Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) 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 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.

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and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose. and having observed.htm . Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it. about interests: he gives an independent. as good. Absolve you to yourself. clapped into jail by his consciousness. but necessary. but must explore if it be goodness. not from above. as it were. These are the voices which we hear in solitude. in the swift. It loves not realities and creators. summary way of boys. What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions. if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested. these have not. Society is a joint-stock company. is the healthy attitude of human nature. unbribable. independent. bad. Bashful or bold. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text. he tries and sentences them on their merits. that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs. You must court him: he does not court you. watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse. The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner. their eye is as yet unconquered. must always be formidable. Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. because he cannot speak to you and me. Do not think the youth has no force. who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. unaffrighted innocence. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. the only wrong what is against it. — "But these impulses may be from below. and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind. Selfreliance is its aversion. if it will stand by itself. he is a committed person. in the face and behaviour of children. then. unbiased. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. eloquent. irresponsible.emersoncentral. and when we look in their faces. I will live then from the Devil. the only right is what is after my constitution. On my saying. interesting. He cumbers himself never about consequences. genuine verdict. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat. so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. and put them in fear. but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. "They do not seem to me to be such. but if I am the Devil's child. in which the members agree. But the man is. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser. and you shall have the suffrage of the world. silly. looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by. we are disconcerted. would sink like darts into the ear of men. Their mind being whole. babes. There is no Lethe for this. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this. and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one. troublesome. whose affections must now enter into his account. which being seen to be not private. for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder. As published on Page 2 of 15 http://www.com/selfreliance. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm. he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary. Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. observe again from the same unaffected." I replied. The virtue in most request is conformity. but names and customs. Ah.

may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. rather the exception than the rule. This rule. I would write on the lintels of the door-post. I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. If Page 3 of 15 http://www. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition. and never varnish your hard. not what the people think. and not to need diet and bleeding. and speak the rude truth in all ways. when my genius calls me. equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy. Every decent and wellspoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain. the education at college of fools. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Whim. 'Go love thy infant. There is the man and his virtues. and the thousandfold Relief Societies. Men do what is called a good action. I actually am. of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand. for them I will go to prison.emersoncentral. it is easy in solitude to live after our own. that it scatters your force. the dime. — as invalids and the insane pay a high board. why should I not say to him. as some piece of courage or charity.com/selfreliance. and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony. I wish it to be sound and sweet. shall that pass? If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition. love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace. The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is. if need be. uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. than that it should be glittering and unsteady. What I must do is all that concerns me. but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love.' Rough and graceless would be such greeting. Few and mean as my gifts may be. the cent. I ask primary evidence that you are a man. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last. Are they my poor? I tell thee. Their virtues are penances. do not tell me. but to live. I ought to go upright and vital. it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold. Then. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold. that I grudge the dollar. as a good man did to-day. to large societies and dead institutions. and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes. again. alms to sots. in the popular estimate. Virtues are. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion. much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. Your goodness must have some edge to it. but your miscellaneous popular charities. — else it is none. so it be genuine and equal. I do not wish to expiate. I shun father and mother and wife and brother. It is the harder. Thy love afar is spite at home. — though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar. as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. and refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle.htm As published on . I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. but we cannot spend the day in explanation. thou foolish philanthropist.

lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself. he might well go home with a sad countenance. their four not the real four. so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. Their rage is decorous and prudent. Do your work. because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own. The muscles. A man must consider what a blindman's-buff is this game of conformity. and I shall know you. but false in all particulars. but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone. Their every truth is not quite true. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) you maintain a dead church. If I know your sect. The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency. And. I anticipate your argument. and we know not where to begin to set them right. But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars. yield to Page 4 of 15 http://www. and live ever in a new day. have no deep cause. which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history. not spontaneously moved. Their two is not the real two. authors of a few lies. but the sour faces of the multitude. with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution. — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. but moved by a low usurping wilfulness. For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. he will do no such thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief." 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. contribute to a dead Bible-society. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know that. vote with a great party either for the government or against it. and we are loath to disappoint them. and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. I mean "the foolish face of praise. not as a man. when the ignorant and the poor are aroused. a reverence for our past act or word. We come to wear one cut of face and figure. and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. like their sweet faces. but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney. when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow. Well. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church.emersoncentral.com/selfreliance. The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlour. and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. — the permitted side. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added. scarcely even in acts of pure memory. of course. spread your table like base housekeepers. grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation. for they are timid as being very vulnerable themselves. it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment. and you shall reinforce yourself. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come. so that every word they say chagrins us. There is a mortifying experience in particular.htm As published on .

