Self-Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1841
“Ne te quaesiveris extra.”
“Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.”
Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Honest Man’s Fortune
Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.
I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which
were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition
in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is
of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own
thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true
for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall
be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, —
and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last
Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we
ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and
traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should
learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind
from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet
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he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of
genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a
certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson
for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with
good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the
other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense
precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced
to take with shame our own opinion from another.
There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction
that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself
for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full
of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil
bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power
which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is
which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one
face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another
none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.
The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that
particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine
idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate
and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his
work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has
put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done
otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver.
In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no
hope.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place
the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries,
the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided
themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception
that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through
their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must
accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors
and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution,
but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and
advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind,
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Do not think the youth has no force. bad. observe again from the same unaffected. and when we look in their faces. Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. eloquent. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs. and having observed. whose affections must now enter into his account. Bashful or bold. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm. but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. which being seen to be not private. He cumbers himself never about consequences. Self-reliance is its aversion. unaffrighted innocence. silly. would sink like darts into the ear of men. Ah. unbiased. but names and customs. independent. that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges. summary way of boys. and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one. about interests: he gives an independent. but must 3 . we are disconcerted. if it will stand by itself. It loves not realities and creators. Their mind being whole. watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds. as it were. looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by. Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it. troublesome. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by. Society is a joint-stock company. to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. as good. These are the voices which we hear in solitude. but necessary. irresponsible. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness.that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose. You must court him: he does not court you. genuine verdict. Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. in the swift. and put them in fear. so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. unbribable. he is a committed person. he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary. then. There is no Lethe for this. interesting. The virtue in most request is conformity. clapped into jail by his consciousness. The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner. But the man is. must always be formidable. in which the members agree. because he cannot speak to you and me. he tries and sentences them on their merits. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse. these have not. for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder. is the healthy attitude of human nature. their eye is as yet unconquered.

if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested. I ought to go upright and vital. Whim. not from above. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. — “But these impulses may be from below. as a good man did to-day. shall that pass? If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition. — else it is none. but if I am the Devil’s child. Then.” No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. the only right is what is after my constitution. Absolve you to yourself. as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. and the thousandfold Relief Societies. Thy love afar is spite at home. who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. and never varnish your hard. for them I will go to prison. and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes. — though I 4 . the education at college of fools. the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand. alms to sots. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser. when my genius calls me. On my saying. that I grudge the dollar. What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy. do not tell me. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition. I will live then from the Devil. but your miscellaneous popular charities. Your goodness must have some edge to it.’ Rough and graceless would be such greeting. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. why should I not say to him. I shun father and mother and wife and brother.explore if it be goodness. Are they my poor? I tell thee. love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace. thou foolish philanthropist. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this. but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. and you shall have the suffrage of the world. uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. I would write on the lintels of the door-post. of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. “They do not seem to me to be such. the only wrong what is against it. the cent. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last. and speak the rude truth in all ways. ‘Go love thy infant. if need be. to large societies and dead institutions. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold. the dime.” I replied. again.

What I must do is all that concerns me. much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. in the popular estimate. so it be genuine and equal. If I know your sect. as some piece of courage or charity. it is easy in solitude to live after our own. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. and I shall know you. he will do no such thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one 5 . I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain. it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold. rather the exception than the rule. This rule. It is the harder. But do your work. — as invalids and the insane pay a high board. Do your work. There is the man and his virtues. contribute to a dead Bible-society. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. of course. and not to need diet and bleeding. I do not wish to expiate. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know that. not what the people think. I wish it to be sound and sweet. and refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Their virtues are penances. Men do what is called a good action. And. and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony. I ask primary evidence that you are a man. I anticipate your argument. vote with a great party either for the government or against it. Few and mean as my gifts may be. Virtues are. but to live. and you shall reinforce yourself.confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar. with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world. may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. If you maintain a dead church. spread your table like base housekeepers. but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. that it scatters your force. equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life. — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff is this game of conformity. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion. I actually am. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is. so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. than that it should be glittering and unsteady.

Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. when the ignorant and the poor are aroused. — the permitted side. and we know not where to begin to set them right. but the sour faces of the multitude. have no deep cause. and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. a reverence for our past act or word. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. lest you contradict somewhat you have stated 6 . The muscles. most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief. grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation. The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency. it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment. but moved by a low usurping wilfulness. We come to wear one cut of face and figure. so that every word they say chagrins us. and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. for they are timid as being very vulnerable themselves. But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory. not spontaneously moved.” the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us. The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friend’s parlour. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own. Their rage is decorous and prudent.side. because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts. but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history. Well. not as a man. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars. There is a mortifying experience in particular. Their two is not the real two. authors of a few lies. and we are loath to disappoint them. like their sweet faces. but false in all particulars. he might well go home with a sad countenance. but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney. their four not the real four. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added. I mean “the foolish face of praise. Their every truth is not quite true. when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow.

and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again. however unlike they seem. The swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also. to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood. and Luther. at a little height of thought. contrite wood-life which God allows me. I suppose no man can violate his nature. I cannot doubt. but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present. There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions. and flee. and Galileo. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. One tendency unites them all. Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. To be great is to be misunderstood. — ‘Ah. so you shall be sure to be misunderstood. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions. and it straightens itself to the average tendency. and will explain your other genuine 7 . as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot. and Jesus. it still spells the same thing. and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone. and Copernicus. See the line from a sufficient distance. and live ever in a new day. — read it forward. and. We pass for what we are. then. Your genuine action will explain itself. and see it not. and Newton.’ — Is it so bad. For of one will. Speak what you think now in hard words. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. or across. yield to them heart and life. and Socrates.in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being. adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. Leave your theory. let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect. scarcely even in acts of pure memory. In this pleasing. though it contradict every thing you said to-day. though I mean it not. backward. the actions will be harmonious. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza. so they be each honest and natural in their hour. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come. though they should clothe God with shape and color. and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. it will be found symmetrical. Character teaches above our wills. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance.

8 . of the Hermit Antony. It is always ancient virtue. Christ is born. which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. and all men. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field. and office. Character. Instead of the gong for dinner. I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. and you always may. let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. and scorn eyes. every body in society reminds us of somewhat else. I do not wish to please him. Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemeris. Always scorn appearances. Ordinarily. or of some other person. but is selfdependent. They shed an united light on the advancing actor. The force of character is cumulative. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times. as. do right now. that he must make all circumstances indifferent. the fact which is the upshot of all history. even if shown in a young person. of Fox. — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. and an age. self-derived. there is nature. I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works. Every true man is a cause. He measures you. We worship it to-day because it is not of to-day. Where he is. and hurl in the face of custom. that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. Monachism. A man Caesar is born. reminds you of nothing else. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham’s voice. Greatness appeals to the future. requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design. I would make it true. I will stand here for humanity.actions. and America into Adams’s eye. The man must be so much. and what you have already done singly will justify you now. of Luther. the Reformation. I wish that he should wish to please me. and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius. Act singly. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. that a true man belongs to no other time or place. Methodism. and trade. We love it and pay it homage. and though I would make it kind. a country. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right. and all events. Let us never bow and apologize more. Be it how it will. A great man is coming to eat at my house. and dignity into Washington’s port. Quakerism. Your conformity explains nothing. it takes place of the whole creation. reality. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels. but is the centre of things. and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man. because it is not a trap for our love and homage. and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this.

But the man in the street. the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen. In history. Scipio. who is in the world a sort of sot. suitors for his notice. who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. Abolition. or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king. exercises his reason. and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons. and keep things under his feet. The world has been instructed by its kings. Sir?’ Yet they all are his. a statue. Milton called “the height of Rome”. and finds himself a true prince. ‘Who are you. The picture waits for my verdict: it is not to command me. Let a man then know his worth. and assured that he had been insane. the sum total of both is the same. owes its popularity to the fact. Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. make his own scale of men and things. The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. feels poor when he looks on these. petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. washed and dressed and laid in the duke’s bed. Kingdom and lordship. or an interloper. or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own. was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness. When private men shall act with original views.of Wesley. power and estate. of Clarkson. but I am to settle its claims to praise. as followed their public and renowned steps. and Scanderbeg. and seem to say like that. are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day’s work. our imagination plays us false. To him a palace. Let him not peep or steal. and represent the law in his person. Why all this deference to Alfred. much like a gay equipage. or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air. pay for benefits not with money but with honor. did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day. treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. and reverse theirs. carried to the duke’s house. finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god. that it symbolizes so well the state of man. but now and then wakes up. the noble. but the things of life are the same to both. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal 9 . and. and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous. a bastard. on his waking. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street. the right of every man. in the world which exists for him.

