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Essays

by

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A PENN STATE ELECTRONIC CLASSICS SERIES PUBLICATION


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Contents
I. HISTORY .................................................................................................................................................................. 5
SELF-RELIANCE ...................................................................................................................................................... 26
II. SELF-RELIANCE ................................................................................................................................................. 26
COMPENSATION ..................................................................................................................................................... 50
III. COMPENSATION ............................................................................................................................................... 51
SPIRITUAL LAWS .................................................................................................................................................... 70
IV SPIRITUAL LAWS ............................................................................................................................................... 70
LOVE ........................................................................................................................................................................... 89
V. LOVE ...................................................................................................................................................................... 89
FRIENDSHIP ............................................................................................................................................................. 101
VI. FRIENDSHIP ..................................................................................................................................................... 101
PRUDENCE ............................................................................................................................................................... 115
VII. PRUDENCE ...................................................................................................................................................... 115
HEROISM ................................................................................................................................................................. 126
VIII. HEROISM ....................................................................................................................................................... 127
THE OVER-SOUL ................................................................................................................................................... 137
IX. THE OVER-SOUL ............................................................................................................................................ 138
CIRCLES .................................................................................................................................................................. 154
X. CIRCLES.............................................................................................................................................................. 154
INTELLECT ............................................................................................................................................................. 166
XI. INTELLECT ...................................................................................................................................................... 166
ART ............................................................................................................................................................................ 178
THE POET ................................................................................................................................................................ 189
XIII. THE POET ...................................................................................................................................................... 189
EXPERIENCE .......................................................................................................................................................... 211
XIV. EXPERIENCE ................................................................................................................................................. 211
CHARACTER .......................................................................................................................................................... 233
XV. CHARACTER ................................................................................................................................................... 234
MANNERS ................................................................................................................................................................ 248
XVI. MANNERS ....................................................................................................................................................... 249
GIFTS ........................................................................................................................................................................ 269
XVII. GIFTS ............................................................................................................................................................. 269
NATURE .................................................................................................................................................................... 273
XVIII. NATURE ....................................................................................................................................................... 273
POLITICS ................................................................................................................................................................. 288
XIX. POLITICS ........................................................................................................................................................ 289
NOMINALIST AND REALIST .............................................................................................................................. 301
XX. NONIMALIST AND REALIST ...................................................................................................................... 301
NEW ENGLAND REFORMERS ........................................................................................................................... 315
NEW ENGLAND REFORMERS ........................................................................................................................... 315
Emerson
I. HISTORY
Essays
T
here is one mind common to all individual men.
Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the
by same. He that is once admitted to the right of rea-
son is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato
Ralph Waldo Emerson has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may
feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can un-
HISTORY derstand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a
party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and
There is no great and no small sovereign agent.
To the Soul that maketh all: Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its ge-
And where it cometh, all things are nius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is
And it cometh everywhere. explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without
hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the
I am owner of the sphere, beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every
Of the seven stars and the solar year, emotion, which belongs to it, in appropriate events. But
Of Caesar’s hand, and Plato’s brain, the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of
Of Lord Christ’s heart, and Shakspeare’s strain. history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is
made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of
nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the

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whole encyclopaedia of facts. The creation of a thousand revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind, and
forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the
Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. Ep- key to that era. Every reform was once a private opinion,
och after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, de- and when it shall be a private opinion again it will solve
mocracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit the problem of the age. The fact narrated must corre-
to the manifold world. spond to something in me to be credible or intelligible.
This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest
The Sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of and king, martyr and executioner; must fasten these im-
history is in one man, it is all to be explained from indi- ages to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall
vidual experience. There is a relation between the hours learn nothing rightly. What befell Asdrubal or Caesar Borgia
of our life and the centuries of time. As the air I breathe is as much an illustration of the mind’s powers and dep-
is drawn from the great repositories of nature, as the ravations as what has befallen us. Each new law and po-
light on my book is yielded by a star a hundred millions litical movement has meaning for you. Stand before each
of miles distant, as the poise of my body depends on the of its tablets and say, ‘Under this mask did my Proteus
equilibrium of centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the nature hide itself.’ This remedies the defect of our too
hours should be instructed by the ages and the ages ex- great nearness to ourselves. This throws our actions into
plained by the hours. Of the universal mind each indi- perspective; and as crabs, goats, scorpions, the balance
vidual man is one more incarnation. All its properties and the waterpot lose their meanness when hung as signs
consist in him. Each new fact in his private experience in the zodiac, so I can see my own vices without heat in
flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, the distant persons of Solomon, Alcibiades, and Catiline.
and the crises of his life refer to national crises. Every It is the universal nature which gives worth to particu-

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lar men and things. Human life, as containing this, is sympathize in the great moments of history, in the great
mysterious and inviolable, and we hedge it round with discoveries, the great resistances, the great prosperities
penalties and laws. All laws derive hence their ultimate of men;—because there law was enacted, the sea was
reason; all express more or less distinctly some command searched, the land was found, or the blow was struck, for
of this supreme, illimitable essence. Property also holds us, as we ourselves in that place would have done or
of the soul, covers great spiritual facts, and instinctively applauded.
we at first hold to it with swords and laws and wide and We have the same interest in condition and character.
complex combinations. The obscure consciousness of this We honor the rich because they have externally the free-
fact is the light of all our day, the claim of claims; the dom, power, and grace which we feel to be proper to
plea for education, for justice, for charity; the founda- man, proper to us. So all that is said of the wise man by
tion of friendship and love and of the heroism and gran- Stoic or Oriental or modern essayist, describes to each
deur which belong to acts of self-reliance. It is remark- reader his own idea, describes his unattained but attain-
able that involuntarily we always read as superior be- able self. All literature writes the character of the wise
ings. Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not man. Books, monuments, pictures, conversation, are por-
in their stateliest pictures, —in the sacerdotal, the im- traits in which he finds the lineaments he is forming. The
perial palaces, in the triumphs of will or of genius,— silent and the eloquent praise him and accost him, and
anywhere lose our ear, anywhere make us feel that we he is stimulated wherever he moves, as by personal allu-
intrude, that this is for better men; but rather is it true sions. A true aspirant therefore never needs look for
that in their grandest strokes we feel most at home. All allusions personal and laudatory in discourse. He hears
that Shakspeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy the commendation, not of himself, but, more sweet, of
that reads in the corner feels to be true of himself. We that character he seeks, in every word that is said con-

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Essays
cerning character, yea further in every fact and circum- kings or empires, but know that he is greater than all the
stance,—in the running river and the rustling corn. Praise geography and all the government of the world; he must
is looked, homage tendered, love flows, from mute nature, transfer the point of view from which history is com-
from the mountains and the lights of the firmament. monly read, from Rome and Athens and London, to him-
These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night, self, and not deny his conviction that he is the court,
let us use in broad day. The student is to read history and if England or Egypt have any thing to say to him he
actively and not passively; to esteem his own life the will try the case; if not, let them for ever be silent. He
text, and books the commentary. Thus compelled, the must attain and maintain that lofty sight where facts
Muse of history will utter oracles, as never to those who yield their secret sense, and poetry and annals are alike.
do not respect themselves. I have no expectation that The instinct of the mind, the purpose of nature, betrays
any man will read history aright who thinks that what itself in the use we make of the signal narrations of his-
was done in a remote age, by men whose names have tory. Time dissipates to shining ether the solid angular-
resounded far, has any deeper sense than what he is do- ity of facts. No anchor, no cable, no fences avail to keep
ing to-day. a fact a fact. Babylon, Troy, Tyre, Palestine, and even
The world exists for the education of each man. There early Rome are passing already into fiction. The Garden
is no age or state of society or mode of action in history of Eden, the sun standing still in Gibeon, is poetry thence-
to which there is not somewhat corresponding in his life. forward to all nations. Who cares what the fact was, when
Every thing tends in a wonderful manner to abbreviate we have made a constellation of it to hang in heaven an
itself and yield its own virtue to him. He should see that immortal sign? London and Paris and New York must go
he can live all history in his own person. He must sit the same way. “What is history,” said Napoleon, “but a
solidly at home, and not suffer himself to be bullied by fable agreed upon?” This life of ours is stuck round with

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Egypt, Greece, Gaul, England, War, Colonization, Church, all. We must in ourselves see the necessary reason of
Court and Commerce, as with so many flowers and wild every fact,—see how it could and must be. So stand be-
ornaments grave and gay. I will not make more account fore every public and private work; before an oration of
of them. I believe in Eternity. I can find Greece, Asia, Burke, before a victory of Napoleon, before a martyrdom
Italy, Spain and the Islands, —the genius and creative of Sir Thomas More, of Sidney, of Marmaduke Robinson;
principle of each and of all eras, in my own mind. before a French Reign of Terror, and a Salem hanging of
We are always coming up with the emphatic facts of witches; before a fanatic Revival and the Animal Magne-
history in our private experience and verifying them here. tism in Paris, or in Providence. We assume that we under
All history becomes subjective; in other words there is like influence should be alike affected, and should achieve
properly no history, only biography. Every mind must know the like; and we aim to master intellectually the steps
the whole lesson for itself,—must go over the whole and reach the same height or the same degradation that
ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will our fellow, our proxy has done.
not know. What the former age has epitomized into a All inquiry into antiquity, all curiosity respecting the
formula or rule for manipular convenience, it will lose all Pyramids, the excavated cities, Stonehenge, the Ohio
the good of verifying for itself, by means of the wall of Circles, Mexico, Memphis,—is the desire to do away this
that rule. Somewhere, sometime, it will demand and find wild, savage, and preposterous There or Then, and intro-
compensation for that loss, by doing the work itself. duce in its place the Here and the Now. Belzoni digs and
Ferguson discovered many things in astronomy which had measures in the mummy-pits and pyramids of Thebes,
long been known. The better for him. until he can see the end of the difference between the
History must be this or it is nothing. Every law which monstrous work and himself. When he has satisfied him-
the state enacts indicates a fact in human nature; that is self, in general and in detail, that it was made by such a

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person as he, so armed and so motived, and to ends to and other accidents of appearance; others by intrinsic
which he himself should also have worked, the problem is likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect. The
solved; his thought lives along the whole line of temples progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes,
and sphinxes and catacombs, passes through them all with which neglects surface differences. To the poet, to the
satisfaction, and they live again to the mind, or are now. philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sa-
A Gothic cathedral affirms that it was done by us and cred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.
not done by us. Surely it was by man, but we find it not For the eye is fastened on the life, and slights the cir-
in our man. But we apply ourselves to the history of its cumstance. Every chemical substance, every plant, every
production. We put ourselves into the place and state of animal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the va-
the builder. We remember the forest-dwellers, the first riety of appearance.
temples, the adherence to the first type, and the decora- Upborne and surrounded as we are by this all-creating
tion of it as the wealth of the nation increased; the value nature, soft and fluid as a cloud or the air, why should we
which is given to wood by carving led to the carving over be such hard pedants, and magnify a few forms? Why
the whole mountain of stone of a cathedral. When we should we make account of time, or of magnitude, or of
have gone through this process, and added thereto the figure? The soul knows them not, and genius, obeying its
Catholic Church, its cross, its music, its processions, its law, knows how to play with them as a young child plays
Saints’ days and image-worship, we have as it were been with graybeards and in churches. Genius studies the causal
the man that made the minster; we have seen how it thought, and far back in the womb of things sees the
could and must be. We have the sufficient reason. rays parting from one orb, that diverge, ere they fall, by
The difference between men is in their principle of as- infinite diameters. Genius watches the monad through
sociation. Some men classify objects by color and size all his masks as he performs the metempsychosis of na-

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ture. Genius detects through the fly, through the cater- The identity of history is equally intrinsic, the diversity
pillar, through the grub, through the egg, the constant equally obvious. There is, at the surface, infinite variety
individual; through countless individuals the fixed spe- of things; at the centre there is simplicity of cause. How
cies; through many species the genus; through all genera many are the acts of one man in which we recognize the
the steadfast type; through all the kingdoms of orga- same character! Observe the sources of our information
nized life the eternal unity. Nature is a mutable cloud in respect to the Greek genius. We have the civil history
which is always and never the same. She casts the same of that people, as Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and
thought into troops of forms, as a poet makes twenty Plutarch have given it; a very sufficient account of what
fables with one moral. Through the bruteness and tough- manner of persons they were and what they did. We have
ness of matter, a subtle spirit bends all things to its own the same national mind expressed for us again in their
will. The adamant streams into soft but precise form be- literature, in epic and lyric poems, drama, and philoso-
fore it, and whilst I look at it its outline and texture are phy; a very complete form. Then we have it once more in
changed again. Nothing is so fleeting as form; yet never their architecture, a beauty as of temperance itself, lim-
does it quite deny itself. In man we still trace the re- ited to the straight line and the square, —a builded ge-
mains or hints of all that we esteem badges of servitude ometry. Then we have it once again in sculpture, the
in the lower races; yet in him they enhance his nobleness “tongue on the balance of expression,” a multitude of
and grace; as Io, in Aeschylus, transformed to a cow, forms in the utmost freedom of action and never trans-
offends the imagination; but how changed when as Isis gressing the ideal serenity; like votaries performing some
in Egypt she meets Osiris-Jove, a beautiful woman with religious dance before the gods, and, though in convul-
nothing of the metamorphosis left but the lunar horns as sive pain or mortal combat, never daring to break the
the splendid ornament of her brows! figure and decorum of their dance. Thus of the genius of

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one remarkable people we have a fourfold representa- simple and awful sculpture on the friezes of the Parthenon
tion: and to the senses what more unlike than an ode of and the remains of the earliest Greek art. And there are
Pindar, a marble centaur, the peristyle of the Parthenon, compositions of the same strain to be found in the books
and the last actions of Phocion? of all ages. What is Guido’s Rospigliosi Aurora but a morn-
Every one must have observed faces and forms which, ing thought, as the horses in it are only a morning cloud?
without any resembling feature, make a like impression If any one will but take pains to observe the variety of
on the beholder. A particular picture or copy of verses, if actions to which he is equally inclined in certain moods
it do not awaken the same train of images, will yet super- of mind, and those to which he is averse, he will see how
induce the same sentiment as some wild mountain walk, deep is the chain of affinity.
although the resemblance is nowise obvious to the senses, A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without
but is occult and out of the reach of the understanding. in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying
Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very the outlines of its form merely,—but, by watching for a
few laws. She hums the old well-known air through innu- time his motions and plays, the painter enters into his
merable variations. nature and can then draw him at will in every attitude. So
Nature is full of a sublime family likeness throughout Roos “entered into the inmost nature of a sheep.” I knew a
her works, and delights in startling us with resemblances draughtsman employed in a public survey who found that
in the most unexpected quarters. I have seen the head of he could not sketch the rocks until their geological struc-
an old sachem of the forest which at once reminded the ture was first explained to him. In a certain state of thought
eye of a bald mountain summit, and the furrows of the is the common origin of very diverse works. It is the spirit
brow suggested the strata of the rock. There are men and not the fact that is identical. By a deeper apprehen-
whose manners have the same essential splendor as the sion, and not primarily by a painful acquisition of many

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manual skills, the artist attains the power of awakening nounce your name with all the ornament that titles of
other souls to a given activity. nobility could ever add.
It has been said that “common souls pay with what they The trivial experience of every day is always verifying
do, nobler souls with that which they are.” And why? Be- some old prediction to us and converting into things the
cause a profound nature awakens in us by its actions and words and signs which we had heard and seen without
words, by its very looks and manners, the same power and heed. A lady with whom I was riding in the forest said to
beauty that a gallery of sculpture or of pictures addresses. me that the woods always seemed to her to wait, as if
Civil and natural history, the history of art and of lit- the genii who inhabit them suspended their deeds until
erature, must be explained from individual history, or must the wayfarer had passed onward; a thought which poetry
remain words. There is nothing but is related to us, noth- has celebrated in the dance of the fairies, which breaks
ing that does not interest us,—kingdom, college, tree, off on the approach of human feet. The man who has
horse, or iron shoe,—the roots of all things are in man. seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at mid-
Santa Croce and the Dome of St. Peter’s are lame copies night, has been present like an archangel at the creation
after a divine model. Strasburg Cathedral is a material of light and of the world. I remember one summer day in
counterpart of the soul of Erwin of Steinbach. The true the fields my companion pointed out to me a broad cloud,
poem is the poet’s mind; the true ship is the ship-builder. which might extend a quarter of a mile parallel to the
In the man, could we lay him open, we should see the horizon, quite accurately in the form of a cherub as painted
reason for the last flourish and tendril of his work; as over churches, —a round block in the centre, which it
every spine and tint in the sea-shell preexists in the se- was easy to animate with eyes and mouth, supported on
creting organs of the fish. The whole of heraldry and of either side by wide-stretched symmetrical wings. What
chivalry is in courtesy. A man of fine manners shall pro- appears once in the atmosphere may appear often, and it

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was undoubtedly the archetype of that familiar ornament. art came to the assistance of nature it could not move on
I have seen in the sky a chain of summer lightning which a small scale without degrading itself. What would stat-
at once showed to me that the Greeks drew from nature ues of the usual size, or neat porches and wings have
when they painted the thunderbolt in the hand of Jove. I been, associated with those gigantic halls before which
have seen a snow-drift along the sides of the stone wall only Colossi could sit as watchmen or lean on the pillars
which obviously gave the idea of the common architec- of the interior?”
tural scroll to abut a tower. The Gothic church plainly originated in a rude adapta-
By surrounding ourselves with the original circumstances tion of the forest trees, with all their boughs, to a festal
we invent anew the orders and the ornaments of archi- or solemn arcade; as the bands about the cleft pillars
tecture, as we see how each people merely decorated its still indicate the green withes that tied them. No one can
primitive abodes. The Doric temple preserves the sem- walk in a road cut through pine woods, without being
blance of the wooden cabin in which the Dorian dwelt. struck with the architectural appearance of the grove,
The Chinese pagoda is plainly a Tartar tent. The Indian especially in winter, when the barrenness of all other
and Egyptian temples still betray the mounds and subter- trees shows the low arch of the Saxons. In the woods in
ranean houses of their forefathers. “The custom of mak- a winter afternoon one will see as readily the origin of
ing houses and tombs in the living rock,” says Heeren in the stained glass window, with which the Gothic cathe-
his Researches on the Ethiopians, “determined very natu- drals are adorned, in the colors of the western sky seen
rally the principal character of the Nubian Egyptian ar- through the bare and crossing branches of the forest. Nor
chitecture to the colossal form which it assumed. In these can any lover of nature enter the old piles of Oxford and
caverns, already prepared by nature, the eye was accus- the English cathedrals, without feeling that the forest
tomed to dwell on huge shapes and masses, so that when overpowered the mind of the builder, and that his chisel,

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his saw and plane still reproduced its ferns, its spikes of riculture therefore was a religious injunction, because of
flowers, its locust, elm, oak, pine, fir and spruce. the perils of the state from nomadism. And in these late
The Gothic cathedral is a blossoming in stone subdued and civil countries of England and America these propen-
by the insatiable demand of harmony in man. The moun- sities still fight out the old battle, in the nation and in
tain of granite blooms into an eternal flower, with the the individual. The nomads of Africa were constrained to
lightness and delicate finish as well as the aerial propor- wander, by the attacks of the gad-fly, which drives the
tions and perspective of vegetable beauty. cattle mad, and so compels the tribe to emigrate in the
In like manner all public facts are to be individualized, rainy season and to drive off the cattle to the higher
all private facts are to be generalized. Then at once His- sandy regions. The nomads of Asia follow the pasturage
tory becomes fluid and true, and Biography deep and sub- from month to month. In America and Europe the no-
lime. As the Persian imitated in the slender shafts and madism is of trade and curiosity; a progress, certainly,
capitals of his architecture the stem and flower of the from the gad-fly of Astaboras to the Anglo and Italo-
lotus and palm, so the Persian court in its magnificent mania of Boston Bay. Sacred cities, to which a periodical
era never gave over the nomadism of its barbarous tribes, religious pilgrimage was enjoined, or stringent laws and
but travelled from Ecbatana, where the spring was spent, customs, tending to invigorate the national bond, were
to Susa in summer and to Babylon for the winter. the check on the old rovers; and the cumulative values of
In the early history of Asia and Africa, Nomadism and long residence are the restraints on the itineracy of the
Agriculture are the two antagonist facts. The geography present day. The antagonism of the two tendencies is not
of Asia and of Africa necessitated a nomadic life. But the less active in individuals, as the love of adventure or the
nomads were the terror of all those whom the soil or the love of repose happens to predominate. A man of rude
advantages of a market had induced to build towns. Ag- health and flowing spirits has the faculty of rapid domes-

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tication, lives in his wagon and roams through all lati- with researching fingers in catacombs, libraries, and the
tudes as easily as a Calmuc. At sea, or in the forest, or in broken reliefs and torsos of ruined villas.
the snow, he sleeps as warm, dines with as good appe- What is the foundation of that interest all men feel in
tite, and associates as happily as beside his own chim- Greek history, letters, art, and poetry, in all its periods
neys. Or perhaps his facility is deeper seated, in the in- from the Heroic or Homeric age down to the domestic life
creased range of his faculties of observation, which yield of the Athenians and Spartans, four or five centuries later?
him points of interest wherever fresh objects meet his What but this, that every man passes personally through
eyes. The pastoral nations were needy and hungry to des- a Grecian period. The Grecian state is the era of the bodily
peration; and this intellectual nomadism, in its excess, nature, the perfection of the senses,—of the spiritual
bankrupts the mind through the dissipation of power on nature unfolded in strict unity with the body. In it ex-
a miscellany of objects. The home-keeping wit, on the isted those human forms which supplied the sculptor with
other hand, is that continence or content which finds all his models of Hercules, Phoebus, and Jove; not like the
the elements of life in its own soil; and which has its forms abounding in the streets of modern cities, wherein
own perils of monotony and deterioration, if not stimu- the face is a confused blur of features, but composed of
lated by foreign infusions. incorrupt, sharply defined and symmetrical features, whose
Every thing the individual sees without him corresponds eye-sockets are so formed that it would be impossible for
to his states of mind, and every thing is in turn intelli- such eyes to squint and take furtive glances on this side
gible to him, as his onward thinking leads him into the and on that, but they must turn the whole head. The
truth to which that fact or series belongs. manners of that period are plain and fierce. The rever-
The primeval world,—the Fore-World, as the Germans ence exhibited is for personal qualities; courage, address,
say, —I can dive to it in myself as well as grope for it self-command, justice, strength, swiftness, a loud voice,

