is giving us the soul of the history of the man or nation. but as the only reality. much less to others). resting on Eternity. or. through every meanest moment of it. That is his religion. not as real only. and his duty and destiny there. and I say. that is in all cases the primary thing for him. and creatively determines all the rest. all is known. Time. you tell me to a very great extent what the man is. his mere scepticism and no-religion: the manner it is in which he feels himself to be spiritually related to the Unseen World or No-World. Of a man or of a nation we inquire. any Mystery of Life except a mad one. limited as we are.—their religion. Pagan empire of Force displaced by a nobler supremacy.—plurality of gods. The thoughts they had were the parents of the actions they did. if you tell me what that is. In these Discourses. the thing a man does practically lay to heart. concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe. was the great fact about them. But the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself. if even so deep as that. mere sensuous representation of this Mystery of Life. and for chief recognized element therein Physical Force? Was it Christianism. and know for certain. That once known well. what the kind of things he will do is. We have chosen as the first Hero in our Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . therefore. What religion they had? Was it Heathenism. it may be. their feelings were parents of their thoughts: it was the unseen and spiritual in them that determined the outward and actual. as I say. that of Holiness? Was it Scepticism. first of all.On Heroes and Hero Worship 7 mere argumentative region of him. uncertainty and inquiry whether there was an Unseen World.

if it were possible. Nevertheless it is a clear fact that they did it. Some speculators have a short way of accounting for the Pagan religion: mere quackery. an emblem to us of a most extensive province of things. men. believe and live by such a set of doctrines. and I here. Let us look for a little at the Hero as Divinity. the oldest primary form of Heroism. Such hideous inextricable jungle of misworships. Surely it seems a very strange-looking thing this Paganism.On Heroes and Hero Worship 8 series Odin the central figure of Scandinavian Paganism.—merely contrived to persuade other men. in us too. This is strange. to believe it! It will be often our duty to protest against this sort of hypothesis about men’s doings and history. and all manner of animate and inanimate objects. and to all other isms by which man has Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . falsehoods. and fashioned for themselves such a distracted chaos of hallucinations by way of Theory of the Universe: all this looks like an incredible fable.— for truly it is not easy to understand that sane men could ever calmly. and dupery. we may pause in sorrow and silence over the depths of darkness that are in man. covering the whole field of Life! A thing that fills us with astonishment. if we rejoice in the heights of purer vision he has attained to. no sane man ever did believe it. and absurdities. with their eyes open. and live at home in. not worthy of the name of sane. misbeliefs. priestcraft. with incredulity. did actually hold by. say they. Such things were and are in man. confusions. That men should have worshipped their poor fellowman as a God. Yes. protest against it in reference to Paganism. made as we are. on the very threshold. A bewildering. almost inconceivable to us in these days. but stocks and stones. in all men. inextricable jungle of delusions. almost. and not him only.

Read the candid. The Thibet priests have methods of their own of discovering what Man is Greatest.—of understanding him to be always the eldest-born of a certain genealogy? Alas. the “discoverability” is the only error here. They have all had a truth in them. above all in the more advanced decaying stages of religions. that Providence sends down always an Incarnation of Himself into every generation. belief that there is a Greatest Man. They have their belief. the sure precursor of their being about to die! Let us never forget this. it was not the health and life of such things. Quackery gives birth to nothing. in religions. if we look merely at the quackeries of it. clear-sighted. with which our and all men’s sole duty is to have done with them. It seems to me a most mournful hypothesis. corruptions. Quackery and dupery do abound. rather sceptical Mr. gives death to all things. and see. once discovered. or men would not have taken them up. I find Grand Lamaism itself to have a kind of truth in it. if we do not reject the quackeries altogether.On Heroes and Hero Worship 9 ever for a length of time striven to walk in this world. that of quackery giving birth to any faith even in savage men. Bad methods: but are they so much worse than our methods. it is a difficult thing to find good methods for!— Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . but their disease. to sweep them out of our thoughts as out of our practice. At bottom some belief in a kind of Pope! At bottom still better. we ought to treat him with an obedience which knows no bounds! This is the truth of Grand Lamaism. as mere diseases. that he is discoverable. they have fearfully abounded: but quackery was never the originating influence in such things. Man everywhere is the born enemy of lies. that. We shall not see into the true heart of anything. fit to be supreme over them. Turner’s Account of his Embassy to that country. these poor Thibet people.

therefore. It is a most earnest thing to be alive in this world. That what a man feels intensely. altogether a serious matter to be alive! I find. he struggles to speak out of him. in personification and visual form. and as if with a kind of life and historical reality in it. and take with us as our life-guidance. but I cannot yet call it the true hypothesis. say these theorists. would we believe. Which agrees. neither need we doubt that it did operate fundamentally in this business. Pagan Religion is indeed an Allegory. Think. Now doubtless there is such a law. to see represented before him in visual shape. a Symbol of what men felt and knew about the Universe. It was a play of poetic minds. somewhat more respectable. in allegorical fable.On Heroes and Hero Worship 10 We shall begin to have a chance of understanding Paganism. that we. sound senses. had we been there. to die is not sport for a man. they have not reached it either. earnestly true. and it is one of the deepest in human nature. I call a little more respectable. an allegory. Man’s life never was a sport to him. Ask now. that though these Allegory theorists are on the way towards truth in this matter. a shadowing forth. men with open eyes. when we first admit that to its followers it was. a poetic sport? Not sport but earnest is what we should require. it was a stern reality. Let us consider it very certain that men did believe in Paganism. at one time. though in less important things. attributes such things to Allegory. The hypothesis which ascribes Paganism wholly or mostly to this agency. still everywhere observably at work. men made altogether like ourselves. and all Religions are symbols of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . What Paganism could have been? Another theory. with a primary law of human nature. of what such poetic minds had known and felt of this Universe. should have believed in it. add they.

not in Bunyan’s nor in any other case. in this mysterious Life of theirs. The Allegory is the product of the certainty. of the business. they had to hope and to fear. never risked their soul’s life on allegories: men in all times. with all its seriousness. and even inversion. was not the want of men. we may say a sportful shadow. when it was rather the result and termination. a mere play of the Fancy. not the producer of it. the parent of such a bewildered heap of allegories. but to know what they were to believe about this Universe. in comparison with that awful Fact and scientific certainty which it poetically strives to emblem. a perfect poetic symbol. what course they were to steer in it.—of which the Allegory could then become a shadow. I say. Whence came that scientific certainty. to do and to forbear doing.—more like a cloud-field than a distant continent of firm land and facts! It is no longer a reality. altering always as that alters: but it seems to me a radical perversion. therefore. and. and a beautiful. standing believed by everybody. to put that forward as the origin and moving cause. errors and confusions? How was it. We ought to understand that this seeming cloud-field was once a reality. To get beautiful allegories. have had an Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . yet it was one. least of all that dupery and deception was the origin of it. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an Allegory. what was it? Surely it were a foolish attempt to pretend “explaining.On Heroes and Hero Worship 11 that. never did believe idle songs. For Paganism. such a phenomenon as that far-distant distracted cloudy imbroglio of Paganism.” in this place. just and serious one: but consider whether Bunyan’s Allegory could have preceded the Faith it symbolizes! The Faith had to be already there. Men. that not poetic allegory. or in any place. especially in early earnest times. what. we have still to inquire.

Simple.—that great deep sea of azure that swims overhead. just such a childlike greatness was in the primitive nations. beautiful. of a man who had grown to maturity in some dark distance. many-sounding seas. sounds. or the like. Nature. was precisely this child-man of Plato’s. we cannot ascertain so much as this at least. unspeakable. This green flowery rock-built earth. the winds sweeping through it. the first man that began to think. yet with the ripe faculty of a man. preternatural. he had not yet united under a name the infinite variety of sights. yet with the depth and strength of a man. the black cloud fashioning itself together. and was brought on a sudden into the upper air to see the sun rise. and listening with affectionate attention to that far-off confused rumour of the Pagan ages.— and so with a name dismiss it from us. open as a child. shapes and motions. now pouring Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . not veiled under names or formulas. flashing in on him there. which we now collectively name Universe. that they too were not mendacious and distracted. it stood naked. his soul would fall down in worship before it. the mountains. what to the Thinker and Prophet it forever is. Now. his whole heart would be kindled by that sight. he would discern it well to be Godlike. What would his wonder be. but in their own poor way true and sane! You remember that fancy of Plato’s. for detesting quacks. the trees. Nature had as yet no name to him. awful. rivers. leaving out both the quack theory and the allegory one. Nature was to this man. his rapt astonishment at the sight we daily witness with indifference! With the free open sense of a child. To the wild deep-hearted man all was yet new. The first Pagan Thinker among rude men. That there was a kind of fact at the heart of them.On Heroes and Hero Worship 12 instinct for detecting quacks. Let us try if.

were there no other. and thousand-fold Complexity of Forces. swift. and then are not: this is forever very literally a miracle. to the Atheistic Thinker. This world. is a wrappage of traditions. our want of insight. It is not by our superior insight that we escape the difficulty. but it is a poor science that would hide from us the great deep sacred infinitude of Nescience. That great mystery of TIME. rushing on. encasing wholly every notion we form. ah me—what could the wild man know of it. how else could it rot?” Nay surely. a thing to strike us dumb. this huge illimitable whirlwind Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . on which all science swims as a mere superficial film. hearsays. it is by our superior levity. never-resting thing called Time. what can we yet know? That it is a Force. Force.” and lecture learnedly about it. now hail and rain. It is by not thinking that we cease to wonder at it. to whosoever will think of it. This Universe.—for we have no word to speak about it. like an all-embracing ocean-tide. a Force which is not we. like apparitions which are. the illimitable. what is it? Ay. it is not we. silent. is still a miracle. everywhere Force. rolling. Hardened round us. “There is not a leaf rotting on the highway but has Force in it. it must be a miracle too. we can never know at all. and grind the like of it out of glass and silk: but what is it? What made it? Whence comes it? Whither goes it? Science has done much for us. our inattention. we ourselves a mysterious Force in the centre of that. mere words. inscrutable. We call that fire of the black thunder-cloud “electricity. wonderful.On Heroes and Hero Worship 13 out fire. magical and more. Force. what? At bottom we do not yet know. after all our science and sciences. That is all. whither we can never penetrate. on which we and all the Universe swim like exhalations. if such a one were possible. it is altogether different from us. silent.

glancing out on him from the great deep Eternity. high as Immensity. But now I remark farther: What in such a time as ours it requires a Prophet or Poet to teach us. Cannot we understand how these men worshipped Canopus. if he will honestly apply his sense. with no speech for any feeling. the stripping-off of those poor undevout wrappages. would pierce into the heart of the wild Ishmaelitish man. namely. did for itself. was then divine to whosoever would turn his eye upon it. “All was Godlike or God:”—Jean Paul still finds it so. the ancient earnest soul. which is now divine only to the gifted. is awe. Canopus shining down over the desert. He stood bare before it face to face. old as Eternity. with its blue diamond brightness (that wild blue spirit-like brightness. then in silence. became what we call Sabeans. nomenclatures and scientific hearsays. The world. proclaims it to be a living thing. whom it was guiding through the solitary waste there. never-resting whirlwind. revealing the inner Splendour to him. as yet unencumbered with these things. worship if not in words. who has power to escape out of hearsays: but there then were no hearsays. with all feelings in it. it might seem a little eye. towards which the best attitude for us. devout prostration and humility of soul. that Canopus. to be bottled up in Leyden jars and sold over counters: but the natural sense of man. godlike thing. with scientific nomenclatures. What is it? God’s Creation. in all times. the religious people answer. which envelops us here.—ah. To his wild heart. the giant Jean Paul. experiments and what not. after never so much science. as if it were a poor dead thing.—this.On Heroes and Hero Worship 14 of Force. far brighter than we ever witness here). it is the Almighty God’s! Atheistic science babbles poorly of it. worshipping Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . an unspeakable.

wonder for which there is now no limit or measure. nothing! But now if all things whatsoever that we look upon are emblems to us of the Highest God. it is even so: this is no vain phrase. proof of what we call a “poetic nature. lovable. what words have we for such things?—is a breath of Heaven.” says the devout Novalis. And look what perennial fibre of truth was in that. “and that is the Body of Man. the Highest Being reveals himself in man. I add that more so than any of them is man such an emblem. Worship is transcendent wonder. That they did it.—namely. through every blade of grass.—in their own fashion. among the Hebrews: “The true Shekinah is Man!” Yes. what the horse and camel did. You have heard of St. The essence of our being. Man of Genius. visible Revelation of God. through every star. if we will open our minds and eyes? We do not worship in that way now: but is it not reckoned still a merit.”—ah. this life of ours. it is veritably so. these faculties. all things and everything they saw exist beside them were an emblem of the Godlike. To these primeval men. These poor Sabeans did even what he does. Nothing is holier Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in what fashion soever. is not a God made visible. This body. the mystery in us that calls itself “I. To us also. or Ark of Testimony. how every object still verily is “a window through which we may look into Infinitude itself”? He that can discern the loveliness of things. that is worship. was a merit: better than what the entirely stupid man did. Chrysostom’s celebrated saying in reference to the Shekinah. of some God.On Heroes and Hero Worship 15 the stars? Such is to me the secret of all forms of Paganism. is it not all as a vesture for that Unnamed? “There is but one Temple in the Universe.” that we recognize how every object has a divine beauty in it. gifted. we call him Poet! Painter.

of the actual truth of the thing. if we like. We touch Heaven when we lay our hand on a human body!” This sounds much like a mere flourish of rhetoric. Bending before men is a reverence done to this Revelation in the Flesh. but Heroworship is the deepest root of all. adoration of a star or natural object. Well. but had to gaze direct at them there. The young generations of the world. the tap-root.On Heroes and Hero Worship 16 shall that high form.—the great inscrutable mystery of God. we know not how to speak of it. We cannot understand it. it will turn out to be a scientific fact. in such words as can be had. What I called the perplexed jungle of Paganism sprang. nothing else admirable! No Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and yet the depth of earnest men. with all sincerity of heart. admire without limit: this. Worship. out of many roots: every admiration. I say there is. at bottom. as I said above. in the full use of their faculties. and man more than anything else in Nature. without being mad. the expression. they could do. but it is not so. I say great men are still admirable. that it is verily so. they. who did not think that they had finished off all things in Heaven and Earth by merely giving them scientific names. from which in a great degree all the rest were nourished and grown. I consider Heroworship to be the grand modifying element in that ancient system of thought. but we may feel and know. we may say. that is. could worship Nature. And now if worship even of a star had some meaning in it. with awe and wonder: they felt better what of divinity is in man and Nature. who had in them the freshness of young children. these truths were once more readily felt than now. If well meditated. We are the miracle of miracles. how much more might that of a Hero! Worship of a Hero is transcendent admiration of a Great Man. was a root or fibre of a root.

and at all hours. Not insupportably inaccurate. Man that knows or cans. Society everywhere is some representation. on which human association rests. and I know not what:—the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . some spiritual Hero. these social dignitaries. All dignities of rank. but far higher and truer religions. not insupportably inaccurate.On Heroes and Hero Worship 17 nobler feeling than this of admiration for one higher than himself dwells in the breast of man. less unspeakable provinces. of a graduated Worship of Heroes— reverence and obedience done to men really great and wise. the vivifying influence in man’s life. Religion I find stand upon it. the life-breath of all society.—or a Hierarchy. not Paganism only. I say! They are all as bank-notes. with a good many even. heartfelt prostrate admiration. Hero-worship. It is to this hour. but not with all. And what therefore is loyalty proper. always are forged notes. you will find it the ultimate perfection of a principle extant throughout man’s whole history on earth. Leader. alas.—all religion hitherto known. boundless. or the most of them forged! No: there have to come revolutions then. are what we may call a Heroarchy (Government of Heroes). is not all Loyalty akin to religious Faith also? Faith is loyalty to some inspired Teacher. cries of Democracy. submissive admiration for the truly great? Society is founded on Hero-worship. but an effluence of Hero-worship. King is Kon-ning.—is not that the germ of Christianity itself? The greatest of all Heroes is One—whom we do not name here! Let sacred silence meditate that sacred matter.—and several of them. submission. for it is “sacred” enough withal! The Duke means Dux. Kan-ning. for a noblest godlike Form of Man. Or coming into lower. We can do with some forged false notes. Liberty and Equality. all representing gold. burning.

the thing I call Hero-worship. could it have found a man great enough. the Time did everything. the Time called him forth. Providence had not sent him. a Luther for example. But I liken common languid Times. that there never was any! “Gold. no Time need have gone to ruin. valour to lead it on the right road thither. as it was always and everywhere. and cannot cease till man himself ceases. The Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .On Heroes and Hero Worship 18 notes being all false. people take to crying in their despair that there is no gold. Show our critics a great man.—all this I liken to dry dead fuel. The Time call forth? Alas. is an age that as it were denies the existence of great men.” Hero-worship. the Time.—and bring him out to be a little kind of man! He was the “creature of the Time. had to go down to confusion and wreck because he would not come when called. is nevertheless. with their languid doubting characters and embarrassed circumstances. but take the dimensions of him. For if we will think of it. This. waiting for the lightning out of Heaven that shall kindle it. not to worship him. impotently crumbling down into ever worse distress towards final ruin. I am well aware that in these days Hero-worship. but not find him when they called! He was not there. and no gold to be had for them. with their unbelief. we have known Times call loudly enough for their great man. for reasons which it will be worth while some time to inquire into. a man wise and good enough: wisdom to discern truly what the Time wanted. perplexity. and finally ceased. calling its loudest. distress. these are the salvation of any Time. professes to have gone out. they begin to what they call “account” for him. denies the desirableness of great men.” they say. he nothing—but what we the little critic could have done too! This seems to me but melancholy work.

adoration. All blazes round him now. with faith only in the heap of barren dead fuel. In all times it is possible for a man to arise great enough to feel that they and their doctrines are chimeras and cobwebs. I said already. The unbelieving French believe in their Voltaire. with his free force direct out of God’s own hand. into fire like his own. There is no sadder symptom of a generation than such general blindness to the spiritual lightning. His word is the wise healing word which all can believe in. In all epochs of the world’s history. when he has once struck on it.On Heroes and Hero Worship 19 great man. loyalty. Truly. The History of the World. and burst out round him into very curious Hero-worship. is it not the sticks that made the fire?” No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men. right truly even in the Eighteenth century. I think. without which the fuel never would have burnt. It is the last consummation of unbelief. Such small critics do what they can to promote unbelief and universal spiritual paralysis: but happily they cannot always completely succeed. They did want him greatly.” It has always seemed to me extremely curious this of Voltaire. in no time whatever can they entirely eradicate out of living men’s hearts a certain altogether peculiar reverence for Great Men. who cry: “See. The dry mouldering sticks are thought to have called him forth. is the lightning. Hero-worship endures forever while man endures. if Christianity be the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . we shall find the Great Man to have been the indispensable savior of his epoch. in that last act of his life when they “stifle him under roses. Boswell venerates his Johnson. but as to calling him forth—! Those are critics of small vision. genuine admiration. was the Biography of Great Men.—the lightning. And what is notable. however dim and perverted it may be.

—in short that he too. does again on this side exhibit a curious contrast. then we may find here in Voltaireism one of the lowest! He whose life was that of a kind of Antichrist. de Voltaire. beautifulest. venerate and bow down submissive before great men: nay can we Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . It will ever be so. the thing they are all wanting to be. do they not worship him? People of quality disguise themselves as tavern-waiters. They feel withal that. Yet see! The old man of Ferney comes up to Paris. infirm man of eightyfour years. He is the realized ideal of every one of them. nobler. has fought like a valiant man. He is properly their god. We all love great men. orders his Postilion. with a broad oath. whose train fills whole streets. in all times and places. There was nothing highest. to keep it as a sacred relic. from the Queen Antoinette to the Douanier at the Porte St. the Hero has been worshipped. Persiflage was the character of their whole mind. thou art driving M.” At Paris his carriage is “the nucleus of a comet. tottering. Denis. an old. though in a strange way. They feel that he too is a kind of Hero. of all Frenchmen the most French. The Maitre de Poste.—such god as they are fit for. noblest in all France. Yes. from the divine Founder of Christianity to the withered Pontiff of Encyclopedism. love.” The ladies pluck a hair or two from his fur. there never was such a persifleur.On Heroes and Hero Worship 20 highest instance of Hero-worship. that did not feel this man to be higher. delivering Calases. that he has spent his life in opposing error and injustice. if persiflage be the great thing. Accordingly all persons. from Norse Odin to English Samuel Johnson. adoration had nowhere a place in it. “Va bon train. No people ever were so little prone to admire at all as those French of Voltaire. beautifuler. unmasking hypocrites in high places.

I think Scandinavian Paganism. For myself in these days. It is an eternal corner-stone. to me. under poor cramped incipient forms.—the one fixed point in modern revolutionary history. otherwise as if bottomless and shoreless. is more interesting than any other. do I find in the Paganism of old nations. In times of unbelief. it continued in these regions of Europe till the eleventh century: eight hundred years ago the Norwegians were still worshippers of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . will get down so far. only under an ancient obsolete vesture. to set forth. That man. as they could. the Hero is still worshipable: this. sorrowful decay and ruin is visible to everybody. the revelation of the workings of God. the latest. much down-rushing. does not every true man feel that he is himself made higher by doing reverence to what is really above him? No nobler or more blessed feeling dwells in man’s heart. And to me it is very cheering to consider that no sceptical logic. is what all Pagan religions have struggled. So much of truth. or general triviality. insincerity and aridity of any Time and its influences can destroy this noble inborn loyalty and worship that is in man. that we all of us reverence and must ever reverence Great Men: this is. in some sense or other. no farther. Nature is still divine. but the spirit of it still true.On Heroes and Hero Worship 21 honestly bow down to anything else? Ah. The confused wreck of things crumbling and even crashing and tumbling all round us in these revolutionary ages. to us here. worships Heroes. I seem to see in this indestructibility of Hero-worship the everlasting adamant lower than which the confused wreck of revolutionary things cannot fall. from which they can begin to build themselves up again. which soon have to become times of revolution. the living rock amid all rushings-down whatsoever. It is. for one thing.

had Iceland not been burst up from the sea. and men by means of them and of what the sea yields. towering up there. stern and grim. Much would be lost. the men whose blood still runs in our veins. who perhaps had a lingering fondness for Paganism. It is interesting also as the creed of our fathers. yet with a wild gleaming beauty in summertime. an extremely notable Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . mostly all of a religious character: that is what Norse critics call the Elder or Poetic Edda. like the waste chaotic battle-field of Frost and Fire. an Iceland gentleman. prophetic. Strange: they did believe that. Saemund. swallowed many months of every year in black tempests. the record of these things was written down. We have tolerable means to do it. roaring geysers. the geologists say. and uttered musically their thoughts. where cattle can subsist. for there is another point of interest in these Scandinavian mythologies: that they have been preserved so well. one of the early Christian Priests there. for many reasons. just about becoming obsolete then. a wild land of barrenness and lava. sulphur-pools and horrid volcanic chasms. by fire from the bottom of the sea. Let us look a little at this poor Norse creed. while we believe so differently. a word of uncertain etymology. In that strange island Iceland. Edda.—where of all places we least looked for Literature or written memorials. whom doubtless we still resemble in so many ways. Snorro Sturleson.—Poems or Chants of a mythic. not been discovered by the Northmen! The old Norse Poets were many of them natives of Iceland. in the North Ocean with its snow jokuls. and it seems they were poetic men these. collected certain of their old Pagan songs. On the seabord of this wild land is a rim of grassy country.On Heroes and Hero Worship 22 Odin. men who had deep thoughts in them.—burst up. is thought to signify Ancestress.

Fire. mostly Icelandic. are Gods. By these and the numerous other Sagas. pleasant reading still: this is the Younger or Prose Edda. face to face. in perennial internecine feud. near a century afterwards. as Religion The dark hostile Powers of Nature they figure to themselves as “Jotuns. it is possible to gain some direct insight even yet. as a thing wholly miraculous. which go on zealously in the North to this day.” Giants. Icelandic or not. and see that old Norse system of Belief. which we designate by some trivial chemical name. and fell down in awe before. and not idle or inane. Jotunheim. the Garden of the Asen. The Gods dwell above in Asgard. elucidated by new fragments of traditionary verse. What we now lecture of as Science. Earnest simple recognition of the workings of Physical Nature. with the commentaries. Curious all this. and try if we cannot sympathize with it somewhat. Frost. The empire of this Universe is divided between these two. a kind of Prose Synopsis of the whole Mythology. if we will look at the foundation of it! The power of Fire.On Heroes and Hero Worship 23 personage. Let us forget that it is erroneous Religion. the Sun. native talent. huge shaggy beings of a demonic character. for instance. thereby hiding from Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . as Summer-heat. or Divinities. The friendly Powers again. let us look at it as old Thought. these are Jotuns. they dwell apart. as it were. they wondered at. The primary characteristic of this old Northland Mythology I find to be Impersonation of the visible workings of Nature. a distant dark chaotic land. among several other books he wrote. stupendous and divine. is the home of the Jotuns. took in hand next. altogether a perspicuous clear work. to put together. educated by this Saemund’s grandson. or Flame. what one might call unconscious art. A work constructed really with great ingenuity. Sea-tempest.

the just and benignant (whom the early Christian Missionaries found to resemble Christ). wondrous too. but a living Jotun or Devil. that bit you sharply when you touched it. a most swift subtle Demon. or Rime. or fleet Frost-Winds. it was the God Donner (Thunder) or Thor. Hrym. Thunder was not then mere Electricity.On Heroes and Hero Worship 24 ourselves the essential character of wonder that dwells in it as in all things. is with these old Northmen. is the Sun. the monstrous Jotun Rime drove home his Horses at night. was a devil or god. beautifullest of visible things.—God also of beneficent Summer-heat. would hide that Flame is a wonder. the beautiful. Loke. What is Flame?—Frost the old Norse Seer discerns to be a monstrous hoary Jotun.—that is the peal. if it had not Stupidity to help it. Balder again. The savages of the Ladrones Islands too (say some Spanish voyagers) thought Fire. but still used in Scotland to signify hoar-frost. and that lived upon dry wood. the old word now nearly obsolete here. From us too no Chemistry. Rime was not then as now a dead chemical thing. after all our Astronomies and Almanacs! But perhaps the notablest god Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . not his.”—which Horses were Hail-Clouds. the firebolt bursting out of Heaven is the all-rending Hammer flung from the hand of Thor: he urges his loud chariot over the mountaintops. the White God. and divine still. sat “combing their manes. His Cows—No. The thunder was his wrath: the gathering of the black clouds is the drawing down of Thor’s angry brows. of the brood of the Jotuns.”—that is the rustling storm-blast before the thunder begins. but a kinsman’s. vitreous or resinous. which they never had seen before. and they split in the glance of it. wrathful he “blows in his red beard. the Giant Thrym. the Giant Hymir’s Cows are Icebergs: this Hymir “looks at the rocks” with his devil-eye.

that word surviving. when the River is in a certain flooded state (a kind of backwater. they cry out. “Have a care. Odin. there is the Eager coming!” Curious. in a greater proportion along the east coast.—from the incessant invasions there were: and this. From the Humber upwards. very dangerous to them). and greatest of all. Mark at present so much.On Heroes and Hero Worship 25 we hear tell of is one of whom Grimm the German Etymologist finds trace: the God Wunsch. at bottom. like the peak of a submerged world! The oldest Nottingham bargemen had believed in the God Aegir. Higher considerations have to teach us that the God Wish is not the true God.— if that be any great beauty!— Of the chief god. a very dangerous Jotun. which still shows itself in the latest forms of our spiritual culture. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . all over Scotland. or Wish.” Northmen. in the North Country. we shall speak by and by. or rather. But all over our Island we are mingled largely with Danes proper. Danish and Norse and Saxon have no distinction. Of the other Gods or Jotuns I will mention only for etymology’s sake. of course. except a superficial one. as I learn. that Sea-tempest is the Jotun Aegir. or the like. the Nottingham bargemen.—as of Heathen and Christian. who could give us all that we wished! Is not this the sincerest and yet rudest voice of the spirit of man? The rudest ideal that man ever formed. Indeed our English blood too in good part is Danish. the Speech of the common people is still in a singular degree Icelandic. They too are “Normans. its Germanism has still a peculiar Norse tinge. call it Eager. or eddying swirl it has. Norse.—and now to this day. on our river Trent. as I find. what the essence of Scandinavian and indeed of all Paganism is: a recognition of the forces of Nature as godlike. The God Wish.

On Heroes and Hero Worship 26 stupendous. It is the infant Thought of man opening itself. To me there is in the Norse system something very genuine.” and much confused work. A broad simplicity. on this ever-stupendous Universe. enormous force. Not inconceivable to us. Thor. Not graceful lightness.—as Gods and Demons. as yet altogether untutored. discloses itself here. half-sport. fairly opened to the things about them. his flesh was the Land. clapping the Pot on his head.—determined on constructing a world with him. after many adventures. to come down upon the Norse Gods “brewing ale” to hold their feast with Aegir. very great and manlike. Consider only their primary mythus of the Creation. It is Thought.—quite lost in it. The Gods. large awkward gianthood. characterizes that Norse system. stalking helpless with large uncertain strides. a face-to-face and heart-to-heart inspection of the things. and walking off with it. so very different from the light gracefulness of the old Greek Paganism. What a Hyper-Brobdignagian Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . His blood made the Sea. a great rude sincerity. It is strange. and the brains of it became the Clouds. the genuine Thought of deep. rusticity. his skull was the great blue vault of Immensity. the Sea-Jotun. distinguishes this Scandinavian System. a Giant made by “warm wind. personal Agencies. the ears of the Pot reaching down to his heels! A kind of vacant hugeness. sending out Thor to get the caldron for them in the Jotun country. rude. as in the Greek Paganism. out of the conflict of Frost and Fire. of his eyebrows they formed Asgard their Gods’dwelling.—the first characteristic of all good Thought in all times. a certain homely truthfulness and rustic strength. after our beautiful Apollo statues and clear smiling mythuses. with awe and wonder. having got the Giant Ymer slain. like a huge hat. the Rocks his bones. earnest minds.

—stretch through all lands and times. but from all men since the first man began to speak. not from Ulfila the Moesogoth only. onwards from of old. the stormwind howling through it like the voice of all the gods. too. great. Igdrasil. each inextricably in communion with all. sit Three Nornas. it is strange enough this old Norse view of Nature. I like.—I find no similitude so true as this of a Tree. what will be done. every fibre there an act or word? Its boughs are Histories of Nations.”—alas. the Tree of Existence.—or storm tost. things done. Present. but godlike and stronger than gianthood. its trunk reaches up heaven-high. what was done. “the infinite conjugation of the verb To do. catastrophes. what is doing.” Considering how human things circulate. giantlike. Its “boughs. has its roots deep down in the kingdoms of Hela or Death. All Life is figured by them as a Tree. that representation they have of the tree Igdrasil. spreads its boughs over the whole Universe: it is the Tree of Existence. the present. It is the past.On Heroes and Hero Worship 27 business! Untamed Thought. of the Shakspeares. The “Machine of the Universe.—how the word I speak to you to-day is borrowed. do but think of that in contrast! Well.” with their buddings and disleafings?—events. At the foot of it. in the Death-kingdom. enormous. the Ash-tree of Existence. Fates. Is not every leaf of it a biography. It is Igdrasil. Beautiful. things suffered.—to be tamed in due time into the compact greatness. the breath of Human Passion rustling through it. Future. not giantlike. The rustle of it is the noise of Human Existence. watering its roots from the Sacred Well. altogether beautiful and great.—the Past. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . the Goethes!—Spiritually as well as bodily these men are our progenitors. It grows there. and the future.

as Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . was such a man. the Seer. a God!—Thought once awakened does not again slumber. admiration for whom. unfolds itself into a System of Thought.—till the great Thinker came. a Hero. even so! Joyful to men as the dawning of day from night. indeed. grows. and Chief Norse God. we fancy. A Teacher.—from the thought. as from painful enchanted sleep. generation after generation. The Thoughts of all start up.—is it not. Whence it specially came. such as the very animals may feel. a Prophet. Genius. and such System of Thought can grow no farther. and so forth: but to these wild men he was a very magician.—till its full stature is reached. above all. but must give place to another.On Heroes and Hero Worship 28 different enough from what we believe of Nature.” as we should call him! Innumerable men had passed by. The First Norse “man of genius. and many other powers. answering to it. the spiritual Hero. Has he not the power of articulate Thinking. from death into life? We still honour such a man. of worth immeasurable. the awakening for them from no-being into being. Yes. What he says. across this Universe. became adoration. call him Poet. one would not like to be compelled to say very minutely! One thing we may say: It came from the thoughts of Norse men. such as men only feel. or with a painful. with a dumb vague wonder. a worker of miraculous unexpected blessing for them. It is ever the way with the Thinker. all men were not far from saying. the Man now named Odin. the original man. transcending the known bounds. fruitlessly inquiring wonder. and Captain of soul and of body. of the first Norse man who had an original power of thinking. were longing to say. For the Norse people. in man after man. whose shaped spoken Thought awakes the slumbering capability of all into Thought. round his Thought.

in every epoch of the world. Luthers. like a picture painted on the same canvas. Dantes.On Heroes and Hero Worship 29 yet miraculous? So. in one level of distance in the Edda. as in sympathetic ink. would the rude Norse heart feel. a little. of successive generations since the Belief first began. given assurance to them of their own destiny there? By him they know now what they have to do here. All Scandinavian thinkers. parent of all others. a like view starts into being in all minds. what to look for hereafter. no man will now ever know: its Councils of Trebizond. or whatever name the First Norse Thinker bore while he was a man among men. Nay. in ever-new elaboration and addition. but invisibly. the confusion of these Norse Eddas. till it got to the full final shape we see it under in the Edda. it is the combined work of them all. but properly the summation of several successive systems. is it not the arrival of a Thinker in the world!— One other thing we must not forget. They are not one coherent System of Thought. the great event. All this of the old Norse Belief which is flung out for us. grows. contributed to that Scandinavian System of Thought. while it continues credible there. His view of the Universe once promulgated. at his word it starts into visibility in all. are sunk Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Athanasiuses. keeps ever growing. since the first of them. with boundless gratitude. Councils of Trent. What history it had. how it changed from shape to shape. does not at all stand so in the reality. Existence has become articulate. by one thinker’s contribution after another. melodious by him. he first has made Life alive!—We may call this Odin. it will explain. In all minds it lay written. Has he not solved for them the sphinx-enigma of this Universe. It stands rather at all manner of distances and depths. the origin of Norse Mythology: Odin.

all to the name. was a man like us. Odin’s day! Of Odin there exists no history. no guess about it worth repeating. settled them in the North parts of Europe. writes down. in his Heimskringla.On Heroes and Hero Worship 30 without echo in the dark night! Only that it had such a history we can all know. as grounded on mere uncertainties. Wheresover a thinker appeared. a change or revolution made. with his wild beard and eyes.” men will say to-morrow. he says. there in the thing he thought of was a contribution. almost in a brief business style. by warlike conquest. with our limbs. the grandest “revolution” of all. his Twelve Peers made into Twelve Sons of his own. invented Letters. I Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and writes it down as a terrestrial event in Denmark or elsewhere. learned and cautious. joys. in the quietest manner. has perished. how Odin was a heroic Prince. Alas. Gods like himself: Snorro has no doubt of this. in his wild Norse vesture. and a great people straitened for room. Poetry and so forth. Torfaeus. Of all which. accession.—and came by and by to be worshipped as Chief God by these Scandinavians. Saxo Grammaticus. “Wednesday. in the Black-Sea region. found to be untenable now. is not this too sunk for us like the rest! Of Odin what history? Strange rather to reflect that he had a history! That this Odin. with Twelve Peers. came into Europe about the Year 70 before Christ. is still more unhesitating. How he led these Asen (Asiatics) of his out of Asia. features. much of it. assigns by calculation a date for it: Odin. a very curious Northman of that same century. some centuries later. the worker.—intrinsically all one as we: and did such a work! But the work. Snorro indeed. with our sorrows. his rude Norse speech and ways. no document of it. scruples not to find out a historical fact in every individual mythus. the one made by the man Odin himself.

whole terrestrial history. Indeed. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and words formed from it. with the English wade and such like.” “four-horse coach. Lope would have grown. force of Movement. surmises that all adjectives whatsoever were formed precisely in that way: some very green thing. and then the next thing remarkable for that quality. adventures. in Spain. according to Smith. as name of their chief Divinity. and is the fit name of the highest god. or something pertaining to the chief god. according to Grimm. figure and environment are sunk from us forever into unknown thousands of years.—did not the Spaniards in their universal admiration for Lope. over all the Teutonic Nations everywhere. The word signifies Divinity. to be an adjective signifying godlike also. Like enough! We must bow to Grimm in matters etymological. Far.—as we still say “the steam coach.” if the flower or woman were of surpassing beauty? Had this lasted.” or the like. he says. the adjectives formed from it all signify divine. Source of Movement. was named the green tree. get into the habit of saying “a Lope flower. Adam Smith. Power.— means primarily Movement. The word Wuotan. German and all Teutonic Nations. not of any man. this word. with the Latin vadere. were formed in this way. in his Essay on Language. supreme. a word spread.” “a Lope dama. very far beyond the Year 70! Odin’s date. among the old Saxon. Let us consider it fixed that Wuotan means Wading. chiefly notable for its greenness. Nay Grimm.On Heroes and Hero Worship 31 need say nothing. And now still. as well as of a god? As for the adjectives. which connects itself. goes so far as to deny that any man Odin ever existed. All primary adjectives. a tree for instance. the German Antiquary. what hinders it from being the name of a Heroic Man and Mover. He proves it by etymology. which is the original form of Odin. got the appellative name Green.

a divine Universe bursting all into godlike beauty round him. they had as yet no scale to measure admiration by. surely there must have been an Odin. I have said. but a real Hero of flesh and blood! The voice of all tradition. of whirlwind chaotic darkness and glorious new light. with his own wild soul full of noble ardors and affections. of whom to his rapt vision all Nature was the awful Flame-image.On Heroes and Hero Worship 32 were at first substantives and things. the chief god?—that surely is a question which nobody would wish to dogmatize upon.—should have felt that perhaps he was divine.—since a great deep soul. no adjective. the least measure—Himself! What others take him for. these two items strangely act on one another. that some effluence of Wuotan dwelt here in him! He was not necessarily false. Fancy your own generous heart’s-love of some greatest man expanding till it transcended all bounds. palpable to the sense at one time. any sincere soul. history or echo of history. till it filled and overflowed the whole field of your thought! Or what if this man Odin. help to determine one another. knows not what he is. with the afflatus and mysterious tide of vision and impulse rushing on him he knows not whence. that he was some effluence of the “Wuotan. can. agrees with all that thought will teach one about it. is ever an enigma. We cannot annihilate a man for etymologies like that! Surely there was a First Teacher and Captain. speaking the truest he knew. a kind of terror and wonder to himself. With all men reverently admiring him. How the man Odin came to be considered a god. his people knew no limits to their admiration of him.—alternates between the highest height and the lowest depth. and no man Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .” “Movement”. to assure us of this. of all things. Supreme Power and Divinity. and what he guesses that he may be. he was but mistaken. A great soul.

no book. and with wondrous thousand-fold expansion spread itself. any the truest fact is modelled by the nature of the man! I said. for every man. in the entire ignorance. so much as on the National Mind recipient of it. waiting only for light. The colours and forms of your light will be those of the cut-glass it has to shine through. but a sanity and something. dark but living. “Wuotan!”— And then consider what mere Time will do in such cases. this is to me the centre of the whole. speaking to his brother men. no Arundelmarble. must always have Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . worship and all that lies in the human Heart.—Curious to think how. and in three thousand years—! To attempt theorizing on such matters would profit little: they are matters which refuse to be theoremed and diagramed. how if a man was great while living. when love. being once all dead. only here and there some dumb monumental cairn. The earnest man.On Heroes and Hero Worship 33 to whom the like ever had befallen. And in the darkness. is there to encourage it. to discern that the centre of it all was not a madness and nothing. were there no books. in thirty or forty years. And in three hundred years. in forms and colours. This light. which Logic ought to know that she cannot speak of. What an enormous camera-obscura magnifier is Tradition! How a thing grows in the human Memory. How such light will then shine out. Enough for us to discern. Why. without date or document. some gleam as of a small real light shining in the centre of that enormous camera-obscure image. he becomes tenfold greater when dead. kindled in the great dark vortex of the Norse Mind. the contemporaries who had seen him. what could he think himself to be? “Wuotan?” All men answered. depends not on it. any great man would grow mythic. in the human Imagination. far in the uttermost distance.

error enough: but sheer falsehood. we must leave those boundless regions. this world is the multiplex “Image of his own Dream.—with no notion of building up “ Allegories “! But the fresh clear glance of those First Ages would be prompt in discerning the secret relations of things.— what sort of fact it became for him. Cannot we conceive that Odin was a reality? Error indeed. parted into three.—was and is modified by his own laws of thinking.—this was enough to determine the Signs of the Zodiac. But the way in which such Appearance or fact shaped itself. suppose Odin to have been the inventor of Letters.” Who knows to what unnamable subtleties of spiritual law all these Pagan Fables owe their shape! The number Twelve. a real Appearance of Nature. into six.—we will not believe that our Fathers believed in these. deep. divisiblest of all.On Heroes and Hero Worship 34 stated what seemed to him a fact. Runes. the number of Odin’s Sons. is the Fantasy of Himself. Runes are the Scandinavian Alphabet. allegory aforethought. So with regard to every other matter. but universal. ever-operating laws. Any vague rumour of number had a tendency to settle itself into Twelve. idle fables. Odin’s Runes are a significant feature of him. The world of Nature. make a great feature in tradition. for every man. and wholly open to obey these. the most remarkable number. as well as “magic. and the miracles of “magic” he worked by them. quartered. which could be halved. subtle. and innumerable other Twelves. Schiller finds in the Cestus of Venus an everlasting aesthetic truth as to the nature of all Beauty. curious:—but he is careful not to insinuate that the old Greek Mythists had any notion of lecturing about the “Philosophy of Criticism”!—On the whole. And quite unconsciously too.” among that Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .

and our Europe was first beginning to think. Prophet. in the soul and thought of him first of all. first Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . as well as that miraculous runic marking of it. You remember the astonishment and incredulity of Atahualpa the Peruvian King. Transport yourselves into the early childhood of nations. in his own rude manner. as I say. but a Poet too. the music of human speech. great devout Thinker and Inventor. if we still admire such a man beyond all others. almost as miraculous as the first. It is a kind of second speech. A great heart laid open to take in this great Universe. that he might try the next soldier with it. the first beautiful morning-light of our Europe. how he made the Spanish Soldier who was guarding him scratch Dios on his thumb-nail. in the hearts of these strong men! Strong sons of Nature. when all yet lay in fresh young radiance as of a great sunrise. infinite radiance of hope and wonder. a wise. noble-hearted man. And now. If Odin brought Letters among his people. and here was not only a wild Captain and Fighter. discerning with his wild flashing eyes what to do. and utter a great word about it. and man’s Life here. gifted. A Hero. to ascertain whether such a miracle was possible. This Odin.On Heroes and Hero Worship 35 people! It is the greatest invention man has ever made! this of marking down the unseen thought that is in him by written characters. hope.—as the truly Great Man ever is. with his wild lion-heart daring and doing it. in his rude semi-articulate way. A Hero is a Hero at all points. but a native Scandinavian one. to be! Wonder. had a word to speak. Snorro tells us farther that Odin invented Poetry. what must these wild Norse souls. as of a young child’s thoughts. he might work magic enough! Writing by Runes has some air of being original among the Norsemen: not a Phoenician Alphabet. all that we mean by a Poet.

into adoration.— in such way did they admire their Pattern Norseman. as I said. he was noble and noblest. But he was as a light kindled in it. and make his obscure element a little lighter. Wandsworth: Odin grew into England too. The rude Norse heart burst up into boundless admiration round him. rude Nobleness of heart. is it not still Odin’s Day? Wednesbury. Wanstead. have made of him! To them. whatever it might before have been. We will fancy him to be the Type Norseman. a light of Intellect. Thought is Thought. Thus if the man Odin himself have vanished utterly. He is as a root of so many great things. I conjecture. however it speak or spell itself. Intrinsically. the greatest of all. Prophet. and grow Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . that was the fortune he had in the world. the fruit of him is found growing from deep thousands of years. we can understand well that the whole Scandinavian Scheme of Nature. these are still leaves from that root! He was the Chief God to all the Teutonic Peoples.— as is still the task of us all. God. Wuotan. as I say: and he had to shine there. there is this huge Shadow of him which still projects itself over the whole History of his People. would now begin to develop itself altogether differently. as yet without names for it. A great thought in the wild deep heart of him! The rough words he articulated. over the whole field of Teutonic Life. Our own Wednesday. are they not the rudimental roots of those English words we still use? He worked so. their Pattern Norseman. the finest Teuton whom that race had yet produced.On Heroes and Hero Worship 36 awakened into thinking. For this Odin once admitted to be God. in that obscure element. Hero. the only kind of lights we have yet. or dim No-scheme. Wansborough. a Hero. this Odin must have been of the same sort of stuff as the greatest kind of men.

or do not admire at all. the soul of man’s history here in our world. and is none. and a feeling in some shape or other perennial as man himself. is the history of every great thinker still. under new conditions. Never so helpless in shape. A rude childlike way of recognizing the divineness of Nature. nor admire without limit. in such artless. and adjusting oneself there. it is the noblest of feelings.—that were a still worse case. but hearty entire reception of a Hero by his fellow-men. legible or not legible there. ah no. yet heartfelt. the divineness of Man. To me there is something very touching in this primeval figure of Heroism. that whole Norse way of looking at the Universe. Thought. In gigantic confused lineaments. and covering the whole Northern Heaven. His way of thought became their way of thought:—such. and taught with his runes and his rhymes. expanded and confused in that manner! Ah. is not that Scandinavian Mythology in some sort the Portraiture of this man Odin? The gigantic image of his natural face. This poor Scandinavian Hero-worship.—it would be the chief use of this discoursing at present. like some enormous camera-obscure shadow thrown upwards from the dead deeps of the Past. betokening what a giant of a man this child would yet grow to!—It was a truth.On Heroes and Hero Worship 37 thenceforth in a new manner. I say. is always Thought. Is it not as Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . giantlike. what I feel deeply for a long time now. We do not now call our great men Gods. No great man lives in vain. the whole Teutonic People laid to heart and carried forward. If I could show in any measure. has an indestructible merit for us. That it is the vital element of manhood. What this Odin saw into. helpless. with limit enough! But if we have no great men. most rude. The History of the world is but the Biography of great men. robust.

as indeed of all Pagan Mythologies. unfearing way. Such recognition of Nature one finds to be the chief element of Paganism. imperfect one. honest. so much enlarged. I feel that these old Northmen wore looking into Nature with open eye and soul: most earnest. and yet manlike. A right valiant. with a great-hearted simplicity and depth and freshness. we found to be recognition of the divineness of Nature. loving. comprehend. calling out of the depths of ages to us. but you too are not yet at the top. recognition of Man. comes to be the chief element only in purer forms of religion. to large free scope of vision. in a true. Here. Sincerity is the great characteristic of it. in time or out of time. I should say. Superior sincerity (far superior) consoles us for the total want of old Grecian grace. admiring. and his Moral Duty. after thousands of years of evernew expansion. No. that matter is a thing no man will ever. This. true old race of men. sincere communion of man with the mysterious invisible Powers visibly seen at work in the world round him. childlike. in whose veins their blood still runs: “This then.On Heroes and Hero Worship 38 the half-dumb stifled voice of the long-buried generations of our own Fathers. is but a partial. your notion too. Despise it not. this is what we made of the world: this is all the image and notion we could form to ourselves of this great mystery of a Life and Universe. not to be comprehended by him. an Infinite thing!” The essence of the Scandinavian. indeed. You are raised high above it. is a great distinction and epoch in Human Beliefs. is better than grace. a great landmark in the religious development of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . is more sincerely done in the Scandinavian than in any Mythology I know. man will find himself but struggling to comprehend again a part of it: the thing is larger shall man. Sincerity. though this too is not wanting. I think.

has appointed who is to be slain. in their musical Mythologies. the Faith itself must first be there. cannot be religious Faith. It lies at the basis this for every such man.On Heroes and Hero Worship 39 Mankind. and traditions. of Thou shalt and Thou shalt not. The Valkyrs. and that the one thing needful for a man was to be brave. then Allegory enough will gather round it. as the fit body round its soul. I will remark. The Valkyrs are Choosers of the Slain: a Destiny inexorable. it is the woof out of which his whole system of thought is woven. and had not yet much to say about itself. only the base and slavish Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . that the grand point is the distinction for him of Good and Evil. which it is useless trying to bend or soften. and as it were a kind of Poetic sport. not till a later epoch does he discern that all Power is Moral. that most probably they must have been of much newer date. for a Mahomet. were comparatively idle for the old Norsemen. for a Napoleon too. Man first puts himself in relation with Nature and her Powers. Allegory and Poetic Delineation. and then that these Choosers lead the brave to a heavenly Hall of Odin. even from the first. as I said above. this was a fundamental point for the Norse believer. I can well suppose. a Luther. of an inflexible Destiny. still less to sing.—as indeed it is for all earnest men everywhere. amid all that fantastic congeries of assertions. as indeed was already hinted. With regard to all these fabulous delineations in the Edda. like other Faiths. moreover. the main practical belief a man could have was probably not much more than this: of the Valkyrs and the Hall of Odin. wonders and worships over those. Among those shadowy Edda matters. The Norse Faith. most probably. was most active while it lay mainly in the silent state.

we cannot act at all till then. unconscious that they were specially brave. We must get rid of Fear. but despise and thrust them out. yet valour of its kind. had their body laid into a ship. Old kings. A man shall and must be valiant. Odin’s creed. valid in our day as in that. the completeness of his victory over Fear will determine how much of a man he is. and if natural death seemed to be coming on. into the realms of Hela the Deathgoddess: I take this to have been the soul of the whole Norse Belief. and in such manner bury worthily the old hero. he must march forward. that Odin might receive them as warriors slain. about to die. with sails set and slow fire burning it. he thinks too as a slave and coward. the duty of being brave. it might blaze up in flame. Consider too whether there is not something in this! It is an everlasting duty. they would cut wounds in their flesh. and. A man’s acts are slavish. In the old Sea-kings too. what an indomitable rugged energy! Silent. the ship sent forth. The first duty for a man is still that of subduing Fear. I say. not fear at all. not true but specious. if they were not brave. that Odin would have no favour for them. that. if we disentangle the real kernel of it. They understood in their heart that it was indispensable to be brave. defying the wild ocean with its Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . his very thoughts are false. Now and always. till he have got Fear under his feet. with closed lips.—trusting imperturbably in the appointment and choice of the upper Powers. on the whole. as I fancy them. It is doubtless very savage that kind of valour of the old Northmen. better. is true to this hour. Snorro tells us they thought it a shame and misery not to die in battle.On Heroes and Hero Worship 40 being thrust elsewhither. and quit himself like a man. Valour is still value. at once in the sky and in the ocean! Wild bloody valour. than none. once out at sea.

has a share in governing England at this hour. to conquer Nature for us. and that his People. feeling a response to it in their own hearts. In the same direction have not we their descendants since carried it far? May such valour last forever with us! That the man Odin.—to Hrolf’s of Normandy. A more legitimate kind of valour that. through so many generations.—progenitors of our own Blakes and Nelsons! No Homer sang these Norse Sea-kings. even that wild sea-roving and battling. to some of them. Nor was it altogether nothing. and him a Divinity for telling it them: this seems to me the primary Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and all men and things. and of small fruit in the world. or Rollo Duke of Normandy. Much lies in that. showing itself against the untamed Forests and dark brute Powers of Nature. there could not produce enough come out of that! I suppose the right good fighter was oftenest also the right good forest-feller. how man thereby became a god. discerner. for instance! Hrolf.—misleading certain critics not a little. Among the Northland Sovereigns. Forest-felling Kings. speaking with a Hero’s voice and heart. for true valour. though the Skalds talk mainly of the latter. different enough from ferocity. but Agamemnon’s was a small audacity. It needed to be ascertained which was the strongest kind of men. for no nation of men could ever live by fighting alone. believed this message of his. I suppose at bottom many of them were forest-fellers as well as fighters. is the basis of all. and thought it a message out of Heaven. doer and worker in every kind. I find some who got the title Wood-cutter. the wild Sea-king.On Heroes and Hero Worship 41 monsters. as with an impressiveness out of Heaven. who were to be ruler over whom.—the right good improver. told his People the infinite importance of Valour. too.