but he knows that these things are so. from time. and afterwards see them as appearances in nature. but one with them. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom. but all things. — means. which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions. for. all philosophy is at fault. For. but allow a passage to its beams. — although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. Whenever a mind is simple. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition. we do nothing of ourselves. should scatter forth light. In that deep force. the faintest native emotion. but fatal. on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star. from the centre of the present thought. command my curiosity and respect. without calculable elements. at once the essence of genius. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm. If we ask whence this comes. the sense of being which in calm hours rises. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions. not one thing. we know not how. from light. which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. not to be disputed. nature. in the soul. and his involuntary perceptions. from space. old things pass away. It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate. all things find their common origin. and in course of time. all mankind. from man. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. like day and night. and receives a divine wisdom. time. and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism.Self. When we discern justice. — the idlest reverie. if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source. and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. without parallax. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun. whilst all later teachings are tuitions. of virtue. should fill the world with his voice. is not diverse from things. He may err in the expression of them. or rather much more readily. My wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving. my children will see it after me. and new date and new create the whole. 10 . they do not distinguish between perception and notion. souls. and forget that we have shared their cause. The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure. But perception is not whimsical. the last fact behind which analysis cannot go. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. when we discern truth. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind. if we seek to pry into the soul that causes. and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. and of life. We first share the life by which things exist. If I see a trait.

it lives now. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors. texts. if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming. as they grow older. in the full-blown flower there is no more. they can use words as good when occasion comes. at any time. on a few lives. but with reverted eye laments the past. he dares not say ‘I think. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts. and are willing to let the words go. of the men of talents and character they chance to see. for. and it satisfies nature. and absorbs past and future into the present hour. stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. All things are made sacred by relation to it. believe him not. All things are dissolved to their centre by their cause. above time. and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones. unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David. Before a leaf-bud has burst. heedless of the riches that surround him. petty and particular miracles disappear. it is perfect in every moment of its existence. This should be plain enough. but the soul is light. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong. we shall see truly.’ ‘I am. when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings. as it is for the weak to be weak. he is no longer upright. they understand them. temples fall. or Jeremiah. or Paul. we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke. If. or. Its nature is satisfied. is day. in the universal miracle. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself. in all moments alike. If we live truly. and. therefore. There is no time to them. they exist with God to-day. this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present. and. and history is an impertinence and an injury. There is simply the rose. in another world. is night. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes. a man claims to know and speak of God. he does not live in the present. Man is timid and apologetic. 11 . in the leafless root there is no less. — one as much as another. then. its whole life acts. afterwards.’ but quotes some saint or sage. When we have new perception. But man postpones or remembers.teachers. where it is. they are for what they are. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence. where it was.

Who has more obedience than I masters me. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause. not the having lived. You take the way from man. for that for ever degrades the past. Power ceases in the instant of repose. We do not yet see that virtue is Height. nor properly joy. When good is near you. that the soul becomes. — are of no account. is this. the Atlantic Ocean. there will be power not confident but agent. in the shooting of the gulf. by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities. when we speak of eminent virtue. there is nothing that can be called gratitude. in the darting to an aim. This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this. it is not by any known or accustomed way. Life only avails. plastic and permeable to principles. — the way. In the hour of vision. and that a man or a company of men. and what is called death. the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. poets. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid. perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right. — long intervals of time.When a man lives with God. shall be wholly strange and new. We fancy it rhetoric. the thought. There is somewhat low even in hope. Speak rather of that which relies. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation. shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. probably cannot be said. when you have life in yourself. kings. All things real are so by 12 . all reputation to a shame. Why. then. as on every topic. not to man. you shall not see the face of man. do we prate of selfreliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present. it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state. centuries. This which I think and feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances. and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. who are not. and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other. the South Sea. for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. by what I can now nearest approach to say it. you shall not hear any name. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn. years. nations. That thought. Vast spaces of nature. the good. and what is called life. as it does underlie my present. though he should not raise his finger. This one fact the world hates. rich men. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. turns all riches to poverty. confounds the saint with the rogue. because it works and is. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits. It shall exclude example and experience.