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a broad chest. Luxury and elegance are not known. A knowing it, before yet the reflective habit has become
sparse population and want make every man his own va- the predominant habit of the mind. Our admiration of the
let, cook, butcher and soldier, and the habit of supplying antique is not admiration of the old, but of the natural.
his own needs educates the body to wonderful perfor- The Greeks are not reflective, but perfect in their senses
mances. Such are the Agamemnon and Diomed of Homer, and in their health, with the finest physical organization
and not far different is the picture Xenophon gives of in the world. Adults acted with the simplicity and grace
himself and his compatriots in the Retreat of the Ten of children. They made vases, tragedies, and statues, such
Thousand. “After the army had crossed the river Teleboas as healthy senses should,—that is, in good taste. Such
in Armenia, there fell much snow, and the troops lay mis- things have continued to be made in all ages, and are
erably on the ground covered with it. But Xenophon arose now, wherever a healthy physique exists; but, as a class,
naked, and taking an axe, began to split wood; whereupon from their superior organization, they have surpassed all.
others rose and did the like.” Throughout his army exists a They combine the energy of manhood with the engaging
boundless liberty of speech. They quarrel for plunder, they unconsciousness of childhood. The attraction of these
wrangle with the generals on each new order, and Xenophon manners is that they belong to man, and are known to
is as sharp-tongued as any and sharper-tongued than most, every man in virtue of his being once a child; besides
and so gives as good as he gets. Who does not see that that there are always individuals who retain these char-
this is a gang of great boys, with such a code of honor and acteristics. A person of childlike genius and inborn en-
such lax discipline as great boys have? ergy is still a Greek, and revives our love of the Muse of
The costly charm of the ancient tragedy, and indeed of Hellas. I admire the love of nature in the Philoctetes. In
all the old literature, is that the persons speak simply,— reading those fine apostrophes to sleep, to the stars,
speak as persons who have great good sense without rocks, mountains and waves, I feel time passing away as

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Essays
an ebbing sea. I feel the eternity of man, the identity of Rare, extravagant spirits come by us at intervals, who
his thought. The Greek had it seems the same fellow- disclose to us new facts in nature. I see that men of God
beings as I. The sun and moon, water and fire, met his have from time to time walked among men and made
heart precisely as they meet mine. Then the vaunted dis- their commission felt in the heart and soul of the com-
tinction between Greek and English, between Classic and monest hearer. Hence evidently the tripod, the priest,
Romantic schools, seems superficial and pedantic. When the priestess inspired by the divine afflatus.
a thought of Plato becomes a thought to me,—when a Jesus astonishes and overpowers sensual people. They
truth that fired the soul of Pindar fires mine, time is no cannot unite him to history, or reconcile him with them-
more. When I feel that we two meet in a perception, that selves. As they come to revere their intuitions and aspire to
our two souls are tinged with the same hue, and do as it live holily, their own piety explains every fact, every word.
were run into one, why should I measure degrees of lati- How easily these old worships of Moses, of Zoroaster,
tude, why should I count Egyptian years? of Menu, of Socrates, domesticate themselves in the mind.
The student interprets the age of chivalry by his own I cannot find any antiquity in them. They are mine as
age of chivalry, and the days of maritime adventure and much as theirs.
circumnavigation by quite parallel miniature experiences I have seen the first monks and anchorets, without cross-
of his own. To the sacred history of the world he has the ing seas or centuries. More than once some individual
same key. When the voice of a prophet out of the deeps has appeared to me with such negligence of labor and
of antiquity merely echoes to him a sentiment of his in- such commanding contemplation, a haughty beneficiary
fancy, a prayer of his youth, he then pierces to the truth begging in the name of God, as made good to the nine-
through all the confusion of tradition and the caricature teenth century Simeon the Stylite, the Thebais, and the
of institutions. first Capuchins.

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Emerson
The priestcraft of the East and West, of the Magian, a superstition. A great licentiousness treads on the heels
Brahmin, Druid, and Inca, is expounded in the individual’s of a reformation. How many times in the history of the
private life. The cramping influence of a hard formalist world has the Luther of the day had to lament the decay
on a young child, in repressing his spirits and courage, of piety in his own household! “Doctor,” said his wife to
paralyzing the understanding, and that without produc- Martin Luther, one day, “how is it that whilst subject to
ing indignation, but only fear and obedience, and even papacy we prayed so often and with such fervor, whilst
much sympathy with the tyranny,—is a familiar fact, ex- now we pray with the utmost coldness and very seldom?”
plained to the child when he becomes a man, only by The advancing man discovers how deep a property he
seeing that the oppressor of his youth is himself a child has in literature,—in all fable as well as in all history. He
tyrannized over by those names and words and forms of finds that the poet was no odd fellow who described
whose influence he was merely the organ to the youth. strange and impossible situations, but that universal man
The fact teaches him how Belus was worshipped and how wrote by his pen a confession true for one and true for
the Pyramids were built, better than the discovery by all. His own secret biography he finds in lines wonder-
Champollion of the names of all the workmen and the fully intelligible to him, dotted down before he was born.
cost of every tile. He finds Assyria and the Mounds of One after another he comes up in his private adventures
Cholula at his door, and himself has laid the courses. with every fable of Aesop, of Homer, of Hafiz, of Ariosto,
Again, in that protest which each considerate person of Chaucer, of Scott, and verifies them with his own head
makes against the superstition of his times, he repeats and hands.
step for step the part of old reformers, and in the search The beautiful fables of the Greeks, being proper cre-
after truth finds, like them, new perils to virtue. He learns ations of the imagination and not of the fancy, are uni-
again what moral vigor is needed to supply the girdle of versal verities. What a range of meanings and what per-

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Essays
petual pertinence has the story of Prometheus! Beside its poets. When the gods come among men, they are not
primary value as the first chapter of the history of Eu- known. Jesus was not; Socrates and Shakspeare were not.
rope, (the mythology thinly veiling authentic facts, the Antaeus was suffocated by the gripe of Hercules, but ev-
invention of the mechanic arts and the migration of colo- ery time he touched his mother earth his strength was
nies,) it gives the history of religion, with some close- renewed. Man is the broken giant, and in all his weak-
ness to the faith of later ages. Prometheus is the Jesus of ness both his body and his mind are invigorated by hab-
the old mythology. He is the friend of man; stands be- its of conversation with nature. The power of music, the
tween the unjust “justice” of the Eternal Father and the power of poetry, to unfix and as it were clap wings to
race of mortals, and readily suffers all things on their solid nature, interprets the riddle of Orpheus. The philo-
account. But where it departs from the Calvinistic Chris- sophical perception of identity through endless muta-
tianity and exhibits him as the defier of Jove, it repre- tions of form makes him know the Proteus. What else am
sents a state of mind which readily appears wherever the I who laughed or wept yesterday, who slept last night
doctrine of Theism is taught in a crude, objective form, like a corpse, and this morning stood and ran? And what
and which seems the self-defence of man against this see I on any side but the transmigrations of Proteus? I
untruth, namely a discontent with the believed fact that can symbolize my thought by using the name of any crea-
a God exists, and a feeling that the obligation of rever- ture, of any fact, because every creature is man agent or
ence is onerous. It would steal if it could the fire of the patient. Tantalus is but a name for you and me. Tantalus
Creator, and live apart from him and independent of him. means the impossibility of drinking the waters of thought
The Prometheus Vinctus is the romance of skepticism. which are always gleaming and waving within sight of
Not less true to all time are the details of that stately the soul. The transmigration of souls is no fable. I would
apologue. Apollo kept the flocks of Admetus, said the it were; but men and women are only half human. Every

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Emerson
animal of the barn-yard, the field and the forest, of the remains fast by the soul and sees the principle, then the
earth and of the waters that are under the earth, has facts fall aptly and supple into their places; they know
contrived to get a footing and to leave the print of its their master, and the meanest of them glorifies him.
features and form in some one or other of these upright, See in Goethe’s Helena the same desire that every word
heaven-facing speakers. Ah! brother, stop the ebb of thy should be a thing. These figures, he would say, these
soul, —ebbing downward into the forms into whose hab- Chirons, Griffins, Phorkyas, Helen and Leda, are some-
its thou hast now for many years slid. As near and proper what, and do exert a specific influence on the mind. So
to us is also that old fable of the Sphinx, who was said to far then are they eternal entities, as real to-day as in the
sit in the road-side and put riddles to every passenger. If first Olympiad. Much revolving them he writes out freely
the man could not answer, she swallowed him alive. If he his humor, and gives them body to his own imagination.
could solve the riddle, the Sphinx was slain. What is our And although that poem be as vague and fantastic as a
life but an endless flight of winged facts or events? In dream, yet is it much more attractive than the more regular
splendid variety these changes come, all putting ques- dramatic pieces of the same author, for the reason that it
tions to the human spirit. Those men who cannot answer operates a wonderful relief to the mind from the routine
by a superior wisdom these facts or questions of time, of customary images,—awakens the reader’s invention
serve them. Facts encumber them, tyrannize over them, and fancy by the wild freedom of the design, and by the
and make the men of routine, the men of sense, in whom unceasing succession of brisk shocks of surprise.
a literal obedience to facts has extinguished every spark The universal nature, too strong for the petty nature of
of that light by which man is truly man. But if the man is the bard, sits on his neck and writes through his hand; so
true to his better instincts or sentiments, and refuses the that when he seems to vent a mere caprice and wild ro-
dominion of facts, as one that comes of a higher race; mance, the issue is an exact allegory. Hence Plato said

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Essays
that “poets utter great and wise things which they do treasure must not speak; and the like,—I find true in
not themselves understand.” All the fictions of the Middle Concord, however they might be in Cornwall or Bretagne.
Age explain themselves as a masked or frolic expression Is it otherwise in the newest romance? I read the Bride
of that which in grave earnest the mind of that period of Lammermoor. Sir William Ashton is a mask for a vulgar
toiled to achieve. Magic and all that is ascribed to it is a temptation, Ravenswood Castle a fine name for proud
deep presentiment of the powers of science. The shoes of poverty, and the foreign mission of state only a Bunyan
swiftness, the sword of sharpness, the power of subduing disguise for honest industry. We may all shoot a wild bull
the elements, of using the secret virtues of minerals, of that would toss the good and beautiful, by fighting down
understanding the voices of birds, are the obscure efforts the unjust and sensual. Lucy Ashton is another name for
of the mind in a right direction. The preternatural prow- fidelity, which is always beautiful and always liable to
ess of the hero, the gift of perpetual youth, and the like, calamity in this world.
are alike the endeavour of the human spirit “to bend the
shows of things to the desires of the mind.”
In Perceforest and Amadis de Gaul a garland and a rose But along with the civil and metaphysical history of man,
bloom on the head of her who is faithful, and fade on the another history goes daily forward,—that of the external
brow of the inconstant. In the story of the Boy and the world,—in which he is not less strictly implicated. He is
Mantle even a mature reader may be surprised with a the compend of time; he is also the correlative of nature.
glow of virtuous pleasure at the triumph of the gentle His power consists in the multitude of his affinities, in
Venelas; and indeed all the postulates of elfin annals,— the fact that his life is intertwined with the whole chain
that the fairies do not like to be named; that their gifts of organic and inorganic being. In old Rome the public
are capricious and not to be trusted; that who seeks a roads beginning at the Forum proceeded north, south,

22
Emerson
east, west, to the centre of every province of the empire, Your roof were not sufficient to contain it.” Henry VI.
making each market-town of Persia, Spain and Britain Columbus needs a planet to shape his course upon.
pervious to the soldiers of the capital: so out of the hu- Newton and Laplace need myriads of age and thick-strewn
man heart go as it were highways to the heart of every celestial areas. One may say a gravitating solar system is
object in nature, to reduce it under the dominion of man. already prophesied in the nature of Newton’s mind. Not
A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose less does the brain of Davy or of Gay-Lussac, from child-
flower and fruitage is the world. His faculties refer to hood exploring the affinities and repulsions of particles,
natures out of him and predict the world he is to inhabit, anticipate the laws of organization. Does not the eye of
as the fins of the fish foreshow that water exists, or the the human embryo predict the light? the ear of Handel
wings of an eagle in the egg presuppose air. He cannot predict the witchcraft of harmonic sound? Do not the
live without a world. Put Napoleon in an island prison, constructive fingers of Watt, Fulton, Whittemore,
let his faculties find no men to act on, no Alps to climb, Arkwright, predict the fusible, hard, and temperable tex-
no stake to play for, and he would beat the air, and ap- ture of metals, the properties of stone, water, and wood?
pear stupid. Transport him to large countries, dense popu- Do not the lovely attributes of the maiden child predict
lation, complex interests and antagonist power, and you the refinements and decorations of civil society? Here
shall see that the man Napoleon, bounded that is by also we are reminded of the action of man on man. A
such a profile and outline, is not the virtual Napoleon. mind might ponder its thought for ages and not gain so
This is but Talbot’s shadow;— much self-knowledge as the passion of love shall teach it
“His substance is not here. For what you see is but the in a day. Who knows himself before he has been thrilled
smallest part And least proportion of humanity; But were with indignation at an outrage, or has heard an eloquent
the whole frame here, It is of such a spacious, lofty pitch, tongue, or has shared the throb of thousands in a na-

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Essays
tional exultation or alarm? No man can antedate his expe- find in him the Foreworld; in his childhood the Age of
rience, or guess what faculty or feeling a new object shall Gold, the Apples of Knowledge, the Argonautic Expedi-
unlock, any more than he can draw to-day the face of a tion, the calling of Abraham, the building of the Temple,
person whom he shall see to-morrow for the first time. the Advent of Christ, Dark Ages, the Revival of Letters,
I will not now go behind the general statement to ex- the Reformation, the discovery of new lands, the open-
plore the reason of this correspondency. Let it suffice ing of new sciences and new regions in man. He shall be
that in the light of these two facts, namely, that the the priest of Pan, and bring with him into humble cot-
mind is One, and that nature is its correlative, history is tages the blessing of the morning stars, and all the re-
to be read and written. corded benefits of heaven and earth.
Thus in all ways does the soul concentrate and repro- Is there somewhat overweening in this claim? Then I
duce its treasures for each pupil. He too shall pass through reject all I have written, for what is the use of pretend-
the whole cycle of experience. He shall collect into a ing to know what we know not? But it is the fault of our
focus the rays of nature. History no longer shall be a dull rhetoric that we cannot strongly state one fact without
book. It shall walk incarnate in every just and wise man. seeming to belie some other. I hold our actual knowledge
You shall not tell me by languages and titles a catalogue very cheap. Hear the rats in the wall, see the lizard on
of the volumes you have read. You shall make me feel the fence, the fungus under foot, the lichen on the log.
what periods you have lived. A man shall be the Temple What do I know sympathetically, morally, of either of these
of Fame. He shall walk, as the poets have described that worlds of life? As old as the Caucasian man,—perhaps
goddess, in a robe painted all over with wonderful events older,—these creatures have kept their counsel beside
and experiences;—his own form and features by their him, and there is no record of any word or sign that has
exalted intelligence shall be that variegated vest. I shall passed from one to the other. What connection do the

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Emerson
books show between the fifty or sixty chemical elements in on us at unawares, but the path of science and of
and the historical eras? Nay, what does history yet record letters is not the way into nature. The idiot, the Indian,
of the metaphysical annals of man? What light does it the child and unschooled farmer’s boy stand nearer to
shed on those mysteries which we hide under the names the light by which nature is to be read, than the dissec-
Death and Immortality? Yet every history should be writ- tor or the antiquary.
ten in a wisdom which divined the range of our affinities
and looked at facts as symbols. I am ashamed to see
what a shallow village tale our so-called History is. How
many times we must say Rome, and Paris, and
Constantinople! What does Rome know of rat and lizard?
What are Olympiads and Consulates to these neighboring
systems of being? Nay, what food or experience or suc-
cor have they for the Esquimaux seal-hunter, for the
Kanaka in his canoe, for the fisherman, the stevedore,
the porter?
Broader and deeper we must write our annals,—from
an ethical reformation, from an influx of the ever new,
ever sanative conscience,—if we would trulier express
our central and wide-related nature, instead of this old
chronology of selfishness and pride to which we have too
long lent our eyes. Already that day exists for us, shines

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Essays
SELF-RELIANCE II. SELF-RELIANCE

I
“Ne te quaesiveris extra.” read the other day some verses written by an emi-
nent painter which were original and not conven-
“Man is his own star; and the soul that can tional. The soul always hears an admonition in such
Render an honest and a perfect man, lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they
Commands all light, all influence, all fate; instil is of more value than any thought they may con-
Nothing to him falls early or too late. tain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill, is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,—
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.” that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall
be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time be-
Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s comes the outmost, and our first thought is rendered
Honest Man’s Fortune. back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Famil-
iar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit
Cast the bantling on the rocks, we ascribe to Moses, Plato and Milton is that they set at
Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat, naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men,
Wintered with the hawk and fox. but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and
Power and speed be hands and feet. 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

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Emerson
recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might
us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art testify of that particular ray. We but half express our-
have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach selves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each
us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good- of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportion-
humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of ate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but
voices is on the other side. Else to-morrow a stranger will God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A
say with masterly good sense precisely what we have man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into
thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to his work and done his best; but what he has said or done
take with shame our own opinion from another. otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance
There is a time in every man’s education when he ar- which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts
rives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imi- him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.
tation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is Accept the place the divine providence has found for you,
full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to the society of your contemporaries, the connection of
him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground events. Great men have always done so, and confided
which is given to him to till. The power which resides in themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying
him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was
which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not seated at their heart, working through their hands, pre-
for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much dominating in all their being. And we are now men, and
impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent
the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected cor-

27
Essays
ner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and
redeemers and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to
and advancing on Chaos and the Dark. conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature.
What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text in the A boy is in the parlor what the pit is in the playhouse;
face and behavior of children, babes, and even brutes! independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner
That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sen-
because our arithmetic has computed the strength and tences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way
means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, trouble-
mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and some. He cumbers himself never about consequences,
when we look in their faces we are disconcerted. Infancy about interests; he gives an independent, genuine ver-
conforms to nobody; all conform to it; so that one babe dict. You must court him; he does not court you. But the
commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle man is as it were clapped into jail by his consciousness.
and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat he is a
manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and committed person, watched by the sympathy or the ha-
made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be tred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into
put by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could
has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all
Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and pledges and, having observed, observe again from the
emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his con- same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted in-
temporaries. Bashful or bold then, he will know how to nocence,—must always be formidable. He would utter
make us seniors very unnecessary. opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be

28
Emerson
not private but necessary, would sink like darts into the within?” my friend suggested,—”But these impulses may
ear of men and put them in fear. be from below, not from above.” I replied, “They do not
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will
they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. live then from the Devil.” No law can be sacred to me but
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily
of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock com- transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after
pany, in which the members agree, for the better secur- my constitution; the only wrong what is against it. A
ing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition
liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most re- as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am
quest is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and
not realities and creators, but names and customs. names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me
who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and
by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be good- speak the rude truth in all ways. If malice and vanity
ness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass? If an an-
own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have gry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and
the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why
when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued should I not say to him, ‘Go love thy infant; love thy
adviser who was wont to importune me with the dear old wood-chopper; be good-natured and modest; have that
doctrines of the church. On my saying, “What have I to grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambi-
do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from tion with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thou-

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Essays
sand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.’ Rough and sots, and the thousand-fold Relief Societies;—though I
graceless would be such greeting, but truth is handsomer confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the
than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have
some edge to it,—else it is none. The doctrine of hatred the manhood to withhold.
must be preached, as the counteraction of the doctrine Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the excep-
of love, when that pules and whines. I shun father and tion than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men
mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. I do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage
would write on the lintels of the door-post, *Whim*. I or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of
hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as
cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to an apology or extenuation of their living in the world,—
show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then as invalids and the insane pay a high board. Their virtues
again, do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My
obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer
they my poor? I tell thee thou foolish philanthropist that that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and
I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I
men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not be- wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and
long. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual bleeding. I ask primary evidence that you are a man, and
affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. I know
if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or
education at college of fools; the building of meeting- forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. I can-
houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to not consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic

30
Emerson
right. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your
and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall
of my fellows any secondary testimony. reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman’s-
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I
people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for
intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction be- his text and topic the expediency of one of the institu-
tween greatness and meanness. It is the harder because tions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not
you will always find those who think they know what is possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I
your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world not know that with all this ostentation of examining the
to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to grounds of the institution he will do no such thing? Do I
live after our own; but the great man is he who in the not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at
midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the in- one side, the permitted side, not as a man, but as a par-
dependence of solitude. ish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of
The objection to conforming to usages that have be- the bench are the emptiest affectation. Well, most men
come dead to you is that it scatters your force. It loses have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief,
your time and blurs the impression of your character. If and attached themselves to some one of these communi-
you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible- ties of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in
society, vote with a great party either for the govern- a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all
ment or against it, spread your table like base house- particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two
keepers,—under all these screens I have difficulty to is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that
detect the precise man you are: and of course so much every word they say chagrins us and we know not where

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Essays
to begin to set them right. Meantime nature is not slow dable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy
to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the
we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, rage of the cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and
and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. prudent, for they are timid, as being very vulnerable them-
There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does selves. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of
not fail to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are
“the foolish face of praise,” the forced smile which we aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at
put on in company where we do not feel at ease in an- the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs
swer to conversation which does not interest us. The the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike
muscles, not spontaneously moved but moved by a low as a trifle of no concernment.
usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our con-
face with the most disagreeable sensation. sistency; a reverence for our past act or word because the
For nonconformity the world whips you with its displea- eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit
sure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.
sour face. The by-standers look askance on him in the pub- But why should you keep your head over your shoulder?
lic street or in the friend’s parlor. If this aversation had its Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you con-
origin in contempt and resistance like his own he might tradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public
well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then?
of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your
but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but
directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formi- to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed

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Emerson
present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how you gauge
you have denied personality to the Deity, yet when the and try him. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian
devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and stanza;—read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells
life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. the same thing. In this pleasing contrite wood-life which
Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought
harlot, and flee. without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not and see
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with
With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. the hum of insects. The swallow over my window should
He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into
wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and to- my web also. We pass for what we are. Character teaches
morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their
though it contradict every thing you said to-day.—’Ah, virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that
so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’—Is it so bad virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.
then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, There will be an agreement in whatever variety of ac-
and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and tions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour.
Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however
ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a
I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies little distance, at a little height of thought. One ten-
of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the dency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a
inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a suffi-

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Essays
cient distance, and it straightens itself to the average but is self-dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old
tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself and will immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person.
explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity ex- I hope in these days we have heard the last of confor-
plains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already mity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ri-
done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the diculous henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner,
future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right and let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us never
scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to bow and apologize more. A great man is coming to eat at
defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always my house. I do not wish to please him; I wish that he
scorn appearances and you always may. The force of char- should wish to please me. I will stand here for humanity,
acter is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work and though I would make it kind, I would make it true.
their health into this. What makes the majesty of the Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and
heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of
imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days custom and trade and office, the fact which is the upshot
and victories behind. They shed an united light on the of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker
advancing actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true
angels. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham’s man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre
voice, and dignity into Washington’s port, and America of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you
into Adams’s eye. Honor is venerable to us because it is and all men and all events. Ordinarily, every body in soci-
no ephemera. It is always ancient virtue. We worship it ety reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other per-
to-day because it is not of to-day. We love it and pay it son. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it
homage because it is not a trap for our love and homage, takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so

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Emerson
much that he must make all circumstances indifferent. statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air,
Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires much like a gay equipage, and seem to say like that,
infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish ‘Who are you, Sir?’ Yet they all are his, suitors for his
his design;—and posterity seem to follow his steps as a notice, petitioners to his faculties that they will come
train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after out and take possession. The picture waits for my ver-
we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of dict; it is not to command me, but I am to settle its
minds so grow and cleave to his genius that he is con- claims to praise. That popular fable of the sot who was
founded with virtue and the possible of man. An institu- picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke’s
tion is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke’s bed,
of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quak- and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony
erism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes
Scipio, Milton called “the height of Rome”; and all his- its popularity to the fact that it symbolizes so well the
tory Resolves itself very easily into the biography of a state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now
few stout and earnest persons. and then wakes up, exercises his reason and finds him-
Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under self a true prince.
his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history
with the air of a charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper our imagination plays us false. Kingdom and lordship,
in the world which exists for him. But the man in the power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private
street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to John and Edward in a small house and common day’s
the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum
feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred

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Essays
and Scanderbeg and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtu- power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, with-
ous; did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends out calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty
on your private act to-day, as followed their public and even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of
renowned steps. When private men shall act with original independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source,
views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which
kings to those of gentlemen. we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary
The world has been instructed by its kings, who have wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tu-
so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by itions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which
this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin.
from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men have For the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we
everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great pro- know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things,
prietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make his from space, from light, from time, from man, but one
own scale of men and things and reverse theirs, pay for with them and proceeds obviously from the same source
benefits not with money but with honor, and represent whence their life and being also proceed. We first share
the law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they the life by which things exist and afterwards see them as
obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right appearances in nature and forget that we have shared
and comeliness, the right of every man. their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought.
The magnetism which all original action exerts is ex- Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man
plained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is wisdom and which cannot be denied without impiety and
the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a uni- atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which
versal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity.