it still spells the same thing. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right. contrite wood-life which God allows me. and America into Adams's eye. and Copernicus. and Socrates. We worship it to-day because it is not of to-day. as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham's voice. A great man is coming to eat at my house. because it is not a trap for our love and homage. For of one will. Be it how it will. I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. and Jesus. or across. Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels. and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree. and see it not. which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza. In this pleasing. Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemeris. let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect. and Newton. It is always ancient virtue. to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood. though they should clothe God with shape and color. the actions will be harmonious. though I mean it not. Your conformity explains nothing. and Luther. Always scorn appearances. adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.com/selfreliance. and scorn eyes. as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot. and. I suppose no man can violate his nature. — 'Ah. at a little height of thought. and dignity into Washington's port. backward. and you always may. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. so you shall be sure to be misunderstood. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions. and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. so they be each honest and natural in their hour. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance. Leave your theory. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. See the line from a sufficient distance. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. it will be found symmetrical. I cannot doubt.htm As published on . let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Your genuine action will explain itself. and flee. The force of character is cumulative. I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. We pass for what we are. and will explain your other genuine actions. and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. One tendency unites them all. We love it and pay it homage. I wish that he should Page 5 of 15 http://www. self-derived.emersoncentral. To be great is to be misunderstood.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) them heart and life. They shed an united light on the advancing actor. and Galileo. and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. Character teaches above our wills. The swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being. even if shown in a young person. Act singly. — read it forward. but is selfdependent. Instead of the gong for dinner. do right now. however unlike they seem. and it straightens itself to the average tendency. I do not wish to please him. and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. then. Speak what you think now in hard words. though it contradict every thing you said to-day.' — Is it so bad. Let us never bow and apologize more. There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions.

or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy. Where he is. and trade. and. every body in society reminds us of somewhat else. requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design. but the things of life are the same to both. Milton called "the height of Rome". carried to the duke's house. In history. the sum total of both is the same. reminds you of nothing else. as. Let a man then know his worth. Monachism. When private men shall act with original views. of Fox. the fact which is the upshot of all history. who is in the world a sort of sot. are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day's work. Every true man is a cause. the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen. and Scanderbeg. The man must be so much.com/selfreliance. that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. but is the centre of things. or of some other person. a statue. A man Caesar is born. I will stand here for humanity. as followed their public and renowned steps. suitors for his notice. exercises his reason. Methodism. and office. Abolition. and an age. in the world which exists for him. and finds himself a true prince. that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works. reality. of Luther. it takes place of the whole creation. and all men. Ordinarily. power and estate. of the Hermit Antony. and all events. of Clarkson. or an interloper. and hurl in the face of custom. the Reformation. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street. that a true man belongs to no other time or place. but I am to settle its claims to praise. or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air. He measures you. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man. there is nature. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times. owes its popularity to the fact. treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke. feels poor when he looks on these. As published on Page 6 of 15 http://www. Let him not peep or steal. I would make it true.htm . much like a gay equipage. that he must make all circumstances indifferent. but now and then wakes up. and assured that he had been insane. Scipio. petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. a country. finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god. and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. of Wesley.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) wish to please me. Why all this deference to Alfred. Quakerism. Sir?' Yet they all are his. 'Who are you. and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous. that it symbolizes so well the state of man. Kingdom and lordship. a bastard. Character. To him a palace. on his waking. and seem to say like that. our imagination plays us false. and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons. washed and dressed and laid in the duke's bed. The picture waits for my verdict: it is not to command me. did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day. and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius. Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. But the man in the street. — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. and keep things under his feet.emersoncentral. and though I would make it kind. Christ is born.