— ‘Come out unto us. for God is here within. Check this lying hospitality and lying affection. I like the silent church before the service begins. courage and constancy. and therefore self-relying soul. or child. I give them by a weak curiosity. by a simple declaration of the divine fact. How far off. Not for that will I adopt their petulance or folly. I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. or father. to put itself in communication with the internal ocean. in our Saxon breasts. let us at least resist our temptations.’ But keep thy state.” If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and faith. The power men possess to annoy me. even to the extent of being ashamed of it. This is to be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. Let our simplicity judge them. Why should we assume the faults of our friend. but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love. how chaste the persons look. are somewhat. personal weight. must be elevation. Man does not stand in awe of man. Commerce. eloquence. nor is his genius admonished to stay at home. hunting. Power is in nature the essential measure of right. all knock at once at thy closet door. want. how cool. client. But now we are a mob. and say. begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit. sickness. husbandry. war. or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood. fear. We must go alone. and I have all men’s.so much virtue as they contain. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. its poise and orbit. Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and 13 . and engage my respect as examples of its presence and impure action. but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. let us enter into the state of war. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions. the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind. whaling. Friend. because they sit around our hearth. let us sit at home with the cause. The genesis and maturation of a planet. child. No man can come near me but through my act. charity. that is. are demonstrations of the self-sufficing. and wake Thor and Woden. But your isolation must not be mechanical. and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native riches. better than any preaching. Thus all concentrates: let us not rove. the vital resources of every animal and vegetable. Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet. but spiritual. or wife. come not into their confusion. “What we love that we have. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles.

society. if you are not. and all men’s. I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. O wife. I cannot break myself any longer for you. I appeal from your customs. I do this not selfishly. But I may also neglect this reflex standard. to himself. I will love you. If any one imagines that this law is lax. or in the reflex way. and. clear his sight. it enables me to dispense with the popular code. It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties. High be his heart. But if I can discharge its debts. neighbour. and do the same thing. You may fulfil your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct. O father. that he may in good earnest be doctrine. I must be myself. when they look out into the region of absolute truth. — But so you may give these friends pain. to support my family. cat. It is alike your interest. O mother. all persons have their moments of reason. If you can love me for what I am. Henceforward I am the truth’s. and mere antinomianism. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father. and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. we shall be the happier. and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. to be the chaste husband of one wife. I will seek my own. O brother. There are two confessionals. And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity. that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me. Besides. whether any of these can upbraid you. If you are true. to live in truth. then will they justify me. I will so trust that what is deep is holy. and the heart appoints. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine. If you cannot. but I cannot sell my liberty and my power. mother. I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. in one or the other of which we must be shriven. town. let him keep its commandment one day. — but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. however long we have dwelt in lies. and absolve me to myself. If you are noble. But the law of consciousness abides. O friend. Yes. I will still seek to deserve that you should. Say to them. The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. it will bring us out safe at last. or you. law.deceiving people with whom we converse. to save their sensibility. that a simple purpose may be to him as 14 . but humbly and truly. and dog. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents. but not in the same truth with me. cleave to your companions. if we follow the truth. I will have no covenants but proximities. faithful his will. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. and mine. cousin.

our arts. idolatries. in their property. and make his name dear to all history. and that the moment he acts from himself.’ for he does not postpone his life. and afraid of each other.strong as iron necessity is to others! If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society. our occupations. and so forth. preaches. but can and must detach themselves. — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor. that he should be ashamed of our compassion. where strength is born. It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men. and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York. Let a Stoic open the resources of man. in their speculative views. We are parlour soldiers. keeps a school. He walks abreast with his days. who in turn tries all the professions. it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened. their association. desponding whimperers. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out. that with the exercise of self-trust. tossing the laws. We are afraid of truth. If the young merchant fails. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises. and in complaining the rest of his life. edits a newspaper. in successive years. that a man is the word made flesh. born to shed healing to the nations. the books. in their religion. he will see the need of these ethics. but we see that most natures are insolvent. goes to Congress. we have not chosen. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which they call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly. their modes of living. but lives already. falls on his feet. farms it. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state. 1. and customs out of the window. our religion. we pity him no more. but a hundred chances. they lose all heart. have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force. but society has chosen for us. new powers shall appear. and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession. in their pursuits. Prayer looks abroad and asks for 15 . We shun the rugged battle of fate. like a cat. our marriages. cannot satisfy their own wants. who teams it. He has not one chance. and tell men they are not leaning willows. and we are become timorous. in their education. peddles. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont. Our housekeeping is mendicant. afraid of fortune. but thank and revere him. and do lean and beg day and night continually. is worth a hundred of these city dolls. buys a township. men say he is ruined. and always. afraid of death.