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Emerson
When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure
nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be
we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that when God speaketh he should communicate, not one
that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice;
absence is all we can affirm. Every man discriminates should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the
between the voluntary acts of his mind and his involun- centre of the present thought; and new date and new
tary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary per- create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple and receives
ceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expres- a divine wisdom, old things pass away,—means, teach-
sion of them, but he knows that these things are so, like ers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and
day and night, not to be disputed. My wilful actions and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred
acquisitions are but roving;—the idlest reverie, the faint- by relation to it,—one as much as another. All things are
est native emotion, command my curiosity and respect. dissolved to their centre by their cause, and in the uni-
Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement versal miracle petty and particular miracles disappear. If
of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more readily; therefore a man claims to know and speak of God and
for they do not distinguish between perception and no- carries you backward to the phraseology of some old
tion. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. mouldered nation in another country, in another world,
But perception is not whimsical, but fatal. If I see a believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which
trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than
time all mankind,—although it may chance that no one the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence
has seen it before me. For my perception of it is as much then this worship of the past? The centuries are con-
a fact as the sun. spirators against the sanity and authority of the soul.

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Essays
Time and space are but physiological colors which the This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intel-
eye makes, but the soul is light: where it is, is day; where lects dare not yet hear God himself unless he speak the
it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or
injury if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few
parable of my being and becoming. texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by
Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they
dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance
sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the to see,—painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke;
blowing rose. These roses under my window make no ref- afterwards, when they come into the point of view which
erence to former roses or to better ones; they are for those had who uttered these sayings, they understand
what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no them and are willing to let the words go; for at any time
time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we
every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong
its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When
more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the
satisfied and it satisfies nature in all moments alike. But memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a
man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the
present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heed- murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.
less of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to And now at last the highest truth on this subject re-
foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until mains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we
he too lives with nature in the present, above time. say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That

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Emerson
thought by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transi-
this. When good is near you, when you have life in your- tion from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the
self, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world
not discern the footprints of any other; you shall not see hates; that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades
the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—the way, the past, turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a
the thought, the good shall be wholly strange and new. shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves Jesus
It shall exclude example and experience. You take the and Judas equally aside. Why then do we prate of self-
way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present there will be
are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike be- power not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a
neath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which
hour of vision there is nothing that can be called grati- relies because it works and is. Who has more obedience
tude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over passion be- than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger.
holds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self- Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits.
existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with know- We fancy it rhetoric when we speak of eminent virtue.
ing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or
Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea; long intervals of time, a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles,
years, centuries, are of no account. This which I think by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities,
and feel underlay every former state of life and circum- nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.
stances, as it does underlie my present, and what is called This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on
life, and what is called death. this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-
Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in blessed one. Self-existence is the attribute of the Su-

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Essays
preme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by our native riches.
the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. All But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of
things real are so by so much virtue as they contain. man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to
Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, eloquence, put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but
personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other
as examples of its presence and impure action. I see the men. We must go alone. I like the silent church before
same law working in nature for conservation and growth. the service begins, better than any preaching. How far
Power is, in nature, the essential measure of right. Na- off, how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each
ture suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit.
cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or
its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or
the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood
vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing and and I have all men’s. Not for that will I adopt their petu-
therefore self-relying soul. lance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it.
Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual,
with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding that is, must be elevation. At times the whole world seems
rabble of men and books and institutions, by a simple to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles.
declaration of the divine fact. Bid the invaders take the Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock
shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’
simplicity judge them, and our docility to our own law But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The
demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak

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Emerson
curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act. you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I
“What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that
ourselves of the love.” what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the
If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart
and faith, let us at least resist our temptations; let us appoints. If you are noble, I will love you: if you are not,
enter into the state of war and wake Thor and Woden, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions.
courage and constancy, in our Saxon breasts. This is to If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave
be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. Check to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not
this lying hospitality and lying affection. Live no longer selfishly but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest,
to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in
with whom we converse. Say to them, ‘O father, O mother, lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You
O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as
appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be mine, and if we follow the truth it will bring us out safe
it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less at last.’—But so may you give these friends pain. Yes,
than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their
proximities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of
support my family, to be the chaste husband of one wife,— reason, when they look out into the region of absolute
but these relations I must fill after a new and unprec- truth; then will they justify me and do the same thing.
edented way. I appeal from your customs. I must be my- The populace think that your rejection of popular stan-
self. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If dards is a rejection of all standard, and mere
you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name

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Essays
of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of con- by distinction society, he will see the need of these eth-
sciousness abides. There are two confessionals, in one or ics. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out,
the other of which we must be shriven. You may fulfil and we are become timorous, desponding whimperers.
your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct, or We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death
in the reflex way. Consider whether you have satisfied and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and
your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbor, town, perfect persons. We want men and women who shall reno-
cat, and dog; whether any of these can upbraid you. But vate life and our social state, but we see that most na-
I may also neglect this reflex standard and absolve me to tures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have
myself. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force
denies the name of duty to many offices that are called and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our house-
duties. But if I can discharge its debts it enables me to keeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our mar-
dispense with the popular code. If any one imagines that riages, our religion we have not chosen, but society has
this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day. chosen for us. We are parlor soldiers. We shun the rugged
And truly it demands something godlike in him who battle of fate, where strength is born.
has cast off the common motives of humanity and has If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises they
ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. High be his lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is
heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges
good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to himself, that a and is not installed in an office within one year after-
simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity wards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it
is to others! seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in
If any man consider the present aspects of what is called being disheartened and in complaining the rest of his

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Emerson
life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their
turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, modes of living; their association; in their property; in
peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, their speculative views.
goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in suc- 1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which
cessive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is they call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly.
worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast Prayer looks abroad and asks for some foreign addition to
with his days and feels no shame in not ‘studying a pro- come through some foreign virtue, and loses itself in
fession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives al- endless mazes of natural and supernatural, and mediato-
ready. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let rial and miraculous. Prayer that craves a particular com-
a Stoic open the resources of man and tell men they are modity, any thing less than all good, is vicious. Prayer is
not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest
that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall ap- point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubi-
pear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed lant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works
healing to the nations; that he should be ashamed of our good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is
compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself, meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity
tossing the laws, the books, idolatries and customs out in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at
of the window, we pity him no more but thank and revere one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in
him;—and that teacher shall restore the life of man to all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field
splendor and make his name dear to all history. to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the
It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work stroke of his oar, are true prayers heard throughout na-
a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in ture, though for cheap ends. Caratach, in Fletcher’s

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Essays
Bonduca, when admonished to inquire the mind of the way and scorned our disapprobation. The gods love him
god Audate, replies,— because men hated him. “To the persevering mortal,” said
Zoroaster, “the blessed Immortals are swift.”
“His hidden meaning lies in our endeavors; As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their
Our valors are our best gods.” creeds a disease of the intellect. They say with those
foolish Israelites, ‘Let not God speak to us, lest we die.
Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discon- Speak thou, speak any man with us, and we will obey.’
tent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother,
Regret calamities if you can thereby help the sufferer; if because he has shut his own temple doors and recites
not, attend your own work and already the evil begins to fables merely of his brother’s, or his brother’s brother’s
be repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to God. Every new mind is a new classification. If it prove a
them who weep foolishly and sit down and cry for com- mind of uncommon activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier,
pany, instead of imparting to them truth and health in a Hutton, a Bentham, a Fourier, it imposes its classifica-
rough electric shocks, putting them once more in com- tion on other men, and lo! a new system. In proportion
munication with their own reason. The secret of fortune to the depth of the thought, and so to the number of the
is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men objects it touches and brings within reach of the pupil, is
is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide; his complacency. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds
him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow and churches, which are also classifications of some pow-
with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him erful mind acting on the elemental thought of duty, and
because he did not need it. We solicitously and apolo- man’s relation to the Highest. Such is Calvinism, Quaker-
getically caress and celebrate him because he held on his ism, Swedenborgism. The pupil takes the same delight in

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

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Essays
Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys dis- tion of his own thought to the thing to be done and the
cover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the
that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, gran-
and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, deur of thought and quaint expression are as near to us
embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and as to any, and if the American artist will study with hope
there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelent- and love the precise thing to be done by him, consider-
ing, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican and the ing the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants
palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and sug- of the people, the habit and form of the government, he
gestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with will create a house in which all these will find themselves
me wherever I go. fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also.
3. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can
unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. The present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole
intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fos- life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another
ters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That
forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach
but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that per-
foreign taste; our shelves are garnished with foreign or- son has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have
naments; our opinions, our tastes, our faculties, lean, taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have
and follow the Past and the Distant. The soul created the instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or New-
arts wherever they have flourished. It was in his own ton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio
mind that the artist sought his model. It was an applica- is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakspeare

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Emerson
will never be made by the study of Shakspeare. Do that acquires new arts and loses old instincts. What a contrast
which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or between the well-clad, reading, writing, thinking Ameri-
dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utter- can, with a watch, a pencil and a bill of exchange in his
ance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a
Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses club, a spear, a mat and an undivided twentieth of a shed
or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will to sleep under! But compare the health of the two men
the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven and you shall see that the white man has lost his aborigi-
tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what nal strength. If the traveller tell us truly, strike the savage
these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the with a broad axe and in a day or two the flesh shall unite
same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch, and the
organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble re- same blow shall send the white to his grave.
gions of thy life, obey thy heart and thou shalt reproduce The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the
the Foreworld again. use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so
4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, much support of muscle. He has a fine Geneva watch, but
so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Green-
on the improvement of society, and no man improves. wich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the
Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side information when he wants it, the man in the street does
as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not ob-
it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, serve; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright
it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His
every thing that is given something is taken. Society note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his

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wit; the insurance-office increases the number of acci- ing-boats as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equip-
dents; and it may be a question whether machinery does ment exhausted the resources of science and art. Galileo,
not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement with an opera-glass, discovered a more splendid series of
some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in establish- celestial phenomena than any one since. Columbus found
ments and forms some vigor of wild virtue. For every Stoic the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see
was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian? the periodical disuse and perishing of means and ma-
There is no more deviation in the moral standard than chinery which were introduced with loud laudation a few
in the standard of height or bulk. No greater men are now years or centuries before. The great genius returns to
than ever were. A singular equality may be observed be- essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art
tween the great men of the first and of the last ages; nor of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon
can all the science, art, religion, and philosophy of the conquered Europe by the bivouac, which consisted of fall-
nineteenth century avail to educate greater men than ing back on naked valor and disencumbering it of all aids.
Plutarch’s heroes, three or four and twenty centuries ago. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army,
Not in time is the race progressive. Phocion, Socrates, says Las Cases, “without abolishing our arms, magazines,
Anaxagoras, Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no commissaries and carriages, until, in imitation of the Ro-
class. He who is really of their class will not be called by man custom, the soldier should receive his supply of corn,
their name, but will be his own man, and in his turn the grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread himself.”
founder of a sect. The arts and inventions of each period Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the
are only its costume and do not invigorate men. The harm water of which it is composed does not. The same par-
of the improved machinery may compensate its good. ticle does not rise from the valley to the ridge. Its unity
Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fish- is only phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation

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Emerson
to-day, next year die, and their experience with them. “is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking
And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance after it.” Our dependence on these foreign goods leads
on governments which protect it, is the want of self- us to our slavish respect for numbers. The political par-
reliance. Men have looked away from themselves and at ties meet in numerous conventions; the greater the con-
things so long that they have come to esteem the reli- course and with each new uproar of announcement, The
gious, learned and civil institutions as guards of prop- delegation from Essex! The Democrats from New Hamp-
erty, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they shire! The Whigs of Maine! the young patriot feels him-
feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their self stronger than before by a new thousand of eyes and
esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what arms. In like manner the reformers summon conventions
each is. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his and vote and resolve in multitude. Not so, O friends! will
property, out of new respect for his nature. Especially he the God deign to enter and inhabit you, but by a method
hates what he has if he see that it is accidental,—came precisely the reverse. It is only as a man puts off all
to him by inheritance, or gift, or crime; then he feels foreign support and stands alone that I see him to be
that it is not having; it does not belong to him, has no strong and to prevail. He is weaker by every recruit to his
root in him and merely lies there because no revolution banner. Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing of
or no robber takes it away. But that which a man is, does men, and, in the endless mutation, thou only firm col-
always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires umn must presently appear the upholder of all that sur-
is living property, which does not wait the beck of rulers, rounds thee. He who knows that power is inborn, that he
or mobs, or revolutions, or fire, or storm, or bankrupt- is weak because he has looked for good out of him and
cies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself
breathes. “Thy lot or portion of life,” said the Caliph Ali, unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself,

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stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works COMPENSATION
miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger
than a man who stands on his head. The wings of Time are black and white,
So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with Pied with morning and with night.
her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do Mountain tall and ocean deep
thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Trembling balance duly keep.
Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work In changing moon, in tidal wave,
and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, Glows the feud of Want and Have.
and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A Gauge of more and less through space
political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick Electric star and pencil plays.
or the return of your absent friend, or some other favor- The lonely Earth amid the balls
able event raises your spirits, and you think good days That hurry through the eternal halls,
are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can A makeweight flying to the void,
bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace Supplemental asteroid,
but the triumph of principles. Or compensatory spark,
Shoots across the neutral Dark.

Man’s the elm, and Wealth the vine,


Stanch and strong the tendrils twine:
Though the frail ringlets thee deceive,
None from its stock that vine can reave.

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Emerson
Fear not, then, thou child infirm, III. COMPENSATION
There’s no god dare wrong a worm.

E
Laurel crowns cleave to deserts ver since I was a boy I have wished to write a
And power to him who power exerts; discourse on Compensation; for it seemed to me
Hast not thy share? On winged feet, when very young that on this subject life was ahead
Lo! it rushes thee to meet; of theology and the people knew more than the preach-
And all that Nature made thy own, ers taught. The documents too from which the doctrine is
Floating in air or pent in stone, to be drawn, charmed my fancy by their endless variety,
Will rive the hills and swim the sea and lay always before me, even in sleep; for they are the
And, like thy shadow, follow thee. tools in our hands, the bread in our basket, the transac-
tions of the street, the farm and the dwelling-house; greet-
ings, relations, debts and credits, the influence of char-
acter, the nature and endowment of all men. It seemed
to me also that in it might be shown men a ray of divin-
ity, the present action of the soul of this world, clean
from all vestige of tradition; and so the heart of man
might be bathed by an inundation of eternal love, con-
versing with that which he knows was always and always
must be, because it really is now. It appeared moreover
that if this doctrine could be stated in terms with any
resemblance to those bright intuitions in which this truth

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Essays
is sometimes revealed to us, it would be a star in many doubloons, venison and champagne? This must be the
dark hours and crooked passages in our journey, that would compensation intended; for what else? Is it that they are
not suffer us to lose our way. to have leave to pray and praise? to love and serve men?
I was lately confirmed in these desires by hearing a Why, that they can do now. The legitimate inference the
sermon at church. The preacher, a man esteemed for his disciple would draw was,—’We are to have such a good
orthodoxy, unfolded in the ordinary manner the doctrine time as the sinners have now’;—or, to push it to its ex-
of the Last Judgment. He assumed that judgment is not treme import,—’You sin now; we shall sin by and by; we
executed in this world; that the wicked are successful; would sin now, if we could; not being successful, we ex-
that the good are miserable; and then urged from reason pect our revenge to-morrow.’
and from Scripture a compensation to be made to both The fallacy lay in the immense concession that the bad
parties in the next life. No offence appeared to be taken are successful; that justice is not done now. The blind-
by the congregation at this doctrine. As far as I could ness of the preacher consisted in deferring to the base
observe when the meeting broke up they separated with- estimate of the market of what constitutes a manly suc-
out remark on the sermon. cess, instead of confronting and convicting the world from
Yet what was the import of this teaching? What did the the truth; announcing the presence of the soul; the om-
preacher mean by saying that the good are miserable in nipotence of the will; and so establishing the standard of
the present life? Was it that houses and lands, offices, good and ill, of success and falsehood.
wine, horses, dress, luxury, are had by unprincipled men, I find a similar base tone in the popular religious works
whilst the saints are poor and despised; and that a com- of the day and the same doctrines assumed by the liter-
pensation is to be made to these last hereafter, by giving ary men when occasionally they treat the related topics.
them the like gratifications another day,—bank-stock and I think that our popular theology has gained in decorum,

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Emerson
and not in principle, over the superstitions it has dis- tion of quantity and quality in the fluids of the animal
placed. But men are better than their theology. Their body; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the
daily life gives it the lie. Every ingenuous and aspiring undulations of fluids, and of sound; in the centrifugal
soul leaves the doctrine behind him in his own experi- and centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and
ence, and all men feel sometimes the falsehood which chemical affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of
they cannot demonstrate. For men are wiser than they a needle, the opposite magnetism takes place at the other
know. That which they hear in schools and pulpits with- end. If the south attracts, the north repels. To empty
out afterthought, if said in conversation would probably here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism
be questioned in silence. If a man dogmatize in a mixed bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests
company on Providence and the divine laws, he is an- another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man,
swered by a silence which conveys well enough to an woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper,
observer the dissatisfaction of the hearer, but his inca- under; motion, rest; yea, nay.
pacity to make his own statement. Whilst the world is thus dual, so is every one of its
I shall attempt in this and the following chapter to parts. The entire system of things gets represented in
record some facts that indicate the path of the law of every particle. There is somewhat that resembles the ebb
Compensation; happy beyond my expectation if I shall and flow of the sea, day and night, man and woman, in a
truly draw the smallest arc of this circle. single needle of the pine, in a kernel of corn, in each
Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part individual of every animal tribe. The reaction, so grand in
of nature; in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the the elements, is repeated within these small boundaries.
ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspi- For example, in the animal kingdom the physiologist has
ration and expiration of plants and animals; in the equa- observed that no creatures are favorites, but a certain

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Essays
compensation balances every gift and every defect. A of the man what she puts into his chest; swells the es-
surplusage given to one part is paid out of a reduction tate, but kills the owner. Nature hates monopolies and
from another part of the same creature. If the head and exceptions. The waves of the sea do not more speedily
neck are enlarged, the trunk and extremities are cut short. seek a level from their loftiest tossing than the varieties
The theory of the mechanic forces is another example. of condition tend to equalize themselves. There is always
What we gain in power is lost in time, and the converse. some levelling circumstance that puts down the over-
The periodic or compensating errors of the planets is an- bearing, the strong, the rich, the fortunate, substantially
other instance. The influences of climate and soil in po- on the same ground with all others. Is a man too strong
litical history are another. The cold climate invigorates. and fierce for society and by temper and position a bad
The barren soil does not breed fevers, crocodiles, tigers citizen,—a morose ruffian, with a dash of the pirate in
or scorpions. him?—Nature sends him a troop of pretty sons and daugh-
The same dualism underlies the nature and condition of ters who are getting along in the dame’s classes at the
man. Every excess causes a defect; every defect an ex- village school, and love and fear for them smooths his
cess. Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good. Every grim scowl to courtesy. Thus she contrives to intenerate
faculty which is a receiver of pleasure has an equal pen- the granite and felspar, takes the boar out and puts the
alty put on its abuse. It is to answer for its moderation lamb in and keeps her balance true.
with its life. For every grain of wit there is a grain of The farmer imagines power and place are fine things.
folly. For every thing you have missed, you have gained But the President has paid dear for his White House. It
something else; and for every thing you gain, you lose has commonly cost him all his peace, and the best of his
something. If riches increase, they are increased that use manly attributes. To preserve for a short time so con-
them. If the gatherer gathers too much, Nature takes out spicuous an appearance before the world, he is content