or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own. from light. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm. in the soul. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. texts. was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness. But perception is not whimsical. which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions. without parallax. nature. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. My wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) The world has been instructed by its kings. on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that sciencebaffling star. pay for benefits not with money but with honor. and reverse theirs. whilst all later teachings are tuitions. If we ask whence this comes. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom. for. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king. and forget that we have shared their cause. command my curiosity and respect. like day and night. When we discern justice. the sense of being which in calm hours rises. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions. — one as much as another. the noble. that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. and in course of time. should fill the world with his voice. we know not how. If I see a trait. from man. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun. He may err in the expression of them. — means. and receives a divine wisdom. not one thing. Whenever a mind is simple. make his own scale of men and things. temples fall. all philosophy is at fault. if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source. and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. of virtue. at once the essence of genius. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition. — although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. old things pass away. it lives now. from time. teachers. and new date and new create the whole. the faintest native emotion. petty and particular miracles disappear. and absorbs past and future into the present hour. As published on Page 7 of 15 http://www. souls. is not diverse from things.com/selfreliance.htm . not to be disputed. It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate. or rather much more readily. from the centre of the present thought. and his involuntary perceptions. which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. but one with them. We first share the life by which things exist. and represent the law in his person. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. but he knows that these things are so. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence. when we discern truth. and of life. if we seek to pry into the soul that causes. In that deep force. and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. without calculable elements. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self. For. who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. time. the last fact behind which analysis cannot go. The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure. all mankind. but fatal. All things are dissolved to their centre by their cause. from space.emersoncentral. and afterwards see them as appearances in nature. they do not distinguish between perception and notion. — the idlest reverie. All things are made sacred by relation to it. in the universal miracle. and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. should scatter forth light. we do nothing of ourselves. but allow a passage to its beams. the right of every man. but all things. my children will see it after me. and. all things find their common origin.

com/selfreliance. at any time. for. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones. When a man lives with God. stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. as it does underlie my present. on a few lives. it is perfect in every moment of its existence. as they grow older. When we have new perception. they can use words as good when occasion comes. This should be plain enough. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation. the Atlantic Ocean. the South Sea. where it is. therefore. But man postpones or remembers. If we live truly. he is no longer upright. not to man. heedless of the riches that surround him. — long intervals of time. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. You take the way from man. if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes. is day. years. where it was. they exist with God to-day. he dares not say 'I think. for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings. Man is timid and apologetic. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) If. and history is an impertinence and an injury. And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid.htm As published on . and are willing to let the words go. or. and.' but quotes some saint or sage. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts. and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. it is not by any known or accustomed way. It shall exclude example and experience. a man claims to know and speak of God. then. shall be wholly strange and new. in the full-blown flower there is no more.—— the way. In the hour of vision. unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David. as it is for the weak to be weak. above time. in another world. Before a leaf-bud has burst. we shall see truly. is this. they are for what they are. they understand them. probably cannot be said. you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other. but the soul is light. the thought. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. Vast spaces of nature. perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right. when you have life in yourself. he does not live in the present. There is simply the rose. and what is called death. nor properly joy.emersoncentral. and it satisfies nature. you shall not hear any name. and what is called life. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong. or Jeremiah. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose.' 'I am. his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn. there is nothing that can be called gratitude. by what I can now nearest approach to say it. you shall not see the face of man. — are of no account. Its nature is satisfied. That thought. 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. When good is near you. in the leafless root there is no less. its whole life acts. There is somewhat low even in hope. but with reverted eye laments the past. This which I think and feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances. centuries. There is no time to them. believe him not. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself. the good. Page 8 of 15 http://www. in all moments alike. this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. of the men of talents and character they chance to see. and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country. is night. — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors. we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. afterwards. or Paul.