Probably enough. The first man that began to think in this Planet of ours. every true Thinker to this hour is a kind of Odin. The Cow Adumbla. of the Creation and such like. indeed we may say undoubtedly. nor does it concern us much. from which all manner of mythologies. accordingly. symbolic practices.—nay. in some sense. the first seed is the essential thing: any branch strikes itself down into the earth.—like a Banyantree. and so. And then the second man. but only is changed.On Heroes and Hero Worship 42 seed-grain of the Norse Religion. we have a whole wood. with the earliest times. Grow. as the Voluspa in the Elder Edda. songs and sagas would naturally grow. he was the beginner of all. grows. transported into frosty countries. teaches men his way of thought. becomes a new root. Some wild Prophecies we have. with those of the Hindoos. one seed the parent of it all. It was the eager inarticulate uninstructed Mind of the whole Norse People. these things will have a kindred with the remotest lands. A Hindoo Cow. speculations. to go on articulating ever farther! The living doctrine grows. allegories. Was not the whole Norse Religion. sibylline sort. Thought does not die. Yet the darkness itself was alive. But they were comparatively an Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . a whole jungle. what we called “the enormous shadow of this man’s likeness”? Critics trace some affinity in some Norse mythuses.” has a kind of Hindoo look. earnest. of a rapt. consider that. “licking the rime from the rocks. longing only to become articulate. spreads a shadow of his own likeness over sections of the History of the World. in endless complexity. and the third man. Of the distinctive poetic character or merit of this Norse Mythology I have not room to speak.—how strangely! I called it a small light shining and shaping in the huge vortex of Norse darkness.

sends Hermoder to seek or see him: nine days and nine nights he rides through gloomy deep valleys. an honest pity. when it was no longer from the innermost heart. Inexorable! Hela will not. as the Iceland deserts. The strong old Norse heart did not go upon theatrical sublimities. shrouded in awe and horror. Frigga. as our modern Painters paint. Balder did pass here. a labyrinth of gloom. “Yes. he is the Sungod. give him up.” Hermoder rides on. with a heartiness. leaps Hellgate. They try all Nature for a remedy. but he is dead. far towards the North. these later Skalds. the beautiful. it is. they would go on singing. The beautiful and gentle has to remain there. They shall forever remain there. they had not time to tremble. and it is their songs chiefly that survive. Thor “draws down his brows” in a veritable Norse rage. I suppose. He sends his ring to Odin.On Heroes and Hero Worship 43 idle adjunct of the matter. but the Kingdom of the Dead is down yonder. directness of conception. to die with him. his mother. homeliness. Balder “the white God” dies. their veracity. “grasps his hammer till the knuckles grow white. rough as the North rocks. Nanna his Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . for Odin or any God. does see Balder. and speak with him: Balder cannot be delivered. even a tint of good humor and robust mirth in the middle of these fearful things. This is everywhere to be well kept in mind. benignant. In later centuries. I like much their robust simplicity. It is no squarebuilt gloomy palace of black ashlar marble. His Wife had volunteered to go with him. at any rate. men who as it were but toyed with the matter. Gray’s fragments of Norse Lore.—any more than Pope will of Homer. poetically symbolizing. will give one no notion of it. Hela’s gate.” Beautiful traits of pity too. or not from the heart at all. as Gray gives it us: no. arrives at the Bridge with its gold roof: the Keeper says.

” The Norse Skald has a kind of loving sport with Thor. There is a great broad humor in some of these things. and die.—Thor the Thunder-god changed into Jack the Giant-killer: but the mind that made it is here yet. Thor. but finds that Summer-heat.—Ah me!— For indeed Valour is the fountain of Pity too. his gray beard all full of hoar-frost. are Icebergs. Is it not a trait of right honest strength. scorns no business for its plebeianism. Huge untutored Brobdignag genius. harrying those chaotic Frost-monsters. the beautiful noble summer. subduing them. the critics have discovered. How strangely things grow. and do not die! There are twigs of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—needing only to be tamed down. This is the Hymir whose cattle. Hymir the huge Giant enters. and all that is great and good in man. sports with him. in these delineations. Thor himself engages in all manner of rough manual work. must and will have thunder withal! The Norse heart loves this Thor and his hammer-bolt. snatches the Pot.—of Truth. after much rough tumult. Dantes. splits pillars with the very glance of his eye. at least straitening and damaging them. that old Norse work. the “handles of it reach down to his heels. that the Gods may brew beer. claps it on his head. that the old Norse heart finds its friend in the Thunder-god? That it is not frightened away by his thunder. is ever and anon travelling to the country of the Jotuns. says Uhland. into Shakspeares. Goethes! It is all gone now. Thor.On Heroes and Hero Worship 44 wife sends her thimble to Frigga. The robust homely vigour of the Norse heart attaches one much. He is the Peasant’s friend. who has written a fine Essay on Thor. to seek Hymir’s Caldron. as we saw above. Manual Labour. as a remembrance. Thor is Summer-heat: the god of Peaceable Industry as well as Thunder. goes to Jotun-land. his true henchman and attendant is Thialfi.

all must have that can very long preserve itself by tradition alone. indeed.—by nature or accident that one has grown! In fact. and his Tragedy. out of Saxo. All deep souls see into that. That this world is after all but a show. the earnest Thinker. is really a mythic personage. It is a greatness not of mere body and gigantic bulk. Shakspeare’s Hamlet is a twig too of this same world-tree. an inward perennial truth and greatness. wild uncultivated places. there seems no doubt of that. but a rude greatness of soul. made it a Danish history. Thialfi was with him. sword of sharpness. these old Norse songs have a truth in them.—the Shakspeare.—the Hindoo Mythologist. Amleth I find. A great free glance into the very deeps of thought. they entered upon Giantland. Hynde Etin. Shakspeare. and the rest. poisoned asleep by drops in his ear. no real thing. among Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . is remarkable in this respect. as his wont was. to Utgard (the Outer Garden. and still more decisively Red Etin of Ireland. Nay. central seat of Jotun-land). in the Scottish Ballads. is a Norse mythus! Old Saxo. wandered over plains. They seem to have seen. made it what we see. I think. these brave old Northmen. with his miraculous shoes of swiftness. Etin is evidently a Jotun. these are both derived from Norseland. That is a twig of the world-tree that has grown. he is one. wherever he may be: “We are such stuff as Dreams are made of!” One of Thor’s expeditions.—a phenomenon or appearance. This poor Jack of the Nursery. what Meditation has taught all men in all ages. coat of darkness. the German Philosopher. Hamlet. There is a sublime uncomplaining melancholy traceable in these old hearts.On Heroes and Hero Worship 45 that great world-tree of Norse Belief still curiously traceable. and Loke. of the poisoned Father.—as. After various adventures.

—I remark too that it had not fingers as ours have. Thor. of force to rend rocks. and the rest undivided: a most ancient. a better blow than before. however. It was a simple habitation. There must be sparrows roosting in this tree. the door was the Glove-wrist. they entered. altogether empty. and remarked. and as the door. and said. Was that a grain of sand? Thor’s third stroke was with both his hands (the “knuckles white” I suppose). was open. and this that they took for a house was merely his Glove. who lay peaceably sleeping near by. and took refuge there. Raising his hammer. Suddenly in the dead of the night loud noises alarmed them. what is that they have dropt?—At the gate of Utgard. stood in the door. so soon as Skrymir again slept. I think. in the morning it turned out that the noise had been only the snoring of a certain enormous but peaceable Giant. Did a leaf fall? Again Thor struck. but he merely checked his snore. At nightfall they noticed a house. rustic glove! Skrymir now carried their portmanteau all day. seeking some outlet in that rude hall. The Giant merely awoke. one large hall. Neither had Thor any battle: for. which indeed formed one whole side of the house. the little closet they had fled into was the Thumb! Such a glove. the Giant Skrymir.On Heroes and Hero Worship 46 stones and trees. a place so high that you had to “strain your neck bending back to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . rubbed his cheek. had his own suspicions. They stayed there. he struck down into the Giant’s face a right thunder-bolt blow. Thor grasped his hammer. thrown aside there. lo. they found a little closet at last. His companions within ran hither and thither in their terror. and seemed to dint deep into Skrymir’s visage. prepared for fight. did not like the ways of Skrymir. determined at night to put an end to him as he slept. but the Giant only murmured. but only a thumb.

the world must have rushed to ruin! As for the Old Woman. you are no man. girds and keeps up the whole created world. there was deception of appearance in it. tail in mouth. Utgard with its sky-high gates. they handed a Drinking-horn. escorting them politely a little way. and that glove-house was some Earth-cavern! But Skrymir had vanished. said to Thor: “You are beaten then:—yet be not so much ashamed. said the Utgard people. He was a weak child. you did make it ebb. the chief Jotun. That Horn you tried to drink was the Sea. when Thor grasped his hammer to smite them. And now. gods or men. Old Age.—look at these three valleys.snake. but could not throw her. but made hardly any impression. had you torn that up. for his part. it was a common feat. had gone to air. he bent up the creature’s back. she prevails over all! And then those three strokes you struck. three times over. that is the Midgard. could not raise its feet off the ground. heartily ashamed. the bottomless! The Cat you would have lifted.On Heroes and Hero Worship 47 see the top of it. the Great World-serpent. which. to drink this dry at one draught. she was Time. on their quitting Utgard.” Skrymir went his ways. Thor and his companions were admitted. only the Giant’s voice was heard mocking: “Better come no Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . say Norse critics. there is an Old Woman that will wrestle you! Thor. Thor with his whole godlike strength could not. they told him: could he lift that Cat he saw there? Small as the feat seemed. Why. the old chaotic rocky Earth in person. Duration: with her what can wrestle? No man nor no god with her. Thor drank. they told him. could at the utmost raise one foot. seized this haggard Old Woman. To Thor. invited to take share in the games going on. but who could drink that.—why. your three strokes made these!” Thor looked at his attendant Jotun: it was Skrymir. Long and fiercely.—it was.

World-serpent against Thor. The Gods and Jotuns. and even gods die. out of the American Backwoods. as the rainbow on black tempest: only a right valiant heart is capable of that. and ruin. and new-birth into the Greater and the Better! It is the fundamental Law of Being for a creature made of Time. and Justice to reign among men. It is in the Voluspa Song. may still see into it. than in many a famed Greek Mythus shaped far better! A great broad Brobdignag grin of true humor is in this Skrymir. the divine Powers and the chaotic brute ones. prophetic idea. seemingly a very old. after long contest and partial victory by the former. strength against strength. I fancy. meet at last in universal worldembracing wrestle and duel. mirth resting on earnestness and sadness. a higher supreme God. for one catches tones of it. or Twilight of the Gods. under a still other shape. All earnest men have seen into it. That is also a very striking conception that of the Ragnarok. The old Universe with its Gods is sunk. It is the grim humor of our own Ben Jonson. Consummation. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . though all dies. which also is a law written in man’s inmost thought. Curious: this law of mutation.On Heroes and Hero Worship 48 more to Jotunheim!”— This is of the allegoric period. and half play. “twilight” sinking into darkness. swallows the created Universe. not of the prophetic and entirely devout: but as a mythus is there not real antique Norse gold in it? More true metal. rare old Ben. had been deciphered by these old earnest Thinkers in their rude style. and how. rough from the Mimerstithy. yet all death is but a phoenix fire-death. mutually extinctive. living in this Place of Hope. but it is not final death: there is to be a new Heaven and a new Earth. runs in the blood of us. as we see.

but after some time. with the sun shining on it there.—set forth reproachfully by some Conservative Pagan. King Olaf. fruitful. let us glance at the last mythus of the appearance of Thor. King Olaf. he addresses King Olaf thus: “Yes. and end there. before he could make it so. the Christian Reform King. at Stickelstad. King Olaf has been harshly blamed for his over-zeal in introducing Christianity. I fancy it to be the latest in date of all these fables. or doing other royal work: on leaving a certain haven. as they sail along the beautiful shore. is sailing with fit escort along the shore of Norway. The stranger’s conversation here is not less remarkable. it is all beautiful. drawing down his brows. from haven to haven. his answers surprise by their pertinency and depth: at length he is brought to the King. many a wild fight with the rock Jotuns. The mythus about Thor is to this effect. dispensing justice. and many a sore day had Thor. has stept in. of stately robust figure. And now you seem minded to put away Thor. red beard. surely I should have blamed him far more for an under-zeal in that! He paid dear enough for it. The courtiers address him. connected with this. in battle. where the chief Cathedral of the North has now stood for many centuries. have a care!” said the stranger. of grave eyes and aspect.—This is the last appearance of Thor on the stage of this world! Do we not see well enough how the Fable might arise. in the year 1033. near that Drontheim. it is found that a stranger. without unveracity on the part of any one? It is the way most Gods have Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—and when they looked again. a right fair home for you. King Olaf. he was nowhere to be found. green. he died by the revolt of his Pagan people. a sorrowing protest against the advance of Christianity.On Heroes and Hero Worship 49 And now. dedicated gratefully to his memory as Saint Olaf.

” what was this Neptune too but a “stranger of noble grave aspect. a rude but earnest. In like fashion to that. That Norse Religion. Consecration of Valour is not a bad thing! We will take it for good. in a different place.On Heroes and Hero Worship 50 come to appear among men: thus. sufficed for these old valiant Northmen. it is always some other side of our common Human Nature that has been developing itself. not any one of them by itself constitutes what of Human Nature is hitherto developed. “To which of these Three Religions do you specially adhere?” inquires Meister of his Teacher. as I keep repeating. it is in us yet. and will not return ever again. and combined with higher things. The actual True is the sum of all these. Thor is vanished. For the whole Past. so far as it goes. pass away the highest things. Unconsciously. “To all the Three!” answers the other: “To all the Three. All things that have been in this world. Neither is there no use in knowing something about this old Paganism of our Fathers. In a different time. if in Pindar’s time “Neptune was seen once at the Nemean Games. that old Faith withal! To know it consciously.” Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . all things that are or will be in it. the Past had always something true. is the possession of the Present. and is a precious possession. sternly impressive Consecration of Valour (so we may define it). Better to know them all than misknow them. have to vanish: we have our sad farewell to give them.”—fit to be “seen”! There is something pathetic.—with our own possessions in the Past. the whole Norse world has vanished. for they by their union first constitute the True Religion. brings us into closer and clearer relation with the Past. tragic for me in this last voice of Paganism.

has passed away without return. or how to account of him and receive him! The most significant feature in the history of an epoch is the manner it has of welcoming a Great Man. It was a rude gross error.On Heroes and Hero Worship 51 LECTURE II THE HERO AS PROPHET. The Great Man is not recognized henceforth as a god any more. A great change. It is the second phasis of Hero-worship: the first or oldest. as a Prophet. we may say. in the history of the world there will not again be any man. there is ElecBook Classics Thomas Carlyle . to the true instincts of men. MAHOMET: ISLAM. that of counting the Great Man a god. Did any set of human beings ever really think the man they saw there standing beside them a god. we advance to a very different epoch of religion. But neither can this any more be. but as one God-inspired. 8th May 1840. never so great. among a very different people: Mahometanism among the Arabs. Ever.] F rom the first rude times of Paganism among the Scandinavians in the North. the maker of this world? Perhaps not: it was usually some man they remembered. what a change and progress is indicated here. Nay we might rationally ask. or had seen. whom his fellowmen will take for a god. in the universal condition and thoughts of men! The Hero is not now regarded as a God among his fellowmen. Yet let us say that it is at all times difficult to know what he is. [Friday.

a god! This was imperfect enough: but to welcome. Luther.—to fall prostrate before the Great Man. Burns. For at bottom the Great Man. difficult to do well in any age. one may perhaps call that of Burns a still uglier phenomenon. Indeed. but such unreasoning. and the shapes they assume. a Burns as we did. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . betokening still sadder imperfections in mankind’s ways. sent to amuse us a little. we shall see. and sink it into ashes. as he comes from the hand of Nature. wreck and ineffectuality: such reception of a Great Man I do not call very perfect either! Looking into the heart of the thing. one may say. or what they shall take him to be? that is ever a grand question. as through a little window. this of Hero-worship: different in each age. Johnson. The worship of Odin astonishes us. a man of “genius” as we call it. I hope to make it appear that these are all originally of one stuff. by their way of answering that. are they so immeasurably diverse. that only by the world’s reception of them.On Heroes and Hero Worship 52 something godlike in him. We have chosen Mahomet not as the most eminent Prophet. into the very heart of these men’s spiritual condition. Whether they shall take him to be a god. was not good. nay irrational supercilious no-love at all is perhaps still worse!—It is a thing forever changing. is to do it well. and feel in their hearts that he was a denizen of the skies. into deliquium of love and wonder over him. for example. the Soul of a Man actually sent down from the skies with a God’smessage to us. to be a prophet. the heart of the whole business of the age. is ever the same kind of thing: Odin. was that what we can call perfect? The most precious gift that Heaven can give to the Earth. than the Scandinavian method itself! To fall into mere unreasoning deliquium of love and admiration.—this we waste away as an idle artificial firework.

which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man. and pass for an angel dictating to him? Grotius answered that there was no proof! It is really time to dismiss all that. begins really to be now untenable to any one. One would be entirely at a loss what to think of this world at all. such theories are very lamentable. Are we to suppose that it was a miserable piece of spiritual legerdemain. any of us. will then be a more answerable question. The word this man spoke has been the life-guidance now of a hundred and eighty millions of men these twelve hundred years. cannot form any such supposition. A greater number of God’s creatures believe in Mahomet’s word at this hour. Farther. let us disbelieve them wholly! They are the product of an Age of Scepticism: they indicate the saddest spiritual paralysis. as there is no danger of our becoming. and mere death-life of the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . that he was a scheming Impostor. are disgraceful to ourselves only. that his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity. He is by no means the truest of Prophets.On Heroes and Hero Worship 53 but as the one we are freest to speak of. this which so many creatures of the Almighty have lived by and died by? I. but I do esteem him a true one. It is the way to get at his secret: let us try to understand what he meant with the world. if quackery so grew and were sanctioned here. for my part. what the world meant and means with him. The lies. Where the proof was of that story of the pigeon. trained to pick peas from Mahomet’s ear. When Pococke inquired of Grotius. I will believe most things sooner than that. Mahometans. These hundred and eighty millions were made by God as well as we. Alas. I mean to say all the good of him I justly can. If we would attain to knowledge of anything in God’s true Creation. a Falsehood incarnate. than in any other word whatever. Our current hypothesis about Mahomet.

No. It seems to me the primary foundation of him. Burns. be verily in communion with Nature and the truth of things. but is first of all in right earnest about it. what I call a sincere man. this. burnt clay and what else be works in. for a day. he is conscious rather of insincerity. genuine sincerity. The Great Man’s sincerity is of the kind he cannot speak of. a false man cannot build a brick house! If he do not know and follow truly the properties of mortar. but a rubbish-heap. I think. and of all that can lie in him. prominent world-leaders.On Heroes and Hero Worship 54 souls of men: more godless theory. is not conscious of: nay. It will not stand for twelve centuries. that is a very poor matter indeed. It is like a forged banknote. I should say sincerity. Not the sincerity that calls itself sincere. a deep. of him I will venture to assert that it is incredible he should have been other than true. proclaiming with terrible veracity that forged notes are forged. was never promulgated in this Earth. have to smart for it. they get it passed out of their worthless hands: others. A man must conform himself to Nature’s laws. perhaps does not ask himself if he is so: I Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Cromwell. great. ah no. Napoleon. not they. it is no house that he makes. far from that. oftenest self-conceit mainly. to lodge a hundred and eighty millions. Nature bursts up in fire-flames. not at all! Speciosities are specious— ah me!—a Cagliostro. do prosper by their quackery. is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic. French Revolutions and such like. the Great Man does not boast himself sincere. I suppose.—a shallow braggart conscious sincerity. no man adequate to do anything. it will fall straightway. many Cagliostros. A false man found a religion? Why. or Nature will answer him. for what man can walk accurately by the law of truth for one day? No. But of a Great Man especially. No Mirabeau.

there!—I wish you to take this as my primary definition of a Great Man. first of all. The rude message he delivered was a real one withal. Though all men should forget its truth. he is portion of the primal reality of things. his sincerity does not depend on himself. undeniable.”—what we must call such for want of some other name? It is from the heart of the world that he comes. he comes to us at first-hand. Such a man is what we call an original man. miserable. The Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . has not God made him. he is great by that. there. and has to live. it is competent to all men that God has made: but a Great Man cannot be without it. it glares in upon him. we all feel that the words he utters are as no other man’s words. Really his utterances. God. an earnest confused voice from the unknown Deep. homeless. he cannot get out of the awful presence of this Reality.—he lives. he cannot. a poor conscious ambitious schemer.—in one way or other. we cannot conceive him so. Fearful and wonderful. the latest and newest of all? The “inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding:” we must listen before all to him.On Heroes and Hero Worship 55 would say rather. he cannot help being sincere! The great Fact of Existence is great to him. We may call him Poet. are they not a kind of “revelation. His mind is so made. A messenger he. God has made many revelations: but this man too. This Mahomet. Prophet. then. Direct from the Inner Fact of things. is this Universe to him. following hearsays. real as Death. A little man may have this. in daily communion with that. Fly as he will. Hearsays cannot hide it from him. we will in no wise consider as an Inanity and Theatricality. he is blind. At all moments the Flame-image glares in upon him. real as Life. sent from the Infinite Unknown with tidings to us. and walk in a vain show.

the details of the business hide the real centre of it. down as into entire wreck. nor his workings here below. we make too much of faults. I should say. there was no want of sins. oftenbaffled. shake this primary fact about him. David’s life and history. if the inner secret of it. the Hebrew King. were that same supercilious consciousness of no sin. one would think. for a man. with tears. I consider to be the truest emblem ever given of a man’s moral progress and warfare here below. Neither can the faults. yet a struggle never ended. Is this your man according to God’s heart? The sneer. insincerities even. ever.” Of all acts.—that is death. might know better. the remorse. humility and fact. as written for us in those Psalms of his. repentance the most divine? The deadliest sin. of Mahomet. To kindle the world. blackest crimes. the world’s Maker had ordered it so. begun anew. sore baffled. a fiery mass of Life cast up from the great bosom of Nature herself. Struggle often baffled. repentance. true.On Heroes and Hero Worship 56 man’s words were not false. I say. Poor human nature! Is not a Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . On the whole. Readers of the Bible above all. What are faults. Who is called there “the man according to God’s own heart”? David. temptations. is not. imperfections. had fallen into sins enough. what are the outward details of a life. And thereupon the unbelievers sneer and ask. Faults? The greatest of faults. All earnest souls will ever discern in it the faithful struggle of an earnest human soul towards what is good and best. the heart so conscious is divorced from sincerity. is to be conscious of none. never-ended struggle of it. I must say. is dead: it is “pure” as dead dry sand is pure. be forgotten? “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. if such were never so well proved against him. true unconquerable purpose. seems to me but a shallow one. no Inanity and Simulacrum.

and yet most meditative. There is something most agile. and assuring ourselves that he did mean some true thing. We will put up with many sad details. We will leave all this behind us. left alone with the Universe. by day a fierce sun blazing down on it with intolerable radiance. deep-hearted race of men. deep-abased. with tears. In this wild element of a Life. there is greenness. he has to rise again. date-trees. we will call the Arabs Oriental Italians. as one having right to all that is Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . silent. ask candidly what it was or might be. a people of wild strong feelings. That his struggle be a faithful unconquerable one: that is the question of questions. alternating with beautiful strips of verdure: wherever water is. The wild Bedouin welcomes the stranger to his tent. if the soul of it were true. Details by themselves will never teach us what it is. frankincense-trees. active. the fit habitation for such a race. like a sand-sea. repentance. enthusiastic in the Arab character. and of iron restraint over these: the characteristic of noble-mindedness. odoriferous balm-shrubs. great grim deserts. Their country itself is notable. I believe we misestimate Mahomet’s faults even as faults: but the secret of him will never be got by dwelling there. You are all alone there. Such a country is fit for a swift-handed. These Arabs Mahomet was born among are certainly a notable people. Savage inaccessible rock-mountains. Consider that wide waste horizon of sand. he has to struggle onwards. in truth. of genius. and ever. beauty. by night the great deep Heaven with its stars. dividing habitable place from habitable. always that: “a succession of falls”? Man can do no other. A gifted noble people. struggle again still onwards. now fallen. The Persians are called the French of the East.On Heroes and Hero Worship 57 man’s walking. empty. with bleeding heart.

in the South of Arabia. according to their light. taciturn rather. he will slay his foal to treat him. They had “Poetic contests” among them before the time of Mahomet. One Jewish quality these Arabs manifest. From of old they had been zealous worshippers. these Arabs. there were yearly fairs. and there. will serve him with sacred hospitality for three days. worshipped many natural objects. They are. of the Maker of Nature. truthful kind of men. “poetic beauty” as we name it. when the merchandising was done. which is not Jewish. at Ocadh. Teachers each to his tribe. as we know. An earnest. Poets sang for prizes:—the wild people gathered to hear that. for doing that. In words too as in action.—a kind of diluted worship. as I urged.On Heroes and Hero Worship 58 there. still account it a merit to recognize a certain inexhaustible significance. Sale says. and yet not wholly wrong. and honoured. apart from all theories about Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . were it his worst enemy. will set him fairly on his way. still palpable to every one of us. They worshipped the stars. as Sabeans. They had many Prophets. All God’s works are still in a sense symbols of God. and speaking or singing it. kill him if he can. but eloquent. But indeed. immediate manifestations. Do we not. gifted when they do speak. the outcome of many or of all high qualities: what we may call religiosity. each according to the light he had. in all natural objects whatsoever? A man is a poet. of what devoutness and noble-mindedness had dwelt in these rustic thoughtful peoples? Biblical critics seem agreed that our own Book of Job was written in that region of the world. brilliant.—recognized them as symbols. It was wrong. I call that.—and then. have we not from of old the noblest of proofs. of Jewish kindred: but with that deadly terrible earnestness of the Jews they seem to combine something graceful. They are not a loquacious people. by another law as sacred.

and God’s ways with him here in this earth. So true every way.—man’s destiny. and repose of reconcilement. A noble Book. In that case. and great. different from noble patriotism or sectarianism. in the Bible or out of it.—still more so in those hot dry countries. true eyesight and vision for all things. that is. the mildly understanding heart. A Well is in all places a beautiful affecting object. gushing out like life from the hard earth. all men’s Book! It is our first. And all in such free flowing outlines. where it is the first condition of being. Sublime sorrow. as if it were not Hebrew. material things no less than spiritual: the Horse. as the summer midnight. one of the grandest things ever written with pen. still kept in the building called Caabah. The Well Zemzem has its name from the bubbling sound of the waters. the Caabah is built over both. most honoured temple in his time. of equal literary merit.—so soft. indeed. There is the seeing eye. zemzem. some half-century before our Era. as the oldest. I think. oldest statement of the never-ending Problem. in its simplicity. oldest choral melody as of the heart of mankind. such a noble universality. sublime reconciliation. at Mecca. Diodorus Siculus mentions this Caabah in a way not to be mistaken. reigns in it.—”hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?”—he “laughs at the shaking of the spear!” Such living likenesses were never since drawn. in its epic melody. grand in its sincerity. as the world with its seas and stars! There is nothing written. they think it is the Well which Hagar found with her little Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Silvestre de Sacy says there is some likelihood that the Black Stone is an aerolite.On Heroes and Hero Worship 59 it. One feels. some man might see it fall out of Heaven! It stands now beside the Well Zemzem.— To the idolatrous Arabs one of the most ancient universal objects of worship was that Black Stone.

An authentic fragment of the oldest Past. merchants have also met: where men see themselves assembled for one object. its very bread. five times. The government was a kind of irregular Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . have to be imported. they find that they can accomplish other objects which depend on meeting together. importers for their own behoof of provisions and corn. in the black cloth-covering the Sultan sends it yearly. The first day pilgrims meet.000. Mecca became the Fair of all Arabia.” with circuit. It is the Keblah of all Moslem: from Delhi all onwards to Morocco. with double circuit of pillars. But so many pilgrims needed lodgings: and then all places of pilgrimage do. its provisions. even Italy.On Heroes and Hero Worship 60 Ishmael in the wilderness: the aerolite and it have been sacred now. “twenty-seven cubits high. It has no natural advantage for a town.—to glitter again under the stars. though much decayed now. A great town once. A curious object. It had been from the sacredness attached to this Caabah Stone and Hagar’s Well. Syria. It had at one time a population of 100. from the pilgrimings of all tribes of Arabs thither. stands in a sandy hollow amid bare barren hills. Egypt. with festoon-rows of lamps and quaint ornaments: the lamps will be lighted again this night. become places of trade. and had a Caabah over them. for thousands of years. that Caabah! There it stands at this hour. And thereby indeed the chief staple and warehouse of whatever Commerce there was between the Indian and the Western countries. this day and all days: one of the notablest centres in the Habitation of Men. buyers. the eyes of innumerable praying men are turned towards it. forwarders of those Eastern and Western products. from the first. that Mecca took its rise as a Town. at a distance from the sea.

at once the symptom and cause of immeasurable change to all people in the world. Obscure tidings of the most important Event ever transacted in this world. so circumstanced. a hundred years old. The rest of the Nation. generally robbers too. a woman noted for her beauty. in the year 570 of our Era. much was getting into confusion and fermentation among them. have produced fermentation there. a people of great qualities.On Heroes and Hero Worship 61 aristocratic republic. or with all: held together by no open bond. Ten Men of a chief tribe. an old man. of itself. Almost at his birth he lost his Father. being oftenest at war one with another. that the man Mahomet was born. though poor. not without a touch of theocracy. had been his youngest Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . unconsciously waiting for the day when they should become notable to all the world. unnoticed by the world. the Life and Death of the Divine Man in Judea.—held mainly by the inward indissoluble bond of a common blood and language. chosen in some rough way. The Koreish were the chief tribe in Mahomet’s time. carriers. lived under similar rude patriarchal governments by one or several: herdsmen. and Keepers of the Caabah. where all forms of Arab Idolatry assembled in common adoration. It was among this Arab people. his own family was of that tribe. her worth and sense: he fell to the charge of his Grandfather. In this way had the Arabs lived for long ages. fractioned and cut asunder by deserts. He was of the family of Hashem. A good old man: Mahomet’s Father. were Governors of Mecca. traders. had in the course of centuries reached into Arabia too. Their Idolatries appear to have been in a tottering state. of the Koreish tribe as we said. at the age of six years his Mother too. Abdallah. and could not but. if it were not this meeting at the Caabah. connected with the chief persons of his country.

a century old. he left him in charge to Abu Thaleb the eldest of the Uncles. The young man here first came in contact with a quite foreign world. this of the Nestorian Monk. into beliefs and insights one day. the Nestorian Monk.” whom Abu Thaleb and he are said to have lodged with. used to say. By this Uncle. all that was left of Abdallah. glimpses of many things would doubtless be taken in. But the eyes of the lad were open. Probably enough it is greatly exaggerated. a just and rational man as everything betokens.—with one foreign element of endless moment to him: the Christian Religion. as to him that now was head of the house. in his eighteenth year one finds him a fighter following his Uncle in war. or how much any monk could have taught one still so young. which were to ripen in a strange way into views. I know not what to make of that “Sergius.On Heroes and Hero Worship 62 favourite son. accompanied his Uncle on trading journeys and such like. Mahomet. Mahomet was brought up in the best Arab way. These journeys to Syria were probably the beginning of much to Mahomet. with his old life-worn eyes. as he grew up. had no language but his own: much in Syria must have been a strange unintelligible whirlpool to him. while the boy was still but two years old. and lie very enigmatic as yet. the lost Abdallah come back again. But perhaps the most significant of all his journeys is one we find noted as of some years’ earlier date: a journey to the Fairs of Syria. Mahomet was only fourteen. nothing in their kindred was more precious than he. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . He loved the little orphan Boy greatly. At his death. One other circumstance we must not forget: that he had no school-learning. They must take care of that beautiful little Boy. He saw in Mahomet. of the thing we call school-learning none at all.

” A man of truth and fidelity. he had been remarked as a thoughtful man. wise. His companions named him “Al Amin. it seems to be the true opinion that Mahomet never could write! Life in the Desert. from his dim place. But. A man rather taciturn in speech. who cannot laugh. with its experiences. The Faithful. cordial. Except by what he could see for himself.—a good laugh in him withal: there are men whose laugh is as untrue as anything about them. yet amiable. was all his education. companionable. this of having no books. brown florid complexion.On Heroes and Hero Worship 63 The art of writing was but just introduced into Arabia. was in a manner as good as not there for him. but pertinent. has to grow up so. which swelled up black when he was in anger: like the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Of the great brother souls. he could know nothing. beaming black eyes.— alone with Nature and his own Thoughts. could take in. with his own eyes and thoughts. They noted that he always meant something. This is the only sort of speech worth speaking! Through life we find him to have been regarded as an altogether solid. Curious. when he did speak. silent when there was nothing to be said. What of this infinite Universe he.—I somehow like too that vein on the brow. always throwing light on the matter. He is alone there. genuine man. A serious. flame-beacons through so many lands and times. if we will reflect on it. true in what he did. One hears of Mahomet’s beauty: his fine sagacious honest face. brotherly. The wisdom that had been before him or at a distance from him in the world. sincere. deep down in the bosom of the Wilderness. sincere character. from an early age. so much and no more of it was he to know. jocose even. or hear of by uncertain rumour of speech in the obscure Arabian Desert. no one directly communicates with this great soul. in what he spake and thought.

had been sufficient hitherto. all uncultured. Ah no: this deep-hearted Son of the Wilderness. and peace growing to be the chief thing this world could give him. yet just. All his “ambition. date from after his fiftieth year. of wild worth. adroitness. He was twenty-five. her regard for him grew: the story of their marriage is altogether a graceful intelligible one. Not till he was already getting old. wholesome way with this wedded benefactress. He seems to have lived in a most affectionate. It goes greatly against the impostor theory. as would appear. entirely quiet and commonplace way. the fact that he lived in this entirely unexceptionable. How he was placed with Kadijah. real and supposed. fire and light. true-meaning man! Full of wild faculty. and her alone. a rich Widow. All his irregularities. passionate. as one can well understand. working out his life-task in the depths of the Desert there. when the good Kadijah died. till the heat of his years was done. with his Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . she forty. loving her truly. Mahomet had it prominent. had been. as told us by the Arab authors. though still beautiful. his “fame. and travelled in her business. again to the Fairs of Syria. this black swelling vein in the brow. set up as a wretched empty charlatan to acquire what he could now no longer enjoy! For my share. as her Steward.” the mere good opinion of neighbours that knew him.” seemingly.” and. how her gratitude. I have no faith whatever in that. did he start on the “career of ambition. peaceable. with fidelity. hitherto. to live an honest life. It was a kind of feature in the Hashem family.On Heroes and Hero Worship 64 “horseshoe vein” in Scott’s Redgauntlet. He was forty before he talked of any mission from Heaven. A spontaneous. belying all his past character and existence. the prurient heat of his life all burnt out. how he managed all.

A Hero. While others walk in formulas and hearsays. of Mount Sinai.On Heroes and Hero Worship 65 beaming black eyes and open social deep soul. There was no answer. “Here am I!” Such sincerity. the stupid routine of Arab Idolatry: there was no answer in these. this man could not screen himself in formulas. he was one of those who cannot but be in earnest. vague traditions of Jews. no hearsays could hide that unspeakable fact. the Alpha and Omega of his whole Heroism. and answer. From of old. had been in this man: What am I? What is this unfathomable Thing I live in. contented enough to dwell there. which men name Universe? What is Life. he was alone with his own soul and the reality of things. The man’s own soul. The jargon of argumentative Greek Sects. with its splendours. as I repeat. which we too have to ask. Men do and must listen to that as to nothing else. and what of God’s inspiration dwelt there. had other thoughts in him than ambition. A silent great soul. as we named it. This wild man felt it to be of infinite moment. answered not. respectable formula: all these Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . respectable hearsay. The word of such a man is a Voice direct from Nature’s own Heart. in his pilgrimings and wanderings. the stern sandy solitudes answered not. has in very truth something of divine. which indeed we may call first and last. That he looks through the shows of things into things. had to answer! It is the thing which all men have to ask themselves. The great Mystery of Existence. has this first distinction. as I said. glared in upon him. The great Heaven rolling silent overhead. whom Nature herself has appointed to be sincere. with its terrors. a thousand thoughts. what is Death? What am I to believe? What am I to do? The grim rocks of Mount Hara. Use and wont. all other things of no moment whatever in comparison. with its blue-glancing stars.—all else is wind in comparison.

even now.On Heroes and Hero Worship 66 are good. into solitude and silence. “bits of black wood pretending to be God. himself silent. it was of the Heaven above and of the Hell beneath. or are not good. a praiseworthy custom. as not credible.—what could they all do for him? It was not of the Earth he wanted to hear tell. We will leave it altogether. There is something behind and beyond all these. open to the “small still voices:” it was a right natural custom! Mahomet was in his fortieth year. this impostor hypothesis. above all. worthy chiefly of dismissal by us. and all crowns in the Earth. or they are—Idolatries. Though all men walk by them. to pass the month in prayer. not. Communing with his own heart. as indeed was the Arab custom. will do nothing for this man.” to the earnest soul a mockery and abomination. who with his household was with him or near him this Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—Ambition? What could all Arabia do for this man. where would they in a few brief years be? To be Sheik of Mecca or Arabia. when having withdrawn to a cavern in Mount Hara.—will that be one’s salvation? I decidedly think. of Persian Chosroes. not very tolerable even. Mahomet had been wont to retire yearly. which all these must correspond with. All crowns and sovereignties whatsoever. Now. thou must find an answer. during the month Ramadhan. be the image of. in the silence of the mountains. or perish miserably. waited on by heads of the Koreish. would find natural and useful. and meditation on those great questions. he one day told his wife Kadijah. He there has to answer it. and have a bit of gilt wood put into your hand. or else through all Eternity never! Answer it. near Mecca. what good is it? The great Reality stands glaring there upon him. with the crown of Greek Heraclius. Idolatries never so gilded. during this Ramadhan. which such a man.

” That we must submit to God. and in devout silence follow that. that the soul of it was Good. shall be best. not questioning it. was in doubt and darkness no longer. That God is great. Wooden Idols are not real.”—and then also “Islam. That all these Idols and Formulas were nothing. a Just Law. To cease his frantic pretension of scanning this great God’s-World in his small fraction of a brain.—”If this be Islam. though deep beyond his soundings. That our whole strength lies in resigned submission to Him. a transitory garment veiling the Eternal Splendour. whatsoever He do to us. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . It has ever been held the highest wisdom for a man not merely to submit to Necessity. “Allah akbar.On Heroes and Hero Worship 67 year. all of us that have any moral life. For this world. we all live so. were it death and worse than death. precisely while he joins himself to the great deep Law of the World. that there was One God in and over all. “do we not all live in Islam?” Yes. and that there is nothing else great! He is the Reality. temporary appearances. God is great. the best. the thing wanted there. A man is right and invincible.—but to know and believe well that the stern thing which Necessity had ordered was the wisest. miserable bits of wood. we resign ourselves to God. sustains us yet. in spite of all superficial laws. He is real. and for the other! The thing He sends to us. to know that it had verily. but saw it all. and look to Him.—Necessity will make him submit. this is yet the only true morality known. I say.— that his part in it was to conform to the Law of the Whole. shall be good. That by the unspeakable special favour of Heaven he had now found it all out. we and all things are but the shadow of Him.” says Goethe. He made us at first. virtuous and on the road towards sure conquest. and we must leave all Idols. obeying it as unquestionable.

—of which the best Logics can but babble on the surface.On Heroes and Hero Worship 68 profit-and-loss calculations. to get into the truth of anything. that he therefore was bound to make known the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . it is properly the soul of Christianity. he is victorious while he co-operates with that great central Law. We are to take no counsel with flesh and blood. and alone good! This is the soul of Islam. before all. that it is good. to be resigned to God. Annihilation of Self. “Is not Belief the true god-announcing Miracle?” says Novalis. Such light had come. is to know with his whole soul that it is. not victorious otherwise:—and surely his first chance of co-operating with it. should feel as if it were important and the only important thing. This is yet the highest Wisdom that Heaven has revealed to our Earth. That Providence had unspeakably honoured him by revealing it. had Christianity not been. and say. A confused dazzling splendour as of life and Heaven. vain sorrows and wishes: to know that we know nothing. set in flame with this grand Truth vouchsafed him. neither had it been. or getting into the course of it. give ear to no vain cavils. Christianity also commands us.—for Islam is definable as a confused form of Christianity. saving him from death and darkness. to illuminate the darkness of this wild Arab soul. that the worst and cruelest to our eyes is not what it seems. was very natural. is ever a mystic act. in the great darkness which threatened to be death: he called it revelation and the angel Gabriel.” Islam means in its way Denial of Self. that we have to receive whatsoever befalls us as sent from God above. as it could. To know.—That Mahomet’s whole soul. It is good and wise. yet will I trust in Him. God is great! “Though He slay me.—who of us yet can know what to call it? It is the “inspiration of the Almighty” that giveth us understanding.

these with his young Cousin Ali. He spoke of his Doctrine to this man and that. with doubt: at length she answered: Yes. Abu Thaleb’s son. “It is certain. one day. this young brilliant Ayesha was. old.— He never forgot this good Kadijah. After some three years of small success. One can fancy too the boundless gratitude of Mahomet. and how of all the kindnesses she had done him. His progress was slow enough. the moment another soul will believe in it.” It is a boundless favour. his Slave. by all manner of qualities. that it was the highest thing. “my Conviction gains infinitely. Long afterwards. I think. this of believing the earnest struggling word he now spoke was the greatest. also believed in him. were his first converts. was altogether the usual encouragement that such a man in such a case meets. questioning him: “Now am not I better than Kadijah? She was a widow.” this too is not without its true meaning. In the whole world I had but one friend. listened to him with wonder. by Allah!” answered Mahomet: “No. and she was that!”—Seid. it was true this that he said. through her whole long life. we can fancy. by Allah! She believed in me when none else would believe.— The good Kadijah. but the most treated it with ridicule. he invited forty of his chief kindred to an entertainment. His encouragement to go on. a woman who indeed distinguished herself among the Moslem. with indifference. Ayesha his young favourite wife. and there stood up and told them what his pretension was: that he had this thing to promulgate abroad to all men.On Heroes and Hero Worship 69 same to all creatures: this is what was meant by “Mahomet is the Prophet of God. he had gained but thirteen followers. and had lost her looks: you love me better than you did her?”—” No.” says Novalis. the one thing: which of them Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in three years.

confidence in the fairness of others: he said. and exclaimed in passionate fierce language.On Heroes and Hero Worship 70 would second him in that? Amid the doubt and silence of all. among whom was Abu Thaleb. If the wound proved not unto death. they must pardon the Assassin. yet the sight there. believe it all for himself. One or two men of influence had joined him: the thing spread slowly. as mere fools and worshippers of wood! Abu Thaleb the good Uncle spoke with him: Could he not be silent about all that. could not be unfriendly to Mahomet. A noble-minded creature. a truth and affection worthy of Christian knighthood. appeared ridiculous to them. of one unlettered elderly man. That he would! The assembly. now and always afterwards. Something chivalrous in him. then they must slay him straightway. anger the chief men. Nevertheless it proved not a laughable thing. ordering him to hold his Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . but if it did. endanger himself and them all. as he shows himself. of fiery daring. young Ali. it was a very serious thing! As for this young Ali. deciding on such an enterprise against all mankind. superintendents of the Idols. Keepers of the Caabah. one cannot but like him. the assembly broke up in laughter. yet with a grace. full of affection. but it was spreading. Ali’s Father. and see which side of that quarrel was the just one! Mahomet naturally gave offence to the Koreish. with a lad of sixteen. He died by assassination in the Mosque at Bagdad. as yet a lad of sixteen. Naturally he gave offence to everybody: Who is this that pretends to be wiser than we all. and not trouble others. a death occasioned by his own generous fairness. started up. that rebukes us all. impatient of the silence. talking of it? Mahomet answered: If the Sun stood on his right hand and the Moon on his left. that so they two in the same hour might appear before God. brave as a lion.

On Heroes and Hero Worship 71 peace. open or secret danger attended him. the place they now call Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . waiting to take his life. But it was not to end so. he could not obey! No: there was something in this Truth he had got which was of Nature herself. gaining adherents in this place and that. some rider’s horse taking fright or the like. in spite of Sun and Moon.” Burst into tears: he felt that Abu Thaleb was good to him. “burst into tears. homeless. and seek refuge in Abyssinia over the sea. all his adherents had to quit Mecca. more than once it turned on a straw. publishing his Doctrine among the pilgrims as they came to Mecca. so long as the Almighty allowed it. but by and by. and all Koreish and all men and things. but his outlook at this time was one of the dismalest. equal in rank to Sun. It must do that. The Koreish grew ever angrier. fly hither and thither. whether Mahomet and his Doctrine had not ended there. the good Kadijah was dead. and. or whatsoever thing Nature had made. laid plots. hatred. in continual peril of his life. Abu Thaleb was dead. and no continuance possible at Mecca for him any longer. Mahomet is not solicitous of sympathy from us. Mahomet fled to the place then called Yathreb. one out of every tribe. and not been heard of at all. and swore oaths among them. His powerful relations protected Mahomet himself. More than once it seemed all over with him. Mahomet answered so. forty sworn men. that the task he had got was no soft. He had to hide in caverns. finding his enemies all banded against him. He went on speaking to who would listen to him. or Moon. to put Mahomet to death with their own hands. but a stern and great one. and could do no other. where he had gained some adherents. Continual contradiction. It would speak itself there. escape in disguise. they say. on his own advice. In the thirteenth year of his mission.

It is so with all men in the like case. Yet withal. at its starting. let steel try it then! Ten years more this Mahomet had. all of fighting of breathless impetuous toil and struggle. he escaped thither. through rocks and deserts. If the Koreish will have it so. the deep cry of his heart. Hitherto Mahomet had professed to publish his Religion by the way of preaching and persuasion alone. He was now becoming an old man. there is a radical mistake in it. they shall have it. It is no doubt far nobler what we have to boast of the Christian Religion. steel and murder: well.” from that circumstance. but would not even let him live if he kept speaking it. It lay some two hundred miles off. they would not listen to these. Much has been said of Mahomet’s propagating his Religion by the sword. with what result we know. the fifty-third of Mahomet’s life.—the wild Son of the Desert resolved to defend himself. But now. felt to be of infinite moment to them and all men. would trample them down by sheer violence. not without great difficulty. or “Medinat al Nabi. encompassed with danger: unless he could find hope in his own heart. the outward face of things was but hopeless for him. the City of the Prophet. that it propagated itself peaceably in the way of preaching and conviction. and found welcome. his path desolate. since unjust men had not only given no ear to his earnest Heaven’s-message.On Heroes and Hero Worship 72 Medina. The whole East dates its era from this Flight. if we take this for an argument of the truth or falsehood of a religion. is precisely in a minority Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . like a man and Arab. in such mood as we may fancy. driven foully out of his native country. his friends sinking round him one by one. hegira as they name it: the Year 1 of this Hegira is 622 of our Era. The sword indeed: but where will you get your sword! Every new opinion. Tidings.

what a greatness. she grows the wheat. says nothing of the rubbish. We do not find. composure of depth and tolerance there is in her. of the Christian Religion either. beak and claws. whatsoever is in it. in the long-run. shrouds it in. will do little for him.—has silently turned all the rest to some benefit too. the good Earth is silent about all the rest. What is better than itself. You take wheat to cast into the Earth’s bosom. dust and all imaginable rubbish. it cannot put away. but only what is worse. there it dwells as yet. your wheat may be mixed with chaff. The yellow wheat is growing there. and makes no complaint about it! So everywhere in Nature! She is Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . barn-sweepings. In one man’s head alone. a thing will propagate itself as it can. and fight. with any sword or tongue or implement it has.On Heroes and Hero Worship 73 of one. there is one man against all men. that it always disdained the sword. One man alone of the whole world believes it. we are to remember what an umpire Nature is. or can lay hold of.—the whole rubbish she silently absorbs. when once it had got one. and do. and to the uttermost bestir itself. We will let it preach. I care little about the sword: I will allow a thing to struggle for itself in this world. no matter: you cast it into the kind just Earth. In this great Duel. what we call truest. conquer nothing which does not deserve to be conquered. You must first get your sword! On the whole. That he take a sword. and try to propagate with that. and pamphleteer. Charlemagne’s conversion of the Saxons was not by preaching. and can do no wrong: the thing which is deepest-rooted in Nature. Here however. chopped straw. Nature herself is umpire. that thing and not the other will be found growing at last. very sure that it will. in reference to much that there is in Mahomet and his success.