54
Emerson
to eat dust before the real masters who stand erect be- will not convict. If the law is too mild, private vengeance
hind the throne. Or, do men desire the more substantial comes in. If the government is a terrific democracy, the
and permanent grandeur of genius? Neither has this an pressure is resisted by an over-charge of energy in the
immunity. He who by force of will or of thought is great citizen, and life glows with a fiercer flame. The true life
and overlooks thousands, has the charges of that emi- and satisfactions of man seem to elude the utmost rigors
nence. With every influx of light comes new danger. Has or felicities of condition and to establish themselves with
he light? he must bear witness to the light, and always great indifferency under all varieties of circumstances.
outrun that sympathy which gives him such keen satis- Under all governments the influence of character remains
faction, by his fidelity to new revelations of the inces- the same,—in Turkey and in New England about alike.
sant soul. He must hate father and mother, wife and child. Under the primeval despots of Egypt, history honestly
Has he all that the world loves and admires and cov- confesses that man must have been as free as culture
ets?—he must cast behind him their admiration, and af- could make him.
flict them by faithfulness to his truth, and become a by- These appearances indicate the fact that the universe
word and a hissing. is represented in every one of its particles. Every thing in
This law writes the laws of cities and nations. It is in nature contains all the powers of nature. Every thing is
vain to build or plot or combine against it. Things refuse made of one hidden stuff; as the naturalist sees one type
to be mismanaged long. Res nolunt diu male administrari. under every metamorphosis, and regards a horse as a run-
Though no checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist, ning man, a fish as a swimming man, a bird as a flying
and will appear. If the government is cruel, the governor’s man, a tree as a rooted man. Each new form repeats not
life is not safe. If you tax too high, the revenue will yield only the main character of the type, but part for part all
nothing. If you make the criminal code sanguinary, juries the details, all the aims, furtherances, hindrances, ener-

55
Essays
gies and whole system of every other. Every occupation, was made by it.” Justice is not postponed. A perfect eq-
trade, art, transaction, is a compend of the world and a uity adjusts its balance in all parts of life. Hoi kuboi Dios
correlative of every other. Each one is an entire emblem aei eupiptousi,—The dice of God are always loaded. The
of human life; of its good and ill, its trials, its enemies, world looks like a multiplication-table, or a mathematical
its course and its end. And each one must somehow ac- equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself.
commodate the whole man and recite all his destiny. Take what figure you will, its exact value, nor more nor
The world globes itself in a drop of dew. The micro- less, still returns to you. Every secret is told, every crime
scope cannot find the animalcule which is less perfect is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed,
for being little. Eyes, ears, taste, smell, motion, resis- in silence and certainty. What we call retribution is the
tance, appetite, and organs of reproduction that take hold universal necessity by which the whole appears wherever
on eternity,—all find room to consist in the small crea- a part appears. If you see smoke, there must be fire. If
ture. So do we put our life into every act. The true doc- you see a hand or a limb, you know that the trunk to
trine of omnipresence is that God reappears with all his which it belongs is there behind.
parts in every moss and cobweb. The value of the uni- Every act rewards itself, or, in other words integrates
verse contrives to throw itself into every point. If the itself, in a twofold manner; first in the thing, or in real
good is there, so is the evil; if the affinity, so the repul- nature; and secondly in the circumstance, or in apparent
sion; if the force, so the limitation. nature. Men call the circumstance the retribution. The
Thus is the universe alive. All things are moral. That causal retribution is in the thing and is seen by the soul.
soul which within us is a sentiment, outside of us is a The retribution in the circumstance is seen by the under-
law. We feel its inspiration; out there in history we can standing; it is inseparable from the thing, but is often
see its fatal strength. “It is in the world, and the world spread over a long time and so does not become distinct

56
Emerson
until after many years. The specific stripes may follow soul says, ‘Have dominion over all things to the ends of
late after the offence, but they follow because they ac- virtue;’ the body would have the power over things to its
company it. Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. own ends.
Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the The soul strives amain to live and work through all
flower of the pleasure which concealed it. Cause and ef- things. It would be the only fact. All things shall be added
fect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; unto it,—power, pleasure, knowledge, beauty. The par-
for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preex- ticular man aims to be somebody; to set up for himself;
ists in the means, the fruit in the seed. to truck and higgle for a private good; and, in particu-
Whilst thus the world will be whole and refuses to be lars, to ride that he may ride; to dress that he may be
disparted, we seek to act partially, to sunder, to appro- dressed; to eat that he may eat; and to govern, that he
priate; for example,—to gratify the senses we sever the may be seen. Men seek to be great; they would have
pleasure of the senses from the needs of the character. offices, wealth, power, and fame. They think that to be
The ingenuity of man has always been dedicated to the great is to possess one side of nature,—the sweet, with-
solution of one problem,—how to detach the sensual out the other side, the bitter.
sweet, the sensual strong, the sensual bright, etc., from This dividing and detaching is steadily counteracted.
the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair; that is, Up to this day it must be owned no projector has had the
again, to contrive to cut clean off this upper surface so smallest success. The parted water reunites behind our
thin as to leave it bottomless; to get a one end, without hand. Pleasure is taken out of pleasant things, profit out
an other end. The soul says, ‘Eat;’ the body would feast. of profitable things, power out of strong things, as soon
The soul says, ‘The man and woman shall be one flesh as we seek to separate them from the whole. We can no
and one soul;’ the body would join the flesh only. The more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself,

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Essays
than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or secret art thou who dwellest in the highest heavens in
a light without a shadow. “Drive out Nature with a fork, silence, O thou only great God, sprinkling with an unwea-
she comes running back.” ried providence certain penal blindnesses upon such as
Life invests itself with inevitable conditions, which the have unbridled desires!”*
unwise seek to dodge, which one and another brags that The human soul is true to these facts in the painting of
he does not know, that they do not touch him;—but the fable, of history, of law, of proverbs, of conversation. It
brag is on his lips, the conditions are in his soul. If he finds a tongue in literature unawares. Thus the Greeks
escapes them in one part they attack him in another called Jupiter, Supreme Mind; but having traditionally
more vital part. If he has escaped them in form and in ascribed to him many base actions, they involuntarily
the appearance, it is because he has resisted his life and made amends to reason by tying up the hands of so bad
fled from himself, and the retribution is so much death. a god. He is made as helpless as a king of England.
So signal is the failure of all attempts to make this sepa- Prometheus knows one secret which Jove must bargain
ration of the good from the tax, that the experiment would for; Minerva, another. He cannot get his own thunders;
not be tried,—since to try it is to be mad,—but for the Minerva keeps the key of them:—
circumstance, that when the disease began in the will, of
rebellion and separation, the intellect is at once infected, “Of all the gods, I only know the keys
so that the man ceases to see God whole in each object, That ope the solid doors within whose vaults
but is able to see the sensual allurement of an object and His thunders sleep.”
not see the sensual hurt; he sees the mermaid’s head but
not the dragon’s tail, and thinks he can cut off that which A plain confession of the in-working of the All and of
he would have from that which he would not have. “How
*St. Augustine, Confessions, B. I.
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Emerson
its moral aim. The Indian mythology ends in the same ish him. The poets related that stone walls and iron swords
ethics; and it would seem impossible for any fable to be and leathern thongs had an occult sympathy with the
invented and get any currency which was not moral. Au- wrongs of their owners; that the belt which Ajax gave
rora forgot to ask youth for her lover, and though Tithonus Hector dragged the Trojan hero over the field at the wheels
is immortal, he is old. Achilles is not quite invulnerable; of the car of Achilles, and the sword which Hector gave
the sacred waters did not wash the heel by which Thetis Ajax was that on whose point Ajax fell. They recorded
held him. Siegfried, in the Nibelungen, is not quite im- that when the Thasians erected a statue to Theagenes, a
mortal, for a leaf fell on his back whilst he was bathing victor in the games, one of his rivals went to it by night
in the dragon’s blood, and that spot which it covered is and endeavored to throw it down by repeated blows, un-
mortal. And so it must be. There is a crack in every thing til at last he moved it from its pedestal and was crushed
God has made. It would seem there is always this vindic- to death beneath its fall.
tive circumstance stealing in at unawares even into the This voice of fable has in it somewhat divine. It came
wild poesy in which the human fancy attempted to make from thought above the will of the writer. That is the
bold holiday and to shake itself free of the old laws, — best part of each writer which has nothing private in it;
this back-stroke, this kick of the gun, certifying that the that which he does not know; that which flowed out of
law is fatal; that in nature nothing can be given, all things his constitution and not from his too active invention;
are sold. that which in the study of a single artist you might not
This is that ancient doctrine of Nemesis, who keeps easily find, but in the study of many you would abstract
watch in the universe and lets no offence go unchastised. as the spirit of them all. Phidias it is not, but the work of
The Furies they said are attendants on justice, and if the man in that early Hellenic world that I would know. The
sun in heaven should transgress his path they would pun- name and circumstance of Phidias, however convenient

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for history, embarrass when we come to the highest criti- given you.—He that watereth shall be watered himself.—
cism. We are to see that which man was tending to do in What will you have? quoth God; pay for it and take it.—
a given period, and was hindered, or, if you will, modi- Nothing venture, nothing have.—Thou shalt be paid ex-
fied in doing, by the interfering volitions of Phidias, of actly for what thou hast done, no more, no less.—Who
Dante, of Shakspeare, the organ whereby man at the doth not work shall not eat.—Harm watch, harm catch.
moment wrought. —Curses always recoil on the head of him who impre-
Still more striking is the expression of this fact in the cates them.—If you put a chain around the neck of a
proverbs of all nations, which are always the literature of slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.—
reason, or the statements of an absolute truth without Bad counsel confounds the adviser. —The Devil is an ass.
qualification. Proverbs, like the sacred books of each na- It is thus written, because it is thus in life. Our action
tion, are the sanctuary of the intuitions. That which the is overmastered and characterized above our will by the
droning world, chained to appearances, will not allow law of nature. We aim at a petty end quite aside from the
the realist to say in his own words, it will suffer him to public good, but our act arranges itself by irresistible
say in proverbs without contradiction. And this law of magnetism in a line with the poles of the world.
laws, which the pulpit, the senate and the college deny, A man cannot speak but he judges himself. With his
is hourly preached in all markets and workshops by flights will or against his will he draws his portrait to the eye of
of proverbs, whose teaching is as true and as omnipres- his companions by every word. Every opinion reacts on
ent as that of birds and flies. him who utters it. It is a thread-ball thrown at a mark,
All things are double, one against another.—Tit for tat; but the other end remains in the thrower’s bag. Or rather
an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; blood for blood; it is a harpoon hurled at the whale, unwinding, as it
measure for measure; love for love.—Give and it shall be flies, a coil of cord in the boat, and, if the harpoon is not

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good, or not well thrown, it will go nigh to cut the steers- good for me that is not good for him, my neighbor feels
man in twain or to sink the boat. the wrong; he shrinks from me as far as I have shrunk
You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. “No man from him; his eyes no longer seek mine; there is war
had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him,” between us; there is hate in him and fear in me.
said Burke. The exclusive in fashionable life does not see All the old abuses in society, universal and particular, all
that he excludes himself from enjoyment, in the attempt unjust accumulations of property and power, are avenged
to appropriate it. The exclusionist in religion does not in the same manner. Fear is an instructor of great sagacity
see that he shuts the door of heaven on himself, in striv- and the herald of all revolutions. One thing he teaches,
ing to shut out others. Treat men as pawns and ninepins that there is rottenness where he appears. He is a carrion
and you shall suffer as well as they. If you leave out their crow, and though you see not well what he hovers for,
heart, you shall lose your own. The senses would make there is death somewhere. Our property is timid, our laws
things of all persons; of women, of children, of the poor. are timid, our cultivated classes are timid. Fear for ages
The vulgar proverb, “I will get it from his purse or get it has boded and mowed and gibbered over government and
from his skin,” is sound philosophy. property. That obscene bird is not there for nothing. He
All infractions of love and equity in our social relations indicates great wrongs which must be revised.
are speedily punished. They are punished by fear. Whilst Of the like nature is that expectation of change which
I stand in simple relations to my fellow-man, I have no instantly follows the suspension of our voluntary activ-
displeasure in meeting him. We meet as water meets water, ity. The terror of cloudless noon, the emerald of Polycrates,
or as two currents of air mix, with perfect diffusion and the awe of prosperity, the instinct which leads every gen-
interpenetration of nature. But as soon as there is any erous soul to impose on itself tasks of a noble asceticism
departure from simplicity, and attempt at halfness, or and vicarious virtue, are the tremblings of the balance of

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justice through the heart and mind of man. for a time between you and justice, but it is only a post-
Experienced men of the world know very well that it is ponement. You must pay at last your own debt. If you are
best to pay scot and lot as they go along, and that a man wise you will dread a prosperity which only loads you
often pays dear for a small frugality. The borrower runs in with more. Benefit is the end of nature. But for every
his own debt. Has a man gained any thing who has re- benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who
ceived a hundred favors and rendered none? Has he gained confers the most benefits. He is base,—and that is the
by borrowing, through indolence or cunning, his neighbor’s one base thing in the universe,—to receive favors and
wares, or horses, or money? There arises on the deed the render none. In the order of nature we cannot render ben-
instant acknowledgment of benefit on the one part and efits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom.
of debt on the other; that is, of superiority and inferiority. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for
The transaction remains in the memory of himself and his line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. Beware of
neighbor; and every new transaction alters according to too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt
its nature their relation to each other. He may soon come and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort.
to see that he had better have broken his own bones than Labor is watched over by the same pitiless laws. Cheap-
to have ridden in his neighbor’s coach, and that “the high- est, say the prudent, is the dearest labor. What we buy in
est price he can pay for a thing is to ask for it.” a broom, a mat, a wagon, a knife, is some application of
A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of life, good sense to a common want. It is best to pay in your
and know that it is the part of prudence to face every land a skilful gardener, or to buy good sense applied to
claimant and pay every just demand on your time, your gardening; in your sailor, good sense applied to naviga-
talents, or your heart. Always pay; for first or last you tion; in the house, good sense applied to cooking, sew-
must pay your entire debt. Persons and events may stand ing, serving; in your agent, good sense applied to ac-

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counts and affairs. So do you multiply your presence, or is not paid, not that thing but something else is ob-
spread yourself throughout your estate. But because of tained, and that it is impossible to get any thing without
the dual constitution of things, in labor as in life there its price,—is not less sublime in the columns of a leger
can be no cheating. The thief steals from himself. The than in the budgets of states, in the laws of light and
swindler swindles himself. For the real price of labor is darkness, in all the action and reaction of nature. I cannot
knowledge and virtue, whereof wealth and credit are signs. doubt that the high laws which each man sees implicated
These signs, like paper money, may be counterfeited or in those processes with which he is conversant, the stern
stolen, but that which they represent, namely, knowl- ethics which sparkle on his chisel-edge, which are mea-
edge and virtue, cannot be counterfeited or stolen. These sured out by his plumb and foot-rule, which stand as mani-
ends of labor cannot be answered but by real exertions of fest in the footing of the shop-bill as in the history of a
the mind, and in obedience to pure motives. The cheat, state,—do recommend to him his trade, and though sel-
the defaulter, the gambler, cannot extort the knowledge dom named, exalt his business to his imagination.
of material and moral nature which his honest care and The league between virtue and nature engages all things
pains yield to the operative. The law of nature is, Do the to assume a hostile front to vice. The beautiful laws and
thing, and you shall have the Power; but they who do not substances of the world persecute and whip the traitor.
the thing have not the power. He finds that things are arranged for truth and benefit,
Human labor, through all its forms, from the sharpen- but there is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue.
ing of a stake to the construction of a city or an epic, is Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass. Commit a
one immense illustration of the perfect compensation of crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground,
the universe. The absolute balance of Give and Take, the such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge
doctrine that every thing has its price,—and if that price and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spo-

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ken word, you cannot wipe out the foot-track, you can- As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injuri-
not draw up the ladder, so as to leave no inlet or clew. ous to him, so no man had ever a defect that was not
Some damning circumstance always transpires. The laws somewhere made useful to him. The stag in the fable
and substances of nature,—water, snow, wind, gravita- admired his horns and blamed his feet, but when the
tion,—become penalties to the thief. hunter came, his feet saved him, and afterwards, caught
On the other hand the law holds with equal sureness in the thicket, his horns destroyed him. Every man in his
for all right action. Love, and you shall be loved. All love lifetime needs to thank his faults. As no man thoroughly
is mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an understands a truth until he has contended against it, so
algebraic equation. The good man has absolute good, no man has a thorough acquaintance with the hindrances
which like fire turns every thing to its own nature, so or talents of men until he has suffered from the one and
that you cannot do him any harm; but as the royal armies seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the
sent against Napoleon, when he approached cast down same. Has he a defect of temper that unfits him to live in
their colors and from enemies became friends, so disas- society? Thereby he is driven to entertain himself alone
ters of all kinds, as sickness, offence, poverty, prove bene- and acquire habits of self-help; and thus, like the wounded
factors:— oyster, he mends his shell with pearl.
Our strength grows out of our weakness. The indigna-
“Winds blow and waters roll tion which arms itself with secret forces does not awaken
Strength to the brave, and power and deity, until we are pricked and stung and sorely assailed. A great
Yet in themselves are nothing.” man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the
cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is
The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn

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Emerson
something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a
he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing
insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill. to be and not to be at the same time. There is a third
The wise man throws himself on the side of his assail- silent party to all our bargains. The nature and soul of
ants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his things takes on itself the guaranty of the fulfilment of
weak point. The wound cicatrizes and falls off from him every contract, so that honest service cannot come to
like a dead skin and when they would triumph, lo! he has loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the
passed on invulnerable. Blame is safer than praise. I hate more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid.
to be defended in a newspaper. As long as all that is said The longer The payment is withholden, the better for you;
is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success. for compound interest on compound interest is the rate
But as soon as honeyed words of praise are spoken for me and usage of this exchequer.
I feel as one that lies unprotected before his enemies. In The history of persecution is a history of endeavors to
general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a bene- cheat nature, to make water run up hill, to twist a rope of
factor. As the Sandwich Islander believes that the strength sand. It makes no difference whether the actors be many
and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we or one, a tyrant or a mob. A mob is a society of bodies
gain the strength of the temptation we resist. voluntarily bereaving themselves of reason and travers-
The same guards which protect us from disaster, de- ing its work. The mob is man voluntarily descending to
fect, and enmity, defend us, if we will, from selfishness the nature of the beast. Its fit hour of activity is night.
and fraud. Bolts and bars are not the best of our institu- Its actions are insane like its whole constitution. It per-
tions, nor is shrewdness in trade a mark of wisdom. Men secutes a principle; it would whip a right; it would tar
suffer all their life long under the foolish superstition and feather justice, by inflicting fire and outrage upon

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the houses and persons of those who have these. It re- to wit, its own nature. The soul is not a compensation,
sembles the prank of boys, who run with fire-engines to but a life. The soul is. Under all this running sea of cir-
put out the ruddy aurora streaming to the stars. The in- cumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect bal-
violate spirit turns their spite against the wrongdoers. ance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Essence, or
The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every lash inflicted is God, is not a relation or a part, but the whole. Being is the
a tongue of fame; every prison, a more illustrious abode; vast affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and
every burned book or house enlightens the world; every swallowing up all relations, parts and times within itself.
suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the Nature, truth, virtue, are the influx from thence. Vice is
earth from side to side. Hours of sanity and consideration the absence or departure of the same. Nothing, Falsehood,
are always arriving to communities, as to individuals, when may indeed stand as the great Night or shade on which as
the truth is seen and the martyrs are justified. a background the living universe paints itself forth, but no
Thus do all things preach the indifferency of circum- fact is begotten by it; it cannot work, for it is not. It
stances. The man is all. Every thing has two sides, a good cannot work any good; it cannot work any harm. It is harm
and an evil. Every advantage has its tax. I learn to be inasmuch as it is worse not to be than to be.
content. But the doctrine of compensation is not the We feel defrauded of the retribution due to evil acts,
doctrine of indifferency. The thoughtless say, on hearing because the criminal adheres to his vice and contumacy
these representations,—What boots it to do well? there and does not come to a crisis or judgment anywhere in
is one event to good and evil; if I gain any good I must visible nature. There is no stunning confutation of his
pay for it; if I lose any good I gain some other; all ac- nonsense before men and angels. Has he therefore out-
tions are indifferent. witted the law? Inasmuch as he carries the malignity and
There is a deeper fact in the soul than compensation, the lie with him he so far deceases from nature. In some

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Emerson
manner there will be a demonstration of the wrong to the absolute existence, without any comparative. Material
understanding also; but, should we not see it, this deadly good has its tax, and if it came without desert or sweat,
deduction makes square the eternal account. has no root in me, and the next wind will blow it away.
Neither can it be said, on the other hand, that the gain But all the good of nature is the soul’s, and may be had if
of rectitude must be bought by any loss. There is no pen- paid for in nature’s lawful coin, that is, by labor which
alty to virtue; no penalty to wisdom; they are proper the heart and the head allow. I no longer wish to meet a
additions of being. In a virtuous action I properly am; in good I do not earn, for example to find a pot of buried
a virtuous act I add to the world; I plant into deserts gold, knowing that it brings with it new burdens. I do
conquered from Chaos and Nothing and see the darkness not wish more external goods,—neither possessions, nor
receding on the limits of the horizon. There can be no honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent;
excess to love, none to knowledge, none to beauty, when the tax is certain. But there is no tax on the knowledge
these attributes are considered in the purest sense. The that the compensation exists and that it is not desirable
soul refuses limits, and always affirms an Optimism, never to dig up treasure. Herein I rejoice with a serene eternal
a Pessimism. peace. I contract the boundaries of possible mischief. I
His life is a progress, and not a station. His instinct is learn the wisdom of St. Bernard,—”Nothing can work me
trust. Our instinct uses “more” and “less” in application damage except myself; the harm that I sustain I carry
to man, of the presence of the soul, and not of its ab- about with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my
sence, the brave man is greater than the coward; the own fault.”
true, the benevolent, the wise, is more a man and not In the nature of the soul is the compensation for the
less, than the fool and knave. There is no tax on the inequalities of condition. The radical tragedy of nature
good of virtue, for that is the incoming of God himself, or seems to be the distinction of More and Less. How can

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Less not feel the pain; how not feel indignation or ma- which break up at short intervals the prosperity of men
levolence towards More? Look at those who have less are advertisements of a nature whose law is growth. Ev-
faculty, and one feels sad and knows not well what to ery soul is by this intrinsic necessity quitting its whole
make of it. He almost shuns their eye; he fears they will system of things, its friends and home and laws and faith,
upbraid God. What should they do? It seems a great in- as the shell-fish crawls out of its beautiful but stony
justice. But see the facts nearly and these mountainous case, because it no longer admits of its growth, and slowly
inequalities vanish. Love reduces them as the sun melts forms a new house. In proportion to the vigor of the
the iceberg in the sea. The heart and soul of all men individual these revolutions are frequent, until in some
being one, this bitterness of His and Mine ceases. His is happier mind they are incessant and all worldly relations
mine. I am my brother and my brother is me. If I feel hang very loosely about him, becoming as it were a trans-
overshadowed and outdone by great neighbors, I can yet parent fluid membrane through which the living form is
love; I can still receive; and he that loveth maketh his seen, and not, as in most men, an indurated heteroge-
own the grandeur he loves. Thereby I make the discovery neous fabric of many dates and of no settled character, in
that my brother is my guardian, acting for me with the which the man is imprisoned. Then there can be enlarge-
friendliest designs, and the estate I so admired and en- ment, and the man of to-day scarcely recognizes the man
vied is my own. It is the nature of the soul to appropriate of yesterday. And such should be the outward biography
all things. Jesus and Shakspeare are fragments of the of man in time, a putting off of dead circumstances day
soul, and by love I conquer and incorporate them in my by day, as he renews his raiment day by day. But to us, in
own conscious domain. His virtue,—is not that mine? our lapsed estate, resting, not advancing, resisting, not
His wit,—if it cannot be made mine, it is not wit. cooperating with the divine expansion, this growth comes
Such also is the natural history of calamity. The changes by shocks.