for God is here within. fear. charity.' But keep thy state. and I have all men's. This one fact the world hates. We do not yet see that virtue is Height. shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. that is. do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present. Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause. kings. whaling. the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. there will be power not confident but agent. Not for that will I adopt their petulance or folly. it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state. and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. Why. The genesis and maturation of a planet. come not into their confusion. but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. and engage my respect as examples of its presence and impure action. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits. must be elevation. No man can come near me but through my act. begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit. not the having lived." As published on Page 9 of 15 http://www. hunting. Why should we assume the faults of our friend. and say. Power is in nature the essential measure of right.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) Life only avails. nations. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. eloquence. or father. that the soul becomes. client. poets. or child. "What we love that we have. who are not. as on every topic. in the darting to an aim. I like the silent church before the service begins. Man does not stand in awe of man. let us sit at home with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. or wife. the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind. Who has more obedience than I masters me. all reputation to a shame. and that a man or a company of men. or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood.emersoncentral. for that for ever degrades the past. rich men. how cool. How far off. but spiritual. Speak rather of that which relies. Friend. even to the extent of being ashamed of it. turns all riches to poverty. All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain. nor is his genius admonished to stay at home. confounds the saint with the rogue. I give them by a weak curiosity. in the shooting of the gulf. and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native riches. all knock at once at thy closet door. to put itself in communication with the internal ocean. its poise and orbit. I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. Let our simplicity judge them.com/selfreliance. But now we are a mob. but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love.htm . personal weight. We must go alone. The power men possess to annoy me. But your isolation must not be mechanical. want. war. better than any preaching. are demonstrations of the self-sufficing. This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this. husbandry. — 'Come out unto us. the vital resources of every animal and vegetable. and therefore selfrelying soul. when we speak of eminent virtue. because they sit around our hearth. child. Power ceases in the instant of repose. plastic and permeable to principles. Thus all concentrates: let us not rove. though he should not raise his finger. then. by a simple declaration of the divine fact. sickness. how chaste the persons look. are somewhat. by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities. Commerce. We fancy it rhetoric. because it works and is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and faith. and we are become timorous. and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. let us at least resist our temptations. neighbour. You may fulfil your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct. to support my family. and mere antinomianism. Say to them. courage and constancy. or you. cousin. town. to live in truth. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine. when they look out into the region of absolute truth. that he may in good earnest be doctrine. I will have no covenants but proximities. we shall be the happier. faithful his will. Check this lying hospitality and lying affection. however long we have dwelt in lies. — but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I do this not selfishly. If you can love me for what I am. Yes. and do the same thing. if you are not. It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father. O wife. afraid of fortune. But if I can discharge its debts. let us enter into the state of war. The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state. but humbly and truly. Page 10 of 15 http://www. that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to others! If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society. it enables me to dispense with the popular code. afraid of death. it will bring us out safe at last. O father. have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force. whether any of these can upbraid you. let him keep its commandment one day. and all men's. Besides. If you are true. It is alike your interest. and wake Thor and Woden. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. clear his sight. I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity. but I cannot sell my liberty and my power. O mother. in our Saxon breasts. to be the chaste husband of one wife. cat. I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. We are afraid of truth. but not in the same truth with me.emersoncentral. society. to himself. if we follow the truth.com/selfreliance. — But so you may give these friends pain. There are two confessionals. O friend. I will love you. mother. he will see the need of these ethics. in one or the other of which we must be shriven. or in the reflex way. and mine. I will seek my own. This is to be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. to save their sensibility. Henceforward I am the truth's. cannot satisfy their own wants. I must be myself. and. but we see that most natures are insolvent. then will they justify me. O brother.htm As published on . and the heart appoints. and afraid of each other. that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me. But the law of consciousness abides. If any one imagines that this law is lax. I will so trust that what is deep is holy. law. If you are noble. But I may also neglect this reflex standard. I will still seek to deserve that you should. and dog. Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. I appeal from your customs. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. If you cannot. all persons have their moments of reason. I cannot break myself any longer for you. High be his heart. and absolve me to myself. cleave to your companions. desponding whimperers. and do lean and beg day and night continually.

htm . and loses itself in endless mazes of natural and supernatural. We shun the rugged battle of fate. Our sympathy is just as base. preaches. 1. Caratach. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. and customs out of the window. and mediatorial and miraculous. though for cheap ends. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont. Our valors are our best gods. and always. where strength is born. idolatries. their association. replies. We come to them who weep foolishly. if you can thereby help the sufferer. and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York. in their property. are true prayers heard throughout nature.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) Our housekeeping is mendicant. their modes of living. we have not chosen. but a hundred chances. in their pursuits. tossing the laws.' for he does not postpone his life. — is vicious. our occupations. like a cat. who in turn tries all the professions. attend your own work. the books. our religion. putting them once more in communication with their own reason. new powers shall appear. and in complaining the rest of his life. Prayer that craves a particular commodity. and already the evil begins to be repaired. buys a township. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which they call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly. in their speculative views. He will then see prayer in all action. If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises. and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession. He walks abreast with his days. but society has chosen for us. we pity him no more. our arts. edits a newspaper. but lives already. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. — any thing less than all good. Let a Stoic open the resources of man. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. peddles. instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges. He has not one chance. If the young merchant fails. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. We are parlour soldiers. in Fletcher's Bonduca. in successive years. but thank and revere him. — "His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours." Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. As published on Page 11 of 15 http://www. — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor. in their religion. Regret calamities. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. who teams it. farms it. born to shed healing to the nations. and make his name dear to all history. falls on his feet. Prayer looks abroad and asks for some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue. that he should be ashamed of our compassion.com/selfreliance. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it. our marriages. and so forth. keeps a school. It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men. they lose all heart. goes to Congress. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar. if not.emersoncentral. it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened. and that the moment he acts from himself. he will not beg. that with the exercise of self-trust. and tell men they are not leaning willows. when admonished to inquire the mind of the god Audate. but can and must detach themselves. is worth a hundred of these city dolls. As soon as the man is at one with God. men say he is ruined. in their education. and sit down and cry for company. that a man is the word made flesh.