Nature has no business with you. and so die and disappear. in some merely scientific Theorem of the Universe. and really. and yet so great. I should say a better kind than that of those miserable Syrian Sects. incomplete. and motherly in her truth. The body of all Truth dies. which in new and ever-nobler embodiment lives immortal as man himself! It is the way with Nature. a voice from the great Deep of Nature. which cannot but be found.—insincere hypothesis. Pure? I might say to many a man: Yes. is not this the history of all highest Truth that comes or ever came into the world? The body of them all is imperfection. formality. What we call pure or impure. she will protect it if so. and yet in all. erroneous. there is a soul which never dies. you are nothing. Alas. That it be genuine. which cannot be complete. the heart empty and dead! The truth of it is embedded in portentous error and falsehood. A bastard kind of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . is not with her the final question. an element of light in darkness: to us they have to come embodied in mere Logic. Not how much chaff is in you.On Heroes and Hero Worship 74 true and not a lie. and just. pure enough. but the truth of it makes it be believed. not the falsehood: it succeeded by its truth. There is a soul of truth in all the things she ever gave harbour to. but whether you have any wheat. you are properly neither pure nor impure. She requires of a thing only that it be genuine of heart. Mahomet’s Creed we called a kind of Christianity. one day. you never were in contact with the great heart of the Universe at all. if we look at the wild rapt earnestness with which it was believed and laid to heart. with their vain janglings about Homoiousion and Homoousion. the head full of worthless noise. I say. will not. if not so. The genuine essence of Truth never dies. there is the point at Nature’s judgment-seat. you are pure. hearsay. but you are chaff.

He can kill us and keep us alive: “Allah akbar. this wild man of the Desert. with a heart-life in it. you are good. God is great.”—these are wood. cooperating with them. Homoousion.” Understand that His will is the best for you. I say it was well worthy of being believed. argumentative theologies. to this day. with his wild sincere heart. Homoiousion. not vainly withstanding them: I know. they are an impotent blasphemous presence. and in the right course there. chopping barren logic merely! Out of all that rubbish of Arab idolatries. not dead. then or before or at any time. and the flies stick on them.On Heroes and Hero Worship 75 Christianity. had seen into the kernel of the matter. I say it is still the one thing worthy of being believed by all men. in what form soever it came to them. and go whither and Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . He made us. you will find it the wisest. but a living kind. if ye knew them. in this world and in the next. best: you are bound to take it so. He is in harmony with the Decrees of the Author of this World. vain logical jangle. with his great flashing natural eyesight. Idolatry is nothing: these Wooden Idols of yours. a horror and abomination. I tell you! They can do nothing for you. God alone has power. All that is right includes itself in this of co-operating with the real Tendency of the World: you succeed by this (the World’s Tendency will succeed). you have no other thing that you can do! And now if the wild idolatrous men did believe this. may jangle itself out. no better definition of Duty than that same. subtleties. Man does hereby become the high-priest of this Temple of a World. God alone is. rumours and hypotheses of Greeks and Jews. that howsoever sore to flesh and blood. “ye rub them with oil and wax. traditions. with their idle wiredrawings. earnest as death and life. In one form or the other. and with their fiery hearts lay hold of it to do it.

If it do not succeed in meaning this. especially after the Flight to Mecca. in various senses. had to go up in flame. They have mosques where it is all read daily. Syrian formulas.—mere dead fuel. asking all the world. or Reading. Islam devoured all these vain jangling Sects. Arab idolatries. logical Propositions. has the voice of this Book. seek in it for the light of their life. and walk by. be correctly worded or incorrectly. if it would mean anything. There. “Thing to be read. get through the whole each day. for this which was fire. We hear of Mahometan Doctors that had read it seventy thousand times! Very curious: if one sought for “discrepancies of national taste. Is not that a miracle? The Mahometans regard their Koran with a reverence which few Christians pay even to their Bible.” This is the Work he and his disciples made so much of. but that living concrete Sons of Adam do lay this to heart: that is the important point. the thing to be read. it means nothing. for twelve hundred years.” here surely were the most eminent instance of that! We also can Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Their Judges decide by it. and I think had right to do so. all Moslem are bound to study it. It is admitted every where as the standard of all law and all practice. at all moments. It was a Reality. that Mahomet dictated at intervals his Sacred Book.On Heroes and Hero Worship 76 how it likes: this is the thing it all struggles to mean. It was during these wild warfarings and strugglings. thirty relays of priests take it up in succession. the message sent direct out of Heaven. whatsoever was not equally real. Not that Abstractions. the thing to be gone upon in speculation and life. direct from the great Heart of Nature once more. kept sounding through the ears and the hearts of so many men. which they name Koran. which this Earth has to conform to.

This may be a great point. without any discoverable order as to time or otherwise. in short! Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran. Much of it. they say. as badly as almost any book ever was! So much for national discrepancies. as it had been written down at first promulgation. When once you get this confused coil of a Koran fairly off your hands. in the original. as a well-written book. I must say.—merely trying. Mahomet’s followers found the Koran lying all in fractions. Yet with every allowance. written. much of it. to put the longest chapters first. one feels it difficult to see how any mortal ever could consider this Koran as a Book written in Heaven. it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook. A wearisome confused jumble. The real beginning of it. most crude. and the standard of taste. unreadable masses of lumber. endless iterations. We read in it. too.—insupportable stupidity. a kind of wild chanting song. as we might in the State-Paper Office. as would seem. and not a bewildered rhapsody. It is true we have it under disadvantages: the Arabs see more method in it than we. or indeed as a book at all. flung pell-mell into a chest: and they published it. too good for the Earth. is rhythmic. is known to be a very fair one. crude. by Sale. the essential Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . entanglement. and this not very strictly.On Heroes and Hero Worship 77 read the Koran. on shoulder-blades of mutton. that perhaps we may get some glimpses of a remarkable man. incondite. our Translation of it. in that way. so far as writing goes. Yet I should say. and have it behind you at a distance. they say. Read in its historical sequence it perhaps would not be so bad. it was not unintelligible how the Arabs might so love it. incondite. lies almost at the end: for the earliest portions were the shortest. much perhaps has been lost in the Translation here. long-windedness.

or coherence. in these times. The man has not studied speaking. I know. The panting breathless haste and vehemence of a man struggling in Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . chapter after chapter got up to excuse and varnish the author’s successive sins. or perhaps at all. it will contrive to reach other hearts. Prideaux. I do not assert Mahomet’s continual sincerity: who is continually sincere? But I confess I can make nothing of the critic. earnest. untutored. of living in a mere element of conscious deceit. is stated in no sequence.On Heroes and Hero Worship 78 type of it begins to disclose itself. as they struggle and tumble there.—they are not shaped at all. forward his ambitions and quackeries: but really it is time to dismiss all that. We said “stupid:” yet natural stupidity is by no means the character of Mahomet’s Book. he can get nothing said.—still more. who would accuse him of deceit prepense. method. but fervent. If a book come from the heart. I think. With a kind of breathless intensity he strives to utter himself. these thoughts of his. of conscious deceit generally. and in this there is a merit quite other than the literary one. and others have represented it as a mere bundle of juggleries. in their chaotic inarticulate state. struggling vehemently to utter itself in words. the thoughts crowd on him pell-mell: for very multitude of things to say. rude. The meaning that is in him shapes itself into no form of composition. flung out unshaped. and writing this Koran as a forger and juggler would have done! Every candid eye. has not time to mature himself into fit speech. will read the Koran far otherwise than so. One would say the primary character of the Koran is this of its genuineness. it is natural uncultivation rather. all art and author-craft are of small amount to that. in the haste and pressure of continual fighting. It is the confused ferment of a great rude human soul. that cannot even read. of its being a bona-fide book.

would seem the inspiration of a Gabriel. coloured by the various vicissitudes of three-andtwenty years. his soul knowing rest no more. The successive utterances of a soul in that mood. seems to me the merit of the Koran. backslidings of his own wild heart. It is.On Heroes and Hero Worship 79 the thick of battle for life and salvation. seething. we will not and cannot take him. so blessed. in all senses. The man was an uncultured semi-barbarous Son of Nature. He has faults enough. Curiously. any making-up of his mind. practicing for a mess of pottage such blasphemous swindlery. But for a wretched Simulacrum. was not a juggler’s. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . would hail any light of a decision for them as a veritable light from Heaven. as the centre of a world wholly in conflict. Forger and juggler? No.— nay. through these three-andtwenty years. a hungry Impostor without eyes or heart. indispensable for him there. this is the mood he is in! A headlong haste. at bottom. Battles with the Koreish and Heathen. through these incondite masses of tradition. tossing amid these vortices. the wild soul of the man. he cannot get himself articulated into words. For we are to consider Mahomet. after all. it alone can give rise to merit of any kind. now worse: this is the Koran. what had rendered it precious to the wild Arab men. gives rise to merits of all kinds. the first and last merit in a book. for very magnitude of meaning. now well uttered. no! This great fiery heart. forgery of celestial documents. Sincerity. as one may fancy. this God’s Universe an awful Fact and Reality. In wakeful nights. all this kept him in a perpetual whirl. much of the Bedouin still clinging to him: we must take him for that. His Life was a Fact to him. quarrels among his own people. simmering like a great furnace of thoughts. continual high-treason against his Maker and Self.

a vein of true direct insight. and been received by them even as he Mahomet was. A brave Samuel Johnson. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . He has actually an eye for the world. as we can see. warning men of their sin. Great Nature’s own gift. Mahomet can work no miracles. at least they are far surpassed there. had come to this Tribe and to that. this is to me a highly interesting object. I make but little of his praises of Allah. he brings home still. But the eye that flashes direct into the heart of things. might con over the Biographies of Authors in that way! This is the great staple of the Koran. These things he repeats ten. the thing his own heart has been opened to. ejaculation in the Koran.—which is a great solace to him. I? “I am a Public Preacher. He returns forever to the old stories of the Prophets as they went current in the Arab memory: how Prophet after Prophet. but which only one in the thousand does not cast sorrowfully away: it is what I call sincerity of vision. which many praise. and sees the truth of them. the Prophet Abraham. and as it were vehement enthusiastic extempore preaching. of what we might almost call poetry. through all this. they are borrowed I suppose mainly from the Hebrew. has never done repeating them. in his forlorn garret. But curiously. to our heart. is found straggling. with wearisome iteration. again and ever again.On Heroes and Hero Worship 80 vituperation. this Mahomet: with a certain directness and rugged vigour. which she bestows on all.” appointed to preach this doctrine to all creatures. The body of the Book is made up of mere tradition. complaint. perhaps twenty times. comes ever and anon some glance as of the real thinker and seer. Christian and other real and fabulous Prophets. the Prophet Moses. the test of a sincere heart. Yet the world. he often answers impatiently: I can work no miracles. the Prophet Hud.

anon they lie motionless. you have your clothing from them. your strength fades into feebleness. they come ranking home at evening-time. is it not wonderful. and gray hairs. go bounding through the water there. Is not that a sign?” Your cattle too.On Heroes and Hero Worship 81 had really from of old been all one great miracle to him.— The clouds in the dry country of Arabia. very strange creatures. God has withdrawn the wind. born in the deep bosom of the Upper Immensity.” adds he. and again are not. the great black monsters. ye sink down. and “tall leafy palm-trees with their date-clusters hanging round.—he talks often about ships: Huge moving mountains. they lie dead. a glance at first-hand into the very fact of things. “shaped you out of a little clay. are visible in this man. thoughts. Ye have beauty. they change the grass into milk. God made it for you. he says. “ye have compassion on one another. of whatsoever is best and truest. wholly “a sign to you. Look over the world.—how had it been then! This is a great direct thought. says he. go to and fro on it.” and grass springs. Rude vestiges of poetic genius. to Mahomet they are very wonderful: Great clouds.” Old age comes on you. heart: a strong wild Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and cannot stir! Miracles? cries he: What miracle would you have? Are not you yourselves there? God made you. “and are a credit to you!” Ships also. A strong untutored intellect. they spread out their cloth wings. the work of Allah. Heaven’s wind driving them. eyesight. pour down their rain-deluges “to revive a dead earth. “appointed paths in it. strength.” you can live in it. “and. where do they come from! They hang there.” Ye were small once.” if your eyes were open! This Earth. serviceable dumb creatures. “Ye have compassion on one another:” this struck me much: Allah might have made you having no compassion on one another. a few years ago ye were not at all.—Allah made them.

nothing more. contentious.” melt into the Blue as clouds do. and a Terror not to be named. as the true force. At the Last Day they shall disappear “like clouds. is a visual and factual Manifestation of God’s power and presence.—a shadow hung out by Him on the bosom of the void Infinite. he says. not even as one thing at all. The mountains. in those laboratories of ours. any kind of Hero. Laws of Nature. was continually clear to this man. without this. whirl itself off into wreck. and not be! He figures the Earth. withered. they shall dissipate themselves “like clouds. The best science. good for propelling steamships! With our Sciences and Cyclopaedias.—might have shaped himself into Poet. these great rock-mountains. Priest.” the whole Earth shall go spinning. Allah withdraws his hand from it. a Splendour. we are apt to forget the divineness. and it ceases to be. the rude Scandinavians themselves. in one way or other. empty. essence and reality. and does not figure as a divine thing. Sale tells us. I know not what else were worth remembering. Nothing.—salable. We ought not to forget it! That once well forgotten. in all things whatsoever. is but as the dead timber. What a modern talks of by the name. and as dust and vapor vanish in the Inane. in the Arab fashion. it Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .On Heroes and Hero Worship 82 man. undivine enough. have contrived to see: That this so solid-looking material world is. Forces of Nature. in very deed. all great thinkers. presence everywhere of an unspeakable Power. I think were then a very dead thing. To his eyes it is forever clear that this world wholly is miraculous. but as a set of things. King.—a thistle in late autumn. as we said once before. Most sciences. curious. at bottom. He sees what. The universal empire of Allah. the mountains are set on that to steady it. as an immense Plain or flat Plate of ground.

that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. it did not “succeed by being an easy religion. and vindicate himself under God’s Heaven as a god-made Man. hired to be shot. Difficulty. His Religion is not an easy one: with rigorous fasts. the dullest day-drudge kindles into a hero. recompense.” As if indeed any religion. Kindle the inner genial life of him. among other things! Man cannot know either. but something higher: one sees this even in the frivolous classes. and abstinence from wine. no. or cause holding of religion. which he permitted.—which gives ever-new timber. otherwise. by awakening the Heroic Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . unquestioned from immemorial time in Arabia. what he did was to curtail them. It is not to taste sweet things. abnegation. strict complex formulas.” different from drillregulations and the shilling a day. criminal to us. he found them practiced. you have a flame that burns up all lower considerations. hope of pleasure. death are the allurements that act on the heart of man.— sugar-plums of any kind. They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. more than was just. prayers five times a day. martyrdom. with their “point of honour” and the like. but to do noble and true things. in this world or the next! In the meanest mortal there lies something nobler. The poor swearing soldier. has his “honour of a soldier. His knowledge is a pedantry. lavations. Show him the way of doing that.On Heroes and Hero Worship 83 is not the growing tree and forest. The indulgences. were not of his appointment. Much has been said and written about the sensuality of Mahomet’s Religion. restrict them. not on one but on many sides. could succeed by that! It is a calumny on men to say that they are roused to heroic action by ease. Not by flattering our appetites. Not happiness. unless he can worship in some way. and dead thistle.

he stood there face to face with them. let him be called what you like! No emperor with his tiaras was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clouting. in close contact with him always. A poor. bare. ill-provided man. hard-toiling. careless of what vulgar men toil for. fighting and jostling three-and-twenty years at his hand. not bad.—nay on enjoyments of any kind.—or these wild Arab men. after all that can be said about him. something better in him than hunger of any sort. can any Religion gain followers. not enshrined in any mystery. Not a bad man. Generous things are recorded of him: when he lost his Daughter. in trembling hope. During three-and-twenty years of rough actual trial. His last words are a prayer. his common diet barley-bread and water: sometimes for months there was not a fire once lighted on his hearth. of itself. I find something of a veritable Hero necessary for that. counselling. the thing he answers is. They called him Prophet. no man could have commanded them. you say? Why. We shall err widely if we consider this man as a common voluptuary. visibly clouting his own cloak. was not a sensual man. They record with just pride that he would mend his own shoes. broken ejaculations of a heart struggling up. His household was of the frugalest. cobbling his own shoes. towards its Maker. ordering in the midst of them: they must have seen what kind of a man he was. into all kinds of fierce sincerity. would not have reverenced him so! They were wild men. in his own dialect. We cannot say that his religion made him worse. good. I should say. bursting ever and anon into quarrel. every way Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . it made him better.On Heroes and Hero Worship 84 that slumbers in every heart. patch his own cloak. fighting. without right worth and manhood. intent mainly on base enjoyments. Mahomet himself.

If he owed any man? A voice answered. Seid had done his Master’s work. Mahomet ordered them to be paid: “Better be in shame now. Withal I like Mahomet for his total freedom from cant.” In a life-and-death war with Bedouins. the first of Mahomet’s fightings with the Greeks.” borrowed on such an occasion. “the respect due unto thee. speaks plainly to all manner of Persian Kings. each called for. no boast of the other. two days before his death. and the “No. of noble natural pity and generosity wanting.”—He went out for the last time into the mosque. what it is they are bound to do.”—You remember Kadijah. “than at the Day of Judgment. brought visible through twelve centuries.—”You see a friend weeping over his friend. Mahomet said. It was well. does not pretend to be what he is not. his emancipated well-beloved Slave. me three drachms. Greek Emperors. Seid had now gone to his Master: it was all well with Seid. Mahomet makes no apology for the one. about himself. the brother of us all. “Yes. Seid had fallen in the War of Tabuc. He is a rough self-helping son of the wilderness. knows well enough. Yet Seid’s daughter found him weeping over the body.—the veritable Son of our common Mother.—the old gray-haired man melting in tears! “What do I see?” said she. but neither are acts of mercy. the second of the believers. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . If he had injured any man? Let his own back bear the stripes.” said he. and yet equivalent to that of Christians. cruel things could not fail. They were each the free dictate of his heart. but neither does he go much upon humility: he is there as he can be.On Heroes and Hero Worship 85 sincere. There is no ostentatious pride in him.” He answered in like manner of Seid. in cloak and shoes of his own clouting. blessed be the name of the Lord. by Allah!” Traits of that kind show us the genuine man. “The Lord giveth. asked. and the Lord taketh away.

” No Dilettantism in this Mahomet. What will become of your harvest through all Eternity? Hot weather? Yes. The root of all other imaginable sins. We will not praise Mahomet’s moral precepts as always of the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . it was hot. most cleanly. he sees it: his heart. “Assuredly. They will be weighed out to you. ye shall not have short weight!— Everywhere he fixes the matter in his eye. is as if struck dumb by the greatness of it.On Heroes and Hero Worship 86 there and then. pleaded the heat of the weather. says nothing harsh to anybody. he does not mince matters! The War of Tabuc is a thing he often speaks of: his men refused. many of them. The rational moral principle. a kind of amateur-search for Truth. but is himself a falsehood. inoffensive.—just as carbonic acid is. to march on that occasion. which is death and poison. if the case call for it.” Such a man not only utters and produces falsehoods. in quiet paralysis of life-death. the harvest.— ”living in a vain show. He is the insincere man: smoothpolished. hypothesis. It consists in the heart and soul of the man never having been open to Truth. toying and coquetting with Truth: this is the sorest sin.” he says: that word. is written down sometimes as a sentence by itself: “Assuredly. now and then. The very falsehoods of Mahomet are truer than the truths of such a man. Ye shall have the just measure of your deeds at that Great Day. is sunk deep in him. Your harvest? It lasts for a day. in the Koran. Not a mealy-mouthed man! A candid ferocity. speculation. it is a business of Reprobation and Salvation with him. he can never forget that. and so forth. is in him. respectable in some times and places. of Time and Eternity: he is in deadly earnest about it! Dilettantism. spark of the Divinity. “but Hell will be hotter!” Sometimes a rough sarcasm turns up: He says to the unbelievers.

this shall infinitely transcend all other joys. that they are the true dictates of a heart aiming towards what is just and true. as the one blessing. of those that are afflicted and need help. Mahomet’s Paradise is sensual. Islam. whatever that may be. like any great Faith. “Ye shall sit on seats. that Mahomet. In the Koran there is really very little said about the joys of Paradise. his Hell sensual: true. and seek. is a perfect equalizer of men: the soul of one believer outweighs all earthly kingships. The sublime forgiveness of Christianity. turning of the other cheek when the one has been smitten. but on the necessity of it: he marks down by law how much you are to give. Have Peace!—the thing that all rational souls long for.” Salam. in the one and the other there is enough that shocks all spiritual feeling in us. in whatever he changed of it. followers of his. is not here: you are to revenge yourself. softened and diminished all this. Mahomet insists not on the propriety of giving alms. or beyond justice. Nor is it forgotten that the highest joys even there shall be spiritual. “Your salutation shall be. not his work. not overmuch. Good all this: the natural voice of humanity. Peace. On the other hand. but it is to be in measure. too.On Heroes and Hero Worship 87 superfinest sort. according to Islam too. and it is at your peril if you neglect. facing one another: all grudges shall be taken away Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and insight into the essence of man. are the work of doctors. He says. is the property of the poor. The worst sensualities. they are intimated rather than insisted on. The tenth part of a man’s annual income. yet it can be said that there is always a tendency to good in them. are equal. all men. But we are to recollect that the Arabs already had it so. of pity and equity dwelling in the heart of this wild Son of Nature speaks so. the pure Presence of the Highest. vainly here below.

Enjoying things which are pleasant. The first is furnished me by Goethe. or clear purpose of moral improvement on his part. In one of his Delineations. which is as good. and make himself do the thing he does not wish. that. that is not the evil: it is the reducing of our moral self to slavery by them that is. they are an emblem of an everlasting truth. then by a certain healthy manful instinct. This namely. one of which was this: “We require. much in his own Life. The Month Ramadhan for the Moslem. that he could and would shake them off.” shall go right against his desire in one matter. “that each of our people shall restrict himself in one direction. the hero comes upon a Society of men with very strange ways.” All grudges! Ye shall love one another freely. the great enormous Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . which it is not convenient to enter upon here. not always so well remembered elsewhere. Let a man assert withal that he is king over his habitudes. that horrible flaming Hell. in Meister’s Travels it is. That gross sensual Paradise of his.” says the Master. however gross and material they may be. there will be Heaven enough! In reference to this of the sensual Paradise and Mahomet’s sensuality. much in Mahomet’s Religion. on cause shown: this is an excellent law. the sorest chapter of all for us. it is a casual hint of his which seems well worth taking note of. there were many things to be said. Two remarks only I shall make.” There seems to me a great justness in this. bears in that direction. and therewith leave it to your candour. But there is another thing to be said about the Mahometan Heaven and Hell. for each of you. in the eyes of his brothers.On Heroes and Hero Worship 88 out of your hearts. if not by forethought. “should we allow him the greater latitude on all other sides.

like a Bentham. with a fierce savage sincerity. pleasures and pains on:—If you ask me which Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Whether on the whole the Right does not preponderate considerably? No.—as Heaven is to Hell. it is the first of all truths. unspeakable. ever present to him. a Paley. not able to articulate. with his little life. ask you. As in flame and lightning. it stands written there. and summing all up by addition and subtraction into a net result. he strives to speak it. You shall not measure them. reaches upwards high as Heaven. and calculate the profit and loss. and in his threescore years of Time holds an Eternity fearfully and wonderfully hidden: all this had burnt itself. the other in nowise left undone. that man. in a way that might put some of us to shame! He does not. into the wild Arab soul.On Heroes and Hero Worship 89 Day of Judgment he perpetually insists on: what is all this but a rude shadow. and Beginning of Facts. What is the chief end of man here below? Mahomet has answered this question. they are incommensurable: the one is death eternal to a man. the one is to the other as life is to death. the other is life eternal. in the rude Bedouin imagination. downwards low as Hell. ultimate pleasure of the one and of the other. half-articulating. reducing this God’s-world to a dead brute Steam-engine. it is not better to do the one than the other. of that grand spiritual Fact. virtue by Profit and Loss. With bursting earnestness. which it is ill for us too if we do not all know and feel: the Infinite Nature of Duty? That man’s actions here are of infinite moment to him. The one must in nowise be done. as in flame-characters. bodies it forth in that Heaven and that Hell. It is venerable under all embodiments. the infinite celestial Soul of Man to a kind of Hay-balance for weighing hay and thistles on. take Right and Wrong. Benthamee Utility. awful. and never die or end at all. Bodied forth in what way you will.

look at the truth of it. and a truly celestial element superadded to that. Above all things. sounds through the souls. it is not Mahomet!— On the whole. The Scandinavian God Wish. the god of all rude men. “Who goes? “ will hear from the passenger.— displacing what is worse. This night the watchman on the streets of Cairo when he cries.—this has been enlarged into a Heaven by Mahomet. we will repeat that this Religion of Mahomet’s is a kind of Christianity. or only perhaps the English Puritans in modern times.On Heroes and Hero Worship 90 gives. it has been a religion heartily believed. and whole daily existence. roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . These Arabs believe their religion. along with his answer. brutal Idolaters. fronting Time with it. by valiant action. have ever stood by their Faith as the Moslem do by theirs. look not at the falsehood of it.—believing it wholly.” Allah akbar. it has been the religion and life-guidance of the fifth part of the whole kindred of Mankind. the beggarlier and falser view of Man and his Destinies in this Universe. Zealous missionaries preach it abroad among Malays. not to be hidden by all its imperfections. since the early ages. nothing that is better or good. Mahomet or they. Islam. It is Scandinavian Paganism. Call it not false. of these dusky millions. For these twelve centuries. and Eternity with it. black Papuans. I will answer. and to be earned by faith and well-doing. To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light. “There is no God but God. but a Heaven symbolical of sacred Duty. and try to live by it! No Christians. Arabia first became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people. and a divine patience which is still more valiant. has a genuine element of what is spiritually highest looking through it.

Arabia shines through long ages over a great section of the world. on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . within one century afterwards. Belief is great.—is it not as if a spark had fallen. but lo. and that one century. the unnoticed becomes world-notable. The history of a Nation becomes fruitful. and then they too would flame.—glancing in valour and splendour and the light of genius. the man Mahomet. great. the small has grown world-great. the rest of men waited for him like fuel. soul-elevating. Arabia is at Grenada on this hand. the Great Man was always as lightning out of Heaven. life-giving. so soon as it believes. These Arabs. one spark.On Heroes and Hero Worship 91 believe: see. blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada! I said. at Delhi on that. the sand proves explosive powder.

or almost vacant of scientific forms. as it were. and places. that the Hero can be Poet. whom the newest age as the oldest may produce. however.] T he Hero as Divinity.On Heroes and Hero Worship 92 LECTURE III THE HERO AS POET. in no age is it other than possible that he may be shaped into a Poet. Poet. Hero. do we give to Great Men. that the different sphere constitutes the grand origin of such distinction. are productions of old ages. DANTE: SHAKSPEARE. Prophet. There needs to be. a world vacant. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception. The Poet is a heroic figure belonging to all ages. Let Nature send a Hero-soul.—and will produce. not to be repeated in the new. if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow-man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god. in different times. 12th May 1840. which the progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. according to varieties we note in them. but also less questionable. [Tuesday. as a fact not unimportant to be understood. always when Nature pleases. when once he is produced. whom all ages possess. ElecBook Classics Thomas Carlyle . the Hero as Prophet. Divinity and Prophet are past. character of Poet. We are now to see our Hero in the less ambitious. a character which does not pass. I will remark again. on this same principle. according to the sphere in which they have displayed themselves! We might give many more names.—many different names.

the things Turenne says are full of sagacity and geniality. But it is as with common men in the learning of trades. So too I cannot understand how a Mirabeau. I have no notion of a truly great man that could not be all sorts of men.—in one or the other degree. Philosopher. he could have been. more than all other men. and compose stanzas. in the self-same mould. unless he himself were at least a Heroic warrior too. The grand fundamental character is that of Great Man. would never make a stanza worth much. that the man be great. but infinitely more of circumstance. according to the kind of world he finds himself born into. like sayings of Samuel Johnson. might have made a still better Mirabeau. in the supreme degree. he is all these. with that great glowing heart. Louis Fourteenth’s Marshals are a kind of poetical men withal. no man whatever. Legislator. King. You Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . poems. I fancy there is in him the Politician. Petrarch and Boccaccio did diplomatic messages. with the bursting tears that were in it. with the fire that was in it.On Heroes and Hero Worship 93 Prophet. they had done things a little harder than these! Burns.—one knows not what he could not have made. True. a gifted song-writer. had his course of life and education led him thitherward. and far oftenest it is the latter only that are looked to. Napoleon has words in him which are like Austerlitz Battles. The great heart. in what province soever. could not have written verses. Varieties of aptitude doubtless. can prosper at all without these. and touched all hearts in that way. The Poet who could merely sit on a chair. Priest or what you will. He could not sing the Heroic warrior. I confess. the clear deep-seeing eye: there it lies. Shakspeare. Nature does not make all great men. quite well: one can easily believe it. tragedies. it seems. the Thinker. there are aptitudes of Nature too.

and near at hand a tailor with the frame of a Samson handling a bit of cloth and small Whitechapel needle. again. which lies everywhere in all Beings. a mason: he is then and thenceforth that and nothing else. Poet? It is an inexplicably complex controversial-calculation between the world and him! He will read the world and its laws. well understood. in this most important respect especially. shall permit and bid is. and make him into a smith. the embodiment that renders it visible. as Addison complains. staggering under his load on spindle-shanks. the most important fact about the world. what Goethe calls “the open secret.”—open to all. to what shall he be bound apprentice? Given your Hero. as yet a vague capability of a man. who could be any kind of craftsman.” as Fichte styles it. is he to become Conqueror. of which all Appearance. Vates means both Prophet and Poet: and indeed at all times.—it cannot be considered that aptitude of Nature alone has been consulted here either!—The Great Man also. This divine Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . is but the vesture. Prophet and Poet.On Heroes and Hero Worship 94 take any man. Fundamentally indeed they are still the same. “the Divine Idea of the World. as we said. the world with its laws will be there to be read. that which lies at the bottom of Appearance. That they have penetrated both of them into the sacred mystery of the Universe. seen by almost none! That divine mystery. from the starry sky to the grass of the field. on this matter. King. a carpenter. In some old languages. What the world. the titles are synonymous. but especially the Appearance of Man and his work. And if. have much kindred of meaning. you sometimes see a street-porter.— Poet and Prophet differ greatly in our loose modern notions of them. Philosopher.” “Which is the great secret?” asks one.—”The open secret.

So far Poet and Prophet. but a direct Insight and Belief. definable always in one or the other dialect. here is no Hearsay. without consent asked of him. has seized that sacred mystery rather on the moral side. But indeed these two provinces run into one Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . The one we may call a revealer of what we are to do. this man too could not help being a sincere man! Whosoever may live in the shows of things.—that sacred mystery which he more than others lives ever present with. at present. the Vates Poet on what the Germans call the aesthetic side. he finds himself living in it. I say. While others forget it. Really a most mournful pity. has penetrated into it. live ever in the knowledge of it. to speak much about this. the Vates. says the Satirist.” are one. in earnest with the Universe. is a man sent hither to make it more impressively known to us. he knows it. With respect to their distinction again: The Vates Prophet. He is a Vates. though all others were but toying with it. whoever may forget this divine mystery. in virtue of being sincere.On Heroes and Hero Worship 95 mystery is in all times and in all places. is considered a trivial. first of all. if we live otherwise! But now. he has been driven to know it. it is for him a necessity of nature to live in the very fact of things. which some upholsterer had put together! It could do no good. commonplace matter.—as if. but it is a pity for every one of us if we do not know it. In most times and places it is greatly overlooked. inert. as the realized Thought of God. he is to reveal that to us. Duty and Prohibition. and the like.—a failure to live at all. as Beautiful. bound to live in it. Once more. and the Universe. participators in the “open secret. whether Prophet or Poet. veritably is. the other of what we are to love.—I might say. A man once more. as Good and Evil. That always is his message. we might say. it were a dead thing.

and cannot be disjoined. a beautiful eye looking out on you. springing up there in the humble furrow-field. the story of Hamlet as Shakspeare did: but every one models some kind of story out of it. were not inwardly Beauty? In this point of view. into the deepest deep of Beauty.On Heroes and Hero Worship 96 another.” The true Beautiful. The Prophet too has his eye on what we are to love: how else shall he know what it is we are to do? The highest Voice ever heard on this earth said withal.”—dressed finer than earthly princes. This is noteworthy.” A glance. out of Saxo Grammaticus. every one embodies it better or worse. “Consider the lilies of the field. as Dante’s own? No one but Shakspeare can embody. there is no perfect Poet! A vein of Poetry exists in the hearts of all men.” is not that the same faculty. if her Essence. which however. no man is made altogether of Poetry. “The lilies of the field.” he intimates. Where there is no specific difference. may have meaning: “The Beautiful. which has staggered several. from the great inner Sea of Beauty! How could the rude Earth make these. weaker in degree. too. I have said somewhere. We are all poets when we read a poem well. they toil not. rugged as she looks and is. clearly enough. that. whom it were a kind of treason to find fault with. The “imagination that shudders at the Hell of Dante.— In ancient and also in modern periods we find a few Poets who are accounted perfect. “is higher than the Good. neither do they spin: yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. a saying of Goethe’s. At bottom. the Beautiful includes in it the Good. “differs from the false as Heaven does from Vauxhall!” So much for the distinction and identity of Poet and Prophet. this is right: yet in strictness it is only an illusion. We need not spend time in defining. as Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .

are settled by critics in the same way. there must be a difference between true Poetry and true Speech not poetical: what is the difference? On this point many things have been written.—a day comes when he too is not! Nevertheless. as he ought to do. but in heart and substance. if pressed to give a definition. A man that has so much more of the poetic element developed in him as to have become noticeable. I find considerable meaning in the old vulgar distinction of Poetry being metrical. though not very precise. all men. no man is wholly made of that. an arbitrary distinction. One who rises so far above the general level of Poets will. have some touches of the Universal. Most Poets are very soon forgotten: but not the noblest Shakspeare or Homer of them can be remembered forever. for example. yet on so vague a matter is worth remembering: if well meditated. a certain character of “infinitude. some of which are not very intelligible at first. having music in it. some meaning will gradually be found in it. if not. that the Poet has an infinitude in him. And yet it is. For my own part. This. in the whole conception of it. and must be. all definition must be more or less arbitrary. then it will be poetical. They say. Truly.—Musical: how much lies in that! A musical thought is one spoken by a mind that has penetrated into the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . World-Poets too. communicates an Unendlichkeit. you will say. All Poets. seem a Universal Poet. musical not in word only. in all the thoughts and utterances of it. one might say this as soon as anything else: If your delineation be authentically musical.” to whatsoever he delineates. will be called Poet by his neighbours. to such and such critics.On Heroes and Hero Worship 97 between round and square. those whom we are to take for perfect Poets. not. being a Song. especially by late German Critics.

which leads us to the edge of the Infinite. and has a right to be. can express the effect music has on us? A kind of inarticulate unfathomable speech. we may say. has something of song in it: not a parish in the world but has its parish-accent. The Poet is he who thinks in that manner. are melodious. it turns still on power of intellect. All deep things are Song. Song. the inward harmony of coherence which is its soul. it is a man’s sincerity and depth of vision that makes him a Poet. even the commonest speech. of us. here in this world. seems to hold a poor rank among us. we will call musical Thought. the heart of Nature being everywhere music. whereby it exists. The Vates Poet. a song. Observe too how all passionate language does of itself become musical. namely the melody that lies hidden in it. with his melodious Apocalypse of Nature. Poetry. and of all things.—though they only notice that of others. The meaning of Song goes deep. in logical words. At bottom. detected the inmost mystery of it. See deep enough. in comparison with the Vates Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and lets us for moments gaze into that! Nay all speech. It seems somehow the very central essence of us.—the rhythm or tune to which the people there sing what they have to say! Accent is a kind of chanting. if you can only reach it. that the soul of all her voices and utterances was perfect music.On Heroes and Hero Worship 98 inmost heart of the thing. All inmost things. therefore. the speech of a man even in zealous anger becomes a chant. as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls! The primal element of us. all men have accent of their own. and you see musically. Who is there that. The Greeks fabled of Sphere-Harmonies: it was the feeling they had of the inner structure of Nature. naturally utter themselves in Song.—with a finer music than the mere accent.

If we consider well. and ostlers of inns. by what name soever called. worshipped after his sort. it will perhaps appear that in man still there is the same altogether peculiar admiration for the Heroic Gift. were continually diminishing? We take him first for a god. epoch after epoch. hardly recognizable. Men worship the shows of great men. believing which. I should say. then next the Hero taken only as Poet: does it not look as if our estimate of the Great Man. and our reverence for great men.On Heroes and Hero Worship 99 Prophet. does indeed in this the highest province of human things. The Hero taken as Divinity. and now in the next stage of it. is getting lower. one would literally despair of human things. as manifested in our like. it is that our notions of God. that there at any time was. then for one godinspired. paralytic as it is. This is worth taking thought of. his function. for example. as all the Tiaraed and Diademed of the world put together could not be? High Duchesses. Wisdom and Heroism. at Napoleon! A Corsican lieutenant of artillery. a curse which will not last forever. fatalest faith. or such like!—It looks so. his most miraculous word gains from us only the recognition that he is a Poet. The dreariest. gather round Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . all crippled. are ever rising higher. if we do not now reckon a Great Man literally divine. of the supreme unattainable Fountain of Splendour. and our esteem of him for his function. make sad work. man of genius. comes out in poor plight. that is the show of him: yet is he not obeyed. the Hero taken as Prophet. Sceptical Dilettantism. beautiful verse-maker. as in all provinces. alike slight. the curse of these ages. Nevertheless look. blinded. but I persuade myself that intrinsically it is not so. not altogether that our reverence for these qualities. the most disbelieve that there is any reality of great men to worship.

this is the man! In the secret heart of these people it still dimly reveals itself. They are canonized. though there is no accredited way of uttering it at present. and counted the other non-extant. has arrived at such result. if not deified. Scepticism. Do not we feel it so? But now. They dwell apart. replaced by clear faith in the things. in spite of every perverting influence. yet we may say beatified? Shakspeare and Dante are Saints of Poetry. cast out of us. is still our indestructible reverence for heroism. Many volumes have been written by way of commentary on Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . so that a man acted on the impulse of that only. none second to them: in the general feeling of the world. a certain transcendentalism. is of a dignity far beyond all others. were Dilettantism.—a strange feeling dwelling in each that they never heard a man like this. canonized. so that it is impiety to meddle with them. that. working across all these perverse impediments. none equal. in a kind of royal solitude. with his black brows and flashing sun-eyes. the Poet Dante and the Poet Shakspeare: what little it is permitted us to say here of the Hero as Poet will most fitly arrange itself in that fashion.—We will look a little at these Two. though no Pope or Cardinals took hand in doing it! Such. they shall one day be. have we not two mere Poets. if we will think of it. and all that sorrowful brood. incommensurable with all others. that this rustic. really. and strange words moving laughter and tears. a glory as of complete perfection.—as. what a new livelier feeling towards this Burns were it! Nay here in these ages. Triviality. such as they are. The unguided instinct of the world. by God’s blessing. on the whole. invests these two. Burns. were faith in the shows of things entirely swept out.On Heroes and Hero Worship 100 the Scottish rustic. in the most unheroic times. Dante and Shakspeare are a peculiar Two.

wandering. gentle affection as of a child. slow. The face of one wholly in protest. and the most of that has vanished. a kind of inquiry. silent. There is in it. whoever did it. against the world. into abnegation. Lonely there.” and sings us “his mystic Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . which. Why the world was of such a sort? This is Dante: so he looks. like that of a god! The eye too. Affection all converted into indignation: an implacable indignation. as it were. sorrow-stricken man. perhaps of all faces that I know. painted as on vacancy. this “voice of ten silent centuries. A soft ethereal soul looking out so stern. the deathless sorrow and pain. tenderness. you cannot help inclining to think genuine. but all this is as if congealed into sharp contradiction. isolation. heart-affecting face. yet. the softness. with no great result. the Book itself is mainly what we know of him. as foundation of it. His Biography is. implacable. and lifelong unsurrendering battle.—and one might add that Portrait commonly attributed to Giotto. the known victory which is also deathless.On Heroes and Hero Worship 101 Dante and his Book. equable. not much note was taken of him while he lived. looking on it. To me it is a most touching face. as if he whom it had power to torture and strangle were greater than it. with the simple laurel wound round it. the most so. an altogether tragic.—as if it were withal a mean insignificant thing. grim-trenchant. on the whole. An unimportant. a silent scornful one: the lip is curled in a kind of godlike disdain of the thing that is eating out his heart. irrecoverably lost for us. in the long space that now intervenes. it looks out as in a kind of surprise. proud hopeless pain. It is five centuries since he ceased writing and living here. After all commentaries. as from imprisonment of thickribbed ice! Withal it is a silent pain too.—significant of the whole history of Dante! I think it is the mournfulest face that ever was painted from reality. The Book.

some Latin classics. and grown up thenceforth in partial sight of her. breaks itself into singular chiaroscuro striking on what is far off. this best fruit of education he had contrived to realize from these scholastics. without printed books or free intercourse. a beautiful little girl of his own age and rank.” The little that we know of Dante’s Life corresponds well enough with this Portrait and this Book. become one of the Chief Magistrates of Florence.On Heroes and Hero Worship 102 unfathomable song. been twice out campaigning as a soldier for the Florentine State. held apart from him. been on embassy. of her being wedded to another. we need not doubt. All readers know his graceful affecting account of this. far apart at last in the dim Eternity. Aristotelean logic. in the year 1265. He has a clear cultivated understanding. He was born at Florence. learned better than most all that was learnable. in the upper class of society. with his earnest intelligent nature. in some distant intercourse with her. He had met in boyhood a certain Beatrice Portinari. most luminous for what is near. much school-divinity. seems to have made a great figure in his life. he could not know well what was distant: the small clear light. but it seems Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . In life. Of all beings it might seem as if she. he had gone through the usual destinies. in such a time. but. She died: Dante himself was wedded. and of her death soon after. He knows accurately and well what lies close to him. This was Dante’s learning from the schools. were the only one he had ever with his whole strength of affection loved. His education was the best then going. and of great subtlety.—no inconsiderable insight into certain provinces of things: and Dante. by natural gradation of talent and service. and then of their being parted. had in his thirty-fifth year. She makes a great figure in Dante’s Poem.

We will not complain of Dante’s miseries: had all gone right with him as he wished it. still extant in the Florence Archives. A nobler destiny was appointed for this Dante. struggling like a man led towards death and crucifixion. some considerable number of years later. Podesta. and he. well accepted among neighbours. far from happily. He tried what was in him to get reinstated. In Dante’s Priorship. he might have been Prior. more than we do. and the ten other listening centuries (for there will be ten of them and more) had no Divina Commedia to hear! We will complain of nothing. Give him the choice of his happiness! He knew not. I fancy.—and the world had wanted one of the most notable words ever spoken or sung. tried even by warlike surprisal. the rigorous earnest man. what was really miserable. with his keen excitabilities. they say: a very curious civic document. whose party had seemed the stronger. nefarious in the sight of God and man. so it stands. wheresoever caught. Florence would have had another prosperous Lord Mayor. or whatsoever they call it. of Florence. the Guelf-Ghibelline. Another curious document. to be burnt alive. bad only had become worse. His property was all confiscated and more. could not help fulfilling it. with arms in his hand: but it would not do. is a Letter of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . what was really happy. was with his friends cast unexpectedly forth into banishment. There is a record. was not altogether easy to make happy. doomed thenceforth to a life of woe and wandering. and the ten dumb centuries continued voiceless. Bianchi-Neri. he had the fiercest feeling that it was entirely unjust. that Dante.On Heroes and Hero Worship 103 not happily. Burnt alive. I believe. or some other confused disturbances rose to such a height. dooming this Dante.

He wandered from patron to patron. in this earth. a wise man. that awful reality over which. with his moody humors. nunquam revertar. with his sarcasms and sorrows. He answers. this Time-world. only flutters as an unreal shadow. in his own bitter words. written in answer to a milder proposal of theirs. it came to be evident to him that he had no longer any resting-place.On Heroes and Hero Worship 104 Dante’s to the Florentine Magistrates. he answered in no courtier-like way. and blamed one day for his gloom and taciturnity. the amusee must also be given! Such a man. to wander. The earthly world had cast him forth. I will never return. and have nothing to amuse us with at all?” Dante answered bitterly: “No. Petrarch reports of him that being at Can della Scala’s court. he said: “Is it not strange. after all. or hope of benefit. for his sore miseries there was no solace here. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . poor and banished. with mimes and buffoons (nebulones ac histriones) making him heartily merry. with his proud silent ways. no living heart to love him now.”—given the amuser. while you. your Highness is to recollect the Proverb.” The wretched are not cheerful company. Like to Like. sit there day after day. wander. “How hard is the path. Dante. was not a man to conciliate men. with his proud earnest nature. with its Florences and banishments. that this poor fool should make himself so entertaining. The deeper naturally would the Eternal World impress itself on him. was not made to succeed at court. not strange. Come e duro calle. when turning to Dante. proving.” For Dante there was now no home in this world. from place to place. that he should return on condition of apologizing and paying a fine. By degrees. now. with fixed stern pride: “If I cannot return without calling myself guilty. Della Scala stood among his courtiers.

as indeed most good Books are. homeless on earth. and the World and Life altogether? ETERNITY: thither. Can della Scala. as we can see. art thou and all things bound! The great soul of Dante. all of it. thou shalt not fail of a glorious haven!” The labour of writing. it is the one fact important for all men:—but to Dante. long filled with this. in that age. with pain and sore toil.”—so could the Hero.” Ah yes. a proud thought for him at times. in his extreme need. than we doubt that we should see Constantinople if we went thither. we find.— not in sport. could do this work. This Book. of a truth. or even much help him in doing it. that it was great. “ and this his Divine Comedy. that no Florence. Bodied or bodiless. the greatest a man could do. and that he himself should see it. it was bodied in fixed certainty of scientific shape. was great and painful for him. He knew too. His Book. he no more doubted of that Malebolge Pool. in his forsakenness. the most remarkable of all modern Books. “If thou follow thy star. has been written. and was. nor no man or men. Dante’s heart. not elsewhither. Se tu segui tua stella. still say to himself: “Follow thou thy star. Naturally his thoughts brooded on that. bursts forth at length into “mystic unfathomable song. “which has made me lean for many years. it was won. It must have been a great solacement to Dante. he says. partly. in many senses. with his heart’s Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . here in exile. with its alti guai. that it all lay there with its gloomy circles. but in grim earnest. brooding over it in speechless thought and awe. as on the one fact important for him. made its home more and more in that awful other world. could hinder him from doing it.On Heroes and Hero Worship 105 Florence thou shalt never see: but Hell and Purgatory and Heaven thou shalt surely see! What is Florence. and indeed could know otherwise. is the result. That he.

Coleridge remarks very pertinently somewhere. of true rhythm and melody in the words. are authentically Songs. The Florentines begged back his body. that all right Poems are.” I said. not to say an insupportable business. if he could speak it out plainly? It is only when the heart of him is rapt into true passion of melody. I would say. “Here am I Dante laid. Song: we said before. but a piece of Prose cramped into jingling lines. according to Coleridge’s remark. depth and music of his thoughts. word and idea. go strangely together here as everywhere.On Heroes and Hero Worship 106 blood. this Book. the Ravenna people would not give it. without any jingle. I doubt. It is his whole history. as is said. and listen to him as the Heroic of Speakers.—to the great injury of the grammar. Dante’s Poem was a Song: it is Tieck who calls it “a mystic unfathomable Song. if he had any: why should he twist it into jingle. that we call him a Poet. not yet very old. in a century after. it was the Heroic of Speech! All old Poems. that of reading rhyme! Rhyme that had no inward necessity to be rhymed. shut out from my native shores. Pretenders to this are many. become musical by the greatness. at the age of fifty-six. Homer’s and the rest. in strictness. for most part! What we wants to get at is the thought the man had. For body and soul. He lies buried in his death-city Ravenna: Hic claudor Dantes patriis extorris ab oris.—it ought to have told us plainly. to the great grief of the reader. that wherever you find a sentence musically worded. there is something deep and good in the meaning too. and to an earnest reader. and the very tones of him. it is for most part a very melancholy. that whatsoever is not sung is properly no Poem. He died after finishing it. what Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—broken-hearted rather.—whose speech is Song.” and such is literally the character of it. that we can give him right to rhyme and sing.

in all senses. Paradiso.—go deep enough. A true inward symmetry. Commedias that come out divine are not accomplished Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . proportionates it all: architectural. there is no vocation in them for singing it. It came deep out of the author’s heart of hearts. so shall we hate the false song. we find to be the measure of worth. One reads along naturally with a sort of lilt. for the essence and material of the work are themselves rhythmic. superfluous. not to sing it. his simple terza rima. Inferno. The people of Verona. Precisely as we love the true song. But I add. in long severe sorrow and struggle. in a serious time.—in Hell enough. piled up there. doubtless helped him in this. at bottom. I would advise all men who can speak their thought. and account it a mere wooden noise.. Its depth. See. sincerity. reigns in it.On Heroes and Hero Worship 107 it was aiming at. and through long generations. solemn. here too. genuinely a Song. that it could not be otherwise. I give Dante my highest praise when I say of his Divine Comedy that it is. what one calls an architectural harmony. when they saw him on the streets. In the very sound of it there is a canto fermo. and rapt passion and sincerity. it proceeds as by a chant. there is music everywhere. and it goes deep. used to say. he had been in Hell. The language. awful. to understand that. makes it musical. there is the man that was in Hell!” Ah yes. a great supernatural world-cathedral. “Eccovi l’ uom ch’ e stato all’ Inferno. and are charmed by it as by something divine. as the like of him is pretty sure to have been. Purgatorio. look out on one another like compartments of a great edifice. stern. the sincerest of all Poems. which also partakes of the character of music. a thing hollow. altogether an insincere and offensive thing. into ours. Dante’s World of Souls! It is. The three kingdoms. among serious men.