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Emerson
We cannot part with our friends. We cannot let our an- but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a
gels go. We do not see that they only go out that archan- guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in
gels may come in. We are idolaters of the old. We do not our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of
believe in the riches of the soul, in its proper eternity youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted
and omnipresence. We do not believe there is any force occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows
in to-day to rival or recreate that beautiful yesterday. We the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of
linger in the ruins of the old tent where once we had character. It permits or constrains the formation of new
bread and shelter and organs, nor believe that the spirit acquaintances and the reception of new influences that
can feed, cover, and nerve us again. We cannot again prove of the first importance to the next years; and the
find aught so dear, so sweet, so graceful. But we sit and man or woman who would have remained a sunny gar-
weep in vain. The voice of the Almighty saith, ‘Up and den-flower, with no room for its roots and too much sun-
onward for evermore!’ We cannot stay amid the ruins. shine for its head, by the falling of the walls and the
Neither will we rely on the new; and so we walk ever with neglect of the gardener is made the banian of the forest,
reverted eyes, like those monsters who look backwards. yielding shade and fruit to wide neighborhoods of men.
And yet the compensations of calamity are made ap-
parent to the understanding also, after long intervals of
time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a
loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment
unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the
deep remedial force that underlies all facts. The death of
a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing

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SPIRITUAL LAWS IV SPIRITUAL LAWS

W
The living Heaven thy prayers respect, hen the act of reflection takes place in the mind,
House at once and architect, when we look at ourselves in the light of
Quarrying man’s rejected hours, thought, we discover that our life is embosomed
Builds therewith eternal towers; in beauty. Behind us, as we go, all things assume pleas-
Sole and self-commanded works, ing forms, as clouds do far off. Not only things familiar
Fears not undermining days, and stale, but even the tragic and terrible are comely as
Grows by decays, they take their place in the pictures of memory. The river-
And, by the famous might that lurks bank, the weed at the water-side, the old house, the fool-
In reaction and recoil, ish person, however neglected in the passing, have a
Makes flame to freeze, and ice to boil; grace in the past. Even the corpse that has lain in the
Forging, through swart arms of Offence, chambers has added a solemn ornament to the house.
The silver seat of Innocence. The soul will not know either deformity or pain. If in the
hours of clear reason we should speak the severest truth,
we should say that we had never made a sacrifice. In
these hours the mind seems so great that nothing can be
taken from us that seems much. All loss, all pain, is par-
ticular; the universe remains to the heart unhurt. Neither
vexations nor calamities abate our trust. No man ever
stated his griefs as lightly as he might. Allow for exag-

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geration in the most patient and sorely ridden hack that edge there may be a sylvan strength and integrity in that
ever was driven. For it is only the finite that has wrought which he is. “A few strong instincts and a few plain rules”
and suffered; the infinite lies stretched in smiling repose. suffice us.
The intellectual life may be kept clean and healthful if My will never gave the images in my mind the rank they
man will live the life of nature and not import into his now take. The regular course of studies, the years of
mind difficulties which are none of his. No man need be academical and professional education have not yielded
perplexed in his speculations. Let him do and say what me better facts than some idle books under the bench at
strictly belongs to him, and though very ignorant of books, the Latin School. What we do not call education is more
his nature shall not yield him any intellectual obstruc- precious than that which we call so. We form no guess, at
tions and doubts. Our young people are diseased with the time of receiving a thought, of its comparative value.
the theological problems of original sin, origin of evil, And education often wastes its effort in attempts to thwart
predestination and the like. These never presented a prac- and balk this natural magnetism, which is sure to select
tical difficulty to any man,—never darkened across any what belongs to it.
man’s road who did not go out of his way to seek them. In like manner our moral nature is vitiated by any in-
These are the soul’s mumps and measles and whooping- terference of our will. People represent virtue as a struggle,
coughs, and those who have not caught them cannot and take to themselves great airs upon their attainments,
describe their health or prescribe the cure. A simple mind and the question is everywhere vexed when a noble na-
will not know these enemies. It is quite another thing ture is commended, whether the man is not better who
that he should be able to give account of his faith and strives with temptation. But there is no merit in the mat-
expound to another the theory of his self-union and free- ter. Either God is there or he is not there. We love charac-
dom. This requires rare gifts. Yet without this self-knowl- ters in proportion as they are impulsive and spontane-

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ous. The less a man thinks or knows about his virtues the that there was less in them on which they could reflect
better we like him. Timoleon’s victories are the best vic- than in another; as the virtue of a pipe is to be smooth
tories, which ran and flowed like Homer’s verses, Plutarch and hollow. That which externally seemed will and im-
said. When we see a soul whose acts are all regal, grace- movableness was willingness and self-annihilation. Could
ful and pleasant as roses, we must thank God that such Shakspeare give a theory of Shakspeare? Could ever a
things can be and are, and not turn sourly on the angel man of prodigious mathematical genius convey to others
and say ‘Crump is a better man with his grunting resis- any insight into his methods? If he could communicate
tance to all his native devils.’ that secret it would instantly lose its exaggerated value,
Not less conspicuous is the preponderance of nature blending with the daylight and the vital energy the power
over will in all practical life. There is less intention in to stand and to go.
history than we ascribe to it. We impute deep-laid far- The lesson is forcibly taught by these observations that
sighted plans to Caesar and Napoleon; but the best of our life might be much easier and simpler than we make
their power was in nature, not in them. Men of an ex- it; that the world might be a happier place than it is;
traordinary success, in their honest moments, have al- that there is no need of struggles, convulsions, and de-
ways sung, ‘Not unto us, not unto us.’ According to the spairs, of the wringing of the hands and the gnashing of
faith of their times they have built altars to Fortune, or the teeth; that we miscreate our own evils. We interfere
to Destiny, or to St. Julian. Their success lay in their with the optimism of nature; for whenever we get this
parallelism to the course of thought, which found in them vantage-ground of the past, or of a wiser mind in the
an unobstructed channel; and the wonders of which they present, we are able to discern that we are begirt with
were the visible conductors seemed to the eye their deed. laws which execute themselves.
Did the wires generate the galvanism? It is even true The face of external nature teaches the same lesson.

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Emerson
Nature will not have us fret and fume. She does not like ral and beautiful that childhood should inquire and ma-
our benevolence or our learning much better than she turity should teach; but it is time enough to answer ques-
likes our frauds and wars. When we come out of the cau- tions when they are asked. Do not shut up the young
cus, or the bank, or the Abolition-convention, or the Tem- people against their will in a pew and force the children
perance-meeting, or the Transcendental club into the fields to ask them questions for an hour against their will.
and woods, she says to us, ‘So hot? my little Sir.’ If we look wider, things are all alike; laws and letters and
We are full of mechanical actions. We must needs inter- creeds and modes of living seem a travesty of truth. Our
meddle and have things in our own way, until the sacri- society is encumbered by ponderous machinery, which re-
fices and virtues of society are odious. Love should make sembles the endless aqueducts which the Romans built
joy; but our benevolence is unhappy. Our Sunday-schools over hill and dale and which are superseded by the discov-
and churches and pauper-societies are yokes to the neck. ery of the law that water rises to the level of its source. It
We pain ourselves to please nobody. There are natural is a Chinese wall which any nimble Tartar can leap over. It
ways of arriving at the same ends at which these aim, is a standing army, not so good as a peace. It is a gradu-
but do not arrive. Why should all virtue work in one and ated, titled, richly appointed empire, quite superfluous when
the same way? Why should all give dollars? It is very town-meetings are found to answer just as well.
inconvenient to us country folk, and we do not think any Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works
good will come of it. We have not dollars; merchants have; by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls. When the
let them give them. Farmers will give corn; poets will fruit is despatched, the leaf falls. The circuit of the wa-
sing; women will sew; laborers will lend a hand; the chil- ters is mere falling. The walking of man and all animals is
dren will bring flowers. And why drag this dead weight of a falling forward. All our manual labor and works of
a Sunday-school over the whole Christendom? It is natu- strength, as prying, splitting, digging, rowing and so forth,

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are done by dint of continual falling, and the globe, earth, hero, as we read or paint, against the coward and the
moon, comet, sun, star, fall for ever and ever. robber; but we have been ourselves that coward and rob-
The simplicity of the universe is very different from the ber, and shall be again,—not in the low circumstance, but
simplicity of a machine. He who sees moral nature out in comparison with the grandeurs possible to the soul.
and out and thoroughly knows how knowledge is acquired A little consideration of what takes place around us
and character formed, is a pedant. The simplicity of na- every day would show us that a higher law than that of
ture is not that which may easily be read, but is inex- our will regulates events; that our painful labors are un-
haustible. The last analysis can no wise be made. We necessary and fruitless; that only in our easy, simple,
judge of a man’s wisdom by his hope, knowing that the spontaneous action are we strong, and by contenting
perception of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an im- ourselves with obedience we become divine. Belief and
mortal youth. The wild fertility of nature is felt in com- love,—a believing love will relieve us of a vast load of
paring our rigid names and reputations with our fluid care. O my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the
consciousness. We pass in the world for sects and schools, centre of nature and over the will of every man, so that
for erudition and piety, and we are all the time jejune none of us can wrong the universe. It has so infused its
babes. One sees very well how Pyrrhonism grew up. Ev- strong enchantment into nature that we prosper when
ery man sees that he is that middle point whereof every we accept its advice, and when we struggle to wound its
thing may be affirmed and denied with equal reason. He creatures our hands are glued to our sides, or they beat
is old, he is young, he is very wise, he is altogether igno- our own breasts. The whole course of things goes to teach
rant. He hears and feels what you say of the seraphim, us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of
and of the tin-peddler. There is no permanent wise man us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word.
except in the figment of the Stoics. We side with the Why need you choose so painfully your place and occu-

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pation and associates and modes of action and of enter- and inwardly aspire after, is the state or circumstance
tainment? Certainly there is a possible right for you that desirable to my constitution; and the action which I in
precludes the need of balance and wilful election. For all my years tend to do, is the work for my faculties. We
you there is a reality, a fit place and congenial duties. must hold a man amenable to reason for the choice of his
Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and daily craft or profession. It is not an excuse any longer
wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and you are for his deeds that they are the custom of his trade. What
without effort impelled to truth, to right and a perfect business has he with an evil trade? Has he not a calling
contentment. Then you put all gainsayers in the wrong. in his character?
Then you are the world, the measure of right, of truth, of Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call.
beauty. If we will not be mar-plots with our miserable There is one direction in which all space is open to him.
interferences, the work, the society, letters, arts, science, He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless
religion of men would go on far better than now, and the exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against
heaven predicted from the beginning of the world, and obstructions on every side but one, on that side all ob-
still predicted from the bottom of the heart, would orga- struction is taken away and he sweeps serenely over a
nize itself, as do now the rose and the air and the sun. deepening channel into an infinite sea. This talent and
I say, do not choose; but that is a figure of speech by this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which
which I would distinguish what is commonly called choice the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to
among men, and which is a partial act, the choice of the do something which is easy to him and good when it is
hands, of the eyes, of the appetites, and not a whole act done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival.
of the man. But that which I call right or goodness, is the For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more
choice of my constitution; and that which I call heaven, difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other.

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His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The lost. Until he can manage to communicate himself to
height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of others in his full stature and proportion, he does not yet
the base. Every man has this call of the power to do find his vocation. He must find in that an outlet for his
somewhat unique, and no man has any other call. The character, so that he may justify his work to their eyes. If
pretence that he has another call, a summons by name the labor is mean, let him by his thinking and character
and personal election and outward “signs that mark him make it liberal. Whatever he knows and thinks, whatever
extraordinary, and not in the roll of common men,” is in his apprehension is worth doing, that let him commu-
fanaticism, and betrays obtuseness to perceive that there nicate, or men will never know and honor him aright.
is one mind in all the individuals, and no respect of per- Foolish, whenever you take the meanness and formality
sons therein. of that thing you do, instead of converting it into the
By doing his work he makes the need felt which he can obedient spiracle of your character and aims.
supply, and creates the taste by which he is enjoyed. By We like only such actions as have already long had the
doing his own work he unfolds himself. It is the vice of praise of men, and do not perceive that any thing man
our public speaking that it has not abandonment. Some- can do may be divinely done. We think greatness entailed
where, not only every orator but every man should let out or organized in some places or duties, in certain offices
all the length of all the reins; should find or make a frank or occasions, and do not see that Paganini can extract
and hearty expression of what force and meaning is in rapture from a catgut, and Eulenstein from a jews-harp,
him. The common experience is that the man fits himself and a nimble-fingered lad out of shreds of paper with his
as well as he can to the customary details of that work or scissors, and Landseer out of swine, and the hero out of
trade he falls into, and tends it as a dog turns a spit. the pitiful habitation and company in which he was hid-
Then is he a part of the machine he moves; the man is den. What we call obscure condition or vulgar society is

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that condition and society whose poetry is not yet writ- like to him wherever he goes. He takes only his own out
ten, but which you shall presently make as enviable and of the multiplicity that sweeps and circles round him. He
renowned as any. In our estimates let us take a lesson is like one of those booms which are set out from the
from kings. The parts of hospitality, the connection of shore on rivers to catch drift-wood, or like the loadstone
families, the impressiveness of death, and a thousand amongst splinters of steel. Those facts, words, persons,
other things, royalty makes its own estimate of, and a which dwell in his memory without his being able to say
royal mind will. To make habitually a new estimate,— why, remain because they have a relation to him not less
that is elevation. real for being as yet unapprehended. They are symbols of
What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with value to him as they can interpret parts of his conscious-
hope or fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no ness which he would vainly seek words for in the conven-
good as solid but that which is in his nature and which tional images of books and other minds. What attracts
must grow out of him as long as he exists. The goods of my attention shall have it, as I will go to the man who
fortune may come and go like summer leaves; let him knocks at my door, whilst a thousand persons as worthy
scatter them on every wind as the momentary signs of go by it, to whom I give no regard. It is enough that
his infinite productiveness. these particulars speak to me. A few anecdotes, a few
He may have his own. A man’s genius, the quality that traits of character, manners, face, a few incidents, have
differences him from every other, the susceptibility to an emphasis in your memory out of all proportion to their
one class of influences, the selection of what is fit for apparent significance if you measure them by the ordi-
him, the rejection of what is unfit, determines for him nary standards. They relate to your gift. Let them have
the character of the universe. A man is a method, a pro- their weight, and do not reject them and cast about for
gressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering his illustration and facts more usual in literature. What your

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heart thinks great is great. The soul’s emphasis is always Nothing seems so easy as to speak and to be under-
right. stood. Yet a man may come to find that the strongest of
Over all things that are agreeable to his nature and defences and of ties,—that he has been understood; and
genius the man has the highest right. Everywhere he may he who has received an opinion may come to find it the
take what belongs to his spiritual estate, nor can he take most inconvenient of bonds.
any thing else though all doors were open, nor can all If a teacher have any opinion which he wishes to con-
the force of men hinder him from taking so much. It is ceal, his pupils will become as fully indoctrinated into that
vain to attempt to keep a secret from one who has a right as into any which he publishes. If you pour water into a
to know it. It will tell itself. That mood into which a vessel twisted into coils and angles, it is vain to say, I will
friend can bring us is his dominion over us. To the thoughts pour it only into this or that;—it will find its level in all.
of that state of mind he has a right. All the secrets of Men feel and act the consequences of your doctrine with-
that state of mind he can compel. This is a law which out being able to show how they follow. Show us an arc of
statesmen use in practice. All the terrors of the French the curve, and a good mathematician will find out the
Republic, which held Austria in awe, were unable to com- whole figure. We are always reasoning from the seen to the
mand her diplomacy. But Napoleon sent to Vienna M. de unseen. Hence the perfect intelligence that subsists be-
Narbonne, one of the old noblesse, with the morals, man- tween wise men of remote ages. A man cannot bury his
ners and name of that interest, saying that it was indis- meanings so deep in his book but time and like-minded
pensable to send to the old aristocracy of Europe men of men will find them. Plato had a secret doctrine, had he?
the same connection, which, in fact, constitutes a sort of What secret can he conceal from the eyes of Bacon? of
free-masonry. M. de Narbonne in less than a fortnight Montaigne? of Kant? Therefore, Aristotle said of his works,
penetrated all the secrets of the imperial cabinet. “They are published and not published.”

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No man can learn what he has not preparation for learn- ished and noble person which are lost upon the eye of a
ing, however near to his eyes is the object. A chemist churl. These are like the stars whose light has not yet
may tell his most precious secrets to a carpenter, and he reached us.
shall be never the wiser,—the secrets he would not utter He may see what he maketh. Our dreams are the sequel
to a chemist for an estate. God screens us evermore from of our waking knowledge. The visions of the night bear
premature ideas. Our eyes are holden that we cannot see some proportion to the visions of the day. Hideous dreams
things that stare us in the face, until the hour arrives are exaggerations of the sins of the day. We see our evil
when the mind is ripened; then we behold them, and the affections embodied in bad physiognomies. On the Alps
time when we saw them not is like a dream. the traveller sometimes beholds his own shadow magni-
Not in nature but in man is all the beauty and worth he fied to a giant, so that every gesture of his hand is ter-
sees. The world is very empty, and is indebted to this rific. “My children,” said an old man to his boys scared by
gilding, exalting soul for all its pride. “Earth fills her lap a figure in the dark entry, “my children, you will never
with splendors” not her own. The vale of Tempe, Tivoli see any thing worse than yourselves.” As in dreams, so in
and Rome are earth and water, rocks and sky. There are as the scarcely less fluid events of the world every man sees
good earth and water in a thousand places, yet how himself in colossal, without knowing that it is himself.
unaffecting! The good, compared to the evil which he sees, is as his
People are not the better for the sun and moon, the own good to his own evil. Every quality of his mind is
horizon and the trees; as it is not observed that the keep- magnified in some one acquaintance, and every emotion
ers of Roman galleries or the valets of painters have any of his heart in some one. He is like a quincunx of trees,
elevation of thought, or that librarians are wiser men which counts five,—east, west, north, or south; or an
than others. There are graces in the demeanor of a pol- initial, medial, and terminal acrostic. And why not? He

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cleaves to one person and avoids another, according to the mathematical measure of their havings and beings?
their likeness or unlikeness to himself, truly seeking him- Gertrude is enamored of Guy; how high, how aristocratic,
self in his associates and moreover in his trade and hab- how Roman his mien and manners! to live with him were
its and gestures and meats and drinks, and comes at last life indeed, and no purchase is too great; and heaven
to be faithfully represented by every view you take of his and earth are moved to that end. Well, Gertrude has Guy;
circumstances. but what now avails how high, how aristocratic, how
He may read what he writes. What can we see or ac- Roman his mien and manners, if his heart and aims are in
quire but what we are? You have observed a skilful man the senate, in the theatre and in the billiard-room, and
reading Virgil. Well, that author is a thousand books to a she has no aims, no conversation that can enchant her
thousand persons. Take the book into your two hands graceful lord?
and read your eyes out, you will never find what I find. If He shall have his own society. We can love nothing but
any ingenious reader would have a monopoly of the wis- nature. The most wonderful talents, the most meritorious
dom or delight he gets, he is as secure now the book is exertions really avail very little with us; but nearness or
Englished, as if it were imprisoned in the Pelews’ tongue. likeness of nature,—how beautiful is the ease of its vic-
It is with a good book as it is with good company. Intro- tory! Persons approach us, famous for their beauty, for
duce a base person among gentlemen, it is all to no pur- their accomplishments, worthy of all wonder for their
pose; he is not their fellow. Every society protects itself. charms and gifts; they dedicate their whole skill to the
The company is perfectly safe, and he is not one of them, hour and the company,—with very imperfect result. To
though his body is in the room. be sure it would be ungrateful in us not to praise them
What avails it to fight with the eternal laws of mind, loudly. Then, when all is done, a person of related mind,
which adjust the relation of all persons to each other by a brother or sister by nature, comes to us so softly and