It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. when admonished to inquire the mind of the god Audate. Prayer that craves a particular commodity. so are their creeds a disease of the intellect. Our sympathy is just as base. though for cheap ends. — any thing less than all good. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. “the blessed Immortals are swift. lest we die. and sit down and cry for company. or his brother’s brother’s God. As soon as the man is at one with God. and we will obey. — “His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours. Speak thou. and recites fables merely of his brother’s. if not. because he has shut his own temple doors. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. he will not beg. If it prove a mind of uncommon activity and power. putting them once more in communication with their own reason. and mediatorial and miraculous. a Lavoisier.” said Zoroaster. and already the evil begins to be repaired. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. “To the persevering mortal. Caratach. We come to them who weep foolishly. are true prayers heard throughout nature. in Fletcher’s Bonduca. all honors crown. Our valors are our best gods. — is vicious. attend your own work. Every new mind is a new classification.” Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. and loses itself in endless mazes of natural and supernatural. instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks. ‘Let not God speak to us. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. 16 . speak any man with us.’ Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. replies. a Hutton. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him. all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him. a Locke. the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar. Regret calamities. because he did not need it. The gods love him because men hated him. They say with those foolish Israelites. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. if you can thereby help the sufferer. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. He will then see prayer in all action.” As men’s prayers are a disease of the will.some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue. because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation.

will crack. passes for the end. Such is Calvinism. England. and benevolence. and so to the number of the objects it touches and brings within reach of the pupil. will break into any cabin. a Fourier. If they are honest and do well. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds and churches. will lean. The soul is no traveller. even into theirs. Swedenborgism. on any occasion call him from his house. presently their neat new pinfold will be too strait and low. unsystematic. and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance. Quakerism. and grows old even in youth among old things. — how you can see. retains its fascination for all educated Americans. so that the man is first domesticated. it imposes its classification on other men. million-colored. for the purposes of art. It will happen for a time. the wise man stays at home. 2. indomitable. whose idols are Italy. They cannot imagine how you aliens have any right to see. and man’s relation to the Highest. travels away from himself. In Thebes. his will and mind have become old and 17 .a Bentham. in Palmyra. so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the remote horizon with the walls of the universe. or to get somewhat which he does not carry. and visits cities and men like a sovereign. The pupil takes the same delight in subordinating every thing to the new terminology. and lo! a new system. and the immortal light. or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were. we feel that duty is our place. the luminaries of heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master built. all young and joyful. or into foreign lands. and when his necessities. that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling. million-orbed. and not like an interloper or a valet. he is at home still. will beam over the universe as on the first morning. like an axis of the earth. Let them chirp awhile and call it their own. They who made England. of study.’ They do not yet perceive. the classification is idolized. or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. Egypt. as a girl who has just learned botany in seeing a new earth and new seasons thereby. Italy. which are also classifications of some powerful mind acting on the elemental thought of duty. is his complacency. I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe. that the pupil will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his master’s mind. and not for a speedily exhaustible means. ‘It must be somehow that you stole the light from us. will rot and vanish. his duties. He who travels to be amused. But in all unbalanced minds. In proportion to the depth of the thought. In manly hours. that light.

3. deign to repeat itself. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions. grandeur of thought. he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted. identical. the wants of the people. lean. and there beside me is the stern fact. the soil. That which each can do best. or Dante. embrace my friends. No man yet knows what it is. and the palaces. half possession.dilapidated as they. nor can. He carries ruins to ruins. the length of the day. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation. The intellect is vagabond. none but his Maker can teach him. our shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments. Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin. but of the adopted talent of another. till that person has exhibited it. My giant goes with me wherever I go. or Bacon. I pack my trunk. or the pen of Moses. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias. and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him. Not possibly will the soul all rich. our opinions. the sad self. We imitate. convenience. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty. that I fled from. or trowel of the Egyptians. and follow the Past and the Distant. embark on the sea. or Washington. and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also. but if you 18 . you have only an extemporaneous. at Rome. and at last wake up in Naples. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. the habit and form of the government. and quaint expression are as near to us as to any. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. I seek the Vatican. I can be intoxicated with beauty. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. and our system of education fosters restlessness. all eloquent. Insist on yourself. or Newton? Every great man is a unique. never imitate. but I am not intoxicated. At home I dream that at Naples. our faculties. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. and lose my sadness. but different from all these. our tastes. considering the climate. with thousand-cloven tongue. Travelling is a fool’s paradise. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Do that which is assigned you. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. unrelenting. and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with foreign taste. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare.