”—But. for example. is it not the daughter of Pain? Born as out of the black whirlwind. and in this the soul of the middle ages. into clear visuality. into truth. in fact. but because he is world-deep. but partly too of his own nature. is the prevailing character of Dante’s genius. Thought. concentred itself into fiery emphasis and depth. Perhaps one would say.—so vivid. as of a captive struggling to free himself: that is Thought. red-hot cone of iron glowing through the dim immensity of gloom. an abrupt precision in Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . It had made him “lean” for many years. true labour of any kind. a right intense one: but a task which is done. every compartment of it is worked out. I know nothing so intense as Dante. There is a brevity.—true effort. presents that and nothing more. seizes the very type of a thing. each fits in its place. and even sectarian mind: it is partly the fruit of his age and position. No light task. no work known to me is so elaborated as this of Dante’s. visible at once and forever! It is as an emblem of the whole genius of Dante. It is the soul of Dante. It has all been as if molten. with the much that depends on it. with intense earnestness. Consider. Each answers to the other. as I say. intensity. to begin with the outermost development of his intensity. in the hottest furnace of his soul. In all ways we are “to become perfect through suffering. in all senses.On Heroes and Hero Worship 108 otherwise. He is world-great not because he is worldwide. like a marble stone accurately hewn and polished. You remember that first view he gets of the Hall of Dite: red pinnacle. He has a great power of vision. Not the general whole only. highest virtue itself. consider how he paints. so distinct. Through all objects he pierces as it were down into the heart of Being. His greatness has. rendered forever rhythmically visible there. rather as a narrow. Dante does not come before us as a large catholic mind.

as very characteristic of him.—had sympathy in him to bestow on objects. collapses at Virgil’s rebuke. never-ending! Or the lids of those Tombs. so silent. a “fiery snow without wind. it is physiognomical of the whole man. almost military. the lids laid open there. what we may call. sympathized with it. spontaneous to the man.” Or that poor Brunetto Latini. it is “as the sails sink. nothing more said. you have found a man worth something. with the cotto aspetto. deliberate. with its quick abrupt movements.On Heroes and Hero Worship 109 him: Tacitus is not briefer. In the first place. “face baked. he could not have discerned the object at all. each with its Soul in torment. The fiery. It is of the inmost essence of his genius this sort of painting. they are to be shut at the Day of Judgment. decisive.” slow. square sarcophaguses.” parched brown and lean. and how Cavalcante falls—at hearing of his Son. swift. For though this of painting is one of the outermost developments of a man. He must have been sincere about it too. Plutus.” speaks itself in these things. through Eternity. Find a man whose words paint you a likeness. It is strange with what a sharp decisive grace he snatches the true likeness of a matter: cuts into the matter as with a pen of fire. its silent “pale rages. more condensed. His silence is more eloquent than words. swift Italian nature of the man. and then there is silence. unless he had. and the “fiery snow” that falls on them there. sincere and sympathetic: a Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in that silent dim-burning Hall. mark his manner of doing it. And how Farinata rises. the mast being suddenly broken. One smiting word. the blustering giant. it comes like all else from the essential faculty of him. or seen the vital type of it. and the past tense “fue”! The very movements in Dante have something brief. and then in Dante it seems a natural condensation. passionate.

what qualities in that! A thing woven as out of rainbows. and the outcome of a great soul. that he discern the true likeness. it is a solace that he will never part from her! Saddest tragedy in these alti guai. it is every way noble. che mi fu tolta. not the false superficial one. is the best of all Portrait-painters withal. “the eye seeing in all things what it brought with it the faculty of seeing”! To the mean eye all things are trivial. the Painters tell us. as certainly as to the jaundiced they are yellow. And the racking winds. A touch of womanhood in it too: della bella persona. Francesca and her Lover. about all objects. Dante’s painting is not graphic only. true. the man of business’s faculty. he dwells in vague outwardness. A small flute-voice of infinite wail speaks there. and leaves all the rest aside as surplusage: it is his faculty too. Francesca herself may have sat upon the Poet’s knee. as a bright Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Raphael. and of a vividness as of fire in dark night. whirl them away again. and how. taken on the wider scale. Is it even of business. In the commonest human face there lies more than Raphael will take away with him. in that aer bruno. fallacy and trivial hearsay. of the thing he has got to work in. to wail forever!—Strange to think: Dante was the friend of this poor Francesca’s father. even in the Pit of woe. No most gifted eye can exhaust the significance of any object. And indeed may we not say that intellect altogether expresses itself in this power of discerning what an object is? Whatsoever of faculty a man’s mind may have will come out here. brief. a matter to be done? The gifted man is he who sees the essential point. And how much of morality is in the kind of insight we get of anything. on a ground of eternal black.On Heroes and Hero Worship 110 man without worth cannot give you the likeness of any object. into our very heart of hearts.

” One day. egoistic. Morally great. their meeting together in the Paradiso. it was in Dante’s. sore-saddened heart! These longings of his towards his Beatrice. on occasion too as reasoner. is but the result of all other sorts of intensity. a trembling. or little better. I know not in the world an affection equal to that of Dante. tender as a mother’s. we must call him. “They have not the hope to die. perhaps the very purest.On Heroes and Hero Worship 111 innocent little child. His very pity will be cowardly. wretched. it is so Dante discerned that she was made. like a child’s young heart. it had risen sternly benign on the scathed heart of Dante. that he. would Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . worn as he was. Non han speranza di morte. he has got into the essence of all. his grief are as transcendent as his love. Hateful to God and to the enemies of God: “lofty scorn. soft. yet also infinite rigor of law: it is so Nature is made. that ever came out of a human soul. putting those into Hell whom he could not be avenged upon on earth! I suppose if ever pity. separated from him so far:—one likens it to the song of angels. soft. never-resting. His intellectual insight as painter. look only and pass. We will not speak of them. it is the beginning of all.—and then that stern. was in the heart of any man. above all. her that had been purified by death so long. It is a tenderness. it is among the purest utterances of affection. unappeasable silent reprobation and aversion. For the intense Dante is intense in all things. Infinite pity.—sentimentality. What a paltry notion is that of his Divine Comedy’s being a poor splenetic impotent terrestrial libel. his gazing in her pure transfigured eyes.” Or think of this. But a man who does not know rigor cannot pity either. longing.—as indeed. His scorn. pitying love: like the wail of Æolian harps. “Non ragionam di lor. what are they but the inverse or converse of his love? “A Dio spiacenti ed a’ nemici sui.

he is not to be paralleled in the modern world. when one Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . For rigor. yet in Repentance too is man purified.” Such words are in this man. dawning afar on the wandering Two. is as the type of an altered mood.—crushed together so “for the sin of pride. Repentance is the grand Christian act. and is like to be a transient feeling. to the Throne of Mercy itself. especially the former. “Tell my Giovanna to pray for me. Thc Purgatorio and Paradiso. and Hell is and must be so rigorous. they shall have reached the top. awful. “I think her mother loves me no more!” They toil painfully up by that winding steep. is even more excellent than it. a soft breathing of penitence mounts higher and higher. Hope has now dawned. earnestness and depth.” the denizens of that Mount of Pain all say to him. which is heaven’s gate. one would almost say. “bent down like corbels of a building. “Pray for me. The joy too of all. If sin is so fatal. and by Mercy shall have been admitted in. Such preference belongs. and live with the antique Prophets there. The obscure sojourn of demons and reprobate is underfoot. It is beautiful how Dante works it out. never-dying Hope. The tremolar dell’ onde. I do not agree with much modern criticism. that “trembling” of the ocean-waves. in greatly preferring the Inferno to the two other parts of the Divine Commedia.” my daughter Giovanna. I imagine. to our general Byronism of taste.On Heroes and Hero Worship 112 full surely die. if in company still with heavy sorrow. “Mountain of Purification. “that Destiny itself could not doom him not to die.” yet nevertheless in years. to seek his parallel we must go into the Hebrew Bible. It is a noble thing that Purgatorio. under the first pure gleam of morning.” some of them. in ages and aeons.” an emblem of the noblest conception of that age.

Sincerity. It expresses. as in huge world-wide architectural emblems. forever true in the essence of it. Has not each man a soul? He will not only be a spirit. the one was as preternatural as the other. but is one. is the Poet of it in virtue of that. to keep it long memorable. or sublimest. is the redeeming side of the Inferno. now as always. like those Scandinavian ones the other day. It was perhaps delineated in no human soul with such depth of veracity as in this of Dante’s. Paradise. I say again. The Paradiso. we find ourselves in the World of Spirits. was but the threshold to an infinitely higher Fact of a World. and in the second or third stanza. the Inferno without it were untrue. Very notable with what brief simplicity he passes out of the every-day reality. a man sent to sing it. as it is called.On Heroes and Hero Worship 113 has prevailed. how the Christian Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . who has ceased altogether to think as Dante did. But indeed the Three compartments mutually support one another. indubitable! To Dante they were so. when one soul has perfected repentance and got its sin and misery left behind! I call all this a noble embodiment of a true noble thought. sees it. and a psalm of praise rises. All three make up the true Unseen World. a thing forever memorable. are a symbol withal. into the Invisible one. and its facts. and dwell there. the whole Mountain shakes with joy. as figured in the Christianity of the Middle Ages. the real world. an emblematic representation of his Belief about this Universe:— some Critic in a future age. to all men. Dante’s Hell. To the earnest Dante it is all one visible Fact. of the soul of Christianity. are indispensable to one another. a kind of inarticulate music to me. Purgatory.” perhaps an idle Allegory! It is a sublime embodiment. as among things palpable. At bottom. may find this too all an “Allegory. is the saving merit. he believes it.

vicissitudes of things and men in this world. veracious. Paradise: these things were not fashioned as emblems. the whole heart of man taking them for practically true. The other was not for the sensuous nature. Men do not believe an Allegory. Paganism emblemed chiefly the Operations of Nature. Superiority to Fear. how unconscious of any embleming! Hell. yet with Penitence. What a progress is here.—all Christianism. is emblemed here. will commit one sore mistake!—Paganism we recognized as a veracious expression of the earnest awe-struck feeling of man towards the Universe. The future Critic. with what entire truth of purpose. whatever his new thought may be. Christianism emblemed the Law of Human Duty. but by incompatibility absolute and infinite. as I urged the other day. that the one is excellent and high as light and Heaven. black as Gehenna and the Pit of Hell! Everlasting Justice. Purgatory. One was for the sensuous nature: a rude helpless utterance of the first Thought of men. on which it all turns. efforts. all Nature everywhere confirming them? So is it always in these things. combinations. in our Modern European Mind. but for the moral. and still not without worth for us. the other hideous. who considers this of Dante to have been all got up as an Allegory. the Moral Law of Man. was there. any thought at all of their being emblems! Were they not indubitable awful facts.On Heroes and Hero Worship 114 Dante felt Good and Evil to be the two polar elements of this Creation. Emblemed: and yet. true once. one great difference. with everlasting Pity. the destinies. But mark here the difference of Paganism and Christianism. if in that one respect only!— Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . that these two differ not by preferability of one to the other. Courage. as Dante and the Middle Ages had it.—the chief recognized virtue.

had not he spoken. the outer passes away. with these cunning methods. to-day and forever. as we said. in swift endless changes. is sung. under the empire of mode. So always. terrible and beautiful. On the whole. are the fruit of the Christian Meditation of all the good men who had gone before him. and emblemed forth abidingly. will Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . differs altogether from what is uttered by the outer part. it may last yet for long thousands of years. seven hundred years before!—The noblest idea made real hitherto among men. will find a brotherhood in him. had ten silent centuries. who look on this Dante.On Heroes and Hero Worship 115 And so in this Dante. yet in truth it belongs to ten Christian centuries. another than “Bastard Christianism” half. The Divina Commedia is of Dante’s writing. his woes and hopes. but also is not he precious? Much. Dante is the spokesman of the Middle Ages. are we not right glad to possess it? As I calculate. by one of the noblest men. would have been dumb.articulately spoken in the Arab Desert. For the thing that is uttered from the inmost parts of a man’s soul. The outer is of the day. In the one sense and in the other.—as indeed with all of us. at once of one of the greatest human souls. not dead. in a very strange way. as Dante sings it. and of the highest thing that Europe had hitherto realized for itself? Christianism. is another than Paganism in the rude Norse mind. the smith with that metal of his. True souls.—how little of all he does is properly his work! All past inventive men work there with him. These sublime ideas of his. found a voice. with these tools. is it not an utterance. yet living voiceless. The craftsman there. only the finishing of it is Dante’s. the Thought they lived by stands here. in all things. the inmost is the same yesterday. this mystic Song. Precious they. in everlasting music. the deep sincerity of his thoughts. in all generations of the world.

Homer yet is veritably present face to face with every open soul of us. a bewildered heap of stones and rubbish. is like an antique Prophet too. has worked in the depths of our existence. come from his very heart. away. does yet. One need not wonder if it were predicted that his Poem might be the most enduring thing our Europe has yet made. All cathedrals. Dante. the life and existence of it all gone. and sung forth fitly somewhat therefrom. The uses of this Dante? We will not say much about his “uses. for depth of sincerity. and Greece. pontificalities. great cities. and had ceased individually to be. brass and stone. his words. Like a dream. Greece. feeding through long times the life-roots of all excellent human things whatsoever. speak to all men’s hearts. The oldest Hebrew Prophet. bodies of opinion and practice: but it has made little of the class of Dante’s Thought. when these had all sunk into new irrecognizable combinations. are brief in comparison to an unfathomable heart-song like this: one feels as if it might survive. except in the words it spoke. It is the one sole secret of continuing long memorable. creeds. where is it? Desolate for thousands of years. Europe has made much. is not. and outer arrangement never so lasting. for nothing so endures as a truly spoken word.On Heroes and Hero Worship 116 speak likewise to their sincerity. encyclopaedias. still of importance to men. vanished.” A human soul who has once got into that primal element of Song. they will feel that this Dante too was a brother.—in a way that “utilities” will not succeed well in calculating! We will not estimate the Sun by Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . great empires. Napoleon in Saint Helena is charmed with the genial veracity of old Homer. like the dust of King Agamemnon! Greece was. because he speaks from the heart of man. like theirs. under a vesture the most diverse from ours.

Effect? Influence? Utility? Let a man do his work. Dante’s Italians seem to be yet very much where they were. Neither does he grow obsolete.—perhaps not less but more important. In this way the balance may be made straight again. fixed there in the firmament. the fruit of it is the care of Another than he. and Man’s work in God’s Earth.—what matters that? That is not the real fruit of it! The Arabian Caliph. in so far only as he did something. at any rate. Mahomet. which are a kind of distilled Newspapers. Shall we say. may long survive Mahomet. follies: on the great masses alone can he act. the pure and great. but also it is far nobler. in the coarse dialect adapted to such. It will grow its own fruit. But. as the other does. or not embodied so at all. in all times and places. Dante burns as a pure star.On Heroes and Hero Worship 117 the quantity of gaslight it saves us. and whether embodied in Caliph Thrones and Arabian Conquests. one calculates. had his Arabians at Grenada and at Delhi. or of no value. got no furtherance from the Arabian Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . If the great Cause of Man. Dante speaks to the noble. was something. One remark I may make: the contrast in this respect between the Hero-Poet and the Hero-Prophet. it is not by what is called their effect on the world. clearer.” and all Histories. Dante shall be invaluable. that a man and his work are measured. Dante. Dante’s effect on the world was small in comparison? Not so: his arena is far more restricted. by what we can judge of their effect there. then. at which the great and the high of all ages kindle themselves: he is the possession of all the chosen of the world for uncounted time. crudities. as we saw. In a hundred years. so that it “fills all Morning and Evening Newspapers. a dialect filled with inconsistencies. and there with good and with evil strangely blended. Mahomet speaks to great masses of men.

will still be legible. so Shakspeare. the usefulest for each of us to do. with his perennial singing voice. a man was sent for it. deep. This latter also we were to have. men then had. in these loud times. of all things. Shakspeare. placid. Dante has given us the Faith or soul. we English had the honour of producing the other. or count up and present before men! It is perhaps. in a not less noble way. what practical way of thinking. this other sovereign Poet. what our modern Europe was. and was on the point of breaking down into slow or swift dissolution. acting. fierce as the central fire of the world. embodies for us the Outer Life of our Europe as developed then.— As Dante. the Italian man. was sent to take note of it. its chivalries. As in Homer we may still construe Old Greece. far-seeing. after thousands of years. the man Shakspeare. at bottom. Curious enough how. humours. Just when that chivalry way of life had reached its last finish.On Heroes and Hero Worship 118 Caliph. and what uproar and blaring he made in this world. he was not at all. wide. its Inner Life. once more! The boundless treasury which we do not jingle in our pockets. in Faith and in Practice. we may say. then no matter how many scimetars he drew. as it were by mere accident. Let us honour the great empire of Silence. so in Shakspeare and Dante.—he was but a loud-sounding inanity and futility. Shakspeare. has given us the Practice or body. Italy produced the one world-voice. as the Sun. how many gold piasters pocketed. as we now see it everywhere. the upper light of the world. with his seeing eye. courtesies. this man Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . looking at the world. the Religion of our Modern Europe. ambitions. was sent into our world to embody musically the Religion of the Middle Ages. Two fit men: Dante. to give long-enduring record of it.

and works sooner or later. Curious. that Middle-Age Catholicism was abolished. that has its roots down in the Kingdoms of Hela and Death. The Christian Faith. did not it too come as of its own accord? The “Tree Igdrasil” buds and withers by its own laws. so great. complete and selfsufficing is this Shakspeare. The Tree Igdrasil. which we call the Elizabethan Era. I say. had the Warwickshire Squire not prosecuted him for deer-stealing. and not sufficiently considered: how everything does co-operate with all. and every bough and leaf of it is there. And remark here. with every other greatest and minutest portion of the whole. as rather curious. word or act of man but has sprung withal out of all men. and whose boughs overspread the highest Heaven!— In some sense it may be said that this glorious Elizabethan Era with its Shakspeare. which was the theme of Dante’s Song. not a Sir Thomas Lucy but comes at the hour fit for him. quiet. is itself attributable to the Catholicism of the Middle Ages.—too deep for our scanning. we had perhaps never heard of him as a Poet! The woods and skies. as it now and always is. For Religion then. Yet it does bud and wither. had been enough for this man! But indeed that strange outbudding of our whole English Existence. had produced this Practical Life which Shakspeare was to sing. so far Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . I think always.On Heroes and Hero Worship 119 came to us. was the soul of Practice. as the outcome and flowerage of all which had preceded it. by fixed eternal laws. not a leaf rotting on the highway but is indissoluble portion of solar and stellar systems. the primary vital fact in men’s life. recognizably or irrecognizable. no thought. on all men! It is all a Tree: circulation of sap and influences. the rustic Life of Man in Stratford there. mutual communication of every minutest leaf with the lowest talon of a root.

in our recorded world. taking small thought of Acts of Parliament. are small. Priceless Shakspeare was the free gift of Nature. made his appearance. that Shakspeare is the chief of all Poets hitherto. notwithstanding the noise they make. in any other man. Queen Elizabeths go their way. debate at St. has left record of himself in the way of Literature. He did make his appearance nevertheless. I know not such a power of vision. opening subscriptionlists. I think the best judgment not of this country only. is slowly pointing to the conclusion. on the whole. On the whole. selling of shares. the greatest intellect who.—received altogether silently. but of Europe at large. such a faculty of thought. if we take all the characters of it. the right one. in fact. came without proclamation. Of this Shakspeare of ours. it is a priceless thing. and all its nobleness and blessedness. What Act of Parliament. Nature at her own time. and infinite other jangling and true or false endeavoring! This Elizabethan Era.On Heroes and Hero Worship 120 as Acts of Parliament could abolish it. very literally. as in a tranquil unfathomable sea! It has been said. Such a calmness of depth. preparation of ours. and Nature too goes hers. all things imaged in that great soul of his so true and clear. with Catholicism or what else might be necessary. placid joyous strength. sent him forth. the noblest product of it. And yet. One should look at that side of matters too. perhaps the opinion one sometimes hears a little idolatrously expressed is. as if it had been a thing of little account. given altogether silently. on the hustings or elsewhere. was it that brought this Shakspeare into being? No dining at Freemason’s Tavern. that in the constructing of Shakspeare’s Dramas there is. Stephen’s. Acts of Parliament. apart from all other “faculties” as Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . King Henrys. before Shakspeare.

we could fashion such a result! The built house seems all so fit. which unessential. especially of men.On Heroes and Hero Worship 121 they are called. It would become more apparent if we tried. hides the builder’s merit. we may call Shakspeare in this: he discerns. does the spirit of method stir in that confusion. equal to that in Bacon’s Novum Organum That is true. He must understand the thing. where is the true beginning. the true sequence and ending? To find out this. You will try him so. Or indeed we may say again. The very perfection of the house. Perfect. you task the whole force of insight that is in the man. it is deliberate illumination of the whole matter. it is in what I called Portraitpainting. so that its embroilment becomes order? Can the man say. as if Nature herself had made it. according to the depth of his understanding. that Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . will construct a narrative. what his own force and its relation to them is. It is not a transitory glance of insight that will suffice. more perfect than any other man.—is the best measure you could get of what intellect is in the man. Does like join itself to like. Let there be light. out of Shakspeare’s dramatic materials. will the fitness of his answer be. How a man. knows as by instinct. and out of chaos make a world? Precisely as there is light in himself. what condition he works under.— every way as it should be. delineating of men and things. will he accomplish this. a great intellect. what kind of picture and delineation he will give of it. how.—we forget the rude disorderly quarry it was shaped from. Fiat lux. Which circumstance is vital and shall stand prominent. it is a calmly seeing eye. any of us for himself. in short. of some wide thing that he has witnessed. as if it came there by its own law and the nature of things. fit to be suppressed. what his materials are. and it is not a truth that strikes every one. an understanding manifested.

you may say what he himself says of Shakspeare: “His characters are like watches with dial-plates of transparent crystal. reminds me of it. one finds. which can triumph over such obstructions.On Heroes and Hero Worship 122 Shakspeare is great. loving. tolerance. No twisted. a Coriolanus. and the inward mechanism also is all visible. It is truly a lordly spectacle how this great soul takes in all kinds of men and objects. Goethe alone. and generic secret: it dissolves itself as in light before him. truthfulness. since the days of Shakspeare. Creative. poor convex-concave mirror. Novum Organum. follows of itself from such clear intense sight of the thing. just. candour. that calm creative perspicacity of Shakspeare. poor in comparison with this. material. a good man. we said: poetic creation. Of him too you say that he saw the object. is of a quite secondary order.—that is to say withal. earthy. a perfectly level mirror. The thing he looks at reveals not this or that face of it. Among modern men. reflecting all objects with its own convexities and concavities. almost nothing of the same rank. It is unexampled. and all the intellect you will find in Bacon. if we will understand it. what is this too but seeing the thing sufficiently? The word that will describe the thing. so that he discerns the perfect structure of it. visible there too? Great as the world. his whole victorious strength and greatness. but its inmost heart.” The seeing eye! It is this that discloses the inner harmony of things. the equal brother of all. a Falstaff. an Othello. in strictness. All the greatness of the man comes out decisively here. a man justly related to all things and men. I think. sets them all forth to us in their round completeness. a Juliet. his valour. And is not Shakspeare’s morality. what musical idea Nature has Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . what Nature meant. they show you the hour like others.

and consider it as the one inquiry needful: Are ye sure he’s not a dunce? There is. and name yourself a Poet. I say the degree of vision that dwells in a man is a Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in regard to every man proposed for whatsoever function. The crabbed old Schoolmaster used to ask. in fact. miserable things? You can laugh over them. perhaps still better. on his being taught to sing in his boyhood! But the faculty which enables him to discern the inner heart of things. when they brought him a new pupil. He will be a Poet if he have: a Poet in word.On Heroes and Hero Worship 123 wrapped up in these often rough embodiments. See. it is of no use to keep stringing rhymes together. Are they base. “But are ye sure he’s not a dunce?” Why. at lowest. If you can. in action or speculation. Whether he write at all. as to every other. whether in prose or in verse. it is the Poet’s first gift. in prose or verse. a Poet in act. there is no hope for you. really one might ask the same thing. To the seeing eye that something were discernible. If you cannot do that. there is. Something she did mean. or failing that. we say first of all. will depend on accidents: who knows on what extremely trivial accidents. in this world.—perhaps on his having had a singing-master. the primary outfit for a Heroic Man in what sort soever. and the harmony that dwells there (for whatsoever exists has a harmony in the heart of it. no other entirely fatal person. For. as it is all men’s. is not the result of habits or accidents. or it would not hold together and exist). To the Poet. hold your peace about them. but the gift of Nature herself. that he have intellect enough. turn away your own and others’ face from them. all manner of hope. till the hour come for practically exterminating and extinguishing them! At bottom. you can weep over them. you can in some way or other genially relate yourself to them. jingling sensibilities against each other. and if so.—you can.

in the opinion he has formed. if we are to speak at all. fancy. what we call the moral quality of a man. are but different figures of the same Power of Insight. Without hands a man might have feet. He is one. You may see how a man would fight. what we can call knowing. our apprehension of this matter is. a thoroughly immoral man could not know anything at all! To know a thing. It seems to me. by the way in which he sings. the vital Force which dwells in him. a man must first love the thing. and existed apart. and could still walk: but. in that way. his courage.” as if these again were divisible. that man’s spiritual nature. that these divisions are at bottom but names. and to keep forever in mind. That is a capital error. understanding. physiognomically related. as he has hands. what is this but another side of the one vital Force whereby he is and works? All that a man does is physiognomical of him. I am aware. But words ought not to harden into things for us. radically falsified thereby.” and of his “moral nature. Then again.—without morality. Morality itself. we must speak. and think I had included all under that. as if a man had intellect. &c. I should say superiority of Intellect. and so forth. we might know all of them. feet and arms. and preaches the same Self abroad in all these ways. What indeed are faculties? We talk of faculties as if they were distinct. for most part. Necessities of language do perhaps prescribe such forms of utterance. that what we call imagination.On Heroes and Hero Worship 124 correct measure of the man. We ought to know withal. that if we knew one of them. or want of courage. things separable. fancy.. intellect were impossible for him. no less than in the stroke he strikes. is essentially one and indivisible. If called to define Shakspeare’s faculty. imagination. consider it. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . is visible in the word he utters. all indissolubly connected with each other. we hear of a man’s “intellectual nature.

Fortune and other Foxes. Shakspeare’s Art is not Artifice. I have said all concerning him. and other suitable vulpine gifts and graces. in this time: what limitations. and had not courage. the courage to stand by the dangerous-true at every turn.—But does not the very Fox know something of Nature? Exactly so: it knows where the geese lodge! The human Reynard. the noblest worth Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . how shall he know? His virtues. If he have not the justice to put down his own selfishness at every turn. he would catch no geese. all of them.On Heroes and Hero Worship 125 sympathize with it: that is. and so forth. or get at the geese! If he spent his time in splenetic atrabiliar reflections on his own misery. that those Dramas of his are Products of Nature too. that his morality and insight are of the same dimensions. that Shakspeare is the greatest of Intellects. practicality. promptitude. that if the Fox had not a certain vulpine morality. be virtuously related to it. remains to the bad. It is what I call an unconscious intellect. with her truth. to the selfish and the pusillanimous forever a sealed book: what such can know of Nature is mean. If I say. will lie recorded in his knowledge. your own candour will supply. I find a great truth in this saying. what more does he know but this and the like of this? Nay. for the uses of the day merely. for the contrary of them acts with manifold very baleful perversion. modifications they require. he could not even know where the geese were. different faces of the same internal unity of vulpine life!—These things are worth stating. it should be considered too. his ill usage by Nature. Novalis beautifully remarks of him. Nature. But there is more in Shakspeare’s intellect than we have yet seen. deep as Nature herself. superficial. very frequent everywhere in the world. We may say of the Fox too. small. therefore. there is more virtue in it than he himself is aware of.

It grows up from the deeps of Nature. It is Nature’s highest reward to a true simple great soul. with a symmetry grounded on Nature’s own laws. never knowing the troubles of other men. through this noble sincere soul. free and offhand. The latest generations of men will find new meanings in Shakspeare. like sap and forces working underground! Speech is great. “new harmonies with the infinite structure of the Universe. affinities with the higher powers and senses of man. not speakable at all: like roots.—as what man like him ever failed to have to do? It seems to me a heedless notion. his sorrows. who is a voice of Nature.” This well deserves meditating. whatsoever he with utmost conscious exertion and forethought shall accomplish. conformable to all Truth whatsoever. Such a man’s works. Yet I call Shakspeare greater than Dante. from the unknown deeps in him. grow up withal unconsciously. but Silence is greater. that he get thus to be a part of herself. Withal the joyful tranquillity of this man is notable. How could a man travel forward from rustic deerThomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . that he sat like a bird on the bough. concurrences with later ideas. but true battle.—as the oak-tree grows from the Earth’s bosom. much that was not known at all. Not so. and swum struggling for his life. in that he fought truly. How much in Shakspeare lies hid. as the mountains and waters shape themselves. Doubt it not. indispensable thing. with no man is it so. his silent struggles known to himself. and sang forth. our common one.—the first. I will not blame Dante for his misery: it is as battle without victory. new elucidations of their own human being. he had his own sorrows: those Sonnets of his will even testify expressly in what deep waters he had waded. and did conquer.On Heroes and Hero Worship 126 of it is not there by plan or precontrivance.

observe his mirthfulness. Such laughter. he heaps all manner of ridiculous nicknames on the butt he is bantering. Dogberry and Verges tickle our very hearts. It is some poor character only desiring to laugh. in Wilhelm Meister.On Heroes and Hero Worship 127 poaching to such tragedy-writing. never. his genuine overflowing love of laughter! You would say. Laughter means sympathy. a Macbeth. never what Johnson would remark as a specially “good hater. how could a man delineate a Hamlet. And then. be done. in no point does he exaggerate but only in laughter. all his plays reviewed as Hamlet. it is always a genial laughter. good laughter is not “the crackling of thorns under the pot. are to be found in Shakspeare. like sunshine on the deep sea. Fiery objurgations. still better. with his whole heart laughs. and we dismiss them covered with explosions of laughter: but we like the poor fellows only the better for our laughing. what we call laughing. will laugh at these things. one day. and not fall in with sorrows by the way? Or. is! A thing which might. and hope they will get on well there. a Coriolanus.” Even at stupidity and pretension this Shakspeare does not laugh otherwise than genially. We have no room to speak of Shakspeare’s individual works. and have the credit of wit. that does so. you would say. tumbles and tosses him in all sorts of horse-play. and continue Presidents of the City-watch. at misery or poverty. August Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Had we. though perhaps there is much still waiting to be said on that head. is very beautiful to me.” But his laughter seems to pour from him in floods. Not at mere weakness. so many suffering heroic hearts. if his own heroic heart had never suffered?—And now. for instance. in contrast with all this. if not always the finest. No man who can laugh. yet he is always in measure here. words that pierce and burn.

epic. into a kind of rhythmic coherence. if we look to it. Marlborough. illuminating the very heart of the thing: you say. written under cramping circumstances. His works are so many windows. through which we see a glimpse of the world that was in him. That battle of Agincourt strikes me as one of the most perfect things. as Schlegel says. There are really. which indeed together form one beautiful thing. cursory. not boisterous. He calls them a kind of National Epic. even as full as we have of many men. Henry Fifth and the others. The great salient points are admirably seized. Passages there are that come upon you like splendour out of Heaven. he knew no English History but what he had learned from Shakspeare. all the better for that. when the battle shall begin. we anywhere have of Shakspeare’s. This man too had a right stroke in him. said. All his works seem. imperfect. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . of Shakspeare’s works generally. “That is true.—as indeed all delineation by a great thinker will be. The description of the two hosts: the worn-out. There is a sound in it like the ring of steel. that we have no full impress of him there. bursts of radiance. giving only here and there a note of the full utterance of the man. whose limbs were made in England!” There is a noble Patriotism in it. comparatively speaking. spoken once and forever. There are right beautiful things in those Pieces. big with destiny. through the whole business.—far other than the “indifference” you sometimes hear ascribed to Shakspeare. A true English heart breathes. it is. in its sort. all rounds itself off. the dread hour. which is worth remembering. few as memorable Histories. jaded English. had it come to that! But I will say. calm and strong. protrusive. you recollect. and then that deathless valour: “Ye good yeomen.On Heroes and Hero Worship 128 Wilhelm Schlegel has a remark on his Historical Plays.

temporary. The sculptor cannot set his own free Thought before us. fanatical fierceness or perversion: a Revelation. that will be recognized as true!” Such bursts. “We are such stuff as Dreams are made of!” That scroll in Westminster Abbey. intolerance. Shakspeare had to write for the Globe Playhouse: his great soul had to crush itself. which few read with understanding. But the man sang. but his Thought as he could translate it into the stone that was given. Alas. if we understood them. which let all men worship as they can! We may say without offence. harsh asceticism. make us feel that the surrounding matter is not radiant. May we not call Shakspeare the still more melodious Priest of a true Catholicism. Disjecta membra are all that we find of any Poet. is of the depth of any seer. that it is. high as Heaven. so far as it goes. Not in disharmony with these. then. We called Dante the melodious Priest of Middle-Age Catholicism. his indifference to the creeds and Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . unspeakable. not unfit to make itself heard among the still more sacred Psalms. except musically. No man works save under conditions. with the tools that were given. or of any man. Whoever looks intelligently at this Shakspeare may recognize that he too was a Prophet. deep as Tophet. the “Universal Church” of the Future and of all times? No narrow superstition. but in harmony!—I cannot call this Shakspeare a “Sceptic.” as some do. as it is with us all. It was with him. as it could. in his way. of an insight analogous to the Prophetic. Nature seemed to this man also divine. did not preach. that there rises a kind of universal Psalm out of this Shakspeare too. however. into that and no other mould. that such a thousand-fold hidden beauty and divineness dwells in all Nature. conventional. though he took it up in another strain.On Heroes and Hero Worship 129 wheresoever and whensoever there is an open human soul. in part.

were not vital to him. a blessed heaven-sent Bringer of Light?—And. dragging along with it such a coil of fables. these other controversies. and has come down to us inextricably involved in error to this day. and not rather an ambitious charlatan. that he specially was the “Prophet of God:” and was he not greater than Mahomet in that? Greater. But call it worship. if we compute strictly. No: neither unpatriotic. at bottom. call it what you will. and also. no Speaker.On Heroes and Hero Worship 130 theological quarrels of his time misleading them. that Mahomet was a true Speaker at all. nor sceptic. while this Shakspeare. I feel that there is actually a kind of sacredness in the fact of such a man being sent into this Earth. was it not perhaps far better that this Shakspeare. vitally important to other men. was conscious of no Heavenly message? He did not feel. for unlimited periods to come! Compared with any speaker or singer one knows. It was intrinsically an error that notion of Mahomet’s. like Mahomet. this Dante may still be young. even with Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .— while this Shakspeare may still pretend to be a Priest of Mankind. of his supreme Prophethood. this that Shakspeare has brought us? For myself. intolerances. more successful. though he says little about his Faith. as I have done. as I compute. impurities. Mahomet will have exhausted himself and become obsolete. Such “indifference” was the fruit of his greatness withal: his whole heart was in his own grand sphere of worship (we may call it such). perversity and simulacrum. of Arabia as of other places. Is he not an eye to us all. but a Babbler! Even in Arabia. is it not a right glorious thing. as makes it a questionable step for me here and now to say. because he saw into those internal Splendours. every way an unconscious man. though he says little about his Patriotism. as we did in Dante’s case. and set of things.

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Aeschylus or Homer, why should he not, for veracity and universality, last like them? He is sincere as they; reaches deep down like them, to the universal and perennial. But as for Mahomet, I think it had been better for him not to be so conscious! Alas, poor Mahomet; all that he was conscious of was a mere error; a futility and triviality,—as indeed such ever is. The truly great in him too was the unconscious: that he was a wild Arab lion of the desert, and did speak out with that great thunder-voice of his, not by words which he thought to be great, but by actions, by feelings, by a history which were great! His Koran has become a stupid piece of prolix absurdity; we do not believe, like him, that God wrote that! The Great Man here too, as always, is a Force of Nature. whatsoever is truly great in him springs up from the inarticulate deeps. Well: this is our poor Warwickshire Peasant, who rose to be Manager of a Playhouse, so that he could live without begging; whom the Earl of Southampton cast some kind glances on; whom Sir Thomas Lucy, many thanks to him, was for sending to the Treadmill! We did not account him a god, like Odin, while he dwelt with us;—on which point there were much to be said. But I will say rather, or repeat: In spite of the sad state Hero-worship now lies in, consider what this Shakspeare has actually become among us. Which Englishman we ever made, in this land of ours, which million of Englishmen, would we not give up rather than the Stratford Peasant? There is no regiment of highest Dignitaries that we would sell him for. He is the grandest thing we have yet done. For our honour among foreign nations, as an ornament to our English Household, what item is there that we would not surrender rather than him? Consider now, if they asked us, Will
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you give up your Indian Empire or your Shakspeare, you English; never have had any Indian Empire, or never have had any Shakspeare? Really it were a grave question. Official persons would answer doubtless in official language; but we, for our part too, should not we be forced to answer: Indian Empire, or no Indian Empire; we cannot do without Shakspeare! Indian Empire will go, at any rate, some day; but this Shakspeare does not go, he lasts forever with us; we cannot give up our Shakspeare! Nay, apart from spiritualities; and considering him merely as a real, marketable, tangibly useful possession. England, before long, this Island of ours, will hold but a small fraction of the English: in America, in New Holland, east and west to the very Antipodes, there will be a Saxondom covering great spaces of the Globe. And now, what is it that can keep all these together into virtually one Nation, so that they do not fall out and fight, but live at peace, in brotherlike intercourse, helping one another? This is justly regarded as the greatest practical problem, the thing all manner of sovereignties and governments are here to accomplish: what is it that will accomplish this? Acts of Parliament, administrative prime-ministers cannot. America is parted from us, so far as Parliament could part it. Call it not fantastic, for there is much reality in it: Here, I say, is an English King, whom no time or chance, Parliament or combination of Parliaments, can dethrone! This King Shakspeare, does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying-signs; indestructible; really more valuable in that point of view than any other means or appliance whatsoever? We can fancy him as radiant aloft over all the Nations of Englishmen, a thousand years hence. From Paramatta, from New York, wheresoever, under
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On Heroes and Hero Worship


what sort of Parish-Constable soever, English men and women are, they will say to one another: “Yes, this Shakspeare is ours; we produced him, we speak and think by him; we are of one blood and kind with him.” The most common-sense politician, too, if he pleases, may think of that. Yes, truly, it is a great thing for a Nation that it get an articulate voice; that it produce a man who will speak forth melodiously what the heart of it means! Italy, for example, poor Italy lies dismembered, scattered asunder, not appearing in any protocol or treaty as a unity at all; yet the noble Italy is actually one: Italy produced its Dante; Italy can speak! The Czar of all the Russias, he is strong with so many bayonets, Cossacks and cannons; and does a great feat in keeping such a tract of Earth politically together; but he cannot yet speak. Something great in him, but it is a dumb greatness. He has had no voice of genius, to be heard of all men and times. He must learn to speak. He is a great dumb monster hitherto. His cannons and Cossacks will all have rusted into nonentity, while that Dante’s voice is still audible. The Nation that has a Dante is bound together as no dumb Russia can be.— We must here end what we had to say of the Hero-Poet.

Thomas Carlyle

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On Heroes and Hero Worship


[Friday, 15th May 1840.]


ur present discourse is to be of the Great Man as Priest. We have repeatedly endeavoured to explain that all sorts of Heroes are intrinsically of the same material; that given a great soul, open to the Divine Significance of Life, then there is given a man fit to speak of this, to sing of this, to fight and work for this, in a great, victorious, enduring manner; there is given a Hero,—the outward shape of whom will depend on the time and the environment he finds himself in. The Priest too, as I understand it, is a kind of Prophet; in him too there is required to be a light of inspiration, as we must name it. He presides over the worship of the people; is the Uniter of them with the Unseen Holy. He is the spiritual Captain of the people; as the Prophet is their spiritual King with many captains: he guides them heavenward, by wise guidance through this Earth and its work. The ideal of him is, that he too be what we can call a voice from the unseen Heaven; interpreting, even as the Prophet did, and in a more familiar manner unfolding the same to men. The unseen Heaven,—the “open secret of the Universe,”—which so few have an eye for! He is the Prophet shorn of his more awful splendour; burning with mild equable radiance, as the enlightener of daily life. This, I say, is the ideal of a Priest. So in old times; so in these, and in all times.
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On Heroes and Hero Worship


One knows very well that, in reducing ideals to practice, great latitude of tolerance is needful; very great. But a Priest who is not this at all, who does not any longer aim or try to be this, is a character—of whom we had rather not speak in this place. Luther and Knox were by express vocation Priests, and did faithfully perform that function in its common sense. Yet it will suit us better here to consider them chiefly in their historical character, rather as Reformers than Priests. There have been other Priests perhaps equally notable, in calmer times, for doing faithfully the office of a Leader of Worship; bringing down, by faithful heroism in that kind, a light from Heaven into the daily life of their people; leading them forward, as under God’s guidance, in the way wherein they were to go. But when this same way was a rough one, of battle, confusion and danger, the spiritual Captain, who led through that, becomes, especially to us who live under the fruit of his leading, more notable than any other. He is the warfaring and battling Priest; who led his people, not to quiet faithful labour as in smooth times, but to faithful valorous conflict, in times all violent, dismembered: a more perilous service, and a more memorable one, be it higher or not. These two men we will account our best Priests, inasmuch as they were our best Reformers. Nay I may ask, Is not every true Reformer, by the nature of him, a Priest first of all? He appeals to Heaven’s invisible justice against Earth’s visible force; knows that it, the invisible, is strong and alone strong. He is a believer in the divine truth of things; a seer, seeing through the shows of things; a worshipper, in one way or the other, of the divine truth of things; a Priest, that is. If he be not first a Priest, he will never be good for much as a Reformer.
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building up Religions. from Ulfila to Cranmer. enabled Shakspeare to speak. if peaceable Priests. there had been no melodious Dante. as we have seen Great Men. I mean. Obstructions are never wanting: the very things that were once indispensable furtherances become obstructions. Theories of Life worthy to be sung by a Dante. how good were it could we get so much as into the equable way. from Odin to Walter Raleigh. Practices of Life by a Shakspeare. The mild shining of the Poet’s light has to give place to the fierce lightning of the Reformer: unfortunately the Reformer too is a personage that cannot fail in History! The Poet indeed. a needful and inevitable phenomenon. and need to be shaken off. would always suffice us! But it is not so. with his mildness. what is he but the product and ultimate adjustment of Reform. be tamed and taught by our Poets. Nay the finished Poet. the battling Reformer too is. new Reformers needed.—we are now to see the reverse process. heroic Forms of human Existence in this world. Scandinavian and other.—a business often of enormous difficulty. from time to time. in various situations. is a symptom that his epoch itself has reached perfection and is finished. reforming from day to day. and left behind us. rough Practical Endeavour. Alas. or Prophecy. Curious how this should be necessary: yet necessary it is. with its fierceness? No wild Saint Dominics and Thebaid Eremites. which also is necessary. Or failing this rhythmic musical way. which also may be carried on in the Heroic manner.On Heroes and Hero Worship 136 Thus then. It is Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . even this latter has not yet been realized. Doubtless it were finer. could we go along always in the way of music. I remark sometimes. as the rude creatures were by their Orpheus of old. that before long there will be a new epoch.

—had in the course of another century become dubitable to common intellects. how a Theorem or spiritual Representation. the fact itself seems certain enough. he invents and devises somewhat of his own. flatly incredible. his view of the Universe. No man whatever believes. as I have stated somewhere. and is now. I say. but with the same mind he discovers farther. How was this? Why could not Dante’s Catholicism continue. Yet I may say. I do not make much of “Progress of the Species. confused sort. by fresh discovery. inconsistent with some Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . nothing will continue.—which is an infinite Universe. nay we can trace out the inevitable necessity of it in the nature of things. which once took in the whole Universe. obsolete as Odin’s Theorem! To Dante. become deniable. Every man. nor do I think you would care to hear much about it. one of the greatest in the world. human Existence. and can never be embraced wholly or finally by any view or Theorem. were all well represented by those Malebolges. to every one of us. or can believe.” as handled in these times of ours. in any conceivable enlargement: he enlarges somewhat. and was completely satisfactory in all parts of it to the highly discursive acute intellect of Dante. so we may call it. to Luther not well. and consequently his Theorem of the Universe. false to him. is not only a learner but a doer: he learns with the mind given him what has been. finds somewhat that was credible to his grandfather incredible to him. Absolutely without originality there is no man. and God’s ways with men. The talk on that subject is too often of the most extravagant. but Luther’s Protestantism must needs follow? Alas.On Heroes and Hero Worship 137 notable enough. exactly what his grandfather believed: he enlarges somewhat. surely. Purgatorios.

and there are long troublous periods. and Systems of Practice that spring from these. It is the history of every man. If we add now the melancholy fact. is a new offence. that when Belief waxes uncertain. So with all beliefs whatsoever in this world. At all turns. and errors. Practice too becomes unsound. has to be torn asunder by a Luther. needs to believe firmly. has to end in a French Revolution. Dante’s Mountain of Purgatory does not stand “in the ocean of the other Hemisphere. before matters come to a settlement again. The accumulation of offences is. he is a poor eyeservant. Offences accumulate till they become insupportable. as we say. with an eye to the outward look of it. It is not there. as beautiful as it once looked and was. we shall see material enough for revolution. if he cannot dispense with the world’s suffrage.—revolutions. injustices and miseries everywhere more and more prevail. Dante’s sublime Catholicism. and make his own suffrage serve. Shakspeare’s noble Feudalism. It must cease to be believed to be there. Every such man is a daily contributor to the inevitable downfall. and in the history of Mankind we see it summed up into great historical amounts.On Heroes and Hero Worship 138 new thing he has discovered or observed. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . If he have to ask at every turn the world’s suffrage.—all Systems of Belief.” when Columbus has once sailed thither! Men find no such thing extant in the other Hemisphere. too literally exploded. Whatsoever work he does. parent of new misery to somebody or other. new epochs. a man who will do faithfully. blasted asunder volcanically. dishonestly. the work committed to him will be misdone. doubting and dishonest practice. and defaced still worse by faithless. incredible now in theory. and are then violently burst through. cleared off as by explosion.

Odinism was Valour. an everlasting possession for us all. as having spent their life in blind condemnable error. it is an important fact in the nature of man. and became a dead body. in all countries and times except our own. They all marched forward there. Such incredible hypothesis we have seen maintained with fierce emphasis. all generations since the beginning of the world. Christianism was Humility. on the other hand. what a melancholy notion is that. all destruction. only that we might have the true ultimate knowledge! All generations of men were lost and wrong. by violent revolution or howsoever it be. towards sure victory but when he too. is but of the body. a nobler kind of Valour. is but new creation on a wider scale. not of the essence or soul. marching as over the dead bodies of all men. Mahometans. that we might march over and take the place! It is an incredible hypothesis. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . only that this present little section of a generation might be saved and right. which has to represent all men. that he tends to reckon his own insight as final. No thought that ever dwelt honestly as true in the heart of man but was an honest insight into God’s truth on man’s part. subject to the law of death! At bottom. sank into the ditch. only to fill up the ditch with their dead bodies. with his hypothesis and ultimate infallible credo. with his sect of individual men. and find in all human opinions and arrangements merely the fact that they were uncertain. And. it is not so: all death. and has an essential truth in it which endures through all changes. what was to be said?—Withal. like the Russian soldiers into the ditch of Schweidnitz Fort. here too we find.On Heroes and Hero Worship 139 Surely it were mournful enough to look only at this face of the matter. mere lost Pagans. Scandinavians. and this or the other poor individual man. temporary.

the Arab turban and swift scimetar. he did not think that the poor image his own hands had made was God. One of Mahomet’s characteristics. is a thing they cannot away with. but it must be in some wider. a symbol. the empire of Darkness and Wrong? Why should we misknow one another. what kind of battle it was. in one or the other way. it is the chief of all the sins they see done under the sun. the worshipping of dead Idols as the Divinity. I fancy. that God was in it some way or other. under Heaven’s captaincy. We are all under one Captain. all genuine things are with us.—Let us now look a little at this Luther’s fighting. Thor’s strong hammer smiting down Jotuns. from mere difference of uniform? All uniforms shall be good. soldiers of the same army. and how he comported himself in it. a thing seen. enlisted. This is worth noting. It is not God. and perhaps one may question whether any the most benighted mortal ever took it for more than a Symbol. but have to denounce continually. not against us. And now in Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . All fashions of arms. Dante’s march-melody. which indeed belongs to all Prophets. I suppose. wiser way than this. As introductory to the whole. soldiers of the same host. but a Symbol of God. It is the grand theme of Prophets: Idolatry. We will not enter here into the theological question about Idolatry. He will always do it. Are not all true men that live. or that ever lived. fight not against the enemy but against ourselves. shall be welcome. Idol is Eidolon. a remark about Idolatry will perhaps be in place here. Luther too was of our spiritual Heroes. so they hold in them true valiant men. but that God was emblemed by it.On Heroes and Hero Worship 140 and goes upon it as such. to do battle against the same enemy. Luther’s battlevoice. a Prophet to his country and time. is unlimited implacable zeal against Idolatry. and brand with inexpiable reprobation.

may be an object of pity. conceptions that fitly invest religious feelings. religious forms. but no substantial difference. as we saw. all Idolatry is comparative. liturgies. are in this sense eidola. Is not all worship whatsoever a worship by Symbols. or the Caabah BlackStone.On Heroes and Hero Worship 141 this sense. but cannot surely be an object Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . an Idol. while his heart is full of it. Where. or visible only to the inward eye. All creeds. or things seen? Whether seen. rendered visible as an image or picture to the bodily eye. if you will. he. was not exactly what suggested itself to his own thought. All worship whatsoever must proceed by Symbols. or earnest prophetic men would not on all hands so reprobate it. significant of Godhead. lies the evil of it? Some fatal evil must lie in it. and intellectual Representation of Divine things. The rudest heathen that worshipped Canopus. and the worst Idolatry is only more idolatrous. thereby is worship first made possible for him. and filled his inmost soul with indignation and aversion. by Idols:—we may say. the thing that had chiefly provoked the Prophet. to the intellect: this makes a superficial. Why is Idolatry so hateful to Prophets? It seems to me as if. as the thing. Why should the Prophet so mercilessly condemn him? The poorest mortal worshipping his Fetish. The most rigorous Puritan has his Confession of Faith. things seen. was superior to the horse that worshipped nothing at all! Nay there was a kind of lasting merit in that poor act of his. analogous to what is still meritorious in Poets: recognition of a certain endless divine beauty and significance in stars and all natural objects whatsoever. in the worship of those poor wooden symbols. to the imagination. then. by eidola. It is still a Thing Seen. and came out of him in words to others. and worships thereby. one may ask. of contempt and avoidance.

if not well with him. brands it. Doubt has eaten out the heart of it: a human soul is seen clinging spasmodically to an Ark of the Covenant. “You do not believe. and you will leave him alone.” It is the final scene in all kinds of Worship and Symbolism. No more immoral act can be done by a human creature. but only pretend to be filled. Let his heart be honestly full of it. are at death-feud. which it half feels now to have become a Phantasm. and would fain make themselves feel that they are filled. Before the Prophet can arise who. Souls are no longer filled with their Fetish. He and it. unmolested there. knows it to be mere wood. prosecutes it with inextinguishable aversion. the whole space of his dark narrow mind illuminated thereby. the sure symptom that death is now nigh. I do not wonder that the earnest man denounces this. or rather it is the impossibility henceforth of any morality whatsoever: the innermost moral soul is paralyzed thereby. “you only believe that you believe. let him entirely believe in his Fetish. and Worship of Formulas. for it is the beginning of all immorality. Condemnable Idolatry is insincere Idolatry. all good and it. many men must have begun dimly to doubt that it was little more. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . I should say. in one word. But here enters the fatal circumstance of Idolatry. in the era of the Prophets. Blamable Idolatry is Cant. in these days of ours. that. and even what one may call Sincere-Cant. cast into fatal magnetic sleep! Men are no longer sincere men.On Heroes and Hero Worship 142 of hatred. yet as well as it can readily be made to be. This is one of the balefulest sights.” said Coleridge. Sincere-Cant: that is worth thinking of! Every sort of Worship ends with this phasis. It is equivalent to what we call Formulism.—it will then be. no man’s mind is any longer honestly filled with his Idol or Symbol. seeing through it.