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easily, so nearly and intimately, as if it were the blood in acceptation that a man may have that allowance he takes.
our proper veins, that we feel as if some one was gone, Take the place and attitude which belong to you, and all
instead of another having come; we are utterly relieved men acquiesce. The world must be just. It leaves every
and refreshed; it is a sort of joyful solitude. We foolishly man, with profound unconcern, to set his own rate. Hero
think in our days of sin that we must court friends by or driveller, it meddles not in the matter. It will certainly
compliance to the customs of society, to its dress, its accept your own measure of your doing and being, whether
breeding, and its estimates. But only that soul can be my you sneak about and deny your own name, or whether
friend which I encounter on the line of my own march, you see your work produced to the concave sphere of the
that soul to which I do not decline and which does not heavens, one with the revolution of the stars.
decline to me, but, native of the same celestial latitude, The same reality pervades all teaching. The man may
repeats in its own all my experience. The scholar forgets teach by doing, and not otherwise. If he can communi-
himself and apes the customs and costumes of the man cate himself he can teach, but not by words. He teaches
of the world to deserve the smile of beauty, and follows who gives, and he learns who receives. There is no teach-
some giddy girl, not yet taught by religious passion to ing until the pupil is brought into the same state or prin-
know the noble woman with all that is serene, oracular ciple in which you are; a transfusion takes place; he is
and beautiful in her soul. Let him be great, and love shall you and you are he; then is a teaching, and by no un-
follow him. Nothing is more deeply punished than the friendly chance or bad company can he ever quite lose
neglect of the affinities by which alone society should be the benefit. But your propositions run out of one ear as
formed, and the insane levity of choosing associates by they ran in at the other. We see it advertised that Mr.
others’ eyes. Grand will deliver an oration on the Fourth of July, and
He may set his own rate. It is a maxim worthy of all Mr. Hand before the Mechanics’ Association, and we do

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not go thither, because we know that these gentlemen own practice, I may well doubt will fail to reach yours.
will not communicate their own character and experience But take Sidney’s maxim:—”Look in thy heart, and write.”
to the company. If we had reason to expect such a confi- He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public.
dence we should go through all inconvenience and oppo- That statement only is fit to be made public which you
sition. The sick would be carried in litters. But a public have come at in attempting to satisfy your own curiosity.
oration is an escapade, a non-committal, an apology, a The writer who takes his subject from his ear and not
gag, and not a communication, not a speech, not a man. from his heart, should know that he has lost as much as
A like Nemesis presides over all intellectual works. We he seems to have gained, and when the empty book has
have yet to learn that the thing uttered in words is not gathered all its praise, and half the people say, ‘What
therefore affirmed. It must affirm itself, or no forms of poetry! what genius!’ it still needs fuel to make fire. That
logic or of oath can give it evidence. The sentence must only profits which is profitable. Life alone can impart
also contain its own apology for being spoken. life; and though we should burst we can only be valued
The effect of any writing on the public mind is math- as we make ourselves valuable. There is no luck in literary
ematically measurable by its depth of thought. How much reputation. They who make up the final verdict upon ev-
water does it draw? If it awaken you to think, if it lift ery book are not the partial and noisy readers of the hour
you from your feet with the great voice of eloquence, when it appears, but a court as of angels, a public not to
then the effect is to be wide, slow, permanent, over the be bribed, not to be entreated and not to be overawed,
minds of men; if the pages instruct you not, they will die decides upon every man’s title to fame. Only those books
like flies in the hour. The way to speak and write what come down which deserve to last. Gilt edges, vellum and
shall not go out of fashion is to speak and write sin- morocco, and presentation-copies to all the libraries will
cerely. The argument which has not power to reach my not preserve a book in circulation beyond its intrinsic

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date. It must go with all Walpole’s Noble and Royal Au- world, and grew out of the circumstances of the moment.
thors to its fate. Blackmore, Kotzebue, or Pollok may en- But now, every thing he did, even to the lifting of his
dure for a night, but Moses and Homer stand for ever. finger or the eating of bread, looks large, all-related, and
There are not in the world at any one time more than a is called an institution.
dozen persons who read and understand Plato,—never These are the demonstrations in a few particulars of
enough to pay for an edition of his works; yet to every the genius of nature; they show the direction of the
generation these come duly down, for the sake of those stream. But the stream is blood; every drop is alive. Truth
few persons, as if God brought them in his hand. “No has not single victories; all things are its organs,—not
book,” said Bentley, “was ever written down by any but only dust and stones, but errors and lies. The laws of
itself.” The permanence of all books is fixed by no effort, disease, physicians say, are as beautiful as the laws of
friendly or hostile, but by their own specific gravity, or health. Our philosophy is affirmative and readily accepts
the intrinsic importance of their contents to the con- the testimony of negative facts, as every shadow points
stant mind of man. “Do not trouble yourself too much to the sun. By a divine necessity every fact in nature is
about the light on your statue,” said Michael Angelo to constrained to offer its testimony.
the young sculptor; “the light of the public square will Human character evermore publishes itself. The most
test its value.” fugitive deed and word, the mere air of doing a thing,
In like manner the effect of every action is measured the intimated purpose, expresses character. If you act
by the depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds. you show character; if you sit still, if you sleep, you show
The great man knew not that he was great. It took a it. You think because you have spoken nothing when oth-
century or two for that fact to appear. What he did, he ers spoke, and have given no opinion on the times, on
did because he must; it was the most natural thing in the the church, on slavery, on marriage, on socialism, on se-

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cret societies, on the college, on parties and persons, that believe we cannot adequately say, though we may repeat
your verdict is still expected with curiosity as a reserved the words never so often. It was this conviction which
wisdom. Far otherwise; your silence answers very loud. Swedenborg expressed when he described a group of per-
You have no oracle to utter, and your fellow-men have sons in the spiritual world endeavoring in vain to articu-
learned that you cannot help them; for oracles speak. Doth late a proposition which they did not believe; but they
not Wisdom cry and Understanding put forth her voice? could not, though they twisted and folded their lips even
Dreadful limits are set in nature to the powers of dis- to indignation.
simulation. Truth tyrannizes over the unwilling members A man passes for that he is worth. Very idle is all curi-
of the body. Faces never lie, it is said. No man need be osity concerning other people’s estimate of us, and all
deceived who will study the changes of expression. When fear of remaining unknown is not less so. If a man know
a man speaks the truth in the spirit of truth, his eye is as that he can do any thing,—that he can do it better than
clear as the heavens. When he has base ends and speaks any one else,—he has a pledge of the acknowledgment
falsely, the eye is muddy and sometimes asquint. of that fact by all persons. The world is full of judgment-
I have heard an experienced counsellor say that he never days, and into every assembly that a man enters, in every
feared the effect upon a jury of a lawyer who does not action he attempts, he is gauged and stamped. In every
believe in his heart that his client ought to have a ver- troop of boys that whoop and run in each yard and square,
dict. If he does not believe it his unbelief will appear to a new-comer is as well and accurately weighed in the
the jury, despite all his protestations, and will become course of a few days and stamped with his right number,
their unbelief. This is that law whereby a work of art, of as if he had undergone a formal trial of his strength,
whatever kind, sets us in the same state of mind wherein speed and temper. A stranger comes from a distant school,
the artist was when he made it. That which we do not with better dress, with trinkets in his pockets, with airs

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and pretensions; an older boy says to himself, ‘It’s of no sion in the glances of our eyes, in our smiles, in saluta-
use; we shall find him out to-morrow.’ ‘What has he done?’ tions, and the grasp of hands. His sin bedaubs him, mars
is the divine question which searches men and transpierces all his good impression. Men know not why they do not
every false reputation. A fop may sit in any chair of the trust him, but they do not trust him. His vice glasses his
world nor be distinguished for his hour from Homer and eye, cuts lines of mean expression in his cheek, pinches
Washington; but there need never be any doubt concern- the nose, sets the mark of the beast on the back of the
ing the respective ability of human beings. Pretension head, and writes O fool! fool! on the forehead of a king.
may sit still, but cannot act. Pretension never feigned an If you would not be known to do any thing, never do it.
act of real greatness. Pretension never wrote an Iliad, A man may play the fool in the drifts of a desert, but
nor drove back Xerxes, nor christianized the world, nor every grain of sand shall seem to see. He may be a soli-
abolished slavery. tary eater, but he cannot keep his foolish counsel. A bro-
As much virtue as there is, so much appears; as much ken complexion, a swinish look, ungenerous acts and the
goodness as there is, so much reverence it commands. All want of due knowledge,—all blab. Can a cook, a Chiffinch,
the devils respect virtue. The high, the generous, the an Iachimo be mistaken for Zeno or Paul? Confucius ex-
self-devoted sect will always instruct and command man- claimed,—”How can a man be concealed? How can a man
kind. Never was a sincere word utterly lost. Never a mag- be concealed?”
nanimity fell to the ground, but there is some heart to On the other hand, the hero fears not that if he with-
greet and accept it unexpectedly. A man passes for that hold the avowal of a just and brave act it will go
he is worth. What he is engraves itself on his face, on unwitnessed and unloved. One knows it,—himself, —
his form, on his fortunes, in letters of light. Concealment and is pledged by it to sweetness of peace and to noble-
avails him nothing, boasting nothing. There is confes- ness of aim which will prove in the end a better procla-

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Essays
mation of it than the relating of the incident. Virtue is the substance is not.
the adherence in action to the nature of things, and the We are full of these superstitions of sense, the worship
nature of things makes it prevalent. It consists in a per- of magnitude. We call the poet inactive, because he is
petual substitution of being for seeming, and with sub- not a president, a merchant, or a porter. We adore an
lime propriety God is described as saying, I am. institution, and do not see that it is founded on a thought
The lesson which these observations convey is, Be, and which we have. But real action is in silent moments. The
not seem. Let us acquiesce. Let us take our bloated noth- epochs of our life are not in the visible facts of our choice
ingness out of the path of the divine circuits. Let us un- of a calling, our marriage, our acquisition of an office,
learn our wisdom of the world. Let us lie low in the Lord’s and the like, but in a silent thought by the way-side as
power and learn that truth alone makes rich and great. we walk; in a thought which revises our entire manner of
If you visit your friend, why need you apologize for not life and says,—’Thus hast thou done, but it were better
having visited him, and waste his time and deface your thus.’ And all our after years, like menials, serve and wait
own act? Visit him now. Let him feel that the highest on this, and according to their ability execute its will.
love has come to see him, in thee its lowest organ. Or This revisal or correction is a constant force, which, as a
why need you torment yourself and friend by secret self- tendency, reaches through our lifetime. The object of the
reproaches that you have not assisted him or man, the aim of these moments, is to make daylight shine
complimented him with gifts and salutations heretofore? through him, to suffer the law to traverse his whole be-
Be a gift and a benediction. Shine with real light and not ing without obstruction, so that on what point soever of
with the borrowed reflection of gifts. Common men are his doing your eye falls it shall report truly of his charac-
apologies for men; they bow the head, excuse themselves ter, whether it be his diet, his house, his religious forms,
with prolix reasons, and accumulate appearances because his society, his mirth, his vote, his opposition. Now he is

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not homogeneous, but heterogeneous, and the ray does here certainly shows me that the soul had need of an
not traverse; there are no thorough lights, but the eye of organ here. Shall I not assume the post? Shall I skulk and
the beholder is puzzled, detecting many unlike tenden- dodge and duck with my unseasonable apologies and vain
cies and a life not yet at one. modesty and imagine my being here impertinent? less
Why should we make it a point with our false modesty pertinent than Epaminondas or Homer being there? and
to disparage that man we are and that form of being that the soul did not know its own needs? Besides, with-
assigned to us? A good man is contented. I love and out any reasoning on the matter, I have no discontent.
honor Epaminondas, but I do not wish to be Epaminondas. The good soul nourishes me and unlocks new magazines
I hold it more just to love the world of this hour than the of power and enjoyment to me every day. I will not meanly
world of his hour. Nor can you, if I am true, excite me to decline the immensity of good, because I have heard that
the least uneasiness by saying, ‘He acted and thou sittest it has come to others in another shape.
still.’ I see action to be good, when the need is, and Besides, why should we be cowed by the name of Ac-
sitting still to be also good. Epaminondas, if he was the tion? ’Tis a trick of the senses,—no more. We know that
man I take him for, would have sat still with joy and the ancestor of every action is a thought. The poor mind
peace, if his lot had been mine. Heaven is large, and does not seem to itself to be any thing unless it have an
affords space for all modes of love and fortitude. Why outside badge,—some Gentoo diet, or Quaker coat, or
should we be busybodies and superserviceable? Action Calvinistic prayer-meeting, or philanthropic society, or a
and inaction are alike to the true. One piece of the tree is great donation, or a high office, or, any how, some wild
cut for a weathercock and one for the sleeper of a bridge; contrasting action to testify that it is somewhat. The
the virtue of the wood is apparent in both. rich mind lies in the sun and sleeps, and is Nature. To
I desire not to disgrace the soul. The fact that I am think is to act.

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Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so. as good as theirs, or either of theirs. Rather let me do my
All action is of an infinite elasticity, and the least admits work so well that other idlers if they choose may com-
of being inflated with the celestial air until it eclipses pare my texture with the texture of these and find it
the sun and moon. Let us seek one peace by fidelity. Let identical with the best.
me heed my duties. Why need I go gadding into the scenes This over-estimate of the possibilities of Paul and
and philosophy of Greek and Italian history before I have Pericles, this under-estimate of our own, comes from a
justified myself to my benefactors? How dare I read neglect of the fact of an identical nature. Bonaparte knew
Washington’s campaigns when I have not answered the but one merit, and rewarded in one and the same way the
letters of my own correspondents? Is not that a just ob- good soldier, the good astronomer, the good poet, the
jection to much of our reading? It is a pusillanimous good player. The poet uses the names of Caesar, of
desertion of our work to gaze after our neighbors. It is Tamerlane, of Bonduca, of Belisarius; the painter uses
peeping. Byron says of Jack Bunting,— the conventional story of the Virgin Mary, of Paul, of Pe-
ter. He does not therefore defer to the nature of these
“He knew not what to say, and so he swore.” accidental men, of these stock heroes. If the poet write a
true drama, then he is Caesar, and not the player of Cae-
I may say it of our preposterous use of books,—He sar; then the selfsame strain of thought, emotion as pure,
knew not what to do, and so he read. I can think of wit as subtle, motions as swift, mounting, extravagant,
nothing to fill my time with, and I find the Life of Brant. and a heart as great, self-sufficing, dauntless, which on
It is a very extravagant compliment to pay to Brant, or to the waves of its love and hope can uplift all that is reck-
General Schuyler, or to General Washington. My time should oned solid and precious in the world,—palaces, gardens,
be as good as their time,—my facts, my net of relations, money, navies, kingdoms,—marking its own incomparable

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worth by the slight it casts on these gauds of men;— Love
these all are his, and by the power of these he rouses the
nations. Let a man believe in God, and not in names and “I was as a gem concealed;
places and persons. Let the great soul incarnated in some Me my burning ray revealed.”
woman’s form, poor and sad and single, in some Dolly or Koran .
Joan, go out to service, and sweep chambers and scour
floors, and its effulgent daybeams cannot be muffled or V. Love
hid, but to sweep and scour will instantly appear su-

E
preme and beautiful actions, the top and radiance of hu- very promise of the soul has innumerable
man life, and all people will get mops and brooms; until, fulfilments; each of its joys ripens into a new want.
lo! suddenly the great soul has enshrined itself in some Nature, uncontainable, flowing, forelooking, in the
other form and done some other deed, and that is now first sentiment of kindness anticipates already a benevo-
the flower and head of all living nature. lence which shall lose all particular regards in its general
We are the photometers, we the irritable goldleaf and light. The introduction to this felicity is in a private and
tinfoil that measure the accumulations of the subtle ele- tender relation of one to one, which is the enchantment
ment. We know the authentic effects of the true fire of human life; which, like a certain divine rage and en-
through every one of its million disguises. thusiasm, seizes on man at one period and works a revo-
lution in his mind and body; unites him to his race, pledges
him to the domestic and civic relations, carries him with
new sympathy into nature, enhances the power of the
senses, opens the imagination, adds to his character he-

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roic and sacred attributes, establishes marriage, and gives multitudes of men and women, upon the universal heart
permanence to human society. of all, and so lights up the whole world and all nature
The natural association of the sentiment of love with with its generous flames. It matters not therefore whether
the heyday of the blood seems to require that in order to we attempt to describe the passion at twenty, at thirty,
portray it in vivid tints, which every youth and maid should or at eighty years. He who paints it at the first period
confess to be true to their throbbing experience, one will lose some of its later, he who paints it at the last,
must not be too old. The delicious fancies of youth reject some of its earlier traits. Only it is to be hoped that by
the least savor of a mature philosophy, as chilling with patience and the Muses’ aid we may attain to that inward
age and pedantry their purple bloom. And therefore I view of the law which shall describe a truth ever young
know I incur the imputation of unnecessary hardness and and beautiful, so central that it shall commend itself to
stoicism from those who compose the Court and Parlia- the eye, at whatever angle beholden.
ment of Love. But from these formidable censors I shall And the first condition is, that we must leave a too
appeal to my seniors. For it is to be considered that this close and lingering adherence to facts, and study the
passion of which we speak, though it begin with the sentiment as it appeared in hope and not in history. For
young, yet forsakes not the old, or rather suffers no one each man sees his own life defaced and disfigured, as the
who is truly its servant to grow old, but makes the aged life of man is not, to his imagination. Each man sees over
participators of it not less than the tender maiden, though his own experience a certain stain of error, whilst that of
in a different and nobler sort. For it is a fire that kindling other men looks fair and ideal. Let any man go back to
its first embers in the narrow nook of a private bosom, those delicious relations which make the beauty of his
caught from a wandering spark out of another private life, which have given him sincerest instruction and nour-
heart, glows and enlarges until it warms and beams upon ishment, he will shrink and moan. Alas! I know not why,

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but infinite compunctions embitter in mature life the re- glance, or betray a deep emotion, and we are no longer
membrances of budding joy and cover every beloved name. strangers. We understand them, and take the warmest
Every thing is beautiful seen from the point of the intel- interest in the development of the romance. All mankind
lect, or as truth. But all is sour, if seen as experience. love a lover. The earliest demonstrations of complacency
Details are melancholy; the plan is seemly and noble. In and kindness are nature’s most winning pictures. It is the
the actual world—the painful kingdom of time and place— dawn of civility and grace in the coarse and rustic. The
dwell care, and canker, and fear. With thought, with the rude village boy teases the girls about the school-house
ideal, is immortal hilarity, the rose of joy. Round it all the door;—but to-day he comes running into the entry, and
Muses sing. But grief cleaves to names, and persons, and meets one fair child disposing her satchel; he holds her
the partial interests of to-day and yesterday. books to help her, and instantly it seems to him as if she
The strong bent of nature is seen in the proportion removed herself from him infinitely, and was a sacred
which this topic of personal relations usurps in the con- precinct. Among the throng of girls he runs rudely enough,
versation of society. What do we wish to know of any but one alone distances him; and these two little neigh-
worthy person so much, as how he has sped in the his- bors, that were so close just now, have learned to respect
tory of this sentiment? What books in the circulating each other’s personality. Or who can avert his eyes from
libraries circulate? How we glow over these novels of pas- the engaging, half-artful, half-artless ways of school-girls
sion, when the story is told with any spark of truth and who go into the country shops to buy a skein of silk or a
nature! And what fastens attention, in the intercourse of sheet of paper, and talk half an hour about nothing with
life, like any passage betraying affection between two the broad-faced, good-natured shop-boy. In the village
parties? Perhaps we never saw them before, and never they are on a perfect equality, which love delights in,
shall meet them again. But we see them exchange a and without any coquetry the happy, affectionate nature

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of woman flows out in this pretty gossip. The girls may though a beauty overpowering all analysis or comparison
have little beauty, yet plainly do they establish between and putting us quite beside ourselves we can seldom see
them and the good boy the most agreeable, confiding after thirty years, yet the remembrance of these visions
relations, what with their fun and their earnest, about outlasts all other remembrances, and is a wreath of flow-
Edgar and Jonas and Almira, and who was invited to the ers on the oldest brows. But here is a strange fact; it may
party, and who danced at the dancing-school, and when seem to many men, in revising their experience, that they
the singing-school would begin, and other nothings con- have no fairer page in their life’s book than the delicious
cerning which the parties cooed. By and by that boy wants memory of some passages wherein affection contrived to
a wife, and very truly and heartily will he know where to give a witchcraft, surpassing the deep attraction of its
find a sincere and sweet mate, without any risk such as own truth, to a parcel of accidental and trivial circum-
Milton deplores as incident to scholars and great men. stances. In looking backward they may find that several
I have been told that in some public discourses of mine things which were not the charm have more reality to
my reverence for the intellect has made me unjustly cold this groping memory than the charm itself which em-
to the personal relations. But now I almost shrink at the balmed them. But be our experience in particulars what
remembrance of such disparaging words. For persons are it may, no man ever forgot the visitations of that power
love’s world, and the coldest philosopher cannot recount to his heart and brain, which created all things anew;
the debt of the young soul wandering here in nature to which was the dawn in him of music, poetry, and art;
the power of love, without being tempted to unsay, as which made the face of nature radiant with purple light,
treasonable to nature, aught derogatory to the social in- the morning and the night varied enchantments; when a
stincts. For though the celestial rapture falling out of single tone of one voice could make the heart bound, and
heaven seizes only upon those of tender age, and al- the most trivial circumstance associated with one form is

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put in the amber of memory; when he became all eye
when one was present, and all memory when one was “All other pleasures are not worth its pains:”
gone; when the youth becomes a watcher of windows
and studious of a glove, a veil, a ribbon, or the wheels of and when the day was not long enough, but the night
a carriage; when no place is too solitary and none too too must be consumed in keen recollections; when the
silent, for him who has richer company and sweeter con- head boiled all night on the pillow with the generous
versation in his new thoughts than any old friends, though deed it resolved on; when the moonlight was a pleasing
best and purest, can give him; for the figures, the mo- fever and the stars were letters and the flowers ciphers
tions, the words of the beloved object are not like other and the air was coined into song; when all business seemed
images written in water, but, as Plutarch said, “enam- an impertinence, and all the men and women running to
elled in fire,” and make the study of midnight:— and fro in the streets, mere pictures.
The passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes
“Thou art not gone being gone, where’er thou art, all things alive and significant. Nature grows conscious.
Thou leav’st in him thy watchful eyes, in him thy Every bird on the boughs of the tree sings now to his
loving heart.” heart and soul. The notes are almost articulate. The clouds
have faces as he looks on them. The trees of the forest,
In the noon and the afternoon of life we still throb at the waving grass and the peeping flowers have grown
the recollection of days when happiness was not happy intelligent; and he almost fears to trust them with the
enough, but must be drugged with the relish of pain and secret which they seem to invite. Yet nature soothes and
fear; for he touched the secret of the matter who said of sympathizes. In the green solitude he finds a dearer home
love,— than with men:—