but this change is not amelioration. but in Christendom where is the Christian? There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of height or bulk. the insurance-office increases the number of accidents. and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. so does our spirit of society. and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under! But compare the health of the two men. his libraries overload his wit. and a bill of exchange in his pocket. the equinox he knows as little. The solstice he does not observe. Anaxagoras. but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. For every thing that is given. but lacks so much support of muscle. whose property is a club. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society. reading. and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber. Society never advances. Society acquires new arts. a mat. Diogenes. The civilized man has built a coach.can hear what these patriarchs say. surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice. something is taken. 4. As our Religion. but they leave no class. whether we have not lost by refinement some energy. Phocion. He is supported on crutches. strike the savage with a broad axe. and the same blow shall send the white to his grave. nor can all the science. If the traveller tell us truly. three or four and twenty centuries ago. and no man improves. it is rich. thinking American. the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. He who is re19 . and the naked New Zealander. For every Stoic was a Stoic. are great men. and loses old instincts. our Art look abroad. but has lost the use of his feet. and so being sure of the information when he wants it. and philosophy of the nineteenth century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch’s heroes. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life. it is christianized. it is barbarous. Not in time is the race progressive. writing. and in a day or two the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch. religion. by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms. His note-books impair his memory. A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages. it is civilized. obey thy heart. Socrates. a spear. some vigor of wild virtue. and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. He has a fine Geneva watch. No greater men are now than ever were. with a watch. art. it is scientific. It undergoes continual changes. for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. a pencil. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again. What a contrast between the well-clad. our Education.

then he feels that it is not having. because they feel them to be assaults on property. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long. Especially he hates what he has. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property.ally of their class will not be called by their name. and carriages. but perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes. but the water of which it is composed does not. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science. and. it does not belong to him. does always by necessity acquire. The wave moves onward. “Thy lot or portion of life. The persons who make up a nation to-day. and their experience with them. or fire. and what the man acquires is living property. The same particle does not rise from the valley to the ridge. “without abolishing our arms. or gift. the soldier should receive his supply of corn. which does not wait the beck of rulers. has no root in him. therefore be at rest from seeking after it. and do not invigorate men. says Las Casas. in his turn. that they have come to esteem the religious. as to astonish Parry and Franklin. or crime. The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume. learned. next year die. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. including the reliance on governments which protect it. and civil institutions as guards of property. or bankruptcies. or revolutions. Galileo. And so the reliance on Property. “is seeking after thee. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat.” said the Caliph Ali. The great genius returns to essential man. The political par20 . which consisted of falling back on naked valor. discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. is the want of self-reliance. in imitation of the Roman custom. out of new respect for his nature. because no revolution or no robber takes it away. — came to him by inheritance. and disencumbering it of all aids. the founder of a sect. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has. Its unity is only phenomenal.” Our dependence on these foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. but will be his own man.” Society is a wave. and bake his bread himself. and they deprecate assaults on these. if he see that it is accidental. grind it in his hand-mill. whose equipment exhausted the resources of science and art. magazines. until. and merely lies there. or storm. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats. which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. But that which a man is. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery. and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the bivouac. and not by what each is. commissaries. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army. or mobs. with an opera-glass.

or some other favorable event. and gain all. but by a method precisely the reverse. Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing of men. Most men gamble with her. In the Will work and acquire. a rise of rents. that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere. So use all that is called Fortune. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. instantly rights himself. He is weaker by every recruit to his banner. works miracles. raises your spirits. and you think good days are preparing for you. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings. and deal with Cause and Effect. stands in the erect position. The delegation from Essex! The Democrats from New Hampshire! The Whigs of Maine! the young patriot feels himself stronger than before by a new thousand of eyes and arms. the recovery of your sick. and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance. and stands alone. O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you. commands his limbs. and with each new uproar of announcement. or the return of your absent friend. and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. 21 . Do not believe it. the greater the concourse. and in the endless mutation. throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought. A political victory. the chancellors of God. In like manner the reformers summon conventions. as her wheel rolls. thou only firm column must presently appear the upholder of all that surrounds thee. He who knows that power is inborn. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Not so.ties meet in numerous conventions. just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head. and vote and resolve in multitude. that I see him to be strong and to prevail. It is only as a man puts off all foreign support. and so perceiving. and lose all.