The wooden gods of the Koreish. made of sheepskin and ink. Protestantism. and represent as the basis of all possible good. that the enormous French Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Popes and much else. among other things. articulately or with deep speechless thought. made of timber and bees-wax. all hierarchy and subordination among men. for mankind.On Heroes and Hero Worship 143 I find Luther to have been a Breaker of Idols. religious or social. Nay I will grant that English Puritanism. By this revolt against the Pope. that he must never trust any Pope. and venerates. decorous. was the second act of it. that he stand upon things. It is the property of every Hero. henceforth an impossibility? So we hear it said. preparatory afar off to a new thing. any more! Whereby. and learnt. too. however regular. radically different from any the world had ever seen before: the era of “private judgment. One often hears it said that Protestantism introduced a new era. According as he loves. The first stroke of honest demolition to an ancient thing grown false and idolatrous. and not shows of things. in every time. which shall be true. in every place and situation. no less than any other Prophet.” as they call it.—Now I need not deny that Protestantism was a revolt against spiritual sovereignties. the awful realities of things. so will the hollow shows of things. accredited by Koreishes or Conclaves. every man became his own Pope. and authentically divine! At first view it might seem as if Protestantism were entirely destructive to this that we call Hero-worship. revolt against earthly sovereignties. is the work of a Prophet: the prophet-work of that sixteenth century. were not more hateful to Mahomet than Tetzel’s Pardons of Sin. or spiritual Herocaptain. be intolerable and detestable to him. that he come back to reality. were to Luther. is not spiritual union.

I find it to be a revolt against false sovereigns. if so. abolished or made sure of abolition. Without sovereigns. Protestantism is the grand root from which our whole subsequent European History branches out. at bottom. Let us remark. as all kinds of Improvement and genuine Teaching are and have been. in things temporal or things spiritual. and Dr. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . true sovereigns. if we will consider it. whatever anarchic democracy it have produced. but only new at that epoch of the world. sure enough. or loyal obedience of men to a man. therefore. whereby all sovereignties earthly and spiritual were. Independence and so forth. that this of “private judgment” is. the hatefulest of things. instead of Kings. the cry is everywhere for Liberty and Equality. Tetzel. or tied shackles on himself. temporal and spiritual.On Heroes and Hero Worship 144 Revolution itself was the third act. the painful but indispensable first preparative for true sovereigns getting place among us! This is worth explaining a little. I should despair of the world altogether. it was a return to Truth and Reality in opposition to Falsehood and Semblance. I see nothing possible but an anarchy. There is nothing generically new or peculiar in the Reformation. must at all times have existed in the world. not a new thing in the world.—if many a poor Hogstraten. to be the beginning of new genuine sovereignty and order. And now. has passed away forever from the world. in the first place. the spiritual is the beginning of the temporal. But I find Protestantism. Ballot-boxes and Electoral suffrages: it seems made out that any Hero-sovereign. Dante had not put out his eyes. as might seem. One of my deepest convictions is. Liberty of private judgment. he was at home in that Catholicism of his. that it is not so. a free-seeing soul in it. For the spiritual will always body itself forth in the temporal history of men.

he will reign. Well done! At bottom. it was a return to all old sayings that ever had been said. does by no means necessarily end in selfish independence. Liberty of judgment? No iron chain. but rather ends necessarily in the opposite of that. It is not honest inquiry that makes anarchy. once more. must first. by the grace of God alone! The sorriest sophistical Bellarmine. and has always so believed. A man protesting against error is on the way towards uniting himself with all men that believe in truth. Mahomet believed with his whole mind. had “judged “—so.—or he would believe them and not hearsays. preaching sightless faith and passive obedience. it was no new saying. Be genuine. faithfully gone about. as the advisablest step he could take. has no power of sympathy even with things. only struggling to “believe that he believes. The right of private judgment will subsist.On Heroes and Hero Worship 145 Eck had now become slaves in it. and believe there. half-belief and untruth that make it. and all true Followers of Odinism. A true man believes with his whole judgment. could ever compel the soul of a man to believe or to disbelieve: it is his own indefeasible light. No sympathy even with Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . by some kind of conviction. And now I venture to assert. have abdicated his right to be convinced. with all the illumination and discernment that is in him. by their private judgment. the meaning of it. His “private judgment” indicated that. be sincere: that was. insincerity. that the exercise of private judgment. The heart of each is lying dead. A false man. but it is error. They. or outward force of any kind. isolation. Protestantism said to this latter. Woe! and to the former. Odin with his whole mind.—he.” will naturally manage it in some other way. wherever true men subsist. that judgment of his. in full force. There is no communion possible among men who believe only in hearsays.

what he has received from another. all men in them. it is sincerity. Every son of Adam can become a sincere man. But a man need not be great in order to be sincere. an original man.—and there. Hero-worship? Ah me. as the first condition of him. for all of it. in all spheres. what we call ages of Faith. loyalty. all true and blessed things. in the long-run. sincere. and never so sincerely to believe in. original. it is as good as certain. none of it subtractive. is surely the farthest in the world from indisposing him to reverence and believe other men’s truth! It only disposes. all of it is additive. as genuine. he is an anarchic man. or the most of men in them. Whole ages. There is true union. or rather altogether lost sight of in this controversy: That it is not necessary a man should himself have discovered the truth he is to believe in. he believes it for himself. Only in a world of sincere men is unity possible. are original. true kingship. we said. necessitates and invincibly compels him to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . tends towards one goal. true. but only of certain corrupt unfortunate epochs of Time. or what we call it. A man can believe. and make his own.On Heroes and Hero Worship 146 things. not for another. no mortal is doomed to be an insincere man. These are the great and fruitful ages: every worker. whatsoever he believes. is a worker not on semblance but on substance.—and with boundless gratitude to that other! The merit of originality is not novelty. For observe one thing. in the most genuine way. how much less with his fellow-men! He cannot unite with men. in this sense. so far as the poor Earth can produce blessedness for men. a thing too often left out of view. was always sincere. that is not the necessity of Nature and all Time. The believing man is the original man. every work issues in a result: the general sum of such work is great. that a man be self-subsistent. A Great Man.

therefore. as the penalty of sins that are past. though afar off. from amid boundless revolt of Sansculottism. but life and strength. All this of Liberty and Equality. that they are grounded not on garnitures and semblances. lies prostrate by his valour. to new genuine ones. A man embraces truth with his eyes open. Falsehood. being verily such? Napoleon. that did behoove to be done. was not Luther himself reverenced as a true Pope. accordingly. Independence and so forth. worthy of all reverence! The black monster. Is not such a one a true Hero and Serpentqueller. Loyalty and Sovereignty are everlasting in the world:—and there is this in them.” no. Though likely to last a long time. with a right gratitude and genuine loyalty of soul. by no means a final one. cost what it might. or Spiritual Father. with sad enough embroilments for us all.— what can you do? Misery and mischief only. Electoral suffrages. hearsays and untruths. we will take. it was he that conquered the world for us!—See. You cannot make an Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . to be a temporary phenomenon. and because his eyes are open: does he need to shut them before he can love his Teacher of truth? He alone can love. Not by shutting your eyes. it behooved men to quit simulacra and return to fact. your “private judgment. our one enemy in this world. but by opening them. With spurious Popes. Hero-worship never dies. and by having something to see! Luther’s message was deposition and abolition to all false Popes and Potentates. we must welcome it.—quacks pretending to command over dupes.On Heroes and Hero Worship 147 disbelieve other men’s dead formulas. the Hero-Teacher who has delivered him out of darkness into light. and Believers having no private judgment. the pledge of inestimable benefits that are coming. nor can die. In all ways. but on realities and sincerities. became a King.

from Protestantism downwards. and the boy she bore was named MARTIN LUTHER. It leads us back to another Birth-hour. poor mine-laborers in a village of that region. named Mohra. found refuge in some poor house there. I see the blessedest result preparing itself: not abolition of Heroworship. it is great. that day. the whole world and its history was waiting for this man. the like will again be. he came into the world there on the 10th of November. Luther’s birthplace was Eisleben in Saxony. but rather what I would call a whole World of Heroes. If Hero mean sincere man. whose light was to flame as the beacon over long centuries and epochs of the world. once more. she had gone with her husband to make her small merchandisings. there was not a more entirely unimportant-looking pair of people than this Miner and his Wife. This poor Frau Luther. to buy the small winternecessaries for her narrow hut or household. a Mighty Man.—cannot help being. in comparison? There was born here.On Heroes and Hero Worship 148 association out of insincere men. And yet what were all Emperors. a believing world: the like has been. It is strange. in a still meaner Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in the whole world. His parents. why may not every one of us be a Hero? A world all sincere.—at right-angles to one another! In all this wild revolutionary work. Popes and Potentates. Strange enough to reflect upon it. That were the right sort of Worshippers for Heroes: never could the truly Better be so reverenced as where all were True and Good!—But we must hasten to Luther and his Life. perhaps to sell the lock of yarn she had been spinning. had gone to the Eisleben Winter-Fair: in the tumult of this scene the Frau Luther was taken with travail. It was an accident that gave this honour to Eisleben. 1483. you cannot build an edifice except by plummet and level.

singing for alms and bread. that we think only in silence. one of the poorest of men. and doubtless wisely ordered to that end by the Providence presiding over him and us and all things. Eighteen Hundred years ago. Luther had struggled up through boyhood. as a god: a Christian Odin.—a right Thor once more. Among things. eager to learn: his father judging doubtless that he might promote himself in the world. no man nor no thing would put on a false face to flatter Martin Luther. for it had dwelt too long with semblance! A youth nursed up in wintry whirlwinds. He had to beg. strong as a true man. at whatever cost: his task was to bring the whole world back to reality. in spite of all hindrances. This was the path to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . we may fancy. and brought up poor. for what words are there! The Age of Miracles past? The Age of Miracles is forever here!— I find it altogether suitable to Luther’s function in this Earth. in desolate darkness and difficulty. the largest intellect.—of which it is fit that we say nothing. yet with weak health. displaying. Hardship. rigorous Necessity was the poor boy’s companion. better and worse. not among the shows of things. to smite asunder ugly enough Jotuns and Giantmonsters! Perhaps the turning incident of his life. that he may step forth at last from his stormy Scandinavia. with his thunderhammer. with his large greedy soul. by lightning. was that death of his friend Alexis. had he to grow. full of all faculty and sensibility. from door to door. But it was his task to get acquainted with realities. and keep acquainted with them. he suffered greatly. A boy of rude figure. at the gate of Erfurt. that he was born poor.On Heroes and Hero Worship 149 environment. as the school-children in those times did. set him upon the study of Law.

vigils. Luther. dubitations. Chancellorships. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Luther. into the blank Eternity! What are all earthly preferments. he believed himself likely to die soon. all sorts of slave-work. and far worse than die. that he should be raised to Heaven! He that had known only misery. by fasts. Alexis and he had been to see the old Luther people at Mansfeldt. in a moment they are not. fancied that he was doomed to eternal reprobation. it was still as one light-point in an element all of darkness. Was it not the humble sincere nature of the man? What was he. In spite of all dissuasions from his father and others. and Eternity is. struck to the heart. had rather. painfully struggling to work out the truth of this high act of his. he lived in terror of the unspeakable misery. had consented: he was now nineteen years of age. but. ich bin ein frommer Monch gewesen.On Heroes and Hero Worship 150 rise. as novice in his Convent. One hears with a new interest for poor Luther that. and mean slavery: the news was too blessed to be credible. at this time. for the present. This was probably the first light-point in the history of Luther. Kingships? They lie shrunk together—there! The Earth has opened on them. What is this Life of ours?—gone in a moment. increased into infinitude. the bolt struck Alexis. were got back again near Erfurt. determined to devote himself to God and God’s service alone. with little will in it either way. It could not become clear to him how. He says he was a pious monk. when a thunder-storm came on. as it were. were not his grievance: the deep earnest soul of the man had fallen into all manner of black scruples. His misery had not lessened. The drudgeries he had to do. he became a Monk in the Augustine Convent at Erfurt. faithfully. he fell dead at Luther’s feet. his purer will now first decisively uttering itself. but it was to little purpose. burnt up like a scroll.

had cast his eye on him as a valuable person. Luther learned now that a man was saved not by singing masses. It was in his twenty-seventh year that he first saw Rome. named the Wise. being Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Preacher too at Wittenberg. what we call his conversion. Friedrich. was helpful. but by the infinite grace of God: a more credible hypothesis. It taught him another lesson than that of fasts and vigils. which had brought this blessed help to him. He was sent on missions by his Augustine Order. this Luther. He gradually got himself founded. and be found more and more useful in all honest business of life. a truly wise and just prince. of pious experience. he should rise to importance in his Convent. for himself the most important of all epochs. He fell into the blackest wretchedness. is his deliverance from darkness. then. as in all duties he did. That he should now grow daily in peace and clearness. in the peaceable sphere of common life. in his country. that. He prized it as the Word of the Highest must be prized by such a man. made him Professor in his new University of Wittenberg. He had never seen the Book before. He determined to hold by that. as on the rock. was gaining more and more esteem with all good men.On Heroes and Hero Worship 151 formalities and mass-work. It must have been a most blessed discovery. his final triumph over darkness. a man’s soul could be saved. that of an old Latin Bible which he found in the Erfurt Library about this time. No wonder he should venerate the Bible. had to wander staggering as on the verge of bottomless Despair. This. A brother monk too. in both which capacities. as a man of talent and fidelity fit to do their business well: the Elector of Saxony. as through life and to death he firmly did. is a natural result. unfolding now the great talents and virtues implanted in him.

and he found it—what we know! Many thoughts it must have given the man.On Heroes and Hero Worship 152 sent thither. clothed not in the beauty of holiness. is false: but what is it to Luther? A mean man he. the rest. He had come as to the Sacred City. peaceable a disposition ever filled the world with Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . left Providence. had Roman Popery happened to pass this Luther by. must have filled the mind of Luther with amazement. A humble. His business was to guide his own footsteps wisely through the world. struck again. resisted. but in far other vesture. which perhaps he did not himself know how to utter. to walk wisely in this world of confused wickedness. solitary man. as I say. could not get lived in honesty for it. His clear task. to go on in its great wasteful orbit. and what was going on at Rome. not prompt he to attack irreverently persons in authority. on mission from his Convent. throne of God’s High-priest on Earth. and not come athwart his little path. Let him do his own obscure duty in it well. he remonstrated. not in his. this scene of false priests. why should he at all meddle with the world? It was the task of quite higher men than he. is in God’s hand. and force him to assault it! Conceivable enough that. to deal with them! A modest quiet man. Luther. This Rome. in this case. Pope Julius the Second. But the Roman High-priesthood did come athwart him: afar off at Wittenberg he. Perhaps no man of so humble. came to extremity. was struck at. many which we have no record of. horrible and dismal as it looks. and so it came to wager of battle between them! This is worth attending to in Luther’s history. and God on high. as I said. It is curious to reflect what might have been the issue. how shall he reform a world? That was far from his thoughts. he might have held his peace about the abuses of Rome. was to do his own duty. and save his own soul alive.

otherwise than distractedly. We will say to the people who maintain it. so far as he was anything. that no man’s sins could be pardoned by them. we may then begin arguing with you.—arrived at Wittenberg. I think. or lost it forever! We will say nothing at all. an indubitable goal for him: in a few years. and declare aloud that they were a futility and sorrowful mockery. Notoriety: what would that do for him? The goal of his march through this world was the Infinite Heaven.—spreading ever wider. a false sluggard and coward at the very centre of the little space of ground that was his own and no other man’s. of its being some mean shopkeeper grudge. sent out carelessly in the way of trade. Luther’s flock bought Indulgences. in the confessional of his Church. that first kindled the wrath of Luther. and produced the Protestant Reformation. quiet diligence in the shade. on the last day of October.On Heroes and Hero Worship 153 contention. if he would not be found wanting at his own post. and drove his scandalous trade there. or of any man like Luther. forward from this first public challenge of Tetzel.—who merely wanted to raise a little money. rising ever Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . had to step forth against Indulgences. It was the beginning of the whole Reformation. of the Augustine Monk against the Dominican. he should either have attained that. The Monk Tetzel. through remonstrance and argument. if indeed any such exist now: Get first into the sphere of thought by which it is so much as possible to judge of Luther. and for the rest seems to have been a Pagan rather than a Christian. of that sorrowfulest of theories. We know how it went. Luther. that it was against his will he ever became a notoriety. 1517. We cannot but see that he would have loved privacy. people pleaded to him that they had already got their sins pardoned. by Leo Tenth.

you are another’s than his. and enveloped all the world. an earnest. answer them by the hangman and fire? You will burn me and them. seven feet long. He dooms the Monk’s writings to be burnt by the hangman. God’s vicegerent on earth. or revolting against the Pope.—The elegant Pagan Pope cared little about this Monk and his doctrines. wished. he thought good to end it by fire. and burn it. fire. You will do what you see good next: this is what I do. with all imaginable promises and safe-conducts. not rebellious kind of man: they laid him instantly in a stone dungeon “three feet wide. till it became unquenchable. by this fire-decree of his. That was not well done! I. six feet high. Poor Huss: he came to that Constance Council. These words of mine. his thought was still far other than that of introducing separation in the Church.—probably for a similar purpose. and his body to be sent bound to Rome. as human inability would allow. words of truth and soberness.—It was on the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . with Jerome. if also one of the humblest. Luther’s heart’s desire was to have this grief and other griefs amended. having tried various softer methods. and save men’s souls. peaceablest. to have done with the noise of him: in a space of some three years. aiming faithfully. A short argument. I think! I take your Bull. Father of Christendom.On Heroes and Hero Worship 154 higher. however. choked it in smoke and fire. it was now kindled. for answer to the God’s-message they strove to bring you? You are not God’s vicegerent. to promote God’s truth on Earth. had kindled into noble just wrath the bravest heart then living in this world. The elegant Pagan. for one.” burnt the true voice of him out of this world. The bravest. pardon Luther for now altogether revolting against the Pope. as an emparchmented Lie. you. It was the way they had ended with Huss. the century before.

It is nothing else. is nothing else. The quiet German heart. the flies stick on them: they are not God. friendless. I a poor German Monk am stronger than you all. spiritual Fatherhood of God’s Church. you with your tiaras. that Luther. modest. and so much like it. Luther’s appearance there on the 17th of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Pagan Popeism. it. Formulism. It is the function of great men and teachers. thunders spiritual and temporal. but on God’s Truth. and not a lie! At bottom. Popeship. I tell you. had at length got more than it could bear. I stand on this. it is a bit of rag-paper with ink. we are to consider Luther as a Prophet Idol-breaker. that Life was a truth. patient of much. of cloth and parchment? It is an awful fact. I stand solitary. God alone can pardon sins. This thing of yours that you call a Pardon of Sins. The Pope should not have provoked that “shout”! It was the shout of the awakening of nations. “with a great concourse of people. and are not so strong!— The Diet of Worms. with your treasuries and armories. as was said above.” Wittenberg looked on “with shoutings. is that a vain semblance.” the whole world was looking on. since you drive me to it. These idols of yours are wood.On Heroes and Hero Worship 155 10th of December. a bringer-back of men to reality. 1520. three years after the beginning of the business. and other Falsehood and corrupt Semblance had ruled long enough: and here once more was a man found who durst tell all men that God’s-world stood not on semblances but on realities. God’s Church is not a semblance. Heaven and Hell are not semblances.” took this indignant step of burning the Pope’s fire-decree “at the ElsterGate of Wittenberg. stand on the Devil’s Lie. Mahomet said. Standing on this. they are black wood! Luther said to the Pope. triple-hats. you put wax and oil on them.

advised him not to go. wise and honest tone. I would on. it had come to this.” The people. distinguished itself by its respectful. stands up for God’s Truth.On Heroes and Hero Worship 156 April. may be considered as the greatest scene in Modern European History. But as to what stood on sound truth Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . A large company of friends rode out to meet him. 1521. The young Emperor Charles Fifth. the poor miner Hans Luther’s Son. the point. crowded the windows and house-tops. His writings. in solemn words. he would not be advised.—as in a kind of solemn petition and adjuration. calling itself Father in God. one man. indeed. not submissive to any more than that. with all the Princes of Germany. on the morrow. blindness. “Were there as many Devils in Worms as there are roof-tiles. disputations. many things doubtless which it were a blessing for him could he abolish altogether. the petition of the whole world. human infirmity entered into it. Papal nuncios. Friends had reminded him of Huss. whether he will recant or not. are assembled there: Luther is to appear and answer for himself. As to what was his own. of two hours. he answered. The world’s pomp and power sits there on this hand: on that. as he went to the Hall of the Diet. paralyzed under a black spectral Nightmare and triple-hatted Chimera. from which the whole subsequent history of civilization takes its rise. His speech. with still more earnest warnings. it rests with thee. were partly his own. submissive to whatsoever could lawfully claim submission. lying in dark bondage of soul. some of them calling out to him. partly derived from the Word of God. desert us not!” Luther did not desert us. After multiplied negotiations. he said. Was it not in reality our petition too. not to recant: “Whosoever denieth me before men!” they cried to him. dignitaries spiritual and temporal. and what not: “Free us. unguarded anger.

but the Reformation simply could not help coming. No matter how good it was. it was some other’s blame! The Reformation might bring what results it liked when it came. as we say. To all Popes and Popes’ advocates. For it is neither safe nor prudent to do aught against conscience. They are lamentable. your Popehood has become untrue. but after all. England and its Parliaments. loathsome accursed death. stagnant putrescence. which last down to our day. Great talk and crimination has been made about these. I have no doubt the confusion that resulted was considerable all around: but I think it was not Hercules’s blame. contentions and disunion followed out of this Reformation. undeniable. with whatever paroxysm. the answer of the world is: Once for all. I can do no other: God assist me!”—It is.On Heroes and Hero Worship 157 and the Word of God. it had all been otherwise! The European World was asking him: Am I to sink ever lower into falsehood. how good you say it is. the light of our whole mind. he could not recant it. or. the greatest moment in the Modern History of Men. we cannot believe it. How could he? “Confute me. and be cured and live?— Great wars. Here stand I. French Revolution. given us to walk by Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . or else by plain just arguments: I cannot recant otherwise. English Puritanism. and are yet far from ended. When Hercules turned the purifying river into King Augeas’s stables.” he concluded. “by proofs of Scripture. expostulating. Americas. and vast work these two centuries. to cast the falsehoods out of me. Europe and its work everywhere at present: the germ of it all lay there: had Luther in that moment done other. what has Luther or his cause to do with them? It seems strange reasoning to charge the Reformation with all this. lamenting and accusing.

Dost thou believe me?— No!—At what cost soever. Luther did what every man that God has made has not only the right. may pass for one of the idlest ever started. to get itself reckoned true. without counting of costs. self-blinding or other dishonesty. a far nobler than any Popedom or Feudalism in their truest days. We will not believe it. this thing behooved to be done. but lies under the sacred duty. let us not be unjust to the Old. It was good then. We hope for a living peace.On Heroes and Hero Worship 158 from Heaven above. listen to a few Protestant logic-choppings. in prizing justly the indispensable blessings of the New. is coming for the world. sure to come. the noisome grave is peaceable. Away with it. to do: answered a Falsehood when it questioned him. The speculation that Popery is on the increase. In Dante’s days it needed no sophistry. we will not have anything to do. I never doubt. not a dead one! And yet. finds it henceforth a thing unbelievable. Union. if we durst pretend to think it true. the false Simulacra that forced him to protest. The Old was true. we will not try to believe it.—to much dulldroning drowsy inanity that still calls itself Protestant. or to stand when come. The cry of “No Popery” is foolish enough in these days. nay there is in the soul of it a deathless good. organization spiritual and material. Very curious: to count up a few Popish chapels. not on Semblance and Simulacrum. and say: Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . With union grounded on falsehood. they are responsible. we were traitors against the Giver of all Truth. will it be able either to come. Peace? A brutal lethargy is peaceable. building new chapels and so forth. and ordering us to speak and act lies. let whatsoever likes come in the place of it: with it we can have no farther trade!—Luther and his Protestantism is not responsible for wars.—we dare not! The thing is untrue. if it no longer is. But on Fact alone.

We may say. for minutes you cannot tell how it is going. if we consider. look in half an hour where it is. would there were no greater danger to our Europe than the poor old Pope’s revival! Thor may as soon try to revive. the Old never dies till this happen. as Thor has done. what is inclusive of all. or. at bottom. Till all the soul of good that was in it have got itself transfused into the practical New.—look in half a century where your Popehood is! Alas. that I hear of! Protestantism. but Protestantism has not died yet. indeed. It lasts here for a purpose. any more than Paganism can. Then. nor ought it. to all lengths. if we will look. it will have no charm more for any man. that call themselves Protestant are dead. what else is alive but Protestantism? The life of most else that one meets is a galvanic one merely. thither on the beach. will be alive after it!—Drowsy inanities. will this or the other human soul adopt it. rather considerable signs of life! Nay. The poor old Popehood will not die away entirely. go about as a living witness of it. not a lasting sort of life! Popery can build new chapels. while a pious life remains capable of being led by it. Popery cannot come back. Popeism is more alive than it. Let it last as long as it can. not a few. But. as with the ebbing of the sea: you look at the waves oscillating hither. its Napoleon. but also not till then. has in these days produced its Goethe.—And withal this oscillation has a meaning. Protestantism is dead. German Literature and the French Revolution.—which also still lingers in some countries. While a good work remains capable of being done by the Romish form. till we in our practice too have appropriated whatsoever of truth was in it. for some time yet.— Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .On Heroes and Hero Worship 159 See. it is with these things. just so long. So long it will obtrude itself on the eye of us who reject it. welcome to do so.—not a pleasant.

and what is not. continued firm at the centre of it. shows a noble strength. Luther’s clear deep force of judgment. this fact. and to plant himself courageously on that. of the Anabaptists. the noticeable fact that none of them began so long as he continued living.On Heroes and Hero Worship 160 Of Luther I will add now. a very genuine kind of tolerance: he distinguishes what is essential. Tolerance. How seldom do we find a man that has stirred up some vast commotion. very different from spasmodic violence. what harm will a cassock do the man? “Let him have a cassock to preach in. I say. Luther’s Written Works Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . that other true men may rally round him there. in reference to all these wars and bloodshed. The controversy did not get to fighting so long as he was there. sovereign of this greatest revolution. the unessential may go very much as it will. and all men follow him in that. A complaint comes to him that such and such a Reformed Preacher “will not preach without a cassock. of the Peasants’ War. in a good degree. Luther continued. of silence. looking much to him for guidance: and he held it peaceable. With sure prompt insight he discriminates what is what: a strong just man. among others. swept away in it! Such is the usual course of revolutionists. all Protestants. he speaks forth what is the wise course. of tolerance and moderation. answers Luther. To me it is proof of his greatness in all senses. his force of all sorts. He will not continue leader of men otherwise. who does not himself perish. as a strong true man. are very notable in these circumstances. let him have three cassocks if he find benefit in them!” His conduct in the matter of Karlstadt’s wild image-breaking.” Well. of what rank or function soever. A man to do this must have a kingly faculty: he must have the gift to discern at all turns where the true heart of the matter lies.

Good humor too. and a most small sneer has been grounded on it by some. whose character is valour. They are not well written. he was worn down with long labour. nay tender affection. that one has record of. but one still reads them with a singular attraction. nobleness and depth: this man could have been a Poet too! He had to work an Epic Poem. Many times. The dialect of these speculations is now grown obsolete for us.On Heroes and Hero Worship 161 give similar testimony of him. Richter says of Luther’s words. these Four-and-twenty Quartos of his. with quite other than literary objects. And indeed the mere grammatical diction is still legible enough. He dashes out illumination from him. simplicity. a rugged sterling sense and strength. “His words are half-battles. Luther’s merit in literary history is of the greatest: his dialect became the language of all writing. the strange memorial of one of these conflicts. written hastily. his smiting idiomatic phrases seem to cleave into the very secret of the matter. His defiance of the “Devils” in Worms was not a mere boast. spiritual denizens of the Pit. I will say noble faculty of a man than in these. continually besetting men. this turns up. as the like might be if now spoken. not write one. homeliness. No more valiant man. that he was a right piece of human Valour. In the room of the Wartburg where he sat translating the Bible. abstinence from Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . A rugged honesty. genuine. ever lived in that Teutonic Kindred. It was a faith of Luther’s that there were Devils. in his writings. as indeed his greatness of heart already betokens that. they still show you a black spot on the wall. But in no Books have I found a more robust. with sickness. no mortal heart to be called braver. The essential quality of him was.” They may be called so. I call him a great Thinker. Luther sat translating one of the Psalms. that he could fight and conquer.

So honest.” What a reservoir of Dukes to ride into!— At the same time. full of pity and love. The tiger before a stronger foe—flies: the tiger is not what we call valiant.” of Leipzig. with fiend-defiance. no accusation could be more unjust than this of mere ferocious violence brought against him. There may be an absence of fear which arises from the absence of thought or affection. soft as a child’s or a mother’s. to forbid his work: Luther started up. they err greatly who imagine that this man’s courage was ferocity. a curious monument of several things.—Fearless enough! “The Devil is aware. I know few things more touching than those soft breathings of affection. A most gentle heart withal.” writes he on one occasion. from the presence of hatred and stupid fury. can give no higher proof of fearlessness. Any apothecary’s apprentice can now tell us what we are to think of this apparition. unadulterated with any Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . “that this does not proceed out of fear in me. face to face. in a scientific sense: but the man’s heart that dare rise defiant. as many do. a great enemy of his. against Hell itself. I would ride into Leipzig. and it disappeared! The spot still remains there. as indeed the truly valiant heart ever is. flung his inkstand at the spectre. I have seen and defied innumerable Devils. We do not value the courage of the tiger highly! With Luther it was far otherwise. only fierce and cruel. Duke George. The thing he will quail before exists not on this Earth or under it. in this great wild heart of Luther. though it rained Duke Georges for nine days running. mere coarse disobedient obstinacy and savagery.”—far short of a Devil! “If I had business at Leipzig. Far from that.On Heroes and Hero Worship 162 food: there rose before him some hideous indefinable Image. “Duke George is not equal to one Devil. which he took for the Evil One.

and trust. His behaviour at the death-bed of his little Daughter. we have many beautiful unconscious displays of the man. the most interesting now of all the Books proceeding from him. he feels what nothing it is that we know.—Returning home from Leipzig once. the flight of her little soul through those unknown realms. in awe-struck thought.—follows. Awe-struck. for Luther too that is all. as God wills. or can know: His little Magdalene shall be with God. and what sort of nature he had. and sincere. the Castle of Coburg. We must know that God is great. Islam is all. affectionate shrinking tenderness the chief distinction of him. once stirred up into defiance. but the outcome of pre-eminent thoughtful gentleness.—dumb. He is resigned that his little Magdalene should die. long flights of clouds sailing through it. in the middle of the night: The great vault of Immensity. It is a noble valour which is roused in a heart like this.” God supports it. so great and loving. is among the most affecting things. we can see. which we saw in his youth. homely. In Luther’s Table-Talk. he looks out from his solitary Patmos. affections too keen and fine? It is the course such men as the poor Poet Cowper fall into. weak man. all kindled into a heavenly blaze. most heartfelt. yet longs inexpressibly that she might live. huge:— who supports all that? “None ever saw the pillars of it. yet it is supported. Once. modesty. where we cannot see. in fact. What.On Heroes and Hero Worship 163 cant. Luther to a slight observer might have seemed a timid. he is struck by the beauty of the harvest-fields: Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—for after all dogmatic creeds and articles. that God is good. rude in their utterance. pure as water welling from the rock. gaunt. a posthumous Book of anecdotes and sayings collected by his friends. was all that down-pressed mood of despair and reprobation. so still.

its golden head bent. above it are the stars and deep Heaven of worlds. he considers that God alone can and will regulate the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Earnestness. Tears also were appointed him. Yet in the eyes especially there is a wild silent sorrow. as we said. with its huge crag-like brows and bones. that golden yellow corn. Luther’s face is to me expressive of him. A rude plebeian face. but tears also were there. an unnamable melancholy. at God’s kind bidding. he says.—the meek Earth. giving to the rest the true stamp of nobleness. Laughter was in this Luther. the element of all gentle and fine affections. gone trustfully to rest there as in its home: the Maker of it has given it too a home!—Neither are mirthful turns wanting: there is a great free human heart in this man. has produced it once again. he expresses himself heartily weary of living. is not this. almost a repulsive face. on its fair taper stem. One feels him to be a great brother man. expressive. in Kranach’s best portraits I find the true Luther. after all triumphs and victories. The Devils fled from his flute. In his latter days. tears and hard toil. says Luther. the emblem of rugged energy. the bread of man!—In the garden at Wittenberg one evening at sunset. His love of Music. The common speech of him has a rugged nobleness.On Heroes and Hero Worship 164 How it stands. yet it has folded its little wings. genuine. a little bird has perched for the night: That little bird. as it were. between these two all great things had room. gleams here and there with beautiful poetic tints. at first. Death-defiance on the one hand. all rich and waving there. the summary of all these affections in him? Many a wild unutterability he spoke forth from him in the tones of his flute. and such love of music on the other. indeed. idiomatic. I could call these the two opposite poles of a great soul. The basis of his life was Sadness.

which even got itself established as a Presbyterianism and National Church among the Scotch. yet in the clefts of it fountains. great in intellect. spontaneous. We must spare a few words for Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . one of our most lovable and precious men. will be thankful to Heaven. but as an Alpine mountain. Great. They understand little of the man who cite this in discredit of him!—I will call this Luther a true Great Man. In Luther’s own country Protestantism soon dwindled into a rather barren affair: not a religion or faith. the proper seat of it not the heart. down to Voltaireism itself. not setting up to be great at all. and has produced in the world very notable fruit. affection and integrity. and that perhaps the Day of Judgment is not far. he longs for one thing: that God would release him from his labour. but rather now a theological jangling of argument. especially for us English. there for quite another purpose than being great! Ah yes. honest. once more. in courage. In some senses. the essence of it sceptical contention: which indeed has jangled more and more. and let him depart and be at rest. is that of Puritanism. for whom these centuries. a true Son of Nature and Fact. which came forth as a real business of the heart. unsubduable granite.On Heroes and Hero Worship 165 course things are taking.—so simple. As for him. The most interesting phasis which the Reformation anywhere assumes. green beautiful valleys with flowers! A right Spiritual Hero and Prophet. piercing far and wide into the Heavens. and of exhibiting itself in History as such.—through GustavusAdolphus contentions onwards to French-Revolution ones! But in our Island there arose a Puritanism. a true heart-communication with Heaven. one may say it is the only phasis of Protestantism that ever got to the rank of being a Faith. not as a hewn obelisk. and many that are to come yet.

Oliver Cromwell’s. Give a thing time. These poor men. overhead. and wild savage creatures. New England’s. and no one of us. but the soul of it was first this. They thought the Earth would yield them food. not the idolatrous way. well understood. they should be left in peace. They clubbed their small means together. some material as of a body was there. such as she writes in broad facts over great continents. to prepare for Eternity by living well in this world of Time. the everlasting heaven would stretch. determine on settling in the New World. is the measure of all worth. two hundred years ago. hired a ship. and all men. for some time to come! We may censure Puritanism as we please. from Delft Haven in Holland! Were we of open sense as the Greeks were. Black untamed forests are there. not able well to live in Holland. for Nature has adopted it. if they tilled honestly. the little ship Mayflower. one of Nature’s own Poems. and it has grown. and at that little Fact of the sailing of the Mayflower. For it was properly the beginning of America: there were straggling settlers in America before. and made ready to set sail. but still more important as Chief Priest and Founder. and grows. which one may consider him to be. I suppose. but not so cruel as Starchamber hangmen. But we. worshipping in what they thought the true. but would find it a very rough defective thing. driven out of their own country. may understand that it was a genuine thing. History will have something to say about this. it is a right thing.On Heroes and Hero Worship 166 Knox. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . himself a brave and remarkable man. we had found a Poem here. I say sometimes. that strength. Look now at American Saxondom. that all goes by wager-of-battle in this world. there too. if it can succeed. of the Faith that became Scotland’s.

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In Neal’s History of the Puritans [Neal (London, 1755), i. 490] is an account of the ceremony of their departure: solemnity, we might call it rather, for it was a real act of worship. Their minister went down with them to the beach, and their brethren whom they were to leave behind; all joined in solemn prayer, That God would have pity on His poor children, and go with them into that waste wilderness, for He also had made that, He was there also as well as here.—Hah! These men, I think, had a work! The weak thing, weaker than a child, becomes strong one day, if it be a true thing. Puritanism was only despicable, laughable then; but nobody can manage to laugh at it now. Puritanism has got weapons and sinews; it has firearms, war-navies; it has cunning in its ten fingers, strength in its right arm; it can steer ships, fell forests, remove mountains;—it is one of the strongest things under this sun at present! In the history of Scotland, too, I can find properly but one epoch: we may say, it contains nothing of world-interest at all but this Reformation by Knox. A poor barren country, full of continual broils, dissensions, massacrings; a people in the last state of rudeness and destitution; little better perhaps than Ireland at this day. Hungry fierce barons, not so much as able to form any arrangement with each other how to divide what they fleeced from these poor drudges; but obliged, as the Colombian Republics are at this day, to make of every alteration a revolution; no way of changing a ministry but by hanging the old ministers on gibbets: this is a historical spectacle of no very singular significance! “Bravery” enough, I doubt not; fierce fighting in abundance: but not braver or fiercer than that of their old Scandinavian Sea-king ancestors; whose exploits we have not found worth dwelling on! It
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is a country as yet without a soul: nothing developed in it but what is rude, external, semi-animal. And now at the Reformation, the internal life is kindled, as it were, under the ribs of this outward material death. A cause, the noblest of causes kindles itself, like a beacon set on high; high as Heaven, yet attainable from Earth;— whereby the meanest man becomes not a Citizen only, but a Member of Christ’s visible Church; a veritable Hero, if he prove a true man! Well; this is what I mean by a whole “nation of heroes;” a believing nation. There needs not a great soul to make a hero; there needs a god-created soul which will be true to its origin; that will be a great soul! The like has been seen, we find. The like will be again seen, under wider forms than the Presbyterian: there can be no lasting good done till then.—Impossible! say some. Possible? Has it not been, in this world, as a practiced fact? Did Heroworship fail in Knox’s case? Or are we made of other clay now? Did the Westminster Confession of Faith add some new property to the soul of man? God made the soul of man. He did not doom any soul of man to live as a Hypothesis and Hearsay, in a world filled with such, and with the fatal work and fruit of such!— But to return: This that Knox did for his Nation, I say, we may really call a resurrection as from death. It was not a smooth business; but it was welcome surely, and cheap at that price, had it been far rougher. On the whole, cheap at any price!—as life is. The people began to live: they needed first of all to do that, at what cost and costs soever. Scotch Literature and Thought, Scotch Industry; James Watt, David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Burns: I find Knox and the Reformation acting in the heart’s core of every one of these persons and phenomena; I find that without the
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Reformation they would not have been. Or what of Scotland? The Puritanism of Scotland became that of England, of New England. A tumult in the High Church of Edinburgh spread into a universal battle and struggle over all these realms;—there came out, after fifty years’ struggling, what we all call the “Glorious Revolution” a Habeas Corpus Act, Free Parliaments, and much else!—Alas, is it not too true what we said, That many men in the van do always, like Russian soldiers, march into the ditch of Schweidnitz, and fill it up with their dead bodies, that the rear may pass over them dryshod, and gain the honour? How many earnest rugged Cromwells, Knoxes, poor Peasant Covenanters, wrestling, battling for very life, in rough miry places, have to struggle, and suffer, and fall, greatly censured, bemired,—before a beautiful Revolution of Eighty-eight can step over them in official pumps and silkstockings, with universal three-times-three! It seems to me hard measure that this Scottish man, now after three hundred years, should have to plead like a culprit before the world; intrinsically for having been, in such way as it was then possible to be, the bravest of all Scotchmen! Had he been a poor Half-and-half, he could have crouched into the corner, like so many others; Scotland had not been delivered; and Knox had been without blame. He is the one Scotchman to whom, of all others, his country and the world owe a debt. He has to plead that Scotland would forgive him for having been worth to it any million “unblamable” Scotchmen that need no forgiveness! He bared his breast to the battle; had to row in French galleys, wander forlorn in exile, in clouds and storms; was censured, shot at through his windows; had a right sore fighting life: if this world were his place of recompense, he had made but a bad venture of it. I cannot
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apologize for Knox. To him it is very indifferent, these two hundred and fifty years or more, what men say of him. But we, having got above all those details of his battle, and living now in clearness on the fruits of his victory, we, for our own sake, ought to look through the rumours and controversies enveloping the man, into the man himself. For one thing, I will remark that this post of Prophet to his Nation was not of his seeking; Knox had lived forty years quietly obscure, before he became conspicuous. He was the son of poor parents; had got a college education; become a Priest; adopted the Reformation, and seemed well content to guide his own steps by the light of it, nowise unduly intruding it on others. He had lived as Tutor in gentlemen’s families; preaching when any body of persons wished to hear his doctrine: resolute he to walk by the truth, and speak the truth when called to do it; not ambitious of more; not fancying himself capable of more. In this entirely obscure way he had reached the age of forty; was with the small body of Reformers who were standing siege in St. Andrew’s Castle,—when one day in their chapel, the Preacher after finishing his exhortation to these fighters in the forlorn hope, said suddenly, That there ought to be other speakers, that all men who had a priest’s heart and gift in them ought now to speak;—which gifts and heart one of their own number, John Knox the name of him, had: Had he not? said the Preacher, appealing to all the audience: what then is his duty? The people answered affirmatively; it was a criminal forsaking of his post, if such a man held the word that was in him silent. Poor Knox was obliged to stand up; he attempted to reply; he could say no word;—burst into a flood of tears, and ran out. It is worth remembering, that scene. He was in
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grievous trouble for some days. He felt what a small faculty was his for this great work. He felt what a baptism he was called to be baptized withal. He “burst into tears.” Our primary characteristic of a Hero, that he is sincere, applies emphatically to Knox. It is not denied anywhere that this, whatever might be his other qualities or faults, is among the truest of men. With a singular instinct he holds to the truth and fact; the truth alone is there for him, the rest a mere shadow and deceptive nonentity. However feeble, forlorn the reality may seem, on that and that only can he take his stand. In the Galleys of the River Loire, whither Knox and the others, after their Castle of St. Andrew’s was taken, had been sent as Galley-slaves,—some officer or priest, one day, presented them an Image of the Virgin Mother, requiring that they, the blasphemous heretics, should do it reverence. Mother? Mother of God? said Knox, when the turn came to him: This is no Mother of God: this is “a pented bredd,”—a piece of wood, I tell you, with paint on it! She is fitter for swimming, I think, than for being worshipped, added Knox; and flung the thing into the river. It was not very cheap jesting there: but come of it what might, this thing to Knox was and must continue nothing other than the real truth; it was a pented bredd: worship it he would not. He told his fellow-prisoners, in this darkest time, to be of courage; the Cause they had was the true one, and must and would prosper; the whole world could not put it down. Reality is of God’s making; it is alone strong. How many pented bredds, pretending to be real, are fitter to swim than to be worshipped!— This Knox cannot live but by fact: he clings to reality as the shipwrecked sailor to the cliff. He is an instance to us how a man,
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by sincerity itself, becomes heroic: it is the grand gift he has. We find in Knox a good honest intellectual talent, no transcendent one;—a narrow, inconsiderable man, as compared with Luther: but in heartfelt instinctive adherence to truth, in sincerity, as we say, he has no superior; nay, one might ask, What equal he has? The heart of him is of the true Prophet cast. “He lies there,” said the Earl of Morton at his grave, “who never feared the face of man.” He resembles, more than any of the moderns, an OldHebrew Prophet. The same inflexibility, intolerance, rigid narrowlooking adherence to God’s truth, stern rebuke in the name of God to all that forsake truth: an Old-Hebrew Prophet in the guise of an Edinburgh Minister of the Sixteenth Century. We are to take him for that; not require him to be other. Knox’s conduct to Queen Mary, the harsh visits he used to make in her own palace, to reprove her there, have been much commented upon. Such cruelty, such coarseness fills us with indignation. On reading the actual narrative of the business, what Knox said, and what Knox meant, I must say one’s tragic feeling is rather disappointed. They are not so coarse, these speeches; they seem to me about as fine as the circumstances would permit! Knox was not there to do the courtier; he came on another errand. Whoever, reading these colloquies of his with the Queen, thinks they are vulgar insolences of a plebeian priest to a delicate high lady, mistakes the purport and essence of them altogether. It was unfortunately not possible to be polite with the Queen of Scotland, unless one proved untrue to the Nation and Cause of Scotland. A man who did not wish to see the land of his birth made a huntingfield for intriguing ambitious Guises, and the Cause of God trampled underfoot of Falsehoods, Formulas and the Devil’s
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Well. we say to them. the doing of the thing is our great concern. Iniquities. among her other qualities: “Who are you.On Heroes and Hero Worship 173 Cause. in some wise way! I will not quarrel so much with the way. on the whole. for teaching the Truth in his own land. when it can tolerate no longer. “than that bearded men be forced to weep. “that presume to school the nobles and sovereign of this realm?”—”Madam. if she were made happy! Mary herself was not without sharpness enough. We do not “tolerate” Falsehoods. Thou art false. In this sense Knox was. Thieveries. But. it is not the “subject’s” footing that will fail him here. after all the talk there is and has been about it. An Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . just in its very wrath.” Knox was the constitutional opposition-party in Scotland: the Nobles of the country. or no one. intolerant.” said Morton. had no method of making himself agreeable! “Better that women weep. called by their station to take that post. Reasonably answered! If the “subject” have truth to speak. what is tolerance? Tolerance has to tolerate the unessential. thou art not tolerable! We are here to extinguish Falsehoods. were not found in it. and to see well what that is. surely it is good that each of us be as tolerant as possible. and put an end to them. measured. Yet. full surely.— We blame Knox for his intolerance. to control and vanquish withal. we are not altogether here to tolerate! We are here to resist. Knox had to go. nor do I know that he had what we call an ill temper. at bottom. and such like. when they fasten on us.” said she once. The hapless Queen. a subject born within the same.” answered he. A man sent to row in French Galleys. cannot always be in the mildest humour! I am not prepared to say that Knox had a soft temper.—but the still more hapless Country. Tolerance has to be noble.

though there is enough of that too. close at hand. is curiously enlivened with this. Tumult was not his element. They blame him for pulling down cathedrals. it was the tragic feature of his life that he was forced to dwell so much in that. Such alone can bear rule in that kind. Order is Truth. But a Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . with its rough earnestness. if we examine! Knox wanted no pulling down of stone edifices. in combination with his other qualities. ever-battling man. hates to be in it: but what then? Smooth Falsehood is not Order. and had such weight among those proud turbulent Nobles. this Knox has a vein of drollery in him. march rapidly up. That he could rebuke Queens.On Heroes and Hero Worship 174 ill nature he decidedly had not. When the two Prelates. Withal. and could maintain to the end a kind of virtual Presidency and Sovereignty in that wild realm. take to hustling one another. it is the general sum-total of Disorder. proud enough whatever else they were. twitching one another’s rochets. unexpectedly enough. bitterness alone. but at heart a healthful. hard-worn. entering Glasgow Cathedral. he who was only “a subject born within the same:” this of itself will prove to us that he was found. scorn. strong. Every such man is the born enemy of Disorder. it is a great sight for him every way! Not mockery. His History. as if he were a seditious rioting demagogue: precisely the reverse is seen to be the fact. he wanted leprosy and darkness to be thrown out of the lives of men. to be no mean acrid man.— each thing standing on the basis that belongs to it: Order and Falsehood cannot subsist together. in regard to cathedrals and the rest of it. Kind honest affections dwelt in the much-enduring. He has a true eye for the ridiculous. quarrel about precedence. and so forth. sagacious man. which I like much. and at last flourishing their crosiers like quarter-staves.

In fact. you would say. loving. he strove to make the Government of Scotland a Theocracy.—”They? what are they?” But the thing which does vitally concern him. In other words. brother also to the low. contention. This Prophet of the Scotch is to me no hateful man!—He had a sore fight of an existence. He has the power of holding his peace over many things which do not vitally concern him. not a loud laugh. observing. that thing he will speak of. An honest-hearted. patient. he has very much the type of character we assign to the Scotch at present: a certain sardonic taciturnity is in him. and a stouter heart than he himself knows of. brotherly man. He had his pipe of Bourdeaux too. we find. Honour to him! His works have not died.On Heroes and Hero Worship 175 true.” and so died. wandering as an exile. in that old Edinburgh house of his. The letter of his work dies. “pointed upwards with his finger. with faces that loved him! They go far wrong who think this Knox was a gloomy. One word more as to the letter of Knox’s work. rowing as a galley-slave. but the spirit of it never. illuminating laugh mounts up over the earnest visage. insight enough. as of all men’s. and in a tone the whole world shall be made to hear: all the more emphatic for his long silence. A sore fight: but he won it. that he wished to set up Priests over the head of Kings. Not at all: he is one of the solidest of men. sincere in his sympathy with both. cautioushopeful. “Have you hope?” they asked him in his last moment. a cheery social man. quietly discerning man. a most shrewd. shrieking fanatic. The unforgivable offence in him is. This indeed is properly the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Practical. brother to the high. when he could no longer speak. wrestling with Popes and Principalities. in defeat. a laugh in the eyes most of all. life-long struggle. spasmodic. He lifted his finger.