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gives the coward heart. Into the most pitiful and abject
“Fountain-heads and pathless groves, it will infuse a heart and courage to defy the world, so
Places which pale passion loves, only it have the countenance of the beloved object. In
Moonlight walks, when all the fowls giving him to another it still more gives him to himself.
Are safely housed, save bats and owls, He is a new man, with new perceptions, new and keener
A midnight bell, a passing groan,— purposes, and a religious solemnity of character and aims.
These are the sounds we feed upon.” He does not longer appertain to his family and society;
he is somewhat; he is a person; he is a soul.
Behold there in the wood the fine madman! He is a And here let us examine a little nearer the nature of
palace of sweet sounds and sights; he dilates; he is twice that influence which is thus potent over the human youth.
a man; he walks with arms akimbo; he soliloquizes; he Beauty, whose revelation to man we now celebrate, wel-
accosts the grass and the trees; he feels the blood of the come as the sun wherever it pleases to shine, which
violet, the clover and the lily in his veins; and he talks pleases everybody with it and with themselves, seems
with the brook that wets his foot. sufficient to itself. The lover cannot paint his maiden to
The heats that have opened his perceptions of natural his fancy poor and solitary. Like a tree in flower, so much
beauty have made him love music and verse. It is a fact soft, budding, informing loveliness is society for itself;
often observed, that men have written good verses under and she teaches his eye why Beauty was pictured with
the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under Loves and Graces attending her steps. Her existence makes
any other circumstances. the world rich. Though she extrudes all other persons
The like force has the passion over all his nature. It from his attention as cheap and unworthy, she indemni-
expands the sentiment; it makes the clown gentle and fies him by carrying out her own being into somewhat

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impersonal, large, mundane, so that the maiden stands the most excellent things, which all have this rainbow char-
to him for a representative of all select things and vir- acter, defying all attempts at appropriation and use. What
tues. For that reason the lover never sees personal re- else did Jean Paul Richter signify, when he said to music,
semblances in his mistress to her kindred or to others. “Away! away! thou speakest to me of things which in all
His friends find in her a likeness to her mother, or her my endless life I have not found, and shall not find.” The
sisters, or to persons not of her blood. The lover sees no same fluency may be observed in every work of the plastic
resemblance except to summer evenings and diamond arts. The statue is then beautiful when it begins to be
mornings, to rainbows and the song of birds. incomprehensible, when it is passing out of criticism and
The ancients called beauty the flowering of virtue. Who can no longer be defined by compass and measuring-wand,
can analyze the nameless charm which glances from one but demands an active imagination to go with it and to
and another face and form? We are touched with emo- say what it is in the act of doing. The god or hero of the
tions of tenderness and complacency, but we cannot find sculptor is always represented in a transition from that
whereat this dainty emotion, this wandering gleam, points. which is representable to the senses, to that which is not.
It is destroyed for the imagination by any attempt to Then first it ceases to be a stone. The same remark holds of
refer it to organization. Nor does it point to any relations painting. And of poetry the success is not attained when it
of friendship or love known and described in society, but, lulls and satisfies, but when it astonishes and fires us with
as it seems to me, to a quite other and unattainable new endeavors after the unattainable. Concerning it Landor
sphere, to relations of transcendent delicacy and sweet- inquires “whether it is not to be referred to some purer
ness, to what roses and violets hint and foreshow. We state of sensation and existence.”
cannot approach beauty. Its nature is like opaline doves’- In like manner, personal beauty is then first charming
neck lustres, hovering and evanescent. Herein it resembles and itself when it dissatisfies us with any end; when it

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becomes a story without an end; when it suggests gleams fair; and the man beholding such a person in the female
and visions and not earthly satisfactions; when it makes sex runs to her and finds the highest joy in contemplat-
the beholder feel his unworthiness; when he cannot feel ing the form, movement, and intelligence of this person,
his right to it, though he were Caesar; he cannot feel because it suggests to him the presence of that which
more right to it than to the firmament and the splendors indeed is within the beauty, and the cause of the beauty.
of a sunset. If however, from too much conversing with material
Hence arose the saying, “If I love you, what is that to objects, the soul was gross, and misplaced its satisfac-
you?” We say so because we feel that what we love is not tion in the body, it reaped nothing but sorrow; body be-
in your will, but above it. It is not you, but your radi- ing unable to fulfil the promise which beauty holds out;
ance. It is that which you know not in yourself and can but if, accepting the hint of these visions and sugges-
never know. tions which beauty makes to his mind, the soul passes
This agrees well with that high philosophy of Beauty through the body and falls to admire strokes of character,
which the ancient writers delighted in; for they said that and the lovers contemplate one another in their discourses
the soul of man, embodied here on earth, went roaming and their actions, then they pass to the true palace of
up and down in quest of that other world of its own out beauty, more and more inflame their love of it, and by
of which it came into this, but was soon stupefied by the this love extinguishing the base affection, as the sun
light of the natural sun, and unable to see any other puts out the fire by shining on the hearth, they become
objects than those of this world, which are but shadows pure and hallowed. By conversation with that which is in
of real things. Therefore the Deity sends the glory of youth itself excellent, magnanimous, lowly, and just, the lover
before the soul, that it may avail itself of beautiful bod- comes to a warmer love of these nobilities, and a quicker
ies as aids to its recollection of the celestial good and apprehension of them. Then he passes from loving them

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in one to loving them in all, and so is the one beautiful est discourse has a savor of hams and powdering-tubs.
soul only the door through which he enters to the society Worst, when this sensualism intrudes into the education
of all true and pure souls. In the particular society of his of young women, and withers the hope and affection of
mate he attains a clearer sight of any spot, any taint human nature by teaching that marriage signifies noth-
which her beauty has contracted from this world, and is ing but a housewife’s thrift, and that woman’s life has no
able to point it out, and this with mutual joy that they other aim.
are now able, without offence, to indicate blemishes and But this dream of love, though beautiful, is only one
hindrances in each other, and give to each all help and scene in our play. In the procession of the soul from
comfort in curing the same. And beholding in many souls within outward, it enlarges its circles ever, like the pebble
the traits of the divine beauty, and separating in each thrown into the pond, or the light proceeding from an
soul that which is divine from the taint which it has orb. The rays of the soul alight first on things nearest, on
contracted in the world, the lover ascends to the highest every utensil and toy, on nurses and domestics, on the
beauty, to the love and knowledge of the Divinity, by house and yard and passengers, on the circle of house-
steps on this ladder of created souls. hold acquaintance, on politics and geography and his-
Somewhat like this have the truly wise told us of love tory. But things are ever grouping themselves according
in all ages. The doctrine is not old, nor is it new. If Plato, to higher or more interior laws. Neighborhood, size, num-
Plutarch and Apuleius taught it, so have Petrarch, Angelo bers, habits, persons, lose by degrees their power over
and Milton. It awaits a truer unfolding in opposition and us. Cause and effect, real affinities, the longing for har-
rebuke to that subterranean prudence which presides at mony between the soul and the circumstance, the pro-
marriages with words that take hold of the upper world, gressive, idealizing instinct, predominate later, and the
whilst one eye is prowling in the cellar; so that its grav- step backward from the higher to the lower relations is

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impossible. Thus even love, which is the deification of this form full of soul, in this soul which is all form. The
persons, must become more impersonal every day. Of this lovers delight in endearments, in avowals of love, in com-
at first it gives no hint. Little think the youth and maiden parisons of their regards. When alone, they solace them-
who are glancing at each other across crowded rooms with selves with the remembered image of the other. Does
eyes so full of mutual intelligence, of the precious fruit that other see the same star, the same melting cloud,
long hereafter to proceed from this new, quite external read the same book, feel the same emotion, that now
stimulus. The work of vegetation begins first in the irrita- delight me? They try and weigh their affection, and add-
bility of the bark and leaf-buds. From exchanging glances, ing up costly advantages, friends, opportunities, proper-
they advance to acts of courtesy, of gallantry, then to fiery ties, exult in discovering that willingly, joyfully, they would
passion, to plighting troth and marriage. Passion beholds give all as a ransom for the beautiful, the beloved head,
its object as a perfect unit. The soul is wholly embodied, not one hair of which shall be harmed. But the lot of
and the body is wholly ensouled:— humanity is on these children. Danger, sorrow, and pain
arrive to them, as to all. Love prays. It makes covenants
“Her pure and eloquent blood with Eternal Power in behalf of this dear mate. The union
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought, which is thus effected and which adds a new value to
That one might almost say her body thought.” every atom in nature—for it transmutes every thread
throughout the whole web of relation into a golden ray,
Romeo, if dead, should be cut up into little stars to and bathes the soul in a new and sweeter element—is
make the heavens fine. Life, with this pair, has no other yet a temporary state. Not always can flowers, pearls,
aim, asks no more, than Juliet,—than Romeo. Night, day, poetry, protestations, nor even home in another heart,
studies, talents, kingdoms, religion, are all contained in content the awful soul that dwells in clay. It arouses

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itself at last from these endearments, as toys, and puts on
the harness and aspires to vast and universal aims. The The world rolls; the circumstances vary every hour. The
soul which is in the soul of each, craving a perfect beati- angels that inhabit this temple of the body appear at the
tude, detects incongruities, defects and disproportion in windows, and the gnomes and vices also. By all the vir-
the behavior of the other. Hence arise surprise, expostula- tues they are united. If there be virtue, all the vices are
tion and pain. Yet that which drew them to each other was known as such; they confess and flee. Their once flaming
signs of loveliness, signs of virtue; and these virtues are regard is sobered by time in either breast, and losing in
there, however eclipsed. They appear and reappear and violence what it gains in extent, it becomes a thorough
continue to attract; but the regard changes, quits the sign good understanding. They resign each other without com-
and attaches to the substance. This repairs the wounded plaint to the good offices which man and woman are
affection. Meantime, as life wears on, it proves a game of severally appointed to discharge in time, and exchange
permutation and combination of all possible positions of the passion which once could not lose sight of its object,
the parties, to employ all the resources of each and ac- for a cheerful, disengaged furtherance, whether present
quaint each with the strength and weakness of the other. or absent, of each other’s designs. At last they discover
For it is the nature and end of this relation, that they that all which at first drew them together,—those once
should represent the human race to each other. All that is sacred features, that magical play of charms,—was de-
in the world, which is or ought to be known, is cunningly ciduous, had a prospective end, like the scaffolding by
wrought into the texture of man, of woman:— which the house was built; and the purification of the
intellect and the heart from year to year is the real mar-
“The person love does to us fit, riage, foreseen and prepared from the first, and wholly
Like manna, has the taste of all in it.” above their consciousness. Looking at these aims with

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which two persons, a man and a woman, so variously and as clouds must lose their finite character and blend with
correlatively gifted, are shut up in one house to spend in God, to attain their own perfection. But we need not fear
the nuptial society forty or fifty years, I do not wonder at that we can lose any thing by the progress of the soul.
the emphasis with which the heart prophesies this crisis The soul may be trusted to the end. That which is so
from early infancy, at the profuse beauty with which the beautiful and attractive as these relations, must be suc-
instincts deck the nuptial bower, and nature and intellect ceeded and supplanted only by what is more beautiful,
and art emulate each other in the gifts and the melody and so on for ever.
they bring to the epithalamium.
Thus are we put in training for a love which knows not
sex, nor person, nor partiality, but which seeks virtue
and wisdom everywhere, to the end of increasing virtue
and wisdom. We are by nature observers, and thereby
learners. That is our permanent state. But we are often
made to feel that our affections are but tents of a night.
Though slowly and with pain, the objects of the affec-
tions change, as the objects of thought do. There are
moments when the affections rule and absorb the man
and make his happiness dependent on a person or per-
sons. But in health the mind is presently seen again,—
its overarching vault, bright with galaxies of immutable
lights, and the warm loves and fears that swept over us

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FRIENDSHIP VI. FRIENDSHIP

W
A ruddy drop of manly blood e have a great deal more kindness than is ever
The surging sea outweighs; spoken. Maugre all the selfishness that chills
The world uncertain comes and goes, like east winds the world, the whole human fam-
The lover rooted stays. I fancied he was fled, ily is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether.
And, after many a year, How many persons we meet in houses, whom we scarcely
Glowed unexhausted kindliness speak to, whom yet we honor, and who honor us! How
Like daily sunrise there. many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom,
My careful heart was free again,— though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! Read the
O friend, my bosom said, language of these wandering eye-beams. The heart
Through thee alone the sky is arched, knoweth.
Through thee the rose is red, The effect of the indulgence of this human affection is
All things through thee take nobler form a certain cordial exhilaration. In poetry and in common
And look beyond the earth, speech, the emotions of benevolence and complacency
The mill-round of our fate appears which are felt towards others are likened to the material
A sun-path in thy worth. effects of fire; so swift, or much more swift, more active,
Me too thy nobleness has taught more cheering, are these fine inward irradiations. From
To master my despair; the highest degree of passionate love to the lowest de-
The fountains of my hidden life gree of good-will, they make the sweetness of life.
Are through thy friendship fair. Our intellectual and active powers increase with our

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affection. The scholar sits down to write, and all his years taken leave for the time. For long hours we can continue
of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought a series of sincere, graceful, rich communications, drawn
or happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter from the oldest, secretest experience, so that they who
to a friend,—and forthwith troops of gentle thoughts sit by, of our own kinsfolk and acquaintance, shall feel a
invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words. lively surprise at our unusual powers. But as soon as the
See, in any house where virtue and self-respect abide, stranger begins to intrude his partialities, his definitions,
the palpitation which the approach of a stranger causes. his defects, into the conversation, it is all over. He has
A commended stranger is expected and announced, and heard the first, the last and best he will ever hear from
an uneasiness betwixt pleasure and pain invades all the us. He is no stranger now. Vulgarity, ignorance, misap-
hearts of a household. His arrival almost brings fear to prehension are old acquaintances. Now, when he comes,
the good hearts that would welcome him. The house is he may get the order, the dress and the dinner,—but the
dusted, all things fly into their places, the old coat is throbbing of the heart and the communications of the
exchanged for the new, and they must get up a dinner if soul, no more.
they can. Of a commended stranger, only the good report What is so pleasant as these jets of affection which
is told by others, only the good and new is heard by us. make a young world for me again? What so delicious as a
He stands to us for humanity. He is what we wish. Having just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feel-
imagined and invested him, we ask how we should stand ing? How beautiful, on their approach to this beating
related in conversation and action with such a man, and heart, the steps and forms of the gifted and the true! The
are uneasy with fear. The same idea exalts conversation moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamor-
with him. We talk better than we are wont. We have the phosed; there is no winter and no night; all tragedies, all
nimblest fancy, a richer memory, and our dumb devil has ennuis vanish,—all duties even; nothing fills the pro-

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ceeding eternity but the forms all radiant of beloved per- the thick walls of individual character, relation, age, sex,
sons. Let the soul be assured that somewhere in the uni- circumstance, at which he usually connives, and now makes
verse it should rejoin its friend, and it would be content many one. High thanks I owe you, excellent lovers, who
and cheerful alone for a thousand years. carry out the world for me to new and noble depths, and
I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my enlarge the meaning of all my thoughts. These are new
friends, the old and the new. Shall I not call God the poetry of the first Bard,—poetry without stop,—hymn,
Beautiful, who daily showeth himself so to me in his ode and epic, poetry still flowing, Apollo and the Muses
gifts? I chide society, I embrace solitude, and yet I am chanting still. Will these too separate themselves from me
not so ungrateful as not to see the wise, the lovely and again, or some of them? I know not, but I fear it not; for
the noble-minded, as from time to time they pass my my relation to them is so pure, that we hold by simple
gate. Who hears me, who understands me, becomes affinity, and the Genius of my life being thus social, the
mine,—a possession for all time. Nor is Nature so poor same affinity will exert its energy on whomsoever is as
but she gives me this joy several times, and thus we noble as these men and women, wherever I may be.
weave social threads of our own, a new web of relations; I confess to an extreme tenderness of nature on this
and, as many thoughts in succession substantiate them- point. It is almost dangerous to me to “crush the sweet
selves, we shall by and by stand in a new world of our poison of misused wine” of the affections. A new person
own creation, and no longer strangers and pilgrims in a is to me a great event and hinders me from sleep. I have
traditionary globe. My friends have come to me unsought. often had fine fancies about persons which have given
The great God gave them to me. By oldest right, by the me delicious hours; but the joy ends in the day; it yields
divine affinity of virtue with itself, I find them, or rather no fruit. Thought is not born of it; my action is very little
not I but the Deity in me and in them derides and cancels modified. I must feel pride in my friend’s accomplish-

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ments as if they were mine, and a property in his virtues. tion of this Elysian temple? Shall I not be as real as the
I feel as warmly when he is praised, as the lover when he things I see? If I am, I shall not fear to know them for
hears applause of his engaged maiden. We over-estimate what they are. Their essence is not less beautiful than
the conscience of our friend. His goodness seems better their appearance, though it needs finer organs for its
than our goodness, his nature finer, his temptations less. apprehension. The root of the plant is not unsightly to
Every thing that is his,—his name, his form, his dress, science, though for chaplets and festoons we cut the stem
books and instruments,—fancy enhances. Our own short. And I must hazard the production of the bald fact
thought sounds new and larger from his mouth. amidst these pleasing reveries, though it should prove
Yet the systole and diastole of the heart are not with- an Egyptian skull at our banquet. A man who stands united
out their analogy in the ebb and flow of love. Friendship, with his thought conceives magnificently of himself. He
like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be be- is conscious of a universal success, even though bought
lieved. The lover, beholding his maiden, half knows that by uniform particular failures. No advantages, no powers,
she is not verily that which he worships; and in the golden no gold or force, can be any match for him. I cannot
hour of friendship we are surprised with shades of suspi- choose but rely on my own poverty more than on your
cion and unbelief. We doubt that we bestow on our hero wealth. I cannot make your consciousness tantamount to
the virtues in which he shines, and afterwards worship mine. Only the star dazzles; the planet has a faint, moon-
the form to which we have ascribed this divine inhabita- like ray. I hear what you say of the admirable parts and
tion. In strictness, the soul does not respect men as it tried temper of the party you praise, but I see well that
respects itself. In strict science all persons underlie the for all his purple cloaks I shall not like him, unless he is
same condition of an infinite remoteness. Shall we fear at last a poor Greek like me. I cannot deny it, O friend,
to cool our love by mining for the metaphysical founda- that the vast shadow of the Phenomenal includes thee

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also in its pied and painted immensity,—thee also, com- Dear Friend,
pared with whom all else is shadow. Thou art not Being,
as Truth is, as Justice is,—thou art not my soul, but a If I was sure of thee, sure of thy capacity, sure to match
picture and effigy of that. Thou hast come to me lately, my mood with thine, I should never think again of trifles
and already thou art seizing thy hat and cloak. Is it not in relation to thy comings and goings. I am not very
that the soul puts forth friends as the tree puts forth wise; my moods are quite attainable, and I respect thy
leaves, and presently, by the germination of new buds, genius; it is to me as yet unfathomed; yet dare I not
extrudes the old leaf? The law of nature is alternation for presume in thee a perfect intelligence of me, and so thou
evermore. Each electrical state superinduces the oppo- art to me a delicious torment. Thine ever, or never.
site. The soul environs itself with friends that it may Yet these uneasy pleasures and fine pains are for curi-
enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude; and it osity and not for life. They are not to be indulged. This is
goes alone for a season, that it may exalt its conversa- to weave cobweb, and not cloth. Our friendships hurry to
tion or society. This method betrays itself along the whole short and poor conclusions, because we have made them
history of our personal relations. The instinct of affec- a texture of wine and dreams, instead of the tough fibre
tion revives the hope of union with our mates, and the of the human heart. The laws of friendship are austere
returning sense of insulation recalls us from the chase. and eternal, of one web with the laws of nature and of
Thus every man passes his life in the search after friend- morals. But we have aimed at a swift and petty benefit,
ship, and if he should record his true sentiment, he might to suck a sudden sweetness. We snatch at the slowest
write a letter like this to each new candidate for his love:— fruit in the whole garden of God, which many summers
and many winters must ripen. We seek our friend not
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appropriate him to ourselves. In vain. We are armed all
over with subtle antagonisms, which, as soon as we meet, “The valiant warrior famoused for fight,
begin to play, and translate all poetry into stale prose. After a hundred victories, once foiled,
Almost all people descend to meet. All association must Is from the book of honor razed quite,
be a compromise, and, what is worst, the very flower and And all the rest forgot for which he toiled.”
aroma of the flower of each of the beautiful natures dis-
appears as they approach each other. What a perpetual Our impatience is thus sharply rebuked. Bashfulness
disappointment is actual society, even of the virtuous and apathy are a tough husk in which a delicate organi-
and gifted! After interviews have been compassed with zation is protected from premature ripening. It would be
long foresight we must be tormented presently by baffled lost if it knew itself before any of the best souls were yet
blows, by sudden, unseasonable apathies, by epilepsies ripe enough to know and own it. Respect the
of wit and of animal spirits, in the heyday of friendship naturlangsamkeit which hardens the ruby in a million
and thought. Our faculties do not play us true, and both years, and works in duration in which Alps and Andes
parties are relieved by solitude. come and go as rainbows. The good spirit of our life has
I ought to be equal to every relation. It makes no dif- no heaven which is the price of rashness. Love, which is
ference how many friends I have and what content I can the essence of God, is not for levity, but for the total
find in conversing with each, if there be one to whom I worth of man. Let us not have this childish luxury in our
am not equal. If I have shrunk unequal from one contest, regards, but the austerest worth; let us approach our friend
the joy I find in all the rest becomes mean and cowardly. with an audacious trust in the truth of his heart, in the
I should hate myself, if then I made my other friends my breadth, impossible to be overturned, of his foundations.
asylum:— The attractions of this subject are not to be resisted,