'Let not God speak to us. But in all unbalanced minds. and grows old even in youth among old things. He carries ruins to ruins. He who travels to be amused. will break into any cabin. and man's relation to the Highest." As men's prayers are a disease of the will. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds and churches. will crack. will beam over the universe as on the first morning. million-orbed. passes for the end. the wise man stays at home. or to get somewhat which he does not carry. unsystematic. as a girl who has just learned botany in seeing a new earth and new seasons thereby. and not like an interloper or a valet. is his complacency. 2. "To the persevering mortal.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. and recites fables merely of his brother's. and benevolence. and when his necessities. the classification is idolized. Italy. Egypt. In proportion to the depth of the thought.com/selfreliance. Quakerism. 'It must be somehow that you stole the light from us. and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance. travels away from himself. presently their neat new pinfold will be too strait and low. his duties. so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the remote horizon with the walls of the universe. retains its fascination for all educated Americans. — how you can see. They say with those foolish Israelites. or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were. Every new mind is a new classification. or into foreign lands. because he has shut his own temple doors. whose idols are Italy. They cannot imagine how you aliens have any right to see. all eyes follow with desire. speak any man with us. we feel that duty is our place. In Thebes. They who made England. because he did not need it. indomitable. even into theirs. and so to the number of the objects it touches and brings within reach of the pupil. If they are honest and do well. he is at home still. for the purposes of art. all young and joyful. In manly hours. Speak thou. so that the man is first domesticated. a Fourier. As published on Page 12 of 15 http://www. "the blessed Immortals are swift. and we will obey.' They do not yet perceive." said Zoroaster. so are their creeds a disease of the intellect. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him.' Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother.emersoncentral. England. and lo! a new system. because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. The pupil takes the same delight in subordinating every thing to the new terminology. which are also classifications of some powerful mind acting on the elemental thought of duty. a Lavoisier. and not for a speedily exhaustible means. and the immortal light. or his brother's brother's God. lest we die. Such is Calvinism. the luminaries of heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master built. a Locke. will lean. that light. Swedenborgism. The gods love him because men hated him. It will happen for a time. that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue. Our love goes out to him and embraces him. of study. million-colored.htm . a Bentham. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet. and visits cities and men like a sovereign. I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe. on any occasion call him from his house. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling. his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. The soul is no traveller. or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. in Palmyra. Let them chirp awhile and call it their own. it imposes its classification on other men. If it prove a mind of uncommon activity and power. all honors crown. like an axis of the earth. will rot and vanish. a Hutton. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. that the pupil will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his master's mind.

It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed. I pack my trunk. it is scientific. but if you can hear what these patriarchs say. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias. Insist on yourself. all eloquent. That which each can do best. 4. For every thing that is given. that I fled from. or Bacon. it is rich. Not possibly will the soul all rich. It undergoes continual changes. and the naked New Zealander. lean. a spear. with a watch. embrace my friends. our Education. the length of the day. and quaint expression are as near to us as to any. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society. The intellect is vagabond. unrelenting. whose property is a club. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. and no man improves. thinking American. At home I dream that at Naples. Society never advances. and at last wake up in Naples. and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again. it is christianized. never imitate. the soil. What a contrast between the well-clad. or Newton? Every great man is a unique. a pencil. and the palaces. and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with foreign taste. but this change is not amelioration. or trowel of the Egyptians. convenience. our tastes. or the pen of Moses. obey thy heart. nor can. he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted. No man yet knows what it is.com/selfreliance. but I am not intoxicated. Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin. you have only an extemporaneous. We imitate. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. 3. it is civilized. our Art look abroad. till that person has exhibited it. it is barbarous. the sad self. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. I seek the Vatican. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare. but different from all these. something is taken. and follow the Past and the Distant. I can be intoxicated with beauty. at Rome. the habit and form of the government. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. My giant goes with me wherever I go. writing. As our Religion. for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. and there beside me is the stern fact. our faculties.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) Travelling is a fool's paradise. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life. but of the adopted talent of another. and a bill of exchange in his pocket. considering the climate. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty. deign to repeat itself. half possession. so does our spirit of society. our shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments. our opinions. identical. and our system of education fosters restlessness. and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. with thousand-cloven tongue. a mat. surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice. or Dante. or Washington.htm . and lose my sadness. Do that which is assigned you. the wants of the people. Society acquires new arts. embark on the sea. reading. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions. none but his Maker can teach him.emersoncentral. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. grandeur of thought. and loses old instincts. and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep As published on Page 13 of 15 http://www.