—and the Regent Murray had to answer. whether called Priests. he did. consciously or unconsciously. He did mean that Kings and Prime Ministers. was not true. is it not what all zealous men. a revealed “Will of God”) towards which the Reformer will insist that all be more and more approximated. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . no longer an empty word. with a shrug of the shoulders. we may rejoice that he could not realize it. that it remained after two centuries of effort. and should be turned to true churchly uses. in public or private. Prophets. or God’s Law. or whatsoever else called. He hoped once to see such a thing realized. Thy Kingdom come. He was sore grieved when he saw greedy worldly Barons clutch hold of the Church’s property. zealous Priests. do essentially wish. should walk according to the Gospel of Christ. mean a Theocracy. and understand that this was their Law. supreme over all laws. the essential sin. Hildebrand wished a Theocracy. unrealisable. worship. Cromwell wished it. at bottom. education. and namable in all times. and must wish? That right and truth. when he expostulated that it was not secular property. and the Petition.On Heroes and Hero Worship 176 sum of his offences. for which what pardon can there be? It is most true. Nay. reign supreme among men. and is a “devout imagination” still. this he zealously endeavoured after. are there for that purpose. schools. that it was spiritual property. or Government of God. is precisely the thing to be struggled for! All Prophets. and all manner of persons. Government of God. But how shall we blame him for struggling to realize it? Theocracy. If we think his scheme of truth was too narrow. fought for it. “It is a devout imagination!” This was Knox’s scheme of right and truth. this is the Heavenly Ideal (well named in Knox’s time. to realize it. Mahomet attained it. diplomatizing or whatever else they might be doing.

On Heroes and Hero Worship 177 All true Reformers. a noble life. “A devout imagination!” We will praise the Hero-priest rather. There will never be wanting Regent Murrays enough to shrug their shoulders. who does what is in him to bring them in. and wears out. to make a God’s Kingdom of this Earth. The Earth will not become too godlike! Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . are by the nature of them Priests. in toil. and say. as I said. I think we may say safely. is always a question. How far such Ideals can ever be introduced into Practice. and at what point our impatience with their non-introduction ought to begin. contradiction. Let them introduce themselves as far as they can contrive to do it! If they are the true faith of men. calumny. all men ought to be more or less impatient always where they are not found introduced. and strive for a Theocracy.

Poets. whole nations and generations who would. JOHNSON. and find place and subsistence by what the world would please to give him for doing that. in that naked manner. Priests are forms of Heroism that belong to the old ages. he may be expected to continue. subsists. Never. in various respects. make their appearance in the remotest times. with his copy-rights and copy-wrongs. ruling (for this is what he does). some of them have ceased to be possible long since. or of Ready-writing which we call Printing. ROUSSEAU. as one of the main forms of Heroism for all future ages. but the inspired wisdom of a Heroic Soul never till then. a very singular phenomenon. and so long as the wondrous art of Writing.] ero-Gods. he has hardly lasted above a century in the world yet. from his grave. again. The Hero as Man of Letters. I say. 19th May 1840. in his squalid garret. Much had been sold and bought. of which class we are to speak to-day. is altogether a product of these new ages. He is new. and left to make its own bargain in the market-place. BURNS. and cannot any more show themselves in this world.On Heroes and Hero Worship 178 LECTURE V THE HERO AS MAN OF LETTERS. after death. till about a hundred years ago. endeavouring to speak forth the inspiration that was in him by Printed Books. was there seen any figure of a Great Soul living apart in that anomalous manner. He is. Prophets. [Tuesday. He. in his rusty coat. or Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics H .

and worship him as such. can do. that he might live thereby. as in every kind there is a genuine and a spurious. the Hero from of old has had to cramp himself into strange shapes: the world knows not well at any time what to do with him. this same Man-of-Letters Hero must be regarded as our most important modern person. and have a few coins and applauses thrown him. as before hinted. a Burns. I say inspired. since it is the spiritual always that determines the material. into the life of those singular centuries which have produced him. this perhaps. He. all that a man. He is uttering forth. in any case. the whole world will do and make. There are genuine Men of Letters. should be taken for some idle nondescript. so foreign is his aspect in the world! It seemed absurd to us. in their rude admiration. some wise great Mahomet for one god-inspired. such as he may be. give him bread while living.—is a rather curious spectacle! Few shapes of Heroism can be more unexpected. If hero be taken to mean genuine. and was once well known to be the highest. The world’s manner of dealing with him is the most significant feature of the world’s general position. What he teaches. for what we call Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and not genuine. is the soul of all.On Heroes and Hero Worship 179 would not. that men. and religiously follow his Law for twelve centuries: but that a wise great Johnson. Looking well at his life. we may get a glance. ever the highest. extant in the world to amuse idleness. will one day seem a still absurder phasis of things!— Meanwhile. the inspired soul of him. Alas. a Rousseau. should take some wise great Odin for a god. in such way as he has. in which we ourselves live and work. as deep as is readily possible for us. then I say the Hero as Man of Letters will be found discharging a function for us which is ever honourable.

says Fichte. in the True. are as a kind of vesture or sensuous Appearance: that under all there lies. what he calls the “Divine Idea of the World. by speech or by act. because it cannot be hidden from them. Priest. practicalities and shows of the world. which exists always. of which he was a distinguished teacher.On Heroes and Hero Worship 180 “originality.” To the mass of men no such Divine Idea is recognizable in the world.— but the weak many know not the fact. are sent into the world to do. they live merely. Intrinsically it is the same function which the old generations named a man Prophet. declares first: That all things which we see or work with in this Earth. is there to proclaim this in such sort as he can. the strong few are strong. The Man of Letters. Trivial: his being is in that. heroic.” the heroic quality we have no good name for. which all manner of Heroes.” Fichte. as the essence of them. The Hero is he who lives in the inward sphere of things. like every Hero. among the superficialities. especially we ourselves and all persons. is a piece of the everlasting heart of Nature herself: all men’s life is. and are untrue to it. as we said before. On the Nature of the Literary Man. some forty years ago at Erlangen. unseen to most. in most times. a highly remarkable Course of Lectures on this subject: “Ueber das Wesen des Gelehrten. But the Man of Letters is sent hither specially that he may discern for himself. this same Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . signifies that. by act or speech as it may be in declaring himself abroad. perennial. Fichte the German Philosopher delivered. and make manifest to us. His life.” this is the Reality which “lies at the bottom of all Appearance. Divinity for doing. Divine and Eternal.” “sincerity. in conformity with the Transcendental Philosophy.” “genius. not dreaming that there is anything divine under them. he declares that abroad. under the Temporary.

from multitudes of false unheroic. struggles not. in what pomps and prosperities he like. Odin in his: it is the thing which all thinking hearts. full of splendour. no Literary Man. Mahomet taught this in his dialect. Fichte calls the Man of Letters. he is.” Or at best. the world’s Priest. with which we need not quarrel.” and has in short no mercy for him. if he belong to the prosaic provinces. from age to age. let him live where else he like. in one dialect or another. no Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . a “Bungler. or as he prefers to phrase it. to live wholly in it. that lies in the being of every man. Such is Fichte’s phraseology. “ Fichte even calls him elsewhere a “Nonentity. continually unfolding the Godlike to men: Men of Letters are a perpetual Priesthood. a Prophet. is but as a vesture for the “Divine Idea of the World.—he is. Stumper.On Heroes and Hero Worship 181 Divine Idea: in every new generation it will manifest itself in a new dialect. are here to teach. like a sacred Pillar of Fire. acknowledged or not by the world. what there is at present no name for: The unspeakable Divine Significance.—the Presence of the God who made every man and thing. as for the one good. Whoever lives not wholly in this Divine Idea.” In the true Literary Man there is thus ever. am striving imperfectly to name. of wonder and terror.” for “that which lies at the bottom of Appearance. what we here call the Hero as Man of Letters. a sacredness: he is the light of the world.—guiding it. and he is there for the purpose of doing that. by other words. teaching all men that a God is still present in their life. that all “Appearance. therefore. Fichte discriminates with sharp zeal the true Literary Man. a Priest.” whatsoever we see in the world. or living partially in it. of every thing. It is his way of naming what I here. in its dark pilgrimage through the waste of Time. says Fichte. he may be a “Hodman.

Goethe. to my mind. Goethe. there was given what we may call a life in the Divine Idea of the World. In this point of view. precisely what we here mean. Rousseau. for the last hundred and fifty years. the workmanship and temple of a God. To that man too. would remain problematic. out of his Books. heroic in what he said and did.—really a Prophecy in these most unprophetic times. Our chosen specimen of the Hero as Literary Man would be this Goethe.On Heroes and Hero Worship 182 wish that he should continue happy among us! This is Fichte’s notion of the Man of Letters. vision of the inward divine mystery: and strangely. highbred. for the last hundred years. to me a noble spectacle: a great heroic ancient man. three great figures from a prior time. And it were a very pleasant plan for me here to discourse of his heroism: for I consider him to be a true Hero. the world rises imaged once more as godlike. and perhaps still more in what he did not say and did not do. no impression but a false one could be realized. in a strange way. in the guise of a most modern. Him we must leave to future times. vague. by far the notablest of all Literary Men is Fichte’s countryman. But at present. Illuminated all. it were worse than useless to attempt speaking of him in this case. such is the general state of knowledge about Goethe. but in mild celestial radiance. among all the great things that have come to pass in them. Burns. speaking and keeping silence as an ancient Hero. Johnson. by far the greatest. not in fierce impure fire-splendour as of Mahomet. high-cultivated Man of Letters! We have had no such spectacle. It means. though one of the quietest. to the great majority of you. I consider that. no man capable of affording such. Speak as I might. from a far Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in its own form.

in these times. and what the world does with Book writers. chaotic. They lived under galling conditions. of what we call the disorganized condition of society: how ill many forces of society fulfil their work. did we attempt to give account of this: but we must glance at it for the sake of our subject. and could not unfold themselves into clearness. under which three spiritual giants lie buried. altogether unarranged manner.—a sort of heart. from which. as it were. They were not heroic bringers of the light. Alas. but also great and full of interest for us. will suit us better here. that they found their business and position such a chaos. or victorious interpretation of that “Divine Idea. the summary of all other disorganizations. but heroic seekers of it. and fell. Three men of the Eighteenth Century. There are the monumental heaps. On the beaten road there is tolerable travelling. how many powerful are seen working in a wasteful. struggling as under mountains of impediment. Complaint is often made.” It is rather the Tombs of three Literary Heroes that I have to show you. I should say. than what Goethe’s in Germany were. the conditions of their life far more resemble what those of ours still are in England. Very mournful. But perhaps if we look at this of Books and the Writers of Books. It is the most anomalous thing the world at present has to show.On Heroes and Hero Worship 183 inferior state of circumstances. The worst element in the life of these three Literary Heroes was. but it is sore work.—We should get into a sea far beyond sounding. It is too just a complaint. we shall find here. We will linger by them for a while. they fought bravely. these men did not conquer like him. and many Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . as we all know. and to which all other confusion circulates in the world! Considering what Book writers do in the world.

no one asks. the latest form! In Books lies the soul of the whole Past Time. address his fellow-men. Odin’s Runes were the first form of the work of a Hero. whoever do it wrong. or do it at all. by what he might be furthered on his course. environed with all manner of complex dignified appurtenances and furtherances. feeling well what importance lay in the speaking of man to men. a total change has come over that business. whither he is bound. He is an accident in society. either the guidance or the misguidance! Certainly the Art of Writing is the most miraculous of all things man has devised. To a certain shopkeeper. Whence he came. that therefrom a man with the tongue may. It is a right pious work. how he may do his work. that without this there was no good thing. that of theirs. The Writer of a Book. to best advantage. on this day or that. fashioning a path through the impassable! Our pious Fathers. if lucky. by what ways he arrived.On Heroes and Hero Worship 184 have to perish. everywhere in the civilized world there is a Pulpit. trying to get some money for his books. founded churches. whether he do it right or wrong. regulations. is not he a Preacher preaching not to this parish or that. are still miraculous Runes. Books written words. for then all the other members are astray! Well. when the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . the articulate audible voice of the Past. he is of some importance.—that the eye report not falsely. to no other man of any. with the art of Printing. in a world of which he is as the spiritual light. They felt that this was the most important thing. but to all men in all times and places? Surely it is of the last importance that he do his work right. is a point which no man in the world has taken the pains to think of. made endowments. He wanders like a wild Ishmaelite. beautiful to behold! But now with the art of Writing.

great: but what do they become? Agamemnon. an outlaw tending his Midianitish herds. the true reign of miracles for mankind commenced. which foolish girls thumb and con in remote villages.—the word partly of the man Moses. all modes of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . stamped into those young brains. of which Printing is a simple.On Heroes and Hero Worship 185 dream. vast cities. No magic Rune is stranger than a Book. thought. dumb mournful wrecks and blocks: but the Books of Greece! There Greece. harbours and arsenals. the Past and Distant with the Present in time and place. as Runes were fabled to do? They persuade men. It related. many-engined. an inevitable and comparatively insignificant corollary. yet nothing is truer. some Books have done! What built St. high-domed. gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of Books. to every thinker. All things were altered for men. Mighty fleets and armies. still very literally lives: can be called up again into life. and their Greece. Consider whether any Rune in the wildest imagination of Mythologist ever did such wonders as. comes out as a solid Practice one day. So “Celia” felt. Not the wretchedest circulating-library novel. Pericleses. four thousand years ago. on the actual firm Earth. with a wondrous new contiguity and perpetual closeness. They are the chosen possession of men. All that Mankind has done. all is gone now to some ruined fragments. Paul’s Cathedral? Look at the heart of the matter. Do not Books still accomplish miracles. in the wildernesses of Sinai! It is the strangest of things. With the art of Writing. the many Agamemnons. it was that divine Hebrew BOOK. all times and all places with this our actual Here and Now.—they are precious. so “Clifford” acted: the foolish Theorem of Life. but will help to regulate the actual practical weddings and households of those foolish girls.

the more teachers there came. you metamorphosed all Universities. Once invent Printing. of all places the best place for him was that. in its essential characters. Their existence too is modified. The model of all subsequent Universities. by the existence of Books. to the very basis of it. respectable product of the modern ages. however. was a necessity for him. have gone on to found themselves. I conceive. gave it edifices. you must go and listen to Abelard. preaching. there was a great convenience opened: so many thousands eager to learn were already assembled yonder. was there. It only needed now that the King took notice of this new phenomenon. facility of getting Books. Such. governing. It is clear. and all else. in those circumstances. That. for six centuries now. If you wanted to know what Abelard knew. For any third teacher it was better still. the whole conditions of the business from top to bottom were changed. privileges. combined or agglomerated the various schools into one school. he should do it by gathering the learners round him.On Heroes and Hero Worship 186 important work of men: teaching. that with this simple circumstance. To look at Teaching. Universities arose while there were yet no Books procurable. Thousands. Universities are a notable. and named it Universitas. as many as thirty thousand. or School of all Sciences: the University of Paris. for a single Book. while a man. and grew ever the better. was the origin of Universities. And now for any other teacher who had also something of his own to teach. when a man had some knowledge to communicate. for instance. went to hear Abelard and that metaphysical theology of his. had to give an estate of land. face to face. encouragements. or superseded them! The Teacher needed not now Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . which down even to these days.

has not yet come into existence. even theoretic knowledge. the preaching of the voice was the natural sole method Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . In regard to all things this must remain. in some circumstances. of the existence of Printed Books.—teach us to read. The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.—witness our present meeting here! There is. to Universities among others. If we think of it. in various sciences. that he might speak to them what he knew: print it in a Book. a distinct province for Speech as well as for Writing and Printing. much less put in practice: the University which would completely take in that great new fact. is the Books themselves! It depends on what we read. even while there was no Easy-writing.On Heroes and Hero Worship 187 to gather men personally round him. The Church is the working recognized Union of our Priests or Prophets. and stand on a clear footing for the Nineteenth Century as the Paris one did for the Thirteenth. But the place where we are to get knowledge. We learn to read. we learn the alphabet and letters of all manner of Books. and all learners far and wide. is still but what the first School began doing. But to the Church itself. of those who by wise teaching guide the souls of men. in its working. find it convenient to speak also. one would say. all that a University. for a trifle. in its preaching. and must ever remain while man has a tongue. or final highest School can do for us. in various languages. much more effectually to learn it!—Doubtless there is still peculiar virtue in Speech. But the limits of the two have nowhere yet been pointed out. after all manner of Professors have done their best for us. or Printing. had it each at his own fireside. all is changed. even writers of Books may still. as I hinted already. ascertained. While there was no Writing. by the introduction of Books.

to persuade England. Pamphlets. in this confused time. Books. now in this dialect. The dark stormful indignation of a Byron. shows us better than we knew before that a lily of the fields is beautiful. now in that. is not it too accomplished by means of Printed Books? The noble sentiment which a gifted soul has clothed for us in melodious words. endure there. but even our worship. feelings. Essentially so. so wayward and perverse. these are the real working effective Church of a modern country. made visible there.On Heroes and Hero Worship 188 of performing this. who. so far as it is Literature.—is not this essentially. consciously or unconsciously. in very truth. made us sing with him. nay the withered mockery of a French Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . if we will understand it. doing so. who says. of the nature of worship? There are many.” It may well enough be named. as the handwriting. is an “apocalypse of Nature. or in any way brings home to our heart the noble doings. the writers of Newspapers. in all countries. Nay not only our preaching. is brought out. But now with Books! —He that can write a true Book. How much more he who sings. Poems. may have touches of it. which brings melody into our hearts. Literature. does he not show it us as an effluence of the Fountain of all Beauty. the Primate of England and of All England? I many a time say. have no other method of worship. darings and endurances of a brother man! He has verily touched our hearts as with a live coal from the altar. Perhaps there is no worship more authentic. in any way.” a revealing of the “open secret. a little verse of a sacred Psalm. a “continuous revelation” of the Godlike in the Terrestrial and Common. with various degrees of clearness: all true gifted Singers and Speakers are. is not he the Bishop and Archbishop. in Fichte’s style. He who. of the great Maker of the Universe? He has sung for us. The Godlike does ever.

becomes a power. or a witty saying. and singing to us so genuinely there! For all true singing is of the nature of worship. Printing. what revenues or Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . It matters not what rank he has. the parliamentary debate go on now. How much more the sphere-harmony of a Shakspeare. those humble genuine lark-notes of a Burns. everywhere and at all times.On Heroes and Hero Worship 189 sceptic. Literature is our Parliament too. starting from the humble furrow. old Parliament. was a great thing. in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder.—his mockery of the False. which comes necessarily out of Writing. are to be found weltering in that huge froth-ocean of Printed Speech we loosely call Literature! Books are our Church too. Or turning now to the Government of men. though the name Parliament subsists. with inalienable weight in law-making. Whoever can speak. Writing brings Printing. to us. out of Parliament altogether? Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament. the cathedral music of a Milton! They are something too. a branch of government. far overhead into the blue depths.— whereof such singing is but the record. The affairs of the nation were there deliberated and decided. as indeed all true working may be said to be. Fragments of a real “Church Liturgy” and “Body of Homilies. as we see at present. it is a literal fact. I say often. Witenagemote. It is not a figure of speech. there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” strangely disguised from the common eye.—very momentous to us in these times. in all acts of authority.—skylark. brings universal everyday extempore Printing. but. in a far more comprehensive way. and fit melodious representation. Democracy is inevitable. But does not. a love and worship of the True. speaking now to the whole nation. of a Goethe. is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing. what we were to do as a nation.

dust. in iron. organized. the highest act of man’s faculty that produces a Book? It is the Thought of man.—a huge immeasurable Spirit of a THOUGHT. what have they not done. the true thaumaturgic virtue. is it not verily. Add only. Palaces. as we say. smoke. steam-engines. Katherine Docks. visible to all. and black ink). The nation is governed by all that has tongue in the nation: Democracy is virtually there. obscurations. and the rest of it! Not a brick was made but some man had to think of the making of that brick. by and by. cathedrals. by far the most momentous. embodied in brick. of the things which man can do or make here below. Parliaments.— On all sides. No wonder it is. wonderful and worthy are the things we call Books! Those poor bits of rag-paper with black ink on them. This London City. with all its houses. what are they not doing!—For indeed. All that he does.” is the purest embodiment a Thought of man can have. it will never rest till it get to work free. are we not driven to the conclusion that. working secretly under bandages. and brings to pass. by which man works all things whatsoever. unencumbered. in all ways. whatever be the outward form of the thing (bits of paper.—from the Daily Newspaper to the sacred Hebrew BOOK. that he have a tongue which others will listen to. of the importance and supreme importance of the Man Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . but millions of Thoughts made into One. at bottom. palaces. what is it but a Thought. and huge immeasurable traffic and tumult. obstructions. the requisite thing is. the activest and noblest. Hackney Coaches. All this. that whatsoever power exists will have itself. Democracy virtually extant will insist on becoming palpably extant.—The thing we called “bits of paper with traces of black ink. this and nothing more is requisite. is the vesture of a Thought.On Heroes and Hero Worship 190 garnitures.

then I think we may conclude that Men of Letters will not always wander like unrecognized unregulated Ishmaelites among us! Whatsoever thing. it is that of many successive men turned earnestly upon it. in late times. this is not right. And yet. That one man wear the clothes. If Men of Letters are so incalculably influential. none of us could say. and step forth one day with palpably articulated. with a sort of sentimental triumph and wonderment. grounded the most accurately on the actual facts of their position and of the world’s position. it is wrong. for long times to come! Sure enough. and how the Press is to such a degree superseding the Pulpit. as I said above. has been admitted for a good while. and take the wages. If you asked me what were the best possible organization for the Men of Letters in modern society.—what a business. actually performing such work for us from age to age. or any good one. bandages. universally visible power. To the best. that Chaos should sit umpire in it. of a function which is done by quite another: there can be no profit in this. alas. encumbered with all manner of complexities.—I should beg to say that the problem far exceeded my faculty! It is not one man’s faculty. the Sentimental by and by will have to give place to the Practical. It seems to me. has virtual unnoticed power will cast off its wrappages. the making of it right. the Senatus Academicus and much else. there is yet a long way.On Heroes and Hero Worship 191 of Letters in modern Society. the Senate. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . What the best arrangement were. this that we call Organization of the Literary Guild is still a great way off. Which is the worst? I answer: This which we now have. and even from day to day. the arrangement of furtherance and regulation. this is the worst. that will bring out even an approximate solution. and recognized often enough. But if you ask.

On Heroes and Hero Worship 192 One remark I must not omit. need. to be cast out of his heart. torn out of it. till the nobleness of those who did so had made it honoured of some! Begging is not in our course at the present time: but for the rest of it. poor and plebeian. it is no evil to be poor. That royal or parliamentary grants of money are by no means the chief thing wanted! To give our Men of Letters stipends. a most natural and even necessary development of the spirit of Christianity. for a genuine man. that he who has not known those things. will do little towards the business. and learned from them the priceless lessons they have to teach. in coarse woollen cloak with a rope round your loins. vanity. ill-conditioned egoism of all sorts. are bred in his heart. has missed a good opportunity of schooling. who will say that a Johnson is not perhaps the better for being poor? It is needful for him. Contradiction. Crucifixion. were instituted in the Christian Church. to know that outward profit. as in every heart. that success of any kind is not the goal he has to aim at.—nor an honourable one in any eye. I will say rather that. made out even less than Burns. as a thing worthless. It was itself founded on Poverty.—to show whether they are genuine or not! Mendicant Orders. above all. with whatever pangs. To beg. We may say. cast forth from it. endowments and all furtherance of cash. bodies of good men doomed to beg. born rich and noble. in that same “best possible organization” as yet far off. at all rates. and go barefoot.—to be. was no beautiful business. Poverty may still enter Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . one is weary of hearing about the omnipotence of money. On the whole. every species of worldly Distress and Degradation. Byron. on Sorrow. that there ought to be Literary Men poor. and be despised of all the world. Pride. Who knows but.

were still then. and prove himself. till they had learned to make it too do for them! Money. who ought to stand elsewhere than there. a whirl of distracted atoms. one cancelling the other. the fit assigner of them. were the money-furtherances. this wild welter of a chaos which is called Literary Life: this too is a kind of ordeal! There is clear truth in the idea that a struggle from the lower classes of society.On Heroes and Hero Worship 193 as an important element? What if our Men of Letters. To leave it as it is. is clearly enough the worst regulation. For Men of Letters. and even spurn it back. but it cannot do all. your royal Johnson languishing inactive in garrets. advancing on us. and confine it there. your Rousseau driven into mad exasperation. The manifold. Strong men are born there. The best. How to regulate that struggle? There is the whole question. kindling French Revolutions by his paradoxes: this. and must constitute. alas. one of the thousand arriving saved. in truth. your Burns dying broken-hearted as a Gauger. what is called the progress of society. Besides. as yet hidden in the bosom of centuries: this is a prophecy one Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . towards the upper regions and rewards of society. This ordeal. universal struggle of these constitutes. as we said. nine hundred and ninety-nine lost by the way. can do much. inextricably complex. all settled. We must know the province of it. as they now are.—till they had tried what was in it too. or harnessed to the yoke of Printer Cave. is far from us! And yet there can be no doubt but it is coming. as for all other sorts of men. a kind of “involuntary monastic order.” bound still to this same ugly Poverty. must ever continue. when it wishes to get farther. the proper season for them. at the mercy of blind Chance.—how is the Burns to be recognized that merits these? He must pass through the ordeal. men setting up to be Spiritual Heroes.

to walk thereby. “Literature will take care of itself. Pitt. or trample it under foot. some good arrangement for that would be as the punctum saliens of a new vitality and just arrangement for all. Put wisdom in the head of the world. and rest not till. when applied to for some help for Burns. one traces some beginnings of an arrangement for the Literary Class. Southey. as heretofore! Light is the one thing wanted for the world. “Yes. the world will fight its battle victoriously.—and draw inferences from. they are but individuals. I say. in Prussia. in some European countries.On Heroes and Hero Worship 194 can risk. and scatter it in all ways of wild waste (not without conflagration). there is no class comparable for importance to that Priesthood of the Writers of Books. and of you too. Governing Classes at present extant in the world.” answered Mr.” adds Mr. they can struggle on. at once product and parent. “it will take care of itself. facilitating. they do infallibly set about arranging it. By far the most interesting fact I hear about the Chinese is one on which we cannot arrive at clearness. Already. But it deeply concerns the whole society. indicating the gradual possibility of such. whether it will set its light on high places. as they have been wont. of all Priesthoods. For so soon as men get to discern the importance of a thing. This is a fact which he who runs may read. I called this anomaly of a disorganic Literary Class the heart of all other anomalies. forwarding it. but which excites endless Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Aristocracies. and be the best world man can make it. if you do not look to it!” The result to individual Men of Letters is not the momentous one. an infinitesimal fraction of the great body. I believe that it is possible. that it will have to be possible. they have accomplished that. and live or else die. in France. in some approximate degree.

is the noble-hearted man withal. The youths who distinguish themselves in the lower school are promoted into favourable stations in the higher. or with what degree of success it was done.—forward and forward: it appears to be out of these that the Official Persons. as I assert and believe always. All such things must be very unsuccessful. are taken. the true. constitution. that I know of in this world. Schools there are for every one: a foolish sort of training. just. And surely with the best hope: for they are the men that have already shown intellect. as we are too apt to figure. though you had Constitutions plentiful as blackberries.On Heroes and Hero Worship 195 curiosity even in the dim state: this namely. social apparatus or arrangement.—Surely there is no kind of government. For the man of true intellect. Get him for governor. and a Parliament in Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . “it is a hand which can handle any tool. These are they whom they try first. The man of intellect at the top of affairs: this is the aim of all constitutions and revolutions. so promising to one’s scientific curiosity as this. that they do attempt to make their Men of Letters their Governors! It would be rash to say. perhaps they cannot. all is got.” Try these men: they are of all others the best worth trying. humane and valiant man. Try them: they have not governed or administered as yet. the very attempt how precious! There does seem to be.—without which no man can! Neither is Understanding a tool. and incipient Governors. yet a small degree of success is precious. if they have any aim. one understood how this was done. but there is no doubt they have some Understanding. yet still a sort. whether they can govern or not. that they may still more distinguish themselves. revolution. fail to get him. all over China. a more or less active search everywhere to discover the men of talent that grow up in the young generation.

that to say a thing has long been. as from their fountain. is no reason for its continuing to be. These. was half paralysed! The Eighteenth was a Sceptical Century. That our Hero as Man of Letters had to travel without highway. whereby his life too. to be rendered practicable. as a partial contribution towards pushing some highway through it: this. The things which have been are fallen into decay. had not his faculty itself been so perverted and paralysed.On Heroes and Hero Worship 196 every village. this and so many other evils for the Literary Man. do what he might. are no longer capable of living at all by the things which have been. might have considered to be but the common lot of Heroes. in every society of our Europe. in Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . there is the announcement. Alas. so we may name it. there is nothing yet got!— These things look strange. and “the third man for thirty-six weeks each year is short of third-rate potatoes. On all hands of us. that the old Empire of Routine has ended. the evil that pressed heaviest on those Literary Heroes of ours was not the want of organization for Men of Letters. taken rise.—and to leave his own life and faculty lying there. His fatal misery was the spiritual paralysis. but a far deeper one. and many others. out of which. and are not such as we commonly speculate upon. to be in some way put in practice. When millions of men can no longer by their utmost exertion gain food for themselves. had. of the Age in which his life lay. audible enough. companionless. through an inorganic chaos. But we are fallen into strange times. large masses of mankind. and for all men. he might have put up with.” the things which have been must decidedly prepare to alter themselves!—I will now quit this of the organization of Men of Letters. truly. indeed. are fallen into incompetence. these things will require to be speculated upon.

with the melodious prophetic waving of its world-wide boughs. Heroism was gone forever. spiritual paralysis. An effete world. all sorts of infidelity. or perhaps had not been. That was not an age of Faith. Greatness. Triviality. with any species of believing men! The living TREE Igdrasil. formally abnegated in the minds of all. no truth.—in one word.— compared not with the Christian Shakspeares and Miltons. has died out into the clanking of a World-MACHINE. was a life of Heroism more difficult for a man. Truth. deep-rooted as Hela. or of what Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . to be measured by the number of votes you could get. for my share. meant plausibility. Formulism and Commonplace were come forever. in this time. “Tree” and “Machine:” contrast these two things. a godless world! How mean. dwarfish are their ways of thinking. declare the world to be no machine! I say that it does not go by wheel-and-pinion “motives” self-interests. balances. as it were. that there is something far other in it than the clank of spinning-jennies. But for these poor Sceptics there was no sincerity. checks. Scepticism means not intellectual Doubt alone. The “age of miracles” had been. but with the old Pagan Skalds. that it is not a machine at all!—The old Norse Heathen had a truer motion of God’s-world than these poor Machine-Sceptics: the old Heathen Norse were sincere men.—an age of Heroes! The very possibility of Heroism had been. in few centuries that one could specify since the world began. insincerity. Halftruth and hearsay was called truth. and parliamentary majorities. but moral Doubt. They had lost any notion that sincerity was possible. Perhaps. but it was not any longer.On Heroes and Hero Worship 197 which little word there is a whole Pandora’s Box of miseries. and. for most men. Godhood could not now dwell. on the whole. wherein Wonder. I.

under these baleful influences. most tragical way. it was impossible to be a Believer. as the chief symptom. I say. To the strongest man. For the common man. of Bentham’s theory of man and man’s life. not a small fraction of one Discourse. nothing left but a Mechanical life. in an enchanted. without prior purpose that way. a Hero.—an inevitable thing.On Heroes and Hero Worship 198 sincerity was. against which all teaching and discoursing since man’s life began has directed itself: the battle of Belief against Unbelief is the neverending battle! Neither is it in the way of crimination that one would wish to speak. as sorrowful and hateful as we see it. unconscious. with unaffected surprise and the air of offended virtue. We will understand that destruction of old forms is not destruction of everlasting substances. The other day speaking. I chanced to call it a more beggarly one than Mahomet’s. as the chief origin of all this. to state what one feels about that Eighteenth Century and its ways. we must consider as the decay of old ways of believing. a spiritual death-in-life. and lead as it were. is not an end but a beginning. we will lament their hard fate. We will not blame men for it. he lay buried. Scepticism. Concerning which so much were to be said! It would take many Discourses. for that century. which we now call Scepticism. the preparation afar off for new better and wider ways. was the characteristic of that century. unless happily he stood below his century and belonged to another prior one. only with infinite struggle and confusion was it possible to work himself half loose. What! am not I sincere? Spiritual Paralysis. that Scepticism. How many Plausibilities asking. and be a Half-Hero! Scepticism is the name we give to all this. now when Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . As indeed this. I am bound to say. and the like of this. is precisely the black malady and life-foe.

though a Heroism with its eyes put out! It is the culminating point. and would wish all men to know and lay to heart. Not that one would mean offence against the man Jeremy Bentham. was tending to be. seems to me comparatively worthy of praise. Of Bentham I meant to say no harm. in a cowardly half-andhalf manner. that he who discerns nothing but Mechanism in the Universe has in the fatalest way missed the secret of the Universe altogether. that such is my deliberate opinion. Benthamism is an eyeless Heroism: the Human Species. Let us have the crisis. of what lay in the half-and-half state. but ultimately deliverance withal. I call this gross. It was a layingdown of cant. and fearless ultimatum. by checking and balancing. we shall either have death or the cure.—I will not disparage Heathenism by calling it a Heathen Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . brings huge ruin down. like a hapless blinded Samson grinding in the Philistine Mill. or those who respect and believe him. are bound to be Benthamites. and good adjustment of tooth and pinion. let us see what. the god of it Gravitation and selfish Hunger. pervading man’s whole existence in that Eighteenth Century. Bentham himself.On Heroes and Hero Worship 199 it is once uttered. steam-engine Utilitarianism an approach towards new Faith. clasps convulsively the pillars of its Mill. and all lip-believers of it. But this I do say. It is a determinate being what all the world. this world is a dead iron machine. It seems to me. and even the creed of Bentham. can be made of it!” Benthamism has something complete. all deniers of Godhood. a saying to oneself: “Well then. if they have courage and honesty. That all Godhood should vanish out of men’s conception of this Universe seems to me precisely the most brutal error. in such fearless committal of itself to what it finds true. you may call it Heroic. manful.

this original sin will vitiate all other conclusions he can form. The man.—which does indeed frightfully punish itself. truly. Doubt. but that it may see into something. Certainly we do not rush out.On Heroes and Hero Worship 200 error. no God. under more or less disguise. is the ultimate fact of man’s life. it is false at the very heart of it. divine. is not itself a crime. inquiry. in brief. and I know not what. as in the detestable belly of some Phalaris’-Bull of his own contriving. not that it may cavil and argue. not even a Devil! Whatsoever is noble. he the poor Phalaris sits miserably dying! Belief I define to be the healthy act of a man’s mind. Atheism. of applause.— indescribable. all soul fled out of it. as all vital acts are. There remains everywhere in life a despicable caput-mortuum. whereon we are then to proceed to act. of whatsoever victual it may be. is become spiritually a paralytic man. A man who thinks so will think wrong about all things in the world. wherein.—that men could fall into. clutch up the first thing we find. of cash. drops thereby out of life. It is not true. It is a mysterious indescribable process. It is the mystic working of the mind. that Hunger. but this worships a dead iron Devil.—not forgetting Witchcraft itself! Witchcraft worshipped at least a living Devil. about all manner of objects. all working by motives. [Gr. give us clear belief and understanding about something. How can a man act heroically? The “Doctrine of Motives” will teach him that it is. checks. this godlike Universe a dead mechanical steam-engine. on the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . inspired. fear of Pain. We have our mind given us. the mechanical hull.] skepsis as it is named. balances. nothing but a wretched love of Pleasure. and straightway believe that! All manner of doubt. One might call it the most lamentable of Delusions. dwells in every reasonable mind. that of getting to believe. I say.

a chronic atrophy and disease of the whole soul. The world’s wages are pocketed. with their tumid sentimental vapouring about virtue. above ground. how much more in regard to the highest things. not by debating and arguing about many things. dexterous Similitude of Acting begins.—and no growth. sickest and meanest of all ages. and with one or the other organ eat and digest! Lower than that he will not get. only death and misery going on! For the Scepticism. your belief or disbelief.—the wretched Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and instead of green boughs. The world’s heart is palsied. is not intellectual only. Accordingly. A sad case for him when all that he can manage to believe is something he can button in his pocket. even on common things. We call those ages in which he gets so low the mournfulest. But now if. what Century. which also was a time of scepticism. so abounds with Quacks as that Eighteenth? Consider them. sick: how can any limb of it be whole? Genuine Acting ceases in all departments of the world’s work. A man lives by believing something. we require that a man keep his doubts silent. benevolence. and not babble of them till they in some measure become affirmations or denials. and get to imagine that debating and logic (which means at best only the manner of telling us your thought. it is moral also. like the tree from its hidden roots. this is as if you should overturn the tree. Heroes have gone out. Belief comes out of all this. the world’s work is not done. simulacra and universal decadence. leaves and fruits.On Heroes and Hero Worship 201 object it is getting to know and believe. Quacks have come in. show us ugly taloned roots turned up into the air. impossible to speak of in words at all! That a man parade his doubt. since the end of the Roman world. about a thing) is the triumph and true work of what intellect he has: alas. as I said.

An insincere world. and what not. which means sorrow and misery. even as in the beginning of days! One man once knowing this. Chartisms. snatches his arm from the sling. It seems to me. must by and by come to know it. in the fire of debate. all wrapt and bandaged. and that the world is alive. It lies there clear. that he himself is alive. beautiful and awful. all men. which means failure. as I consider. Here and there one does now find a man who knows. and oratorically swings and brandishes it! Chatham himself lives the strangest mimetic life. Chatham. that the whole tribe of social pestilences. he “has crawled out in great bodily suffering. you lay your finger here on the heart of the world’s maladies.—forgets. many men. our brave Chatham himself. all along. to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . not dead or paralytic. Cagliostro at the head of them! Few men were without quackery.” and so on. as of old. Till this alter. what quantities of error. says Walpole. that he is acting the sick man. that this world is a Truth. French Revolutions. nothing can beneficially alter. when you call it a Sceptical World. will gradually accumulate in all provinces of the world’s business. to some and to many.—their chief necessity to be. half-hero.On Heroes and Hero Worship 202 Quack-squadron. have derived their being. is that this is altering. a godless untruth of a world! It is out of this. This must alter. instinct with Godhood. we need not compute. comes down to the House. they had got to consider it a necessary ingredient and amalgam for truth. and no Plausibility and Falsity. My one hope of the world. half-quack. and you have to gain the world’s suffrage! How the duties of the world will be done in that case. For indeed the world is full of dupes. for whosoever will take the spectacles off his eyes and honestly look. my inexpugnable consolation in looking at the miseries of the world.

very great-looking Simulacrum with the whole world huzzaing at its heels. hollow Formulism. a little gleam of Time between two Eternities. The old unblessed Products and Performances. Or indeed what of the world and its victories? Men speak too much about the world. no second chance to us forevermore! It were well for us to live not as fools and simulacra.On Heroes and Hero Worship 203 know! For such a man the Unbelieving Century. I never heard of “world’s” being “saved” in any other way. and for our own. only semblant. are Phantasms. That mania of saving worlds is itself a piece of the Eighteenth Century with its windy sentimentalism. for the world’s sake. and look a little to my own saving. has he not a Life of his own to lead? One Life. with its unblessed Products. he can say. For the saving of the world I will trust confidently to the Maker of the world. Mechanical Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . which I am more competent to!—In brief. The world’s being saved will not save us. a heroic world! It will then be a victorious world. composedly stepping aside: Thou art not true. but as wise and realities. An unbelieving Eighteenth Century is but an exception.—such as now and then occurs. let the world go how it will. is already past. a believing world. Let us not follow it too far. a new century is already come. and other unheroic atheistic Insincerity is visibly and even rapidly declining. We should look to ourselves: there is great merit here in the “duty of staying at home”! And. on the whole. preparing speedily to vanish. we will rejoice greatly that Scepticism. go thy way!—Yes. to say truth. Insincerity. and be victorious or not victorious. nor the world’s being lost destroy us. as solid as they look. with many Heroes in it. I prophesy that the world will once more become sincere. gross Benthamism. never till then. Each one of us here. thou art not extant. To this and the other noisy.

to the full measure of his strength. That they fought truly is the highest praise. they now lie buried. Times in which there was properly no truth in life. But to make out a victory. in those times of Johnson. but the light of his own soul was taken from him. though a Truth clad in hell-fire! How different was the Luther’s pilgrimage. what is that to having no loadstar in the Heaven! We need not wonder that none of those Three men rose to victory. in those circumstances of our poor Hero as Man of Letters. pain. unintelligible! Mahomet’s Formulas were of “wood waxed and oiled. Not obstruction. disorganization. With a mournful sympathy we will contemplate. That Man’s Life here below was a Sincerity and Fact. not this alone. as I said. which means difficulty.— Now it was under such conditions. if not three living victorious Heroes. grown now incredible. There are the mountains which they hurled abroad in their confused War of the Giants. alas. no new intimation. not trying to speak. had yet dawned. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . girt with mere traditions. making a way for us. from the Johnson’s. was perhaps more difficult than in any. No intimation. the Tombs of three fallen Heroes! They fell for us too. and as good as gone. suppositions. that our Men of Letters had to live. in that dusk of the world. the new lay yet hidden. with its assured goal. No landmark on the Earth.—The strong man will ever find work. are going. and would forever continue such. not even any French Revolution. with all their poison-dews. their strength and life spent. and.—which we define to be a Truth once more. Bookseller Osborne and Fourpence-halfpenny a day. under which.On Heroes and Hero Worship 204 Atheism. Old truths had fallen nigh dumb.” and could be burnt out of one’s way: poor Johnson’s were far more difficult to burn.

On Heroes and Hero Worship 205 I have already written of these three Literary Heroes. His time is bad: well then. it does not seem possible that. very miserable. if they got not footing there. expressly or incidentally. isolated. To a certain extent. and plant themselves on the everlasting truth of things. once more. Genuine Men more or less. sovereign Ruler! On the whole. and renders them worthy to be considered as Speakers. for such they virtually were.” of his “time. so much left undeveloped in him to the last: in a kindlier element what might he not have been. faithfully. one of our great English souls. Original Men. As for Johnson. might lead us into reflections enough! I call them. by nature. of the everlasting truth. Johnson’s life could have been other than a painful one. no rest or regular motion for them. froth and all inanity gave way under them: there was no footing for them but on firm earth. what I suppose is known to most of you. They concern us here as the singular Prophets of that singular age. a man must not complain of his “element. he is there to make it better!—Johnson’s youth was poor. under this point of view. hopeless. Indeed. By Nature herself a noble necessity was laid on them to be so.—clouds.” or the like. in some measure. and the aspect they and their world exhibit. This to a degree that eminently distinguishes them from the poor artificial mass of their contemporaries. in any the favourablest outward circumstances. as Prophets in that age of theirs. all three. for most part unconsciously. what need not be spoken or written a second time. they were Sons of Nature once more in an age of Artifice.—Poet. Priest. struggling to be genuine. A strong and noble man. I have always considered him to be. The world might have had Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . They were men of such magnitude that they could not live on unrealities. it is thriftless work doing so.

and unspeakable chaos of thoughts. or less. Live in an element of diseased sorrow. this pitching away of the shoes. with his scrofulous diseases. Nature. which shoots in on him dull incurable misery: the Nessus’-shirt not to be stript off. lifting them. with his dim eyes. stalking mournful as a stranger in this Earth. rawboned College Servitor stalking about. physical and spiritual pain. An original man. and the rawboned Servitor. At all events. hunger or what you will. a true man’s. rudeness.On Heroes and Hero Worship 206 more of profitable work out of him. at any rate! On such shoes as we ourselves can get. perhaps the sorrow and the nobleness were intimately and even inseparably connected with each other.— not a second-hand. in return for his nobleness. Nay. but not beggary: we cannot stand beggary! Rude stubborn selfhelp here. Figure him there. It is a type of the man’s life. if there were nothing better! The largest soul that was in all England. and provision made for it of “fourpence-halfpenny a day. had said to him. which is his own natural skin! In this manner he had to live. but his effort against the world’s work could never have been a light one. borrowing or begging man. Like a Hercules with the burning Nessus’-shirt on him. seamy-faced. One remembers always that story of the shoes at Oxford: the rough.—pitches them out of window! Wet feet. On Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . eagerly devouring what spiritual thing he could come at: school-languages and other merely grammatical stuff. frost. looking at them near. a whole world of squalor. how the charitable Gentleman Commoner secretly places a new pair at his door. mud. confused misery and want. with his great greedy heart. yet of nobleness and manfulness withal. Let us stand on our own basis. in winter-season. poor Johnson had to go about girt with continual hypochondria. with what thoughts.” Yet a giant invincible soul. with his shoes worn out.

loyally submissive to what was really higher than he? Great souls are always loyally submissive. how he managed at all under such circumstances: that is a thing worth seeing. reverent to what is over them. He stood by the old formulas. Clement Danes. He is well worth study in regard to that. artificial. was there ever soul more tenderly affectionate. upon this man too! How he harmonized his Formulas with it. with pity. he was a man of truths and facts. Hearsays. so barren.” That Church of St. Very curious how. that only in a World of Heroes was there loyal Obedience to the Heroic. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . forever wonderful. if you will. only small mean souls are otherwise. of his speaking still in some sort from the heart of Nature. he found the old opinions credible for him. thick-quilted with Pedantries. For we are to say that Johnson was far other than a mere man of words and formulas. unspeakable. though in the current artificial dialect. where Johnson still worshipped in the era of Voltaire. A thing “to be looked at with reverence. but honestly on that. It was in virtue of his sincerity. indubitable. divine-infernal. fit for him.On Heroes and Hero Worship 207 frost and mud. not on the semblance.—on the reality and substance which Nature gives us. The essence of originality is not that it be new: Johnson believed altogether in the old. there needed to be a most genuine substance. with awe. is to me a venerable place. in that poor Paper-age. on the thing she has given another than us!— And yet with all this rugged pride of manhood and self-help. the great Fact of this Universe glared in. I could not find a better proof of what I said the other day. That the sincere man was by nature the obedient man. the happier was it for him that he could so stand: but in all formulas that he could stand by. and in a right heroic manner lived under them.

found wherever man is found. at all events with enlargements. or any Reality to drive to. Regulated Things in the world have come into existence. yet with improvements. they are indispensably good. Formulas fashion themselves as Paths do. and gone out of existence. as beaten Highways. Are not all dialects “artificial”? Artificial things are not all false. In the footsteps of his foregoer. we will forsake the Highway. we may say all artificial things are. Formulas all begin by being full of substance. While there remains a City or Shrine. Idols. of a substance that is already there: they had not been there otherwise. finds out a way of doing somewhat. This is his way of doing that.” And now see: the second men travels naturally in the footsteps of his foregoer. at the starting of them. the articulation into shape. you may call them the skin. these are his footsteps. Consider it. with changes where such seem good. the beginning of a “Path.—nay every true Product of Nature will infallibly shape itself. whither many men are bent. at the farther end. the Path ever widening itself as more travel it. habitude. One man. What we call “Formulas” are not in their origin bad. In this manner all Institutions. it is the easiest method. were it but of fitly saluting his fellow-man. the Highway shall be right welcome! When the City is gone.On Heroes and Hero Worship 208 that Johnson was a Prophet. true. as we said. leading toward some sacred or high object. An inventor was needed to do that. empty for the worshipper’s Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Practices. a poet. Formula is method.—were it of uttering his soul’s reverence for the Highest.—till at last there is a broad Highway whereon the whole world may travel and drive. are not idolatrous till they become doubtful. full of heartfelt earnest impulse. into limbs and skin. he has articulated the dimstruggling thought that dwelt in his own and many hearts.