The wave moves onward. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. And so the reliance on Property. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats. Galileo.com/selfreliance. but the water of which it is composed does not. discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. Socrates. nor can all the science. Diogenes. that they have come to esteem the religious. including the reliance on governments which protect it. the founder of a sect. The civilized man has built a coach. art. If the traveller tell us truly. Not in time is the race progressive. magazines. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has. which consisted of falling back on naked valor. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long. The same particle does not rise from the valley to the ridge. The great genius returns to essential man. is the want of self-reliance. No greater men are now than ever were. and. but they leave no class. the insurance-office increases the number of accidents.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) under! But compare the health of the two men. and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. in imitation of the Roman custom. grind it in his hand-mill. but will be his own man. He who is really of their class will not be called by their name. three or four and twenty centuries ago. and so being sure of the information when he wants it. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery. religion. A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages. He has a fine Geneva watch. whose equipment exhausted the resources of science and art. some vigor of wild virtue. are great men. The solstice he does not observe. but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun.htm As published on . the soldier should receive his supply of corn. as to astonish Parry and Franklin. and disencumbering it of all aids. and the same blow shall send the white to his grave. but has lost the use of his feet. They measure their esteem of each other by what each Page 14 of 15 http://www. but lacks so much support of muscle. with an opera-glass. which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. and bake his bread himself. because they feel them to be assaults on property. by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms. and do not invigorate men. his libraries overload his wit. and they deprecate assaults on these. and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the bivouac. and their experience with them. the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. in his turn. Anaxagoras. Its unity is only phenomenal. Phocion. whether we have not lost by refinement some energy.emersoncentral. and carriages. strike the savage with a broad axe. For every Stoic was a Stoic. next year die. but in Christendom where is the Christian? There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of height or bulk. and philosophy of the nineteenth century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch's heroes. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army. and civil institutions as guards of property. The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume. the equinox he knows as little. "without abolishing our arms. The persons who make up a nation to-day. until. learned. His note-books impair his memory." Society is a wave. commissaries. says Las Casas. He is supported on crutches. and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber. and in a day or two the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science.

and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. He is weaker by every recruit to his banner. or bankruptcies. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings. thou only firm column must presently appear the upholder of all that surrounds thee.com/selfreliance. but perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property. and with each new uproar of announcement. "Thy lot or portion of life. and merely lies there. the chancellors of God. the recovery of your sick. throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought. or gift. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." said the Caliph Ali. but by a method precisely the reverse. or storm. and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance. it does not belong to him. A political victory. and you think good days are preparing for you. has no root in him. Do not believe it. or the return of your absent friend. or crime.emersoncentral. and lose all. — came to him by inheritance. just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head. Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing of men. instantly rights himself. commands his limbs. and so perceiving. It is only as a man puts off all foreign support. Most men gamble with her. or some other favorable event. But that which a man is does always by necessity acquire. which does not wait the beck of rulers. As published on Page 15 of 15 http://www. and what the man acquires is living property. or revolutions. or fire. Not so. out of new respect for his nature. Especially he hates what he has. "is seeking after thee. In the Will work and acquire. and not by what each is.Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay II Self-Reliance (1841) has. that I see him to be strong and to prevail. and in the endless mutation. 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. He who knows that power is inborn. or mobs. therefore be at rest from seeking after it. stands in the erect position. that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere. So use all that is called Fortune. and gain all. a rise of rents. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. and stands alone. if he see that it is accidental. because no revolution or no robber takes it away. The political parties meet in numerous conventions. the greater the concourse. as her wheel rolls. and deal with Cause and Effect. then he feels that it is not having." Our dependence on these foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. In like manner the reformers summon conventions. O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you. and vote and resolve in multitude.htm . works miracles. raises your spirits.

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