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heart. Much as we talk against Formulas, I hope no one of us is ignorant withal of the high significance of true Formulas; that they were, and will ever be, the indispensablest furniture of our habitation in this world.— Mark, too, how little Johnson boasts of his “sincerity.” He has no suspicion of his being particularly sincere,—of his being particularly anything! A hard-struggling, weary-hearted man, or “scholar” as he calls himself, trying hard to get some honest livelihood in the world, not to starve, but to live—without stealing! A noble unconsciousness is in him. He does not “engrave Truth on his watch-seal;” no, but he stands by truth, speaks by it, works and lives by it. Thus it ever is. Think of it once more. The man whom Nature has appointed to do great things is, first of all, furnished with that openness to Nature which renders him incapable of being insincere! To his large, open, deep-feeling heart Nature is a Fact: all hearsay is hearsay; the unspeakable greatness of this Mystery of Life, let him acknowledge it or not, nay even though he seem to forget it or deny it, is ever present to him,—fearful and wonderful, on this hand and on that. He has a basis of sincerity; unrecognised, because never questioned or capable of question. Mirabeau, Mahomet, Cromwell, Napoleon: all the Great Men I ever heard of have this as the primary material of them. Innumerable commonplace men are debating, are talking everywhere their commonplace doctrines, which they have learned by logic, by rote, at second-hand: to that kind of man all this is still nothing. He must have truth; truth which he feels to be true. How shall he stand otherwise? His whole soul, at all moments, in all ways, tells him that there is no standing. He is under the noble necessity of being true. Johnson’s way of thinking
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about this world is not mine, any more than Mahomet’s was: but I recognize the everlasting element of heart-sincerity in both; and see with pleasure how neither of them remains ineffectual. Neither of them is as chaff sown; in both of them is something which the seedfield will grow. Johnson was a Prophet to his people; preached a Gospel to them,—as all like him always do. The highest Gospel he preached we may describe as a kind of Moral Prudence: “in a world where much is to be done, and little is to be known,” see how you will do it! A thing well worth preaching. “A world where much is to be done, and little is to be known:” do not sink yourselves in boundless bottomless abysses of Doubt, of wretched god-forgetting Unbelief;—you were miserable then, powerless, mad: how could you do or work at all? Such Gospel Johnson preached and taught;—coupled, theoretically and practically, with this other great Gospel, “Clear your mind of Cant!” Have no trade with Cant: stand on the cold mud in the frosty weather, but let it be in your own real torn shoes: “that will be better for you,” as Mahomet says! I call this, I call these two things joined together, a great Gospel, the greatest perhaps that was possible at that time. Johnson’s Writings, which once had such currency and celebrity, are now as it were disowned by the young generation. It is not wonderful; Johnson’s opinions are fast becoming obsolete: but his style of thinking and of living, we may hope, will never become obsolete. I find in Johnson’s Books the indisputablest traces of a great intellect and great heart;—ever welcome, under what obstructions and perversions soever. They are sincere words, those of his; he means things by them. A wondrous buckram style,—the best he could get to then; a measured grandiloquence,
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stepping or rather stalking along in a very solemn way, grown obsolete now; sometimes a tumid size of phraseology not in proportion to the contents of it: all this you will put up with. For the phraseology, tumid or not, has always something within it. So many beautiful styles and books, with nothing in them;—a man is a malefactor to the world who writes such! They are the avoidable kind!—Had Johnson left nothing but his Dictionary, one might have traced there a great intellect, a genuine man. Looking to its clearness of definition, its general solidity, honesty, insight and successful method, it may be called the best of all Dictionaries. There is in it a kind of architectural nobleness; it stands there like a great solid square-built edifice, finished, symmetrically complete: you judge that a true Builder did it. One word, in spite of our haste, must be granted to poor Bozzy. He passes for a mean, inflated, gluttonous creature; and was so in many senses. Yet the fact of his reverence for Johnson will ever remain noteworthy. The foolish conceited Scotch Laird, the most conceited man of his time, approaching in such awe-struck attitude the great dusty irascible Pedagogue in his mean garret there: it is a genuine reverence for Excellence; a worship for Heroes, at a time when neither Heroes nor worship were surmised to exist. Heroes, it would seem, exist always, and a certain worship of them! We will also take the liberty to deny altogether that of the witty Frenchman, that no man is a Hero to his valet-de-chambre. Or if so, it is not the Hero’s blame, but the Valet’s: that his soul, namely, is a mean valet-soul! He expects his Hero to advance in royal stage-trappings, with measured step, trains borne behind him, trumpets sounding before him. It should stand rather, No man can be a Grand- Monarque to his valet-de-chambre. Strip
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your Louis Quatorze of his king-gear, and there is left nothing but a poor forked radish with a head fantastically carved;—admirable to no valet. The Valet does not know a Hero when he sees him! Alas, no: it requires a kind of Hero to do that;—and one of the world’s wants, in this as in other senses, is for most part want of such. On the whole, shall we not say, that Boswell’s admiration was well bestowed; that he could have found no soul in all England so worthy of bending down before? Shall we not say, of this great mournful Johnson too, that he guided his difficult confused existence wisely; led it well, like a right valiant man? That waste chaos of Authorship by trade; that waste chaos of Scepticism in religion and politics, in life-theory and life-practice; in his poverty, in his dust and dimness, with the sick body and the rusty coat: he made it do for him, like a brave man. Not wholly without a loadstar in the Eternal; he had still a loadstar, as the brave all need to have: with his eye set on that, he would change his course for nothing in these confused vortices of the lower sea of Time. “To the Spirit of Lies, bearing death and hunger, he would in nowise strike his flag.” Brave old Samuel: ultimus Romanorum! Of Rousseau and his Heroism I cannot say so much. He is not what I call a strong man. A morbid, excitable, spasmodic man; at best, intense rather than strong. He had not “the talent of Silence,” an invaluable talent; which few Frenchmen, or indeed men of any sort in these times, excel in! The suffering man ought really “to consume his own smoke;” there is no good in emitting smoke till you have made it into fire,—which, in the metaphorical sense too, all smoke is capable of becoming! Rousseau has not depth or width, not calm force for difficulty; the first characteristic
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of true greatness. A fundamental mistake to call vehemence and rigidity strength! A man is not strong who takes convulsion-fits; though six men cannot hold him then. He that can walk under the heaviest weight without staggering, he is the strong man. We need forever, especially in these loud-shrieking days, to remind ourselves of that. A man who cannot hold his peace, till the time come for speaking and acting, is no right man. Poor Rousseau’s face is to me expressive of him. A high but narrow contracted intensity in it: bony brows; deep, strait-set eyes, in which there is something bewildered-looking,—bewildered, peering with lynx-eagerness. A face full of misery, even ignoble misery, and also of the antagonism against that; something mean, plebeian there, redeemed only by intensity: the face of what is called a Fanatic,—a sadly contracted Hero! We name him here because, with all his drawbacks, and they are many, he has the first and chief characteristic of a Hero: he is heartily in earnest. In earnest, if ever man was; as none of these French Philosophers were. Nay, one would say, of an earnestness too great for his otherwise sensitive, rather feeble nature; and which indeed in the end drove him into the strangest incoherences, almost delirations. There had come, at last, to be a kind of madness in him: his Ideas possessed him like demons; hurried him so about, drove him over steep places!— The fault and misery of Rousseau was what we easily name by a single word, Egoism; which is indeed the source and summary of all faults and miseries whatsoever. He had not perfected himself into victory over mere Desire; a mean Hunger, in many sorts, was still the motive principle of him. I am afraid he was a very vain man; hungry for the praises of men. You remember Genlis’s
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that is all: go and tell the whole world that. as we say. Alas. “I know why you come here. one carrot and three onions. Monsieur!”—A man of this sort was far gone.On Heroes and Hero Worship 214 experience of him. self-isolation. comes one day.—”He would not be seen there for the world!” The curtain did happen nevertheless to be drawn aside: the Pit recognized Jean Jacques. for light laughter. You come to see what a poor life I lead. but at not being applauded when seen. did once more touch upon Reality. The glib Countess remained entirely convinced that his anger was not at being seen. The whole world got itself supplied with anecdotes. and used to sit with him. but took no great notice of him! He expressed the bitterest indignation. spake no other than surly words. too real to him! The contortions of a dying gladiator: the crowded amphitheatre looks on with entertainment. Well. but the gladiator is in agonies and dying. with his contrat-social. expressing all reverence and affection for him. finds Jean Jacques full of the sourest unintelligible humor. with flaming eyes. She took Jean Jacques to the Theatre. for a certain theatrical interest. was doing the function of a Prophet to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . if you like.” said Jean Jacques. who visited him often. A man of some rank from the country. How the whole nature of the man is poisoned. gloomed all evening. with his celebrations of Nature. struggle towards Reality. fierce moody ways! He could not live with anybody. And yet this Rousseau. even of savage life in Nature. how little is in my poor pot that is boiling there. with his passionate appeals to Mothers. he bargaining for a strict incognito. “Monsieur. look into the pot! There is half a pound of meat. nothing but suspicion. to him they were not laughing or theatrical. from these perversions and contortions of poor Jean Jacques.

” it is everywhere abundant. there has arisen in this man the ineradicable feeling and knowledge that this Life of ours is true: not a Scepticism. degradation and almost madness. even at a Walter Scott! He who Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . As he could. by a path he cannot yet find? Men are led by strange ways. He got it spoken out. among the French since his time. Not white sunlight: something operatic. That same rose-pink is not the right hue. Nature had made that revelation to him. Madame de Stael has something of it. Combined with such an intellectual gift as his. Scepticism and Persiflage. Nay what are all errors and perversities of his. aimless confused miseries and vagabondisms. There is a sensuality in Rousseau. While life lasts. there is in the inmost heart of poor Rousseau a spark of real heavenly fire. out of the element of that withered mocking Philosophism. His Books. an awful Reality. hope of him. Pierre. even those stealings of ribbons. artificial bedizenment. or rather it is universal. One should have tolerance for a man. not the good sort of Books. had ordered him to speak it out. and as the Time could! Strangely through all that defacement. Theorem.—as clearly as he could. leave him to try yet what he will do. then ill and dimly. I do not say much. Look at a Shakspeare. but a Fact. Of Rousseau’s literary talents. but the blinkard dazzlement and staggerings to and fro of a man sent on an errand he is too weak for. a kind of rose-pink. if we will interpret them kindly. at a Goethe. and down onwards to the present astonishing convulsionary “Literature of Desperation. greatly celebrated still among his countrymen.On Heroes and Hero Worship 215 his Time. it makes pictures of a certain gorgeous attractiveness: but they are not genuinely poetical. Once more. if not well and clearly. hope lasts for every man. or Persiflage. are what I call unhealthy. St. like himself. It is frequent.

exasperated till the heart of him went mad. the governors of the world. that of Rousseau. that of a Hero starting up. under such disorganization. under all disadvantages and disorganizations. laughed at as a maniac.—but he could not be hindered from setting the world on fire.On Heroes and Hero Worship 216 has once seen into this. What could the world. that such a man should not have been set in flat hostility with the world. can accomplish for the world. In Rousseau we are called to look rather at the fearful amount of evil which. It was a curious phenomenon.—guillotine a great many of them! Enough now of Rousseau. True. It was expedient. Like a little well in the rocky desert places. may accompany the good. He could be cooped into garrets. among the artificial pasteboard figures and productions. unbelieving second-hand Eighteenth Century. do with such a man? Difficult to say what the governors of the world could do with him! What he could do with them is unhappily clear enough. has seen the difference of the True from the Sham-True. left to starve like a wild beast in his cage. in the guise of a Robert Burns. you may well ask. in the withered. His semi-delirious speculations on the miseries of civilized life. and such like. We had to observe in Johnson how much good a Prophet. fretted. the preferability of the savage to the civilized. and will discriminate them ever afterwards. The French Revolution found its Evangelist in Rousseau. helped well to produce a whole delirium in France generally. he had grown to feel deeply that the world was not his friend nor the world’s law. in the gloomy company of his own Thoughts and Necessities there.—like a sudden splendour of Heaven in the artificial Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . driven from post to pillar. Historically it is a most pregnant spectacle. Banished into Paris garrets. if any way possible.

” The brave. hard-suffering Father.—a silent Hero and Poet. his brave heroine of a wife. one of those men who reach down to the perennial Deeps. The letters “threw us all into tears:” figure it. Factor as the Scotch call him. a poor toiling man. learnt what good society was. And his poor “seven acres of nursery-ground. They took it for a piece of the Vauxhall fire-work.On Heroes and Hero Worship 217 Vauxhall! People knew not what to make of it. The tragedy of Burns’s life is known to all of you. but declares that in no meeting of men did he ever enjoy better discourse than at the hearth of this peasant. used to send letters and threatenings. Surely we may say. mimes for most part. no shelter for them. though struggling half-blindly. Burns says. The largest soul of all the British lands came among us in the shape of a hard-handed Scottish Peasant. it let itself be so taken. was involved in continual difficulties. The brave Father. who take rank with the Heroic among men: and he was born in a poor Ayrshire hut. The Steward. His Father. Among those second-hand acting-figures. no lot could be more perverse then Burns’s. once more a giant Original Man. “which threw us all into tears. and those children. against that! Perhaps no man had such a false reception from his fellowmen. I say always. so wide otherwise. of the Eighteenth Century. tried various things. if discrepancy between place held and place merited constitute perverseness of lot for a man. Once more a very wasteful life-drama was enacted under the sun. did not succeed in any. nor the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .”—not that. of whom Robert was one! In this Earth. as in bitterness of death. alas. hard-toiling. without whom the son had never been a speaking one! Burns’s Schoolmaster came afterwards to London.

—and indeed of many generations of such as him. Robert is there the outcome of him. even what he did write. and is continuing to do so over all quarters of our wide Saxon world: wheresoever a Saxon dialect is spoken. honest.On Heroes and Hero Worship 218 miserable patch of clay-farm. rooted in the depths of the world. He has gained a certain recognition. by personal inspection of this and the other.—swallowing down how many sore sufferings daily into silence. he had a sore unequal battle all his days. This Burns appeared under every disadvantage: uninstructed. a wise. fighting like an unseen Hero. A noble rough genuineness. poor. nor anything he tried to get a living by. I doubt not he had already become universally recognized as being. true simplicity of strength. rustic.—nobody publishing newspaper paragraphs about his nobleness. nothing is lost. it begins to be understood. Had he written. with its Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . homely. is proof that there lay something far from common within it.—rock. But he stood to it valiantly. yet with wells of living softness in it! A wild impetuous whirlwind of passion and faculty slumbered quiet there. unconquerable man. faithful. That he should have tempted so many to penetrate through the rough husk of that dialect of his. would prosper with him. he was not lost. known only to a small province of the country he lived in. and writing. such heavenly melody dwelling in the heart of it. here too was a piece of the right Saxon stuff: strong as the Harz-rock. Yes. when it came to that. or capable to be. one of our greatest men. in a rustic special dialect. that one of the most considerable Saxon men of the Eighteenth Century was an Ayrshire Peasant named Robert Burns. in the general language of England. born only to hard manual toil. voting pieces of plate to him! However. I will say.

or such like. with its soft dewy pity. what indeed is true of all Poets good for much. soft Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . laughter. I can well believe it. is one of the most attractive characteristics of Burns. Burns’s gifts. the Peasant-god! Burns’s Brother Gilbert. of the sort like Burns’s. coupled with his other deep and earnest qualities. Hope. all that he did under such obstructions. are the theme of all that ever heard him. a man of much sense and worth. This basis of mirth (“fond gaillard. His writings. than he ever afterwards knew him. bounds forth victorious over them. All kinds of gifts: from the gracefulest utterances of courtesy. was usually the gayest of speech.—But indeed. It is as the lion shaking “dew-drops from his mane. Mirth.” as old Marquis Mirabeau calls it). in his young days. sense and heart. a primal element of sunshine and joyfulness. are they not the outcome properly of warm generous affection. A large fund of Hope dwells in him. that his poetry was not any particular faculty. that laughs at the shaking of the spear. loud floods of mirth. spite of his tragical history. in spite of their hardship.On Heroes and Hero Worship 219 lightning-fire.” as the swift-bounding horse. stript cutting peats in the bog. expressed in conversation.—such as is the beginning of all to every man? You would think it strange if I called Burns the most gifted British soul we had in all that century of his: and yet I believe the day is coming when there will be little danger in saying so. he is not a mourning man. but the general result of a naturally vigorous original mind expressing itself in that way. are only a poor fragment of him. far pleasanter to hear there. to the highest fire of passionate speech.—like the old Norse Thor. a fellow of infinite frolic. He shakes his sorrows gallantly aside. has told me that Robert. Professor Stewart remarked very justly.

Mirabeau has much more of bluster. Lockhart has recorded. but one of the best things I ever heard of it was. But the characteristic of Mirabeau too is veracity and sense. indeed by nation. on what the old Marquis calls a fond gaillard. There is the same burly thick-necked strength of body as of soul. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . How the waiters and ostlers at inns would get out of bed. power of true insight. generous valour and manfulness that was in him.” This is beautiful: but still more beautiful that which Mr. The thing that he says is worth remembering. his healthy robustness every way. forward. it was to throw new light on the matter. in both cases. a noisy.—where shall we readily find a better-gifted man? Among the great men of the Eighteenth Century. the rugged downrightness. The same raging passions.—built. clear piercing insight. That it was speech distinguished by always having something in it. from a venerable gentleman long familiar with him. penetration. Witty duchesses celebrate him as a man whose speech “led them off their feet. last year. They differ widely in vesture. “sat rather silent in those early days. yet look at them intrinsically.” this old man told me. superiority of vision. and here was a man! I have heard much about his speech. all was in him. By nature. by course of breeding. It is a flash of insight into some object or other: so do both these men speak. unresting man.” I know not why any one should ever speak otherwise!—But if we look at his general force of soul. and come crowding to hear this man speak! Waiters and ostlers:—they too were men. laconic emphasis. which I have more than once alluded to.On Heroes and Hero Worship 220 wailings of affection. as in the company of persons above him. and always when he did speak. “He spoke rather little than much. I sometimes feel as if Burns might be found to resemble Mirabeau more than any other.

cannot rejoice at!— Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . in keeping silence over so much.On Heroes and Hero Worship 221 capable too in both of manifesting themselves as the tenderest noble affections. his Official Superiors said. wild laughter. stating of the truth may profit. Alas. not think. finds no need of a Burns except for gauging beer. in managing of kingdoms. The fatal man. and wrote: “You are to work. sincerity: these were in both. we have no need. Burns too could have governed. mistakes it as we say.—is a thing I. Very notable. were not. put in the high places of men. debated in National Assemblies. at all times. for that only are you wanted.—”Why complain of this?” say some: “Strength is mournfully denied its arena. for one. the greatest in this land. Power of Thinking. The types of the two men are not dissimilar. and missee the nature of the thing he works with? He mis-sees it. with its French Revolution just breaking out. in all places and situations of the world. That a Europe. directness. though we know what is to be said and answered! As if Thought. but only grope. the courage which had to exhibit itself in capture of smuggling schooners in the Solway Frith. takes it for one thing. answer I! Complaining profits little. and it is another thing. precisely the thing that was wanted. is he not always the unthinking man.” Of your thinking-faculty. in ruling of great ever-memorable epochs! But they said to him reprovingly. where no good speech. that was true from of old. the man who cannot think and see. politicised. and made itself visible to all men. and the worse for the arena. and hallucinate.—and leaves him standing like a Futility there! He is the fatal man.—and worth mentioning. energy. as few could. you are to gauge beer there. unutterably fatal. Wit. but only inarticulate rage was possible: this might have bellowed forth Ushers de Breze and the like.” Doubtless.

On Heroes and Hero Worship 222 Once more we have to say here.” For his worshippers too a most questionable thing! If doing Hero-worship well or badly be the test of vital well-being or ill-being to a generation. prying about the door. He cannot even get his music copied: “By dint of dining out. so in his Life. Burns? Well. and has to copy music for his own living. it is of a thing felt. eager to catch any word that fell from Burns. really there.” says he. can we say that these generations are very first-rate?—And yet our heroic Men of Letters do teach. as of all in him. princes calling on him in his mean garret. these Men of Letters too were not without a kind of Hero-worship: but what a strange condition has that got into now! The waiters and ostlers of Scotch inns. can either have it as blessed continuous summer sunshine. the beautiful doing reverence to the poor moon-struck man. or as unblessed black Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Hero-worship. there is something of the savage in all great men. For himself a most portentous contradiction. The song he sings is not of fantasticalities. and of his Life generally. that the chief quality of Burns is the sincerity of him. He sits at the tables of grandees. Johnson had his Boswell for worshipper. The Life of Burns is what we may call a great tragic sincerity. intrinsically there is no preventing it by any means whatever. govern. is truth. the prime merit of this. are kings.—not cruel. Rousseau had worshippers enough. the great. but wild. A sort of savage sincerity. In that sense.—Odin. the two ends of his life not to be brought into harmony. wrestling naked with the truth of things. So in his Poetry. or what you like to call them. were doing unconscious reverence to the Heroic. priests. The world has to obey him who thinks and sees in the world. “I run the risk of dying by starvation at home. The world can alter the manner of that. far from that.

was as nothing to this. still only in his twenty-seventh year. unastonished. we shall have to do it. If it be a true word. is no longer even a ploughman. I admire much the way in which Burns met all this. but whether we believe the word he tells us: there it all lies. was ever so sorely tried. Light. Perhaps no man one could point out.— My last remark is on that notablest phasis of Burns’s history. and so little forgot himself. prophet. is a point that concerns ourselves mainly. So sudden. few heavier burdens could be laid on the strength of a man. new deeper revealing of the Secret of this Universe. If we think of it. priest. handing down jewelled Duchesses to dinner.On Heroes and Hero Worship 223 thunder and tornado. his wages seven pounds a year. It. lightning: the world can take its choice. there are a hundred that will stand adversity. What name or welcome we give him or it. is verily of the nature of a message from on high. not gradually. Often it seems to me as if his demeanour there were the highest proof he gave of what a fund of worth and genuine manhood was in him.— his visit to Edinburgh. Not whether we call an Odin god. or what we call him. all common Lionism. the matter and fact of it is not alterable by any power under the sky. but for one man who can stand prosperity. which ruins innumerable men. and these gone from him: next month he is in the blaze of rank and beauty. the new Truth. but at once from the Artillery Lieutenancy in the Regiment La Fere. we shall have to believe it. failing that. Tranquil. Burns. he is flying to the West Indies to escape disgrace and a jail. This month he is a ruined peasant. It is as if Napoleon had been made a King of. or. the cynosure of all eyes! Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man. believing it. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and must and will have itself obeyed.—with unspeakable difference of profit for the world! The manner of it is very alterable.

hindered his industry. and become a dead lion. that the “rank is but the guinea-stamp. which will show what man. peace of mind. make him a worse man. It is tragical to think of! These men came but to see him. all gone. not inflated. honestly as he was disposed to do so. no place was remote enough from them. the world getting ever more desolate for him. as some one has said. into miseries. these Lion-hunters were the ruin and death of Burns. Great honour to the Fire-flies! But—! Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Persons of condition can thus travel with a pleasant radiance. nor no hatred to him. not in the least make him a better or other man! Alas. which people stick upon spits. alas. for whom. They came to get a little amusement. which they much admire. it may readily. health.—solitary enough now. And yet. It was they that rendered it impossible for him to live! They gathered round him in his Farm.” worse than a living dog!—Burns is admirable here.” large Fire-flies. a wretched inflated wind-bag. faults. it was out of no sympathy with him.” that the celebrity is but the candle-light.On Heroes and Hero Worship 224 not abashed. as I have observed elsewhere. and illuminate the ways with at night. “there is no resurrection of the body. He falls into discontents. character.—and the Hero’s life went for it! Richter says. He could not get his Lionism forgotten. neither awkwardness nor affectation: he feels that he there is the man Robert Burns. unless he look to it.—inflated till he burst. in the Island of Sumatra there is a kind of “Lightchafers. they got their amusement.

and indeed unfathomable regions. 22nd May 1840. NAPOLEON: MODERN REVOLUTIONISM. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics W .On Heroes and Hero Worship 225 LECTURE VI THE HERO AS KING. King. Numerous considerations. by much stronger reason. whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man. that the finding of your Ableman and getting him invested with the symbols of ability. embodies itself here.] e come now to the last form of Heroism. to tell us for the day and hour what we are to do. [Friday. Regulator. with dignity. CROMWELL. which means Can-ning. Able-man.”—so. in “order to bring twelve impartial men into a jury-box. that which we call Kingship. Priest. questionable. Teacher. to furnish us with constant practical teaching. pointing towards deep. and the rest of it. and find their welfare in doing so. present themselves here: on the most of which we must resolutely for the present forbear to speak at all. He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism. administration. He is called Rex. Roi: our own name is still better. he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated. Konning. and that all legislation. went on. to command over us. The Commander over Men. and loyally surrender themselves. may I say here. As Burke said that perhaps fair Trial by Jury was the soul of Government. parliamentary debating. may be reckoned the most important of Great Men.

discontented. too querulously “measure by a scale of perfection the meagre product of reality” in this poor world of ours. like a good Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . French Revolutions. a certain degree of perpendicularity suffices him. Reform Bills. to do! Our doing and life were then. raise him to the supreme place.—the thing which it will in all ways behoove US. that we could anywhere or anyhow learn. or whatever we call it. an ideal country. or else nothing. We will esteem him no wise man. kinghood. of all social procedure whatsoever in this world! Hustings-speeches. no ballot-box. the whole matter goes to wreck! Infallibly. Find in any country the Ablest Man that exists there. And yet. No bricklayer builds a wall perfectly perpendicular. well or ill accomplished.On Heroes and Hero Worship 226 worship (worth-ship). the Noblest Man: what he tells us to do must be precisely the wisest. and loyally reverence him: you have a perfect government for that country. It is in the perfect state. fittest. so far as government could regulate it. Alas. he means also the truest-hearted. parliamentary eloquence.—is the business. that were the ideal of constitutions. voting. constitution-building. Ideals must ever lie a very great way off. it is never to be forgotten that Ideals do exist. that if they be not approximated to at all. with right loyal thankfulness and nothing doubting. well regulated. we know very well that Ideals can never be completely embodied in practice. Parliamentary motions. on the other hand. as Schiller says. or other machinery whatsoever can improve it a whit. mathematically this is not possible. we will esteem him a sickly. and we will right thankfully content ourselves with any not intolerable approximation thereto! Let no man. royalty. The Ablest Man. foolish man. and he. all mean at heart this. justest. so that he may actually have room to guide according to his faculty of doing it.

leaves it so. The “law of gravitation” acts. as it ought. miserable millions stretch out the hand for their due supply. fermenting into unmeasured masses of failure. something true. He has forgotten himself: but the Law of Gravitation does not forget to act on him. just as it comes to hand—! Such bricklayer. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .” moulders unread now in the Public Libraries of this country. The miserable millions burst forth into Sansculottism. and in the inward or spiritual. some soul of it behind—I will say that it did mean something.—which accordingly lie unadministered. Unable Simulacrum of Ability. And yet if he sway too much from the perpendicular. above all. he and his wall rush down into confused welter of ruin!— This is the history of all rebellions. and it is not there. Brick must lie on brick as it may and can. Nature’s laws do none of them forget to act.On Heroes and Hero Worship 227 bricklayer. in those repositories! At the same time. of indigent misery: in the outward. of putting the Able Man there. not to let the immense rubbish go without leaving us. must adjust himself with quack. French Revolutions. You have forgotten that there is any rule. or some other sort of madness: bricks and bricklayer lie as a fatal chaos!— Much sorry stuff. unvaliant. or natural necessity whatever. who must have done with his job. I think. is in a bad way. if he throw plummet and level quite away from him. and pile brick on brick heedless. about the “Divine right of Kings. fatuous man. written some hundred years ago or more. in a word. social explosions in ancient or modern times. You have put the too Unable Man at the head of affairs! The too ignoble. quack. Far be it from us to disturb the calm process by which it is disappearing harmlessly from the earth. in all manner of administration of human things.

—there straightway came to reside a divine virtue. one or the other of these two! For it is false altogether. I say. and claps a round piece of metal on the head of. does look out from all ruling and obedience. what the last Sceptical Century taught us. or Able-man. than that of a “divine right” in people called Kings. Woe to him that claims obedience when it is not due. in Loyalty and Royalty. and a God’s-sanction. and that in short. or else the violation of such. woe to him that refuses it when it is! God’s law is in that. from all moral acts of men. there is verily either a Divine Right or else a Diabolic Wrong. Find me the true Konning. That in Kings. That all goes by self-interest and the checking and balancing of greedy knaveries. the highest of these. and he has a divine right Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . It can do none of us harm to reflect on this: in all the relations of life it will concern us. a still more despicable error. and in all human Authorities. I esteem the modern error. that this world is a steam-engine. natural as it is to an unbelieving century. King. There is a God in this world. I say. and a Divinity inspired him with faculty and right to rule over you to all lengths: this. however the Parchment-laws may run: there is a Divine Right or else a Diabolic Wrong at the heart of every claim that one man makes upon another. there is nothing divine whatever in the association of men. and relations that men god-created can form among each other. and called King. There is no act more moral between men than that of rule and obedience. so that he became a kind of god. and that is what these Divine-right men meant. To assert that in whatever man you chose to lay hold of (by this or the other plan of clutching at him).—what can we do with this but leave it to rot silently in the Public Libraries? But I will say withal.On Heroes and Hero Worship 228 which it is important for us and all men to keep in mind.

said to himself. has ever something of the Pontiff in him. The bricklayer with his bricks. The builder cast away his plummet. They are times of revolution. and to do much else which in the everlasting truth of Nature it did not now do: here lay the vital malady. in these ages. That we knew in some tolerable measure how to find him. The inward being wrong. That the thing which still called itself Christian Church had become a Falsehood. “What is gravitation? Brick lies on brick there!” Alas.” diplomacy.—guide of the spiritual. an “expediency.—But we will leave the Polemic stuff of a dead century to lie quiet on its bookshelves. and not knowing in what manner to proceed about it! That is the world’s sad predicament in these times of ours. have toppled. and have long been. and it all welters as we see! But the beginning of it was not the French Revolution. one knows not what!— Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and brazenly went about pretending to pardon men’s sins for metallic coined money. That the King is head of the Church. all was Doubt. It were truer to say. the beginning was three centuries farther back: in the Reformation of Luther. Belief died away. does it not still sound strange to many of us. no longer heedful of plummet or the law of gravitation. Certainly it is a fearful business. the assertion that there is a God’s-truth in the business of god-created men. Disbelief. that is rather the end. that all is not a kind of grimace. tumbled.On Heroes and Hero Worship 229 over me. as guide of the practical. we can hope. all outward went ever more and more wrong. and that all men were ready to acknowledge his divine right when found: this is precisely the healing which a sick world is everywhere. This too is a true saying. from which all practice has its rise. that of having your Ableman to seek. seeking after! The true King.

horrors of French Revolution or what else. they will have it made good. Here is the French Nation risen again. as out of death-sleep. that God’s-world was not an expediency and diplomacy! Infernal. that the French Nation had. since they would not have it otherwise. must have been a surprising phenomenon. since they would not but have it so!— A common theory among considerable parties of men in England and elsewhere used to be. Infernal. to make that same mad French Revolution good! The sons and grandsons of those men.—starting confusedly. the Three Days of July. a temporary conversion of France and large sections of the world into a kind of Bedlam. it would seem. since not celestial or terrestrial! Hollowness. that the French Revolution was a general act of insanity. as it were gone mad. “Aux armes!” when the people had burst up against all manner of Chimeras. reigns of terror. will Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . into some dim feeling that Life was real. as I said: a Truth clad in hell-fire. Here is a Truth. so frightful.On Heroes and Hero Worship 230 From that first necessary assertion of Luther’s. self-styled Papa. “You. out shooting and being shot. 1830. Once more the voice of awakened nations. sincerity of some sort has to begin.—gone now happily into the region of Dreams and the Picturesque!—To such comfortable philosophers. but was a madness and nonentity. insincerity has to cease. Cost what it may. half-infernal. was a great matter.—I find a natural historical sequence. in musketry and death-struggle. as out of nightmare. whom I know not how to name in polite language!”—from that onwards to the shout which rose round Camille Desmoulins in the PalaisRoyal. we have to return to truth. in those days. you are—a Chimera.—yes. persist in the enterprise: they do not disown it. you are no Father in God at all. That shout too. The Event had risen and raged.

The world had stood some considerable shocks. and that the world in general would do well everywhere to regard it as such. Truly.—little better than Racine’s. the Prussian Professor and Historian. and be found turning on its axis after even them! The Three Days told all mortals that the old French Revolution. can await patiently. to this false withered artificial time. We will hail the French Revolution. they say. sickened. without the French Revolution. has been proclaimed to all men.On Heroes and Hero Worship 231 have themselves shot. in its time. To philosophers who had made up their life-system.—burn it into what it is. They are the wisest who will learn it soonest. no phenomenon could be more alarming. peace impossible till it be! The earnest man. mad as it might look. empty Routine has ended. that Semblance is not Reality. testifying once more that Nature is preternatural. Long confused generations before it be learned. one would not know what to make of an age like this at all. if it be not made good. but a genuine product of this Earth where we all live. Poor Niebuhr. in the midst of that. then diabolic. Sentence of Death is written down in Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . if we can believe it. much has ended. though a terrible one. that it was verily a Fact. namely Nothing! Plausibility has ended. dying because Louis Fourteenth looked sternly on him once. as ever. as with a Trump of Doom. with a world of inconsistencies. A true Apocalypse. that it has to become Reality. as shipwrecked mariners might the sternest rock. if not divine. and died of the Three Days! It was surely not a very heroic death. might have been expected to survive the Three Days too. was not a transitory ebullition of Bedlam. patiently strive to do his work. or the world will take fire under it. on that “madness” quietus. This. fell broken-hearted in consequence. surrounded. in a world otherwise all of baseless sea and waves.

no more of it! We have had such forgeries.On Heroes and Hero Worship 232 Heaven against all that. There is an everlasting hope in it for the management of the world. that Great Men could again appear in the world! Nature. wise great men being impossible. societies that men ever instituted. Hero-worship. then. creeds. I should say. what enormous difficulties lie there. a level immensity of foolish small men would suffice. to reverence Heroes when sent: it shines like a polestar through smoke-clouds. Had all traditions. in all countries. our faculty. reverence for such Authorities.” with the faith that. we will now Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . the inexorable demand for solution of them is pressing on. It was a natural faith then and there. Hero-worship would have sounded very strange to those workers and fighters in the French Revolution. is itself a falsehood. And surely. arrangements. not any hope or belief. considering the other side of the matter. or even wish. and all manner of downrushing and conflagration. she may give up the trade altogether. turned into a “Machine. Not reverence for Great Men. and how fast. this would remain. our necessity. “Liberty and Equality.—he may easily find other work to do than laboring in the Sansculottic province at this time of day! To me. fearfully fast. no Authority needed any longer. has proved false. The certainty of Heroes being sent us. that of “Hero-worship” becomes a fact inexpressibly precious. sunk away.” was as if effete now. sentence of Death is now proclaimed on the Earth against it: this he with his eyes may see. the most solacing fact one sees in the world at present. could not any longer produce Great Men:—I can tell her. in these circumstances. dust-clouds. we cannot do without Great Men!—But neither have I any quarrel with that of “Liberty and Equality.

while so many of our late Heroes have worked rather as revolutionary men.—the product of entire sceptical blindness. hateful.” if it is not to be a mere empty grimace. chaotic. it extends from divine adoration down to the lowest practical regions of life. as matters then stood. nay still inevitable. are still possible. regular.—and even that we can do very well without gold!” I find this.—him to whose whole soul anarchy is hostile. moreover. He is here to make what was disorderly. is a “revelation in the Flesh. constrains them into square fitness. religious Worship itself. shapes them. as Novalis said. Considered as the whole truth. Heroworship exists forever. is Hero-worship. the belief has now become common that no gold any longer exists. that every created man. among other things. every genuine man.— a recognition that there does dwell in that presence of our brother something divine. as yet only struggling to see. And Loyalty. May we not say. that devised all those graceful courtesies which make life noble! Courtesy is not a falsehood or grimace. into Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . So many base plated coins passing in the market. in that universal cry of Liberty and Equality. and find it very natural.On Heroes and Hero Worship 233 trust nothing. He is the missionary of Order. into a thing ruled. better dispensed with than practiced. He seems an anarchist. every man’s is. not of Disorder? It is a tragical position for a true man to work in revolutions. and everywhere: not Loyalty alone. it is false altogether. that nevertheless every Great Man. and indeed a painful element of anarchy does encumber him at every step. And yet surely it is but the transition from false to true. is by the nature of him a son of Order. it need not be such.” They were Poets too. “Bending before men. Is not all work of man in this world a making of Order? The carpenter finds rough trees. His mission is Order.

towards Order. which will suggest on the other side what I have not room to say. The history of these men is what we have now to look at. wars of Simon de Montfort. Divine right. I say. take it on the great scale. is found to mean divine might withal! While old false Formulas are getting trampled everywhere into destruction. Cromwell. there is not a man in them. His very life means that. as our last phasis of Heroism. Thus too all human things. Napoleon step forth again as Kings. death. when Kingship itself seems dead and abolished.On Heroes and Hero Worship 234 purpose and use. some Cromwell or Napoleon is the necessary finish of a Sansculottism. is again exhibited in the history of these Two. more a man than we. I will call it a section once more of that great universal war which alone makes up the true History of the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . In rebellious ages. new genuine Substances unexpectedly unfold themselves indestructible. the manner in which Kings were made. and assert itself practically. it is doubly tragical.—Curious: in those days when Heroworship was the most incredible thing to every one. But that war of the Puritans has a significance which belongs to no one of the others. No chaos but it seeks a centre to revolve round. do and must work towards Order. in a way which all have to credit. Trusting to your candour. how it does come out nevertheless. maddest French Sansculottisms. While man is man. wars of Red and White Roses. at all moments. Disorder is dissolution. for the Great Man. and Kingship itself first took rise. We are all born enemies of Disorder: it is tragical for us all to be concerned in image-breaking and down-pulling. raging in the thickest of the madness. We have had many civil wars in England. but is impelled withal. which are not very memorable. wars enough. The old ages are brought back to us.

nay that their salvation will lie in extending and improving these.On Heroes and Hero Worship 235 World. and till that. He is placed suddenly. not dishonest an unfortunate Pedant rather than anything worse.—the war of Belief against Unbelief! The struggle of men intent on the real essence of things. at which they laugh so. at the head not of a College but of a Nation. The naked formlessness of Puritanism is not the thing I praise in the Puritans. it is the thing I pity. I hope we know how to respect Laud and his King as well as them.— praising only the spirit which had rendered that inevitable! All Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . lovable kind of character. to many. against men intent on the semblances and forms of things. but it were more just to call them haters of untrue Forms. He would have it the world was a College of that kind. seem mere savage Iconoclasts. to regulate the most complex deep-reaching interests of men. fierce destroyers of Forms. have an affectionate. as I said. nothing. were they not all frightfully avenged on him? It is meritorious to insist on forms. cramps himself to it. heeding no voice of prudence. with that unalterable luckless notion of his. He is like a College-Tutor. whose notion is that these are the life and safety of the world. Like a weak man. no cry of pity: He will have his College-rules obeyed by his Collegians. whose whole world is forms. was not his doom stern enough? Whatever wrongs he did. Alas. and the world was not that. Poor Laud seems to me to have been weak and ill-starred. He is an ill-starred Pedant. The Puritans. College-rules. that first. His “Dreams” and superstitions. Everywhere the formed world is the only habitable one. He thinks they ought to go by the old decent regulations. Religion and all else naturally clothes itself in forms. he drives with spasmodic vehemence towards his purpose.

with his multiplied ceremonial bowings.—what should we say of a man coming forward to represent or utter it for you in the way of upholsterer-mummery? Such a man. It distinguishes true from false in Ceremonial Form. what we call. But suppose now it were some matter of vital concernment. struck dumb with its excess of feeling. will be true. in all human things. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . will correspond to the real nature and purport of it. and preferred formless silence to any utterance there possible. I invite you to reflect on this. earnest solemnity from empty pageant. struck down. a person making. if we rightly understand that. Catherine Creed’s Church. There must be a veracity.On Heroes and Hero Worship 236 substances clothe themselves in forms: but there are suitable true forms. Forms which grow round a substance. In the commonest meeting of men. without even tears: an importunate man importunately offers to celebrate Funeral Games for him in the manner of the Greeks! Such mummery is not only not to be accepted. some transcendent matter (as Divine Worship is). knew not how to form itself into utterance at all. prompted by no spontaneous reality within.” worshipping of hollow shows. whatsoever courtesies you see to be grimaces. As the briefest definition.” is not he an offence? In the mere drawing-room. bad. about which your whole soul. good.—it is hateful. and then there are untrue unsuitable. a natural spontaneity in forms. in the manner we have it described. “set speeches. what all earnest men do and will reject. are mute. one might say. unendurable.—let him depart swiftly. forms which are consciously put round a substance. if he love himself! You have lost your only son. It is what the old Prophets called “Idolatry. We can partly understand what those poor Puritans meant. Laud dedicating that St. are a thing you wish to get away from.

he will find himself clothes. and the age they ushered Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . is preferable to any semblance. and fought out their confused controversy to a certain length. No form at all rather than such! It stood preaching in its bare pulpit. was what these poor Rochesters. with many results for all of us. for it has become a lie! These two Antagonisms at war here. Besides. however dignified. if it be real. I say. intent on his “College-rules. If Semblance do. a man preaching from his earnest soul into the earnest souls of men: is not this virtually the essence of all Churches whatsoever? The nakedest. must actually not divorce itself from Reality. there must be men in the inside of them! Semblance. exclamations: surely it is rather the rigorous formal Pedant. it will clothe itself with due semblance by and by. with nothing but the Bible in its hand. there will be found clothes for him. actually no fear at all. in the case of Laud and the Puritans. No fear of that. In the age which directly followed that of the Puritans. trampled on such forms. savagest reality. their cause or themselves were little likely to have justice done them. are as old nearly as the world. Given the living man. They went to fierce battle over England in that age.—we have to excuse it for saying.On Heroes and Hero Worship 237 gesticulations. I assert. Nay.” than the earnest Prophet intent on the essence of the matter! Puritanism found such forms insupportable. But the suit-ofclothes pretending that it is both clothes and man—! We cannot “fight the French” by three hundred thousand red uniforms. That there could be any faith or truth in the life of a man. Charles Second and his Rochesters were not the kind of men you would set to judge what the worth or meaning of such men might have been.—why then there must be men found to rebel against Semblance.

above all. our free Representation of the People. and have a certain reverence paid them by earnest men. Few Puritans of note but find their apologists somewhere.—like the bones of the leading Puritans. A man of ability. One Puritan. I think. infinite talent. and much besides this. Him neither saint nor sinner will acquit of great wickedness. one after another. Eliot. Its work nevertheless went on accomplishing itself. nay Ludlow. had forgotten. dishonesty. our poor Cromwell. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Pym. must and will accomplish itself. or else must. in these days. duplicity. not on tradition. taken down from the gibbet. the character of the Puritans began to clear itself. which has become unjust and a chimera! This in part. And then there come contrasts with Washington and others. Their memories were. Hutchinson. and almost he alone. was the work of the Puritans. hypocritical Tartuffe. acknowledgment. coarse. seems to hang yet on the gibbet. to whom in no small degree we owe what makes us a free England: it would not be safe for anybody to designate these men as wicked now. And indeed. All true work of a man. political Conscript Fathers. are admitted to be a kind of Heroes. Selfish ambition. and find no hearty apologist anywhere. We have our Habeas-Corpus. Puritanism was hung on gibbets. and so forth: but he betrayed the Cause. wide as the world. turning all that noble Struggle for constitutional Liberty into a sorry farce played for his own benefit: this and worse is the character they give of Cromwell. courage.—men with their life grounded on reality and justice. Hampden. what we call free men. and will become. nay a certain portion of them are now. Vane himself. a fierce. as good as canonized. as these things became gradually manifest. that all men are.On Heroes and Hero Worship 238 in. hang the author of it on what gibbet you like. shall.

which then they will acknowledge! The King coming to them in the rugged unformulistic state shall be no King. in reality. unblamable. and gain the suffrages of an enlightened sceptical Eighteenth century! It is. but I am sorry to say. But the heart remains cold before them. if the real truth must be told. For my own share. with their measured euphemisms. a style of speech and conduct which has got to seem “respectable. with very indifferent success! At bottom. They are very noble men. these. bodyguards and flourishes of trumpets: the Sceptic of the Eighteenth century looks for regulated respectable Formulas. the fancy alone endeavors to get up some worship of them. and ruined into a futility and deformity. to love and worship them like Heroes. at bottom. the same thing that both the Valet and he expect: the garnitures of some acknowledged royalty. break forth into any fire of brotherly love for these men? They are Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . I found that it would not do. What man’s heart does. so of the Sceptic: He does not know a Hero when he sees him! The Valet expected purple mantles.” or what else he may call them. parliamentary eloquences. Elliot.On Heroes and Hero Worship 239 with these noble Pyms and Hampdens. dignified set of men. As we said of the Valet. gilt sceptres. Ship-moneys. a most constitutional. philosophies. “Principles.—with the honestest wish to admire. Monarchies of Man. whose noble work he stole for himself. I have read diligently what books and documents about them I could come at. far be it from me to say or insinuate a word of disparagement against such characters as Hampden. Pym. whom I believe to have been right worthy and useful men. This view of Cromwell seems to me the not unnatural product of a century like the Eighteenth.” which can plead for itself in a handsome articulate manner. step along in their stately way.

that they should have liberty to worship in their own way. Small thanks to a man for keeping his hands clean. but that it is heavy. he is the man of them all in whom one still finds human stuff. did not speak. demanding. Anti-Laudisms. who would not touch the work but with gloves on! Neither.—heavy as lead. Westminster Confessions. it is but a piece of Formulism and Scepticism.” You find that it may be the admirablest thing in the world. for you there is little or nothing now surviving there! One leaves all these Nobilities standing in their niches of honour: the rugged outcast Cromwell. not cased in euphemistic coat-of-mail. face to face. did not work with glib regularity.On Heroes and Hero Worship 240 become dreadfully dull men! One breaks down often enough in the constitutional eloquence of the admirable Pym. heart to heart. he grappled like a giant. does this constitutional tolerance of the Eighteenth century for the other happier Puritans seem to be a very great matter. They tell us. Liberty to tax themselves: that was the thing they should have demanded! It was Superstition. like the rest. One might say. Smooth-shaven Respectabilities not a few one finds. in a word. after all. chiefly of all. But he stood bare. barren as brick-clay. that are not good for much.” These Puritans came forward with Calvinistic incredible Creeds. is the sort of man for one. I plead guilty to valuing such a man beyond all other sorts of men. had no straight story to tell for himself anywhere. disgraceful ignorance of Constitutional Philosophy to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Fanaticism. The great savage Baresark: he could write no euphemistic Monarchy of Man. on the whole. with his “seventhly and lastly. with the naked truth of things! That. It was a sorrowful thing to consider that the foundation of our English Liberties should have been laid by “Superstition. that.

take it.—and take yourself away with it. and. It has been the soul of all just revolts among men. but the feeling of the insupportable all-pervading Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . pretend to say you are worshipping God. or pretend to find true!” He will answer: “No. in defence of that!”— Really. to this hour. by God’s help. on the whole. and it is so desirable to you. and say. before deciding to revolt against his Government. since you can. it is not yours. in which a good man will be thankful to see any kind of Government maintain itself in a not insupportable manner: and here in England. accusations and confusions. this of the Puritans. and leave me alone to my work here. after all the money you have taken from me!” But if they come to him. I am still here. Ours is a most confused world. “Acknowledge a Lie. on the contrary. Tax-gatherer? Money? He will say: “Take my money. if he is not ready to pay a great many taxes which he can see very small reason in. Not Hunger alone produced even the French Revolution. but the thing that I find. I think. but I cannot have my moral Self annihilated. front all manner of extremities. The purse is any Highwayman’s who might meet me with a loaded pistol: but the Self is mine and God my Maker’s. but a rather barren one would have fixed on that as the first right of man! I should say. and revolt against you. no! You may take my purse. it seems to me the one reason which could justify revolting. and I will resist you to the death. A just man will generally have better cause than money in what shape soever. can still work. when you are not doing it: believe not the thing that you find true.On Heroes and Hero Worship 241 insist on the other thing!—Liberty to tax oneself? Not to pay out money from your pocket except on reason shown? No century. no. I think! He must try some other climate than this. it will not go well with him.

—which will glitter. Is it not strange that. Multitudes of Great Men figure in History as false selfish men. such a century will needs reject as an amorphous heap of rubbish. as it were the Voice of this world’s Maker still speaking to us. I will confess. who never. and thereby become indisputably false in the eyes of all! We will leave the Eighteenth century with its “liberty to tax itself. palpable to the sense. gross. unintelligible shadows. great or small?—No.” and much else.—be intelligible? What it cannot reduce into constitutional doctrines relative to “taxing. From of old.On Heroes and Hero Worship 242 Falsehood which had now embodied itself in Hunger. striving to be fervid.” “hypocrisy. Nay I cannot believe the like. To men who believe in no reality at all. this theory of Cromwell’s falsity has been incredible to me. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . how shall a real human soul. but if we will consider it. in universal material Scarcity and Nonentity. I believe this the less. the longer I study him and his career. after being represented as the very prince of liars. Pyms and Ship-money will be the theme of much constitutional eloquence. if not as fire does. the intensest of all realities. or hardly ever. then as ice does: and the irreducible Cromwell will remain a chaotic mass of “madness. Why should we? There is no evidence of it. we cannot figure Cromwell as a Falsity and Fatuity.” or other the like material interest. we do not see into them as men that could have existed at all. the essence of all real souls. after all the mountains of calumny this man has been subject to. could form such notions of Great Men. they are but figures for us. Can a great soul be possible without a conscience in it. Hampdens. of any Great Man whatever.” We will not astonish ourselves that the meaning of such men as the Puritans remained dim to it. with no eye but for the surfaces and semblances of things. A superficial unbelieving generation only.

but Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .” These things are significant. it is the symptom and promise of quite other than falsehood! The young Oliver is sent to study Law. it seems to me. Looking at the man’s life with our own eyes. as chimeras ought to be left. It is like Pococke asking Grotius. thought himself near dying. affectionate.—probably no more than of the other black Spectre. Where is your proof of Mahomet’s Pigeon? No proof!—Let us leave all these calumnious chimeras. hypochondriac humor of Oliver. sincere kind of man? His nervous melancholic temperament indicates rather a seriousness too deep for him. for a little period.On Heroes and Hero Worship 243 spoke truth. in that rugged stubborn strength of his. oversensitive. the joint product of hatred and darkness. to whom the Officer saw him sell himself before Worcester Fight! But the mournful. falls. or Devil in person. but always some cunning counterfeit of truth. and no lie spoken by him. What little we know of his earlier obscure years.” of the white Spectre in broad daylight. He had often been sent for at midnight. Such an excitable deep-feeling nature. The Huntingdon Physician told Sir Philip Warwick himself. and “had fancies about the Town-cross. does it not all betoken an earnest. distorted as it has come down to us. there should not yet have been one falsehood brought clearly home to him? A prince of liars. into some of the dissipations of youth. in his young years. Not one that I could yet get sight of. Cromwell was full of hypochondria. we are not bound to believe much. Mr. Of those stories of “Spectres. is not the symptom of falsehood. predicting that he should be King of England. is otherwise indisputably known. They are not portraits of the man. a very different hypothesis suggests itself. they are distracted phantasms of him. or is said to have fallen.

—exhorts his neighbours to be wise. to redeem the time. were fixed on the other Higher World. abandons all this: not much above twenty. its prizes are not the thing that can enrich him. religious. to his Bible and his Plough. and this poor Earth of ours was the threshold either of Heaven or of Hell! Oliver’s life at St. as a just. “Gain influence”? His influence is the most legitimate. to see into the awful truth of things.” “ambition.— he does not think any gain of that kind could be really his. this “conversion. speedily repents. is fond of preachers. he is married. his aim to get well thither.On Heroes and Hero Worship 244 if so. He courts no notice: what could notice here do for him? “Ever in his great Taskmaster’s eye. That matter once settled. It is very interesting. In this way he has lived till past forty. very natural.” or other falsity? The man’s hopes. “He pays back what money he had won at gambling. derived from personal knowledge of him. in that matter of the Bedford Fens. In all this what “hypocrisy. He comforts persecuted ministers. I do believe. is it not altogether as that of a true and devout man? He has renounced the world and its ways. he returns back into obscurity.” as they well name it. as a sober industrious Farmer. daily assembles his servants round him to worship God.—to see that Time and its shows all rested on Eternity. how he comes out once into public view. He tills the earth. old Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . I mean. he reads his Bible. nay can himself preach. No one else will go to law with Authority.” “cant. therefore he will. reasonable and determined man. since no other is willing to come: in resistance to a public grievance. this awakening of a great true soul from the worldly slough. settled as an altogether grave and quiet man.” It is striking.” says the story. Ives and Ely. by walking well through his humble course in this world. he. too.

and the earnest portal of Death and Eternity. Nor will his participation in the King’s death involve him in condemnation with us. it was at this point that he suddenly became “ambitious”! I do not interpret his Parliamentary mission in that way! His successes in Parliament. who had preserved him safe. it lies there. living without God in the world. or. A man who. Reconciliation is problematic. living quite apart from contemplations of God. mercy after mercy. or else you. were most anxious to do so. through desperatelooking envelopments at Dunbar. but it could not be. more light in the head of him than other men. in those final Hampton-Court negotiations. and carried him forward so far. through the furious clash of a world all set in conflict. It is a stern business killing of a King! But if you once go to war with him. to the “crowning mercy” of Worcester Fight: all this is good and genuine for a deep-hearted Calvinistic Cromwell. far more likely. The unhappy Charles. you have made wager of battle with him: it is he to die.” frivolities and formalities. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . anxious indeed as for their own existence. Once at war. need it seem hypocritical. His prayers to God. may be possible. through the death-hail of so many battles.On Heroes and Hero Worship 245 age is now in view of him. this and all else lies there. shows himself as a man fatally incapable of being dealt with. are honest successes of a brave man. who has more resolution in the heart of him. apprehensive now of the Independents. once for all. worshipping not God but their own “love-locks. Only to vain unbelieving Cavaliers. his spoken thanks to the God of Victory. having vanquished Charles First. The large Presbyterian party. his successes through the war. It is now pretty generally admitted that the Parliament. had no way of making any tenable arrangement with him. is impossible.

We may say this of him without cruelty. how he drives towards the practical and practicable. “we are to have a little bit of paper?” No!— In fact. if you see into Fact! Cromwell’s Ironsides were the embodiment of this insight of his. Neither will we blame greatly that word of Cromwell’s to them.On Heroes and Hero Worship 246 could not and would not understand:—whose thought did not in any measure represent to him the real fact of the matter. with deep pity rather: but it is true and undeniable. everywhere we have to note the decisive practical eye of this man. A man whose word will not inform you at all what he means or will do. they both discovered that he was deceiving them. expediences: the true man is needed to discern even practical truth. I maintain. were still for believing Charles. and choose substantial yeomen. has a genuine insight into what is fact. flimsy riotous persons. to be soldiers for them: this is advice by a man who saw. You must get out of that man’s way. whose word did not at all represent his thought.” says he. he still. men fearing God. Not so Cromwell: “For all our fighting. Fact answers. though found false. finding himself treated with outward respect as a King. No more conclusively genuine set of fighters ever trod the soil of England. Forsaken there of all but the name of Kingship. unbelievable again and again. Cromwell’s advice about the Parliament’s Army. whose heart was in the work. fancied that he might play off party against party. does not belong to a false man: the false man sees false shows. nay worse. and smuggle himself into his old power by deceiving both. early in the contest. plausibilities. is not a man you can bargain with. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . How they were to dismiss their city-tapsters. in their despair. and without any other fear. or of any other land. or put him out of yours! The Presbyterians. Alas. Such an intellect.

They say scornfully. in official language. cannot understand that. Is this your King? The Hero wastes his heroic faculty in bootless contradiction from the unworthy. horrid internecine fight. since that is the thing to be done. it is sheer rough death and earnest.—the infernal element in man called forth. they were an inevitable thing. as for a man. and can accomplish little. till the Huntingdon Farmer became. is not glib in answering from the witness-box: in your small-debt pie-powder Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . For himself he does accomplish a heroic life.—The successes of Cromwell seem to me a very natural thing! Since he was not shot in battle. into dilettantism. They had set more than their own lives on the cast. For this world. with the heart to dare. That a true King be sent them is of small use. should advance. a fighting “for the King. and for all worlds. from victory to victory. insincerity. The Parliament may call it. virtually the King of England. direct from Nature. What intellect remains is merely the vulpine intellect. To us it is no dilettante work.On Heroes and Hero Worship 247 which was so blamed: “If the King should meet me in battle.” Why not? These words were spoken to men who stood as before a Higher than Kings. but for the world he accomplishes comparatively nothing. the eye cannot see. the acknowledged Strongest Man in England. which is all. The wild rude Sincerity. That such a man.” but we. what curse is so fatal? The heart lying dead. for our share. from post to post. not to know Sincerity when they see it. man grappling with man in fire-eyed rage. which is much. I would kill the King. to try it by that! Do that therefore. by whatever name you might call him. with the eye to see. to fall into Scepticism. no sleek officiality. they do not know him when sent. requires no magic to explain it!— Truly it is a sad thing for a people. They have brought it to the calling-forth of War.

The vulpine intellect “detects” him. Why. and do not know the Hero when we see him. it is far from us: but it must come. this must be remedied. The world does exist. Till this be remedied in some measure. the world has truth in it. this is yet. but know withal the men that are to be trusted! Till we know that. there is none so fatally situated as he who lives in undue terror of being duped. French Revolutions:—if we are as Valets. he is scouted as a counterfeit. a world not of Valets. By ballot-boxes we Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . For being a man worth any thousand men. and properly never till then. God’s greatest gift to this Earth is sneeringly flung away. is an argument for two centuries whether he was a man at all. and of the Father of quacks and quackeries! Misery. or it would not exist! First recognize what is true. unveracity are alone possible there. the response your Knox. of all dupes. but a world fit for him. what is all our knowledge. is far mistaken. “Detect quacks”? Yes do. confusion. and for a hundred and fifty years he cannot have a vote from us. your Cromwell gets. The miraculous talisman is a paltry plated coin. not fit to pass in the shops as a common guinea. unbelieving world is the natural property of the Quack. “Know the men that are to be trusted:” alas.—the Hero comes almost in vain to it otherwise! Yes.On Heroes and Hero Worship 248 court. The sincere alone can recognize sincerity. there is nothing remedied. Lamentable this! I say. how shall we even so much as “detect”? For the vulpine sharpness. what have we? Ballot-boxes. suffrages. Not a Hero only is needed. Till it do come. and “detects” in that fashion. what good are all these? A heroic Cromwell comes. which considers itself to be knowledge. very far from us. we shall then discern what is false. the insincere. Dupes indeed are many: but. for Heaven’s sake. thank God. in these days. it is visibly coming.

somewhat better. dainty little Falklands. half-distracted. and he looked so strange. struggling to utter himself. Poor Cromwell. It is his. Prophet who could not speak. On this ground. what was it but the very greatness of the man? The depth and tenderness of his wild affections: the quantity of sympathy he had with things. A kind of chaotic man. one of two things: We shall either learn to know a Hero. a true Governor and Captain. confused. The Valet-World has to be governed by the Sham-Hero.—the quantity of insight he would yet get into the heart of things. nervous dreams. diplomatic Clarendons! Consider him. visions of the Devil. The man’s misery. The ray as of pure starlight and fire. Sorrowstricken. An outer hull of chaotic confusion. among the elegant Euphemisms. and yet such a clear determinate man’s-energy working in the heart of that. but the substance of him continues. Rude. came of his greatness. a man with his whole soul seeing. working in such an element of boundless hypochondria. with his wild sincerity. It is the character of a prophetic man. when we see him. Samuel Johnson too is that kind of man.On Heroes and Hero Worship 249 alter the figure of our Quack. by the King merely dressed in King-gear. as man’s misery always does. and struggling to see. too. the mastery he would yet get over things: this was his hypochondria. with his savage depth. he is its! In brief. there were no remedy in these. I explain to myself Cromwell’s reputed Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—had we ballot-boxes clattering at every street-corner. almost semi-madness. didactic Chillingworths. unformed black of darkness! And yet withal this hypochondria. or else go on to be forever governed by the Unheroic. the wide element of mournful black enveloping him.—wide as the world.—great Cromwell! The inarticulate Prophet.

rhapsodic preaching. They. how he might be great in extempore prayer. In dark inextricablelooking difficulties.—he did harder things than writing of Books. This basis of the matter Cromwell had in him. it is first of all. for days. Consider that. He had lived silent. These are the free outpouring utterances of what is in the heart: method is not required in them. he might preach. a great unnamed sea of Thought round him all his days. for hours. With his sharp power of vision. sincerity are all that is required. though he could not speak in Parliament. manhood. Cromwell’s habit of prayer is a notable feature of him. depth. to make His light shine before them. In tears. Tugend (Taugend. as they felt themselves to be. and pray alternately. a little band of Christian Brothers. what the Germans well name it. Intellect is not speaking and logicizing. is not fairspoken immaculate regularity. Virtue. disclosed itself. and in his way of life little call to attempt naming or uttering that. who had Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . herohood. Virtues. This kind of man is precisely he who is fit for doing manfully all things you will set him on doing.On Heroes and Hero Worship 250 confusion of speech. till some definite resolution rose among them. All his great enterprises were commenced with prayer. Courage and the Faculty to do.” as they would name it. to have pity on them. some “door of hope. dow-ing or Dough-tinesS). but the material with which he was to clothe it in utterance was not there. armed Soldiers of Christ. To himself the internal meaning was sunclear. and cries to the great God. resolute power of action. it is seeing and ascertaining. in fervent prayers. warmth. above all. I doubt not he could have learned to write Books withal. and speak fluently enough. One understands moreover how. his Officers and he used to assemble.

His was the heart of a man who could pray. they never were alone with the truth of a thing at all. to this hour. Devilish. advices. by any means at all. I apprehend. and men wished to know what. He disregarded eloquence. have no right to speak on such matters. “Hypocrisy”? One begins to be weary of all that. The Reporters. what all speakers aim to be. too. from the first. the one to be followed without hesitation any more? To them it was as the shining of Heaven’s own Splendour in the waste-howling darkness. what one can call a purpose.—devout prostration of the earnest struggling soul before the Highest. an impressive speaker. that was to guide them on their desolate perilous way.—how could a human soul. They went about balancing expediencies. had weight. but Mammonish. in those days seem to Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .” and much more than that. But indeed his actual Speeches. the Pillar of Fire by night. We find he was. nay despised and disliked it. wisest. plausibilities. Was it not such? Can a man’s soul. spoke always without premeditation of the words he was to use.—they cried to God in their straits. even in Parliament. With that rude passionate voice of his.—Cromwell’s prayers were likely to be “eloquent. as they look. he was always understood to mean something. in their extreme need. or be it a voiceless. They never formed a purpose. get better light? Was not the purpose so formed like to be precisely the best. inarticulate one? There is no other method. were not nearly so ineloquent. articulate.On Heroes and Hero Worship 251 drawn the sword against a great black devouring world not Christian. They who call it so. not to forsake the Cause that was His. be such prayer a spoken. gathering votes. the Giver of all Light. get guidance by any other method than intrinsically by that same. incondite. The light which now rose upon them. one who.

or something like this. and to have given the Printer precisely what they found on their own note-paper. There are impertinent inquiries made: your rule is. This. cry they. not of a false man in such times. but simply of a superior man? Such a man must have reticences in him. and behold he turns out to have been meaning that! He was. But with regard to Cromwell’s “lying. is what the wise and faithful man would aim to answer in such a case. If he walk wearing his heart upon his sleeve for daws to peck at. even to those he would have work along with him.On Heroes and Hero Worship 252 have been singularly candid. before flinging them out to the public? If the words were true words. Each little party thought him all its own. could one hit the right phrase of response. A man always is to be himself the judge how much of his mind he will show to other men. not. intrinsically. is not all this the inevitable fortune. misinformed. That to the last he took no more charge of his Speeches! How came he not to study his words a little. they could be left to shift for themselves. Hence their rage. uttered to them a part of his mind. to find Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . acting a play before the world. spoke often in the dialect of small subaltern parties. heard him even say so. to leave the inquirer uninformed on that matter. to have been the nature of it. And withal. All parties found themselves deceived in him. no doubt of it. one and all. what a strange proof is it of Cromwell’s being the premeditative ever-calculating hypocrite. I suppose. his journey will not extend far! There is no use for any man’s taking up his abode in a house built of glass.” we will make one remark. Cromwell. the chief of liars. But now. if you can help it. each party understood him to be meaning this. but precisely as dark as he was! This.

But would it be a kindness always. most active.” all this? What would you think of calling the general of an army a dissembler because he did not tell every corporal and private soldier. Not one proved falsehood. but of his own party.” And if this be the fact even in matters of doctrine. whose whole activity depends on some conviction which to you is palpably a limited one. whom he did answer. I should rather say. they must either have shuddered aghast at it. stands only on some thin traditionality. And we call it “dissimulation. It is the inevitable position of a great man among small men. to disturb them in that? Many a man. as Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . are to be seen everywhere. what we call an error.On Heroes and Hero Worship 253 him not of their party. he sinks to endless depths! “I might have my hand full of truth. They could not have worked in his province any more. who pleased to put the question. It must have been as a great trueseeing man that he managed this too. how much more in all departments of practice! He that cannot withal keep his mind to himself cannot practice any considerable thing whatever. useful. what his thoughts were about everything?—Cromwell. to you incredible: break that beneath him. their own little compact hypothesis must have gone wholly to wreck. An endless vortex of such questioning “corporals” rolled confusedly round him through his whole course. nay perhaps they could not now have worked in their own province.” said Fontenelle. conventionality. imperfect. among such people. Was it his blame? At all seasons of his history he must have felt. doing loud work in the world. is it a duty always or often. how. or believing it. “and open only my little finger. if he explained to them the deeper insight he had. Small men. managed all this in a manner we must admire for its perfection. to him indubitable.

rare. The first is what I might call substituting the goal of their career for the course and starting-point of it. deceptive dramaturgy. scheming [Gr. as he went on. or Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . vague-looming hopes. His career lay all mapped out: a program of the whole drama.” and such like. an unwound skein of possibilities. as in the fact it stood. or Play-actor. We see it so. omits it altogether. that he was! This is a radical perversion. as in this Cromwell’s case. nay impossible. And think for an instant how different the fact is! How much does one of us foresee of his own life? Short way ahead of us it is all dim.—but look whether such is practically the fact! Vulgar History. with all manner of cunning. but to him it was in no measure so. not one! Of what man that ever wound himself through such a coil of things will you say so much?— But in fact there are two errors. To remember it duly with rigorous perfection. This Cromwell had not his life lying all in that fashion of Program. The vulgar Historian of a Cromwell fancies that he had determined on being Protector of England. which he needed then. A very Shakspeare for faculty. widely prevalent.” “falsity. which pervert to the very basis our judgments formed about such men as Cromwell. scene after scene! Not so. were this one undeniable fact kept honestly in view by History! Historians indeed will tell you that they do keep it in view. attemptabilities. at the time when he was ploughing the marsh lands of Cambridgeshire. What absurdities would fall away of themselves. even the best kinds of History only remember it now and then. all but universal in such cases. only to enact dramatically.On Heroes and Hero Worship 254 I said. which he then step by step dramatically unfolded. requires indeed a rare faculty. with that unfathomable cunning of his. of apprehensions.—the hollow. about their “ambition.] Upokrites.

as they are thrown down before us. will disappear. as it were begging everybody for God’s sake. who could enact a brother man’s biography. pruriently anxious about his gifts and claims. not so much as a genuine man who had health and real substance in him of whatever magnitude. A great man? A poor morbid prurient empty man. He cannot walk on quiet paths. he is a small poor man that is ambitious so. was ever much tormented in this way. write paragraphs about him. see with the brother man’s eyes at all points of his course what things he saw. which I think the generality commit. and set him over the heads of men! Such a creature is among the wretchedest sights seen under this sun. if we honestly so much as try to represent them so. fitter for the ward of a hospital. I advise you to keep out of his way. Examine the man who lives in misery because he does not shine above other men. in short. what good could it do him to be “noticed” by noisy crowds of people? God his Maker already noticed him. know his course and him. as they were. struggling to force everybody. he hungers and thirsts that you would find something in him. He. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Half or more of all the thick-plied perversions which distort our image of Cromwell. to acknowledge him a great man. he cannot live. unless you will look at him. In good truth. But a second error. Your Cromwell. in sequence. wonder at him. as few “Historians” are like to do. It is the emptiness of the man. not his greatness. I believe no great man. Great Men are not ambitious in that sense. not in the lump. who goes about producing himself. Because there is nothing in himself. We exaggerate the ambition of Great Men. refers to this same “ambition” itself. we mistake what the nature of it is.On Heroes and Hero Worship 255 more than Shakspeare. than for a throne among men.

decide that. “Decide this. Such a man will say: “Keep your gilt carriages and huzzaing mobs. Judgment and Eternity: these already lay as the background of whatsoever he thought or did. no notice would make him other than he already was. Till his hair was grown gray. and have clerks with bundles of papers haunting him.—he had been content to plough the ground. the greatest soul in England in his day. and all a measurable matter how it went. and read his Bible. The world-wide soul wrapt up in its thoughts. was already there. He in his old days could not support it any longer. seems to me the poorest solecism. “Corsica Boswell” flaunted at public shows with printed ribbons round his hat. which no speech of a mortal could name. your influentialities. keep your red-tape clerks. Leave me alone.” which in utmost sorrow of heart no man can perfectly decide! What could gilt carriages do for this man? From of old. without selling himself to Falsehood. not infinite but finite. All his life lay begirt as in a sea of nameless Thoughts. in its sorrows.On Heroes and Hero Worship 256 Cromwell. Death.” to figure him as the prurient wind-bag described above. as the Puritan prophets of that time had read it: this was great. leave me alone. that he might ride in gilt carriages to Whitehall. was there not in his life a weight of meaning.—what could paradings. God’s Word. was not ambitious. your important businesses. a terror and a splendour as of Heaven itself? His existence there as man set him beyond the need of gilding. I will say again: The great silent men! Looking round on Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . do for it? Ah yes. and Life from the down-hill slope was all seen to be limited. To call such a man “ambitious. there is too much of life in me already!” Old Samuel Johnson. and ribbons in the hat. and all else was little to him. but the great old Samuel stayed at home.

by way of counterpoise to this of Silence. words with little meaning.— become a most green forest without roots! Solomon says. the other laudable and inevitable. by want of money. the great Empire of Silence: higher than the stars. or speak. silently thinking. yes. may it not be better if they ask. and be seen of all the market-place. as old Samuel Johnson says he was.” he will answer. My ‘system’ is not for promulgation first of all. A country that has none or few of these is in a bad way. let me say that there are two kinds of ambition. That is the great purpose of it to me. Of some great silent Samuel. it is for serving myself to live by. happily I have yet had the ability to keep it in me. And then the ‘honour’? Alas. Where is Cato’s statue?”— But now. one might ask. Woe for us if we had nothing but what we can show. “Why do not you too get up and speak.—which must soon wither and be no forest. and nothing other. to spout. silently working. promulgate your system. no compulsion strong enough to speak it. one loves to reflect on the great Empire of Silence. but also a time to keep silence. each in his department.— but as Cato said of the statue: So many statues in that Forum of yours. “I am continent of my thought hitherto. Let others that cannot do without standing on barrel-heads. The noble silent men. which had all turned into leaves and boughs.On Heroes and Hero Worship 257 the noisy inanity of the world. deeper than the Kingdoms of Death! It alone is great. cultivate speech exclusively. all else is small. Like a forest which had no roots. one wholly blamable. actions with little worth. Nature has provided that the great Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Silence. scattered here and there. There is a time to speak.—I hope we English will long maintain our grand talent pour le silence. not urged to writing. found your sect?” “Truly. whom no Morning Newspaper makes mention of! They are the salt of the Earth.

I say. well might Gibbon mourn over him. whether it is bad or not. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . has provided amply that the silent great man shall strive to speak withal. seek them not:” this is most true. nay it is a duty.—Nature. but the fitness of the man for the place withal: that is the question. I say. in his shrouded-up existence. That the perfect Heavenly Law might be made Law on this Earth. who could do no good. Coleridge beautifully remarks that the infant learns to speak by this necessity it feels. the first law of our existence. It is a necessity for the human being. The meaning of life here on earth might be defined as consisting in this: To unfold your self. fit. for example. and even obligation. yet sitting broken-hearted because they had flung him out. The selfish wish to shine over others. rather! Fancy. too amply.—We will say therefore: To decide about ambition. “Seekest thou great things. to seek the place! Mirabeau’s ambition to be Prime Minister. And yet. Not the coveting of the place alone. This is proper. to speak out. you had revealed to the brave old Samuel Johnson. to work what thing you have the faculty for. and even the summary of duties for a man. let it be accounted altogether poor and miserable. if he were “the only man in France that could have done any good there”? Hopefuler perhaps had he not so clearly felt how much good he could do! But a poor Necker. and had even felt that he could do none. and he was now quit of it. you have two things to take into view.On Heroes and Hero Worship 258 silent Samuel shall not be silent too long. what nature has laid in him. perhaps he had a natural right. there is an irrepressible tendency in every man to develop himself according to the magnitude which Nature has made him of. how shall we blame it. inevitable. to act out. Perhaps the place was his. that it was possible for him to do priceless divine work for his country and the whole world.

and the dawn of hope had become clear light of victory and certainty. And now behold the dawn of it. that he the mournful silent Samuel was called to take a part in it! Would not the whole soul of the man have flamed up into a divine clearness. and hastened thither. From of old. unjust. in silence. their ears crops off. set on pillories.—that such a course was false. that it was possible.—on and on.On Heroes and Hero Worship 259 that the prayer he prayed daily. God’s Gospel-cause trodden under foot of the unworthy: all this had lain heavy on his soul. till the Cause triumphed.—the whole dark element of his existence blazing into articulate radiance of light and lightning? It were a true ambition this! And think now how it actually was with Cromwell. its once so formidable enemies all swept from before it. “Thy kingdom come. into noble utterance and determination to act. the sufferings of God’s Church. after twelve years silent waiting. of a self-seen truth. in prayer. That he stood there as the strongest soul of England. counting all affliction and contradiction small. practicable. He worked there. seeing no remedy on Earth. and could not last forever. he fought and strove. trusting well that a remedy in Heaven’s goodness would come. there is to be once more a Parliament. true zealous Preachers of the truth flung into dungeons. Was not such a Parliament worth being a member of? Cromwell threw down his ploughs. the Right will get a voice for itself: inexpressible well-grounded hope has come again into the Earth. Long years he had looked upon it. where we get a glimpse of them. whips. He spoke there. the undisputed Hero of all Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—rugged bursts of earnestness.” was at length to be fulfilled! If you had convinced his judgment of this. all England stirs itself. like a strong true giant of a man. through cannontumult and all else. casting all sorrows and misgivings under his feet.

experienced in the whole chaos of most rough practice.” seems to me a rather sorry business. one man. Had England rallied all round him. that I can get sight of. its alertness and expertness in “detecting hypocrites. how we could make the Right supremely victorious over Wrong. dared to consider as capable of being realized. in its own dialect. and all that we had longed and prayed for. England might have been a Christian land! As it is. I account it the culminating point of Protestantism. in the course of fifteen hundred years. with its knowingness. were to rule the land: in some considerable degree. I must say. then.—why. was it not then the very thing to do? The strongest practical intellect in England dared to answer. We have had but one such Statesman in England. but for a Cromwell. One man.” this practical man. and this was his welcome.On Heroes and Hero Worship 260 England. Yes! This I call a noble true purpose. the most heroic phasis that “Faith in the Bible” was appointed to exhibit here below. Fancy it: that it were made manifest to one of us. opponents by the million. shows it only this once in such a degree.—History. Those that were highest in Christ’s Church. as the highest good to England and all lands. the devoutest wisest men. the noblest that could enter into the heart of Statesman or man? For a Knox to take it up was something. it might be so and should be so. an attainable fact! Well. Was it not true. with his great sound sense and experience of what our world was. who ever had in the heart of him any such purpose at all. vulpine knowingness sits yet Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics .—what of this? It was possible that the Law of Christ’s Gospel could now establish itself in the world! The Theocracy which John Knox in his pulpit might dream of as a “devout imagination. He had adherents by the hundred or the ten. I think. God’s truth? And if true. is it not. the vulpine intellect.

a sincere “Fanatic” at first. no insincerities among the rest. “Given a world of Knaves. never. as he lay waiting for death. gets balefully incrusted with spots.—to Mahomet and many others. very many faults daily and hourly: it was too well known to him. known to God and him! The Sun was dimmed many a time. and a multitude following him. lift him up from the Earth. and some other places! Till at length. lift him up into Hypocrisy. but it does not quench itself. that he fell into no faults. come upon me here with an admission that Cromwell was sincere at first. Sincere hero hearts do not sink in this miserable manner. not all. but gradually became a “Hypocrite” as things opened round him. you may see in Chancery Law-Courts. Insincerities. by Heaven’s just anger. but a mass of Darkness! I will venture to say that such never befell a great deep Cromwell.—doubtless with many a fall therein. not much. his Mother. are Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . rending his rough way through actual true work.— But with regard to Cromwell and his purposes: Hume.” “immaculate conducts. but the Sun had not himself grown a Dimness. Nature’s own lionhearted Son. to educe an Honesty from their united action. Antaeus-like. you will find something in it. and become no Sun at all. but also by Heaven’s great grace. faults. his strength is gone.” He was a rugged Orson. extensively applied since. his strength is got by touching the Earth. This of the Fanatic-Hypocrite is Hume’s theory of it. very far from all. He was no dilettante professor of “perfections.”—how cumbrous a problem. and this problem is becoming to all men a palpably hopeless one. Cromwell’s last words. I think. The Sun flings forth impurities. the matter begins to stagnate. Inanity.On Heroes and Hero Worship 261 at its hopeless problem. We will not assert that Cromwell was an immaculate man. Think of it seriously.

its toils and sins all ended now.On Heroes and Hero Worship 262 those of a Christian heroic man. empty barren quack. does the like. that He would judge him and this Cause. hesitating. The instant his real work were out in the matter of Kingship. They are most touching words. what becomes of men when they cannot find a Chief Man. or durst commit himself to the truth. in all movements of men. He since man could not. how indispensable everywhere a King is. it is what any genuine man could do. no very immeasurable man. meanwhile. and would do. Broken prayers to God. splendid man. and the scattered Cavalier party in that country had one: Montrose. there as he stood recognized unblamed. But there was no great Cromwell among them. in justice yet in pity. an accomplished. He breathed out his wild great soul. as in this English end of the Island was always far from being the case. for one. poor tremulous. in this very War. into the presence of his Maker. the noblest of all the Cavaliers. mummer. I. gallant-hearted. what one may call Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . a George Washington. It is strikingly shown. and now he was. in this manner. Cannot a man do without King’s Coaches and Cloaks? Is it such a blessedness to have clerks forever pestering you with bundles of papers in red tape? A simple Diocletian prefers planting of cabbages. and their enemies can. One would say. diplomatic Argyles and such like: none of them had a heart true enough for the truth. They had no leader. the virtual King of England.—away with it! Let us remark. The Scotch Nation was all but unanimous in Puritanism. zealous and of one mind about it. the life of him a mere theatricality. hungry for the shouts of mobs? The man had made obscurity do very well for him till his head was gray. will not call the man a Hypocrite! Hypocrite.

and decide. Scotland. a million zealous men. What is to be done?—It was a question which theoretical Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . with a handful of Irish or Highland savages. Chief Man of the victorious party in England: but it seems he could not do without the King’s Cloak. His other proceedings have all found advocates. which Providence in a wondrous way has given up to your disposal? Clearly those hundred surviving members of the Long Parliament. is what no one can pardon him. some five times over. they against him were powerless! Perhaps of all the persons in that Puritan struggle. Ireland. Precisely here. and stand generally justified. all lying now subdued at the feet of the Puritan Parliament. the single indispensable one was verily Cromwell. but without the one. He was at one period. on the one hand subjects without a King. however. but he was a man. Well. This Montrose. cannot continue forever to sit. but this dismissal of the Rump Parliament and assumption of the Protectorship. England. few of them so much as guns in their hands. look at it. dashes at the drilled Puritan armies like a wild whirlwind.On Heroes and Hero Worship 263 the Hero-Cavalier. for a short while. who sit there as supreme authority. and sold himself to perdition in order to get it. the subjectless King can do something. master of all Scotland. time after time. from the field before him. from first to last. whether they called him so or not.—a King among them. lies the rub for Cromwell. to be a fixed pillar in the welter of uncertainty. One man. What was to be done with it? How will you govern these Nations. the practical question arose. To see and dare. He had fairly grown to be King in England. Let us see a little how this was. on the other a King without subjects! The subjects without King can do nothing. sweeps them.

to the whole nation. but of practicable Fact! How they did finally answer. even despicable. becoming fast odious. which we must answer or be devoured by it! And who are you that prate of Constitutional Formulas. He asked of the Parliament. shall establish itself. to make Pride’s Purges. What it was they would decide upon? It was for the Parliament to say. Cromwell says.—the thing is a hungry Fact coming on us. this question had been sounded in the ears of the Parliament. however contrary to Formula. whom the nation already calls Rump Parliament.” right of Election. nothing but talk. it seemed to them that they also should have something to say in it! We will not “for all our fighting have nothing but a little piece of paper. but to Cromwell. talk. Yet the Soldiers too. talk! Nevertheless the question must and shall be answered. you cannot continue to sit there: who or what then is to follow? “Free Parliament. Perhaps it lies in the nature of parliamentary bodies. debating in these days.On Heroes and Hero Worship 264 constitution-builders may find easy to answer. Tell us what we shall do. to which He through us has given the victory.” We understand that the Law of God’s Gospel. The Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . rights of Parliament? You have had to kill your King. perhaps no Parliament could in such case make any answer but even that of talk. not in the way of Formula. remains obscure to this day. there could be none more complicated. looking there into the real practical facts of it. they who had purchased this victory with their blood. to expel and banish by the law of the stronger whosoever would not let your Cause prosper: there are but fifty or threescore of you left there. or try to establish itself. You sixty men there. Constitutional Formulas of one sort or the other. in this land! For three years. They could make no answer.

merely looked at it and submitted to it. the whole matter. and do now hold here. perhaps outnumber us. Reform Bill. which we have won. or indeed for them an unquestionable thing. that this poor Parliament still would not. But we will take the favourablest hypothesis ever started for the Parliament. silenced indeed but not exterminated. it is a certainty.—and Cromwell’s patience failed him. that we are the majority! And now with your Formulas and Reform Bills. sorely won by our swords. and likelihood. interrupted them in that rapid speed of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . adjourned it. Cromwell walked down to these refractory Members. by God’s strength and our own right hands. these men were hurrying through the House a kind of Reform Bill. they again. not by counting of heads. the favourablest. free suffrage of Englishmen? Why. the Royalists themselves. small even as a likelihood? And it is not a likelihood. equable electoral division into districts. become a mere hope. the great numerical majority of England was always indifferent to our Cause. though I believe it is not the true one. shall again launch itself to sea.—Parliament to be chosen by the whole of England. it was suddenly told Cromwell that the Rump in its despair was answering in a very singular way.On Heroes and Hero Worship 265 diligent Godwin himself admits that he cannot make it out. that in their splenetic envious despair. and the rest of it! A very questionable. The likeliest is. According to this version: At the uttermost crisis. It is in weight and force. for the tenth or twentieth time. that when it came to the point of actually dispersing. to keep out the Army at least. free suffrage. when Cromwell and his Officers were met on the one hand. and the fifty or sixty Rump Members on the other. but too favourable. and indeed could not dissolve and disperse.

—a trial on the part of these Puritan Notables how far the Law of Christ could become the Law of this England.—a good enough man. The strong daring man. They were scornfully called Barebones’s Parliament: the man’s name. it was a most serious reality. find some Parliament to support him. who looked on it all near at hand. delivered up their power again into the hands of the Lord General Cromwell.On Heroes and Hero Worship 266 their Reform Bill. it seems. There were men of sense among them. I fancy. therefore.—Can we not forgive him? Can we not understand him? John Milton. a Convocation of the Notables. has set all manner of Formulas and logical superficialities against him. so to speak. They sanctioned what was past. influence and attachment to the true Cause: these are assembled to shape out a plan. shaped as they could what was to come. most men who were realities in England might see into the necessity of that. Whether it will support him or not? It is curious to see how he struggles to govern in some constitutional way. and talk there no more. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . The Reality had swept the Formulas away before it. but Barbone. They failed. men of deep piety I suppose the most of them were. to do with it what he liked and could. their work. What will he do with it? The Lord General Cromwell. could applaud him. men of some quality.—ordered them to begone. From all quarters of England the leading Ministers and chief Puritan Officials nominate the men most distinguished by religious reputation. as incompetent. has dared appeal to the genuine Fact of this England. it seems. but cannot. and broke down. Nor was it a jest. endeavoring to reform the Court of Chancery! They dissolved themselves. was not Barebones. His first Parliament. is. the one they call Barebones’s Parliament.

they had their difficulties. What will he do with it? After deliberation. and worked. chaotic. properly his first regular Parliament. as it were the one available Authority left in England. with public solemnity. Instrument of Government. yet on the whole grateful and real way. he and they together made it good. there and then.—but got. and never knew fully what to say to it!— Oliver’s second Parliament. by the leading Official people. all Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and had at the earliest legal day to be dismissed.” and so forth. in similar rebuke for their pedantries and obstinacies. “Council of Officers and Persons of interest in the Nation:” and as for the thing itself. at this unexampled juncture. say and vow before God and men.—these are the external forms of the thing. Such is the undeniable Fact of his position and England’s. but Puritan England was.On Heroes and Hero Worship 267 “Commander-in-chief of all the Forces raised and to be raised. and I will do the best I can with it!” Protectorship. accept this anomalous act of Oliver’s. the Fact is so. will formally. grumbling. “Yes. at the pass matters had now come to. in real truth. So likewise to his third Parliament. But in their Parliamentary articulate way. before long. nothing between England and utter Anarchy but him alone. into bottomless questions as to the Protector’s right. at least. chosen by the rule laid down in the Instrument of Government. saved from suicide thereby!—I believe the Puritan People did. and always better to the last. worked out and sanctioned as they could in the circumstances be. Cromwell’s concluding Speech to these men is a remarkable one.” he hereby sees himself. Puritan England might accept it or not. in an inarticulate. undeniably enough. as to “usurpation. there was no alternative but Anarchy or that. did assemble. Most rude. by the Judges. he decides that he will accept it.

not Christ’s Law. not used to speak the great inorganic thought of him. “You have had such an opportunity as no Parliament in England ever had. for being President among you! That opportunity is gone.” God’s finger guided us on. You would say. and we came at last to clear height of victory. God’s Cause triumphant in these Nations. was to be in some measure made the Law of this land. You were to help with your wise counsel in doing that. he says. the world wholly thrown into chaos round him. but only God’s voice from the battle-whirlwind. In place of that. but to act it rather! A helplessness of utterance. and say in what manner all this could be organized. so many victories and events. rules yet in this land. of me or of men. it is blind blasphemers that will persist in calling them so! He insists with a heavy sulphurous wrathful emphasis on this. and Mammon’s Law. As if a Cromwell in that dark huge game he had been playing. and you as a Parliament could assemble together. He talks much about “births of Providence:” All these changes. no man could tell what a day would bring forth: they were “births of Providence. had foreseen it all. reduced into rational feasibility among the affairs of men. the Right and True. and played it all off like a precontrived puppet-show by wood and wire! These things were foreseen by no man. you have got into your idle pedantries. You have had your constitutional Logic. and theatrical contrivances of men. and we know not when it will return. but most earnest-looking. constitutionalities. because I have no Notary’s parchment.—and would send the whole matter into Chaos again.” Christ’s Law.On Heroes and Hero Worship 268 these Speeches are. it was a sincere helpless man. As he well might. were not forethoughts. “God be Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . bottomless cavillings and questionings about written laws for my coming here. in such bursting fulness of meaning.

” says Lord Clarendon himself: “heats and jealousies. they afforded the first glimpses I could ever get into the reality of this Cromwell. realities and acts. a meaning in the great heart of this inarticulate man! You will.On Heroes and Hero Worship 269 judge between you and me!” These are his final words to them: Take you your constitution-formulas in your hand. not an enigmatic chimera. unintelligible. Scepticism writing about Belief may have great gifts. say the most: a hypocrite shrouding himself in confused Jesuitic jargon! To me they do not seem so. begin to see that he was a man. I will say rather. nay into the possibility of him. You look through them only into the infinite vague of Black and the Inane. theories and crotchets. Wilfully ambiguous. and fly into red fury of confused war against the best-conditioned of Kings! Try if you can find that true.— Cromwell’s third Parliament split on the same rock as his second. Ever the constitutional Formula: How came you there? Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . incredible to you.” mere crabbed whims. are far more obscure than Cromwell’s Speeches. for thc first time. but it is really ultra vires there. unintelligible to you. search lovingly what that may be: you will find a real speech lying imprisoned in these broken rude tortuous utterances. involved chaotic things the printed Speeches of Cromwell are. these induced slow sober quiet Englishmen to lay down their ploughs and work. written in shallow sceptical generations that could not know or conceive of a deep believing man. purposes. The Histories and Biographies written of this Cromwell. and “God be judge between you and me!”— We said above what shapeless. “Heats and jealousies. It is Blindness laying down the Laws of Optics. and I my informal struggles. Try to believe that he means something.

since you will not help me. Old Colonel Hutchinson. that. Military Dictators. For him there was no giving of it up! Prime ministers have governed countries. greater than old Rome. Pitt.” in a most fraternal. his old battle-mate. what in the name of wonder is your Parliamenteership. Choiseul. as his wife relates it. domestic. Hutchinson.—Cromwell “follows him to the door. surely the same power which makes you a Parliament. and something more. appointing just judges. since the Law would not acknowledge him? cry several. made me a Protector!” If my Protectorship is nothing. at home. and their word was a law while it held: but this Prime Minister was one that could not get resigned. I while God leaves me life!—Why did he not give it up. there remained nothing but the way of Despotism. if not by act of Parliament. This Prime Minister could retire no-whither except into his tomb. a reflex and creation of that?— Parliaments having failed. His complaint is incessant of the heavy burden Providence has laid on him. to kill the Cause and him. much against his will. coming to see him on some indispensable business. Let him once resign. to govern them. there is no retreat. That is where they mistake. Formula shall not carry it. Charles Stuart and the Cavaliers waited to kill him. wise managers. cherishing true Gospel ministers. retire into obscurity again. Once embarked. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Heavy. One is sorry for Cromwell in his old days. which he must bear till death. while the Reality is here! I will go on. doing the best I can to make England a Christian England. protecting oppressed Protestants abroad. Pombal. each with his district. to coerce the Royalist and other gainsayers. I. no return.On Heroes and Hero Worship 270 Show us some Notary parchment! Blind pedants:—”Why. then by the sword. the Queen of Protestant Christianity.

ambition. much more difficult to hush up. and its results made smooth. place in History? His dead body was hung in chains. known to all mortals. his old brother in arms. to his last day. The poor old Mother!—What had this man gained.On Heroes and Hero Worship 271 conciliatory style. step over his body sunk in the ditch there. blackness and disgrace. there broke out a far deeper explosion. and here. what had he gained? He had a life of sore strife and toil. that she might see with her own eyes that he was yet living. sullenly goes his way. in 1688. accomplish much for us? We walk smoothly over his great rough heroic life. It is properly the third and final act of Protestantism. He had to come to her at least once a day. Fame. says how much it grieves him to be misunderstood. begs that he would be reconciled to him. his strong arm growing weary with its long work! I think always too of his poor Mother. Did he not. who knows if it is not rash in me to be among the first that ever ventured to pronounce him not a knave and liar. Precisely a century and a year after this of Puritanism had got itself hushed up into decent composure. and like to be long known. We need not spurn it. as we step on it!—Let the Hero rest. by the name of French Revolution. she thought it was her son killed.”—place in History forsooth!—has been a place of ignominy. cased in his Republican formula. living in that Palace of his. this day. nor have men judged him very well. It was not to men’s judgment that he appealed. now very old. dear to him from of old: the rigorous Hutchinson. the explosive confused return of Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . a right brave woman. in spite of all. deserted by true fellow-soldiers. as indeed they lived all an honest God-fearing Household there: if she heard a shot go off. his “place in History.—And the man’s head now white. accusation. but a genuinely honest man! Peace to him.

His compact. we may well call the final one. “walking with God. with the Awful Unnamable of this Universe. are but as the high stilts on which the man is seen standing. the stature of the man is not altered thereby.” said Luther. the Bible is true. and faith and strength in that alone: latent thought and valour. was thought to be Nonentity: he had to begin not out of the Puritan Bible.” Men have to return to reality. only a far inferior sort.” as he called it. I find in him no such sincerity as in Cromwell. while Cromwell abode mainly in our little England.” said Cromwell. Meritorious to get so far. our second modern King. They stand there on the nakedest haggard Fact. We have still to glance for a moment at Napoleon. His enormous victories which reached over all Europe. Instead of “dumb Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . got its King. the meaning of all Silence. for lower than that savage Sansculottism men cannot go.On Heroes and Hero Worship 272 mankind to Reality and Fact. undeniable in all seasons and circumstances. compared with our great chaotic inarticulate Cromwell’s. or third act. “In Church and State.—who had no Notary parchment to show for himself. The French explosion. We call our English Puritanism the second act: “Well then. and may and must begin again confidently to build up from that. now that they were perishing of Semblance and Sham. let us go by the Bible!” “In Church. like the English one. Napoleon does by no means seem to me so great a man as Cromwell. content to lie latent. This was the length the man carried it. The French Revolution. they cannot live on semblance. No silent walking. Latency. through long years. prompt. then burst out as in blaze of Heaven’s lightning! Napoleon lived in an age when God was no longer believed. “let us go by what actually is God’s Truth. every way articulate character is in itself perhaps small. but out of poor Sceptical Encyclopedies.

An element of blamable ambition shows itself. from the first. what good can it ever be to promulgate lies? The lies are found out. you make nothing at last.On Heroes and Hero Worship 273 Prophet struggling to speak. In fact. Across these outer manoeuverings and quackeries of his. better for Napoleon too if he had not told any. you cannot of nothing make something. The old cry of wolf!—A Lie is no-thing. to keep up his own men’s courage. in that voyage to Egypt were one evening busily occupied arguing that there could be no God. to Mahomet or the like. and did base himself upon fact. let us discern withal that the man had a certain instinctive ineradicable feeling for reality. Bourrienne tells us. It had been. there are no excuses. in this man. and lose your labour into the bargain. when it is of the last importance that he be believed. meant to be found extant next day. Yet Napoleon had a sincerity: we are to distinguish between what is superficial and what is fundamental in insincerity. in the long-run. to their Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . His savans. so long as he had any basis. On the whole. which were many and most blamable. with such truth as it has. ruinous penalty is exacted for them.—where indeed taken strictly it has hardly any truth at all. No man will believe the liar next time even when he speaks truth. and so forth. gets the victory over him at last. will apply much better to Napoleon than it did to Cromwell. and involves him and his work in ruin.” we have a portentous mixture of the Quack withal! Hume’s notion of the Fanatic-Hypocrite. if a man have any purpose reaching beyond the hour and day. They had proved it. A man in no case has liberty to tell lies. He has an instinct of Nature better than his culture was. “False as a bulletin” became a proverb in Napoleon’s time. He makes what excuse he could for it: that it was necessary to mislead the enemy.

cannot put down. answers. insists on the practical. and how cheap withal. Helena. drives straight towards that.On Heroes and Hero Worship 274 satisfaction. and walked on. and demonstration how glorious it was. this was a true insight of his. he produced it at the right moment. and even the whole truth.—a faith. it is notable how he still. Some days afterwards. he is like a piece of silent strength in the middle of their morbid querulousness there. Napoleon. Napoleon looking up into the stars. put it in his pocket. genuine so far as it went? That this new enormous Democracy asserting itself here in the French Revolution is an unsuppressible Fact. When the steward of his Tuileries Palace was exhibiting the new upholstery. it comes to nothing that one can do. Say nothing. by all manner of logic. The implements to him who can handle them:” this actually is the truth. And did he not interpret the dim purport of it well? “La carriere ouverte aux talens. “Very ingenious. sees. why quarrel with one another? There is no result in it. through all entanglements. to the horror of his upholstery functionary. or have victory in this world. making little answer. which the whole world. “Why talk and complain. the great Fact stares him in the face: “Who made all that?” So too in Practice: he. if one can do nothing!” He speaks often so. and took his conscience and enthusiasm along with it. asked for a pair of scissors. it was not gold but tinsel! In St. clips one of the gold tassels from a window-curtain. And accordingly was there not what we can call a faith in him. to his poor discontented followers. to his last days. the real. above all. with praises. with its old forces and institutions. Messieurs: but who made all that?” The Atheistic logic runs off from him like water. it includes whatever the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . the practical heart of the matter. as every man that can be great.

however. that it may become organic. could not be an anarchy: the man had a heart-hatred for anarchy. if it were a true thing at all. fostered too by his military trade. could mean. Napoleon. self-devouring French Revolution. it is that carries Napoleon through all his great work. On that Twentieth of June (1792). one would say. and be able to live among other organisms and formed things. up at Paris. Such a faith in Democracy. To bridle in that great devouring. a soul to dare and do. to tame it. they would conquer if there were. The common soldiers used to say on the march: “These babbling Avocats. and has a right to feel. Through his brilliant Italian Campaigns. nay what he actually managed to do? Through Wagrams. how the Revolution cannot prosper or last without such. not as a wasting destruction alone: is not this still what he partly aimed at. his inspiration is: “Triumph to the French Revolution. And yet by the nature of him. Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Bourrienne and he sat in a coffee-house. and put him there. all talk and no work! What wonder it runs all wrong? We shall have to go and put our Petit Caporal there!” They went. so that its intrinsic purpose can be made good.On Heroes and Hero Worship 275 French Revolution or any Revolution. yet hatred of anarchy. On the Tenth of August he wonders why there is no man to command these poor Swiss.—he triumphed so far. onwards to the Peace of Leoben. in his first period. All men saw that he was such. Austerlitzes. assertion of it against these Austrian Simulacra that pretend to call it a Simulacrum!” Withal. triumph after triumph. as the mob rolled by: Napoleon expresses the deepest contempt for persons in authority that they do not restrain this rabble. as the true purport of his life. how necessary a strong Authority is. he knew that Democracy. was a true Democrat. He rose naturally to be the King. he feels. There was an eye to see in this man.

Self and false ambition had now become his god: self-deception once yielded to.—”wanting nothing to complete the pomp of it. Sword and Bible were borne before him.” as Augereau said.—considered that he would found “his Dynasty” and so forth. had this man wrapt his own great reality in. tinsel and mummery. Emperorship. What a paltry patchwork of theatrical paper-mantles. He did not know true from false now when he looked at them.—till the poor Lieutenant of La Fere. and Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . its true decoration and insignia? It had used them both in a very real manner. But at this point.On Heroes and Hero Worship 276 they and France at large. not unnaturally. the fatal charlatan-element got the upper hand. He apostatised from his old faith in Facts. Popedoms. felt by himself to be the method of extirpating it. all other deceptions follow naturally more and more. thinking to make it more real thereby! His hollow Pope’s-Concordat. without any chimera: were not these the real emblems of Puritanism. what we must call a genuinely true one. might seem to himself the greatest of all men that had been in the world for some ages. victory over Europe. “nothing but the half-million of men who had died to put an end to all that”! Cromwell’s Inauguration was by the Sword and Bible. I think. with the old false Feudalities which he once saw clearly to be false.—the fearfulest penalty a man pays for yielding to untruth of heart. took to believing in Semblances. pretending to be a reestablishment of Catholicism.” a fearful but most sure thing. consecrations by the old Italian Chimera in NotreDame. Chief-consulship. that he should believe a lie. strove to connect himself with Austrian Dynasties. that the enormous French Revolution meant only that! The man was “given up to strong delusion. “la vaccine de la religion:” his ceremonial Coronations.

For an hour the whole Universe seems wrapt in smoke and flame. what was it with all the noise it made? A flash as of gunpowder wide-spread. Like a man that should build upon cloud. To be of courage. holding it tyrannously down. however huge it may look. let him paint an inch thick.—waiting their day! Which day came: Germany rose round him. I say. a blazing-up as of dry heath.—What Napoleon did will in the Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . Palm! It was a palpable tyrannous murderous injustice. as they thought of it. or had his best regiment drowned in the sea. its stars above and kind soil beneath. a falsehood. his house and he fall down in confused wreck. than shot that poor German Bookseller. Napoleon’s working. and could not last. this Napoleonism was unjust. saw no fact deeper in man than Hunger and this! He was mistaken. and. “Lead us not into temptation”! But it is fatal. The thing into which it enters as a cognizable ingredient is doomed to be altogether transitory. which no man. suppressed fire flashed in the eyes of men. the fiercer would the world’s recoil against him be. is still there. I am not sure but he had better have lost his best park of artillery. It goes out: the Universe with its old mountains and streams. It is true doctrine. that it be developed. is in itself small. It burnt deep into the hearts of men. Injustice pays itself with frightful compound-interest. but only for an hour.On Heroes and Hero Worship 277 pretended to stand by them now! But this poor Napoleon mistook: he believed too much in the Dupability of men. it and the like of it. The Duke of Weimar told his friends always. one day. and depart out of the world. The heavier this Napoleon trampled on the world. accordingly. were the temptation strong enough. Alas. and might be developed. could make out to be other. in all of us this charlatan-element exists.

he says. has enveloped itself. alas! His notions of the world. genuine. “another Isle of Oleron to France.” that he should believe the thing to be which is not! The compact. clear-seeing. he is France. decisive Italian nature of him. to that and nothing more. which he once had. that he is flung out on the rock here. To what of reality was in him. France is great. mournfully as man seldom did. The world was not disposed to be trodden down underfoot. that France was not all-great. as he liked. La carriere ouverte aux talens: that great true Message. He was a great ebauche. for a pedestal to France and him: the world had quite other purposes in view! Napoleon’s astonishment is extreme. are almost tragical to consider. The rest was all smoke and waste. as indeed what great man is other? Left in too rude a state. strong. which has yet to articulate and fulfil itself everywhere. a rude-draught never completed. halfdissolved itself. But alas. He had to sink there. by Napoleon-Nature. what help now? He had gone that way of his. he tumbles helpless in Vacuity. he left in a most inarticulate state. no rescue for him. that he was not France. as he expresses them there at St. He seems to feel the most unaffected surprise that it has all gone so.” So it was by Nature. and break his great heart. to be bound into masses. in a turbid atmosphere of French fanfaronade.On Heroes and Hero Worship 278 long-run amount to what he did justly. and yet look how in fact—HERE AM I! He cannot understand it: inconceivable that the reality has not corresponded to his program of it. “Strong delusion. what Nature with her laws will sanction. and Nature also had gone her way. and die. England itself. Helena. and the World is still moving on its axis.—this poor Napoleon: a Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . and all-great: and at bottom. and built together. Having once parted with Reality. is by Nature only an appendage of France.

I am sorry for it: there was pleasure for me in this business. with these abrupt utterances thrown out isolated. I heartily thank you all. Often enough. patient candour. and a most grave and wide one. all-hoping favour and kindness. Tolerance. we might have done better. have listened patiently to my rude words. which I will not speak of at present. the beautiful. if also much pain.On Heroes and Hero Worship 279 great implement too soon wasted. as I think. not to be too grave about it. and say. Good be with you all! Thomas Carlyle ElecBook Classics . It enters deeply. till it was useless: our last Great Man! Our last. It is a great subject. into the secret of Mankind’s ways and vitalest interests in this world. are to terminate. I have had to tear it up in the rudest manner in order to get into it at all. I know not whether I have even managed to do that. something of what is best in England. the wise. With six months. unexplained. this which. I have named Hero-worship. With many feelings. instead of six days. and is well worth explaining at present. The accomplished and distinguished. For here finally these wide roamings of ours through so many times and places. in search and study of Heroes. has your tolerance been put to the trial. I promised to break ground on it. in a double sense.

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