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and I leave, for the time, all account of subordinate so- competitors. He proposes himself for contests where Time,
cial benefit, to speak of that select and sacred relation Want, Danger, are in the lists, and he alone is victor who
which is a kind of absolute, and which even leaves the has truth enough in his constitution to preserve the deli-
language of love suspicious and common, so much is this cacy of his beauty from the wear and tear of all these.
purer, and nothing is so much divine. The gifts of fortune may be present or absent, but all the
I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with speed in that contest depends on intrinsic nobleness and
roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass the contempt of trifles. There are two elements that go
threads or frostwork, but the solidest thing we know. For to the composition of friendship, each so sovereign that
now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know I can detect no superiority in either, no reason why ei-
of nature or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken ther should be first named. One is truth. A friend is a
toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may
condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man
But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace which I draw so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost
from this alliance with my brother’s soul is the nut itself garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought,
whereof all nature and all thought is but the husk and which men never put off, and may deal with him with the
shell. Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom
well be built, like a festal bower or arch, to entertain him meets another. Sincerity is the luxury allowed, like dia-
a single day. Happier, if he know the solemnity of that dems and authority, only to the highest rank; that being
relation and honor its law! He who offers himself a candi- permitted to speak truth, as having none above it to
date for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to court or conform unto. Every man alone is sincere. At the
the great games where the first-born of the world are the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry

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and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, some fame, some talent, some whim of religion or philan-
by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thropy in his head that is not to be questioned, and which
thought from him under a hundred folds. I knew a man spoils all conversation with him. But a friend is a sane
who under a certain religious frenzy cast off this drapery, man who exercises not my ingenuity, but me. My friend
and omitting all compliment and commonplace, spoke to gives me entertainment without requiring any stipulation
the conscience of every person he encountered, and that on my part. A friend therefore is a sort of paradox in na-
with great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, ture. I who alone am, I who see nothing in nature whose
and all men agreed he was mad. But persisting—as in- existence I can affirm with equal evidence to my own,
deed he could not help doing—for some time in this behold now the semblance of my being, in all its height,
course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every variety, and curiosity, reiterated in a foreign form; so that
man of his acquaintance into true relations with him. No a friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
man would think of speaking falsely with him, or of put- The other element of friendship is tenderness. We are
ting him off with any chat of markets or reading-rooms. holden to men by every sort of tie, by blood, by pride, by
But every man was constrained by so much sincerity to fear, by hope, by lucre, by lust, by hate, by admiration,
the like plaindealing, and what love of nature, what po- by every circumstance and badge and trifle, —but we
etry, what symbol of truth he had, he did certainly show can scarce believe that so much character can subsist in
him. But to most of us society shows not its face and another as to draw us by love. Can another be so blessed
eye, but its side and its back. To stand in true relations and we so pure that we can offer him tenderness? When
with men in a false age is worth a fit of insanity, is it a man becomes dear to me I have touched the goal of
not? We can seldom go erect. Almost every man we meet fortune. I find very little written directly to the heart of
requires some civility,—requires to be humored; he has this matter in books. And yet I have one text which I

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cannot choose but remember. My author says, —”I offer taverns. The end of friendship is a commerce the most
myself faintly and bluntly to those whose I effectually strict and homely that can be joined; more strict than
am, and tender myself least to him to whom I am the any of which we have experience. It is for aid and com-
most devoted.” I wish that friendship should have feet, fort through all the relations and passages of life and
as well as eyes and eloquence. It must plant itself on the death. It is fit for serene days and graceful gifts and
ground, before it vaults over the moon. I wish it to be a country rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare,
little of a citizen, before it is quite a cherub. We chide shipwreck, poverty, and persecution. It keeps company
the citizen because he makes love a commodity. It is an with the sallies of the wit and the trances of religion. We
exchange of gifts, of useful loans; it is good neighbor- are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of
hood; it watches with the sick; it holds the pall at the man’s life, and embellish it by courage, wisdom and unity.
funeral; and quite loses sight of the delicacies and nobil- It should never fall into something usual and settled, but
ity of the relation. But though we cannot find the god should be alert and inventive and add rhyme and reason
under this disguise of a sutler, yet on the other hand we to what was drudgery.
cannot forgive the poet if he spins his thread too fine Friendship may be said to require natures so rare and
and does not substantiate his romance by the municipal costly, each so well tempered and so happily adapted,
virtues of justice, punctuality, fidelity and pity. I hate and withal so circumstanced (for even in that particular,
the prostitution of the name of friendship to signify mod- a poet says, love demands that the parties be altogether
ish and worldly alliances. I much prefer the company of paired), that its satisfaction can very seldom be assured.
ploughboys and tin-peddlers to the silken and perfumed It cannot subsist in its perfection, say some of those who
amity which celebrates its days of encounter by a frivo- are learned in this warm lore of the heart, betwixt more
lous display, by rides in a curricle and dinners at the best than two. I am not quite so strict in my terms, perhaps

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because I have never known so high a fellowship as oth- own. Now this convention, which good sense demands,
ers. I please my imagination more with a circle of godlike destroys the high freedom of great conversation, which
men and women variously related to each other and be- requires an absolute running of two souls into one.
tween whom subsists a lofty intelligence. But I find this No two men but being left alone with each other enter
law of one to one peremptory for conversation, which is into simpler relations. Yet it is affinity that determines
the practice and consummation of friendship. Do not mix which two shall converse. Unrelated men give little joy
waters too much. The best mix as ill as good and bad. to each other, will never suspect the latent powers of
You shall have very useful and cheering discourse at sev- each. We talk sometimes of a great talent for conversa-
eral times with two several men, but let all three of you tion, as if it were a permanent property in some individu-
come together and you shall not have one new and hearty als. Conversation is an evanescent relation,—no more. A
word. Two may talk and one may hear, but three cannot man is reputed to have thought and eloquence; he can-
take part in a conversation of the most sincere and search- not, for all that, say a word to his cousin or his uncle.
ing sort. In good company there is never such discourse They accuse his silence with as much reason as they would
between two, across the table, as takes place when you blame the insignificance of a dial in the shade. In the
leave them alone. In good company the individuals merge sun it will mark the hour. Among those who enjoy his
their egotism into a social soul exactly co-extensive with thought he will regain his tongue.
the several consciousnesses there present. No partialities Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and
of friend to friend, no fondnesses of brother to sister, of unlikeness that piques each with the presence of power
wife to husband, are there pertinent, but quite other- and of consent in the other party. Let me be alone to the
wise. Only he may then speak who can sail on the com- end of the world, rather than that my friend should over-
mon thought of the party, and not poorly limited to his step, by a word or a look, his real sympathy. I am equally

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balked by antagonism and by compliance. Let him not that you cannot honor if you must needs hold him close
cease an instant to be himself. The only joy I have in his to your person. Stand aside; give those merits room; let
being mine, is that the not mine is mine. I hate, where I them mount and expand. Are you the friend of your friend’s
looked for a manly furtherance, or at least a manly resis- buttons, or of his thought? To a great heart he will still
tance, to find a mush of concession. Better be a nettle in be a stranger in a thousand particulars, that he may come
the side of your friend than his echo. The condition which near in the holiest ground. Leave it to girls and boys to
high friendship demands is ability to do without it. That regard a friend as property, and to suck a short and all-
high office requires great and sublime parts. There must confounding pleasure, instead of the noblest benefit.
be very two, before there can be very one. Let it be an Let us buy our entrance to this guild by a long proba-
alliance of two large, formidable natures, mutually be- tion. Why should we desecrate noble and beautiful souls
held, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep by intruding on them? Why insist on rash personal rela-
identity which, beneath these disparities, unites them. tions with your friend? Why go to his house, or know his
He only is fit for this society who is magnanimous; who mother and brother and sisters? Why be visited by him at
is sure that greatness and goodness are always economy; your own? Are these things material to our covenant?
who is not swift to intermeddle with his fortunes. Let Leave this touching and clawing. Let him be to me a
him not intermeddle with this. Leave to the diamond its spirit. A message, a thought, a sincerity, a glance from
ages to grow, nor expect to accelerate the births of the him, I want, but not news, nor pottage. I can get politics
eternal. Friendship demands a religious treatment. We and chat and neighborly conveniences from cheaper com-
talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected. panions. Should not the society of my friend be to me
Reverence is a great part of it. Treat your friend as a poetic, pure, universal and great as nature itself? Ought I
spectacle. Of course he has merits that are not yours, and to feel that our tie is profane in comparison with yonder

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bar of cloud that sleeps on the horizon, or that clump of There is at least this satisfaction in crime, according to
waving grass that divides the brook? Let us not vilify, but the Latin proverb;—you can speak to your accomplice on
raise it to that standard. That great defying eye, that even terms. Crimen quos inquinat, aequat. To those whom
scornful beauty of his mien and action, do not pique we admire and love, at first we cannot. Yet the least
yourself on reducing, but rather fortify and enhance. defect of self-possession vitiates, in my judgment, the
Worship his superiorities; wish him not less by a thought, entire relation. There can never be deep peace between
but hoard and tell them all. Guard him as thy counter- two spirits, never mutual respect, until in their dialogue
part. Let him be to thee for ever a sort of beautiful en- each stands for the whole world.
emy, untamable, devoutly revered, and not a trivial What is so great as friendship, let us carry with what
conveniency to be soon outgrown and cast aside. The grandeur of spirit we can. Let us be silent,—so we may
hues of the opal, the light of the diamond, are not to be hear the whisper of the gods. Let us not interfere. Who
seen if the eye is too near. To my friend I write a letter set you to cast about what you should say to the select
and from him I receive a letter. That seems to you a souls, or how to say any thing to such? No matter how
little. It suffices me. It is a spiritual gift worthy of him to ingenious, no matter how graceful and bland. There are
give and of me to receive. It profanes nobody. In these innumerable degrees of folly and wisdom, and for you to
warm lines the heart will trust itself, as it will not to the say aught is to be frivolous. Wait, and thy heart shall
tongue, and pour out the prophecy of a godlier existence speak. Wait until the necessary and everlasting overpow-
than all the annals of heroism have yet made good. ers you, until day and night avail themselves of your lips.
Respect so far the holy laws of this fellowship as not to The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have
prejudice its perfect flower by your impatience for its a friend is to be one. You shall not come nearer a man by
opening. We must be our own before we can be another’s. getting into his house. If unlike, his soul only flees the

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faster from you, and you shall never catch a true glance congratulate ourselves that the period of nonage, of fol-
of his eye. We see the noble afar off and they repel us; lies, of blunders and of shame, is passed in solitude, and
why should we intrude? Late,—very late,—we perceive when we are finished men we shall grasp heroic hands in
that no arrangements, no introductions, no consuetudes heroic hands. Only be admonished by what you already
or habits of society would be of any avail to establish us see, not to strike leagues of friendship with cheap per-
in such relations with them as we desire,—but solely the sons, where no friendship can be. Our impatience betrays
uprise of nature in us to the same degree it is in them; us into rash and foolish alliances which no god attends.
then shall we meet as water with water; and if we should By persisting in your path, though you forfeit the little
not meet them then, we shall not want them, for we are you gain the great. You demonstrate yourself, so as to
already they. In the last analysis, love is only the reflec- put yourself out of the reach of false relations, and you
tion of a man’s own worthiness from other men. Men draw to you the first-born of the world,—those rare pil-
have sometimes exchanged names with their friends, as grims whereof only one or two wander in nature at once,
if they would signify that in their friend each loved his and before whom the vulgar great show as spectres and
own soul. shadows merely.
The higher the style we demand of friendship, of course It is foolish to be afraid of making our ties too spiri-
the less easy to establish it with flesh and blood. We tual, as if so we could lose any genuine love. Whatever
walk alone in the world. Friends such as we desire are correction of our popular views we make from insight,
dreams and fables. But a sublime hope cheers ever the nature will be sure to bear us out in, and though it seem
faithful heart, that elsewhere, in other regions of the to rob us of some joy, will repay us with a greater. Let us
universal power, souls are now acting, enduring, and dar- feel if we will the absolute insulation of man. We are sure
ing, which can love us and which we can love. We may that we have all in us. We go to Europe, or we pursue

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persons, or we read books, in the instinctive faith that seize them, I go out that I may seize them. I fear only
these will call it out and reveal us to ourselves. Beggars that I may lose them receding into the sky in which now
all. The persons are such as we; the Europe, an old faded they are only a patch of brighter light. Then, though I
garment of dead persons; the books, their ghosts. Let us prize my friends, I cannot afford to talk with them and
drop this idolatry. Let us give over this mendicancy. Let study their visions, lest I lose my own. It would indeed
us even bid our dearest friends farewell, and defy them, give me a certain household joy to quit this lofty seek-
saying, ‘Who are you? Unhand me: I will be dependent no ing, this spiritual astronomy or search of stars, and come
more.’ Ah! seest thou not, O brother, that thus we part down to warm sympathies with you; but then I know well
only to meet again on a higher platform, and only be I shall mourn always the vanishing of my mighty gods. It
more each other’s because we are more our own? A friend is true, next week I shall have languid moods, when I can
is Janus-faced; he looks to the past and the future. He is well afford to occupy myself with foreign objects; then I
the child of all my foregoing hours, the prophet of those shall regret the lost literature of your mind, and wish you
to come, and the harbinger of a greater friend. were by my side again. But if you come, perhaps you will
I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I fill my mind only with new visions; not with yourself but
would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use with your lustres, and I shall not be able any more than
them. We must have society on our own terms, and admit now to converse with you. So I will owe to my friends
or exclude it on the slightest cause. I cannot afford to this evanescent intercourse. I will receive from them not
speak much with my friend. If he is great he makes me so what they have but what they are. They shall give me
great that I cannot descend to converse. In the great that which properly they cannot give, but which ema-
days, presentiments hover before me in the firmament. I nates from them. But they shall not hold me by any rela-
ought then to dedicate myself to them. I go in that I may tions less subtile and pure. We will meet as though we

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met not, and part as though we parted not. PRUDENCE
It has seemed to me lately more possible than I knew, to
carry a friendship greatly, on one side, without due corre- Theme no poet gladly sung,
spondence on the other. Why should I cumber myself with Fair to old and foul to young;
regrets that the receiver is not capacious? It never troubles Scorn not thou the love of parts,
the sun that some of his rays fall wide and vain into un- And the articles of arts.
grateful space, and only a small part on the reflecting Grandeur of the perfect sphere
planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold com- Thanks the atoms that cohere.
panion. If he is unequal he will presently pass away; but
thou art enlarged by thy own shining, and no longer a VII. PRUDENCE
mate for frogs and worms, dost soar and burn with the

W
gods of the empyrean. It is thought a disgrace to love hat right have I to write on Prudence, whereof
unrequited. But the great will see that true love cannot be I have Little, and that of the negative sort? My
unrequited. True love transcends the unworthy object and prudence consists in avoiding and going with-
dwells and broods on the eternal, and when the poor inter- out, not in the inventing of means and methods, not in
posed mask crumbles, it is not sad, but feels rid of so much adroit steering, not in gentle repairing. I have no skill to
earth and feels its independency the surer. Yet these things make money spend well, no genius in my economy, and
may hardly be said without a sort of treachery to the rela- whoever sees my garden discovers that I must have some
tion. The essence of friendship is entireness, a total mag- other garden. Yet I love facts, and hate lubricity and
nanimity and trust. It must not surmise or provide for in- people without perception. Then I have the same title to
firmity. It treats its object as a god, that it may deify both. write on prudence that I have to write on poetry or holi-

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ness. We write from aspiration and antagonism, as well is false when detached. It is legitimate when it is the
as from experience. We paint those qualities which we do Natural History of the soul incarnate, when it unfolds the
not possess. The poet admires the man of energy and beauty of laws within the narrow scope of the senses.
tactics; the merchant breeds his son for the church or the There are all degrees of proficiency in knowledge of the
bar; and where a man is not vain and egotistic you shall world. It is sufficient to our present purpose to indicate
find what he has not by his praise. Moreover it would be three. One class live to the utility of the symbol, esteem-
hardly honest in me not to balance these fine lyric words ing health and wealth a final good. Another class live
of Love and Friendship with words of coarser sound, and above this mark to the beauty of the symbol, as the poet
whilst my debt to my senses is real and constant, not to and artist and the naturalist and man of science. A third
own it in passing. class live above the beauty of the symbol to the beauty
Prudence is the virtue of the senses. It is the science of of the thing signified; these are wise men. The first class
appearances. It is the outmost action of the inward life. have common sense; the second, taste; and the third,
It is God taking thought for oxen. It moves matter after spiritual perception. Once in a long time, a man traverses
the laws of matter. It is content to seek health of body by the whole scale, and sees and enjoys the symbol solidly,
complying with physical conditions, and health of mind then also has a clear eye for its beauty, and lastly, whilst
by the laws of the intellect. he pitches his tent on this sacred volcanic isle of nature,
The world of the senses is a world of shows; it does not does not offer to build houses and barns thereon,—rev-
exist for itself, but has a symbolic character; and a true erencing the splendor of the God which he sees bursting
prudence or law of shows recognizes the co-presence of through each chink and cranny.
other laws and knows that its own office is subaltern; knows The world is filled with the proverbs and acts and
that it is surface and not centre where it works. Prudence winkings of a base prudence, which is a devotion to mat-

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ter, as if we possessed no other faculties than the palate, It is nature’s joke, and therefore literature’s. The true
the nose, the touch, the eye and ear; a prudence which prudence limits this sensualism by admitting the knowl-
adores the Rule of Three, which never subscribes, which edge of an internal and real world. This recognition once
never gives, which seldom lends, and asks but one ques- made, the order of the world and the distribution of af-
tion of any project,—Will it bake bread? This is a disease fairs and times, being studied with the co-perception of
like a thickening of the skin until the vital organs are their subordinate place, will reward any degree of atten-
destroyed. But culture, revealing the high origin of the tion. For our existence, thus apparently attached in na-
apparent world and aiming at the perfection of the man ture to the sun and the returning moon and the periods
as the end, degrades every thing else, as health and bodily which they mark,—so susceptible to climate and to coun-
life, into means. It sees prudence not to be a several try, so alive to social good and evil, so fond of splendor
faculty, but a name for wisdom and virtue conversing and so tender to hunger and cold and debt,—reads all its
with the body and its wants. Cultivated men always feel primary lessons out of these books.
and speak so, as if a great fortune, the achievement of a Prudence does not go behind nature and ask whence it
civil or social measure, great personal influence, a grace- is. It takes the laws of the world whereby man’s being is
ful and commanding address, had their value as proofs of conditioned, as they are, and keeps these laws that it
the energy of the spirit. If a man lose his balance and may enjoy their proper good. It respects space and time,
immerse himself in any trades or pleasures for their own climate, want, sleep, the law of polarity, growth and death.
sake, he may be a good wheel or pin, but he is not a There revolve, to give bound and period to his being on
cultivated man. all sides, the sun and moon, the great formalists in the
The spurious prudence, making the senses final, is the sky: here lies stubborn matter, and will not swerve from
god of sots and cowards, and is the subject of all comedy. its chemical routine. Here is a planted globe, pierced and

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belted with natural laws and fenced and distributed ex- snow make the inhabitant of the northern temperate zone
ternally with civil partitions and properties which impose wiser and abler than his fellow who enjoys the fixed smile
new restraints on the young inhabitant. of the tropics. The islander may ramble all day at will. At
We eat of the bread which grows in the field. We live by night he may sleep on a mat under the moon, and wher-
the air which blows around us and we are poisoned by ever a wild date-tree grows, nature has, without a prayer
the air that is too cold or too hot, too dry or too wet. even, spread a table for his morning meal. The northerner
Time, which shows so vacant, indivisible and divine in its is perforce a householder. He must brew, bake, salt and
coming, is slit and peddled into trifles and tatters. A preserve his food, and pile wood and coal. But as it hap-
door is to be painted, a lock to be repaired. I want wood pens that not one stroke can labor lay to without some
or oil, or meal or salt; the house smokes, or I have a new acquaintance with nature, and as nature is inexhaust-
headache; then the tax, and an affair to be transacted ibly significant, the inhabitants of these climates have
with a man without heart or brains, and the stinging always excelled the southerner in force. Such is the value
recollection of an injurious or very awkward word,—these of these matters that a man who knows other things can
eat up the hours. Do what we can, summer will have its never know too much of these. Let him have accurate
flies; if we walk in the woods we must feed mosquitos; if perceptions. Let him, if he have hands, handle; if eyes,
we go a-fishing we must expect a wet coat. Then climate measure and discriminate; let him accept and hive every
is a great impediment to idle persons; we often resolve fact of chemistry, natural history and economics; the more
to give up the care of the weather, but still we regard the he has, the less is he willing to spare any one. Time is
clouds and the rain. always bringing the occasions that disclose their value.
We are instructed by these petty experiences which usurp Some wisdom comes out of every natural and innocent
the hours and years. The hard soil and four months of action. The domestic man, who loves no music so well as

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his kitchen clock and the airs which the logs sing to him On the other hand, nature punishes any neglect of pru-
as they burn on the hearth, has solaces which others dence. If you think the senses final, obey their law. If
never dream of. The application of means to ends insures you believe in the soul, do not clutch at sensual sweet-
victory and the songs of victory not less in a farm or a ness before it is ripe on the slow tree of cause and effect.
shop than in the tactics of party or of war. The good It is vinegar to the eyes to deal with men of loose and
husband finds method as efficient in the packing of fire- imperfect perception. Dr. Johnson is reported to have
wood in a shed or in the harvesting of fruits in the cellar, said, —”If the child says he looked out of this window,
as in Peninsular campaigns or the files of the Department when he looked out of that,—whip him.” Our American
of State. In the rainy day he builds a work-bench, or gets character is marked by a more than average delight in
his tool-box set in the corner of the barn-chamber, and accurate perception, which is shown by the currency of
stored with nails, gimlet, pincers, screwdriver and chisel. the byword, “No mistake.” But the discomfort of
Herein he tastes an old joy of youth and childhood, the unpunctuality, of confusion of thought about facts, of
cat-like love of garrets, presses and corn-chambers, and inattention to the wants of to-morrow, is of no nation.
of the conveniences of long housekeeping. His garden or The beautiful laws of time and space, once dislocated by
his poultry-yard tells him many pleasant anecdotes. One our inaptitude, are holes and dens. If the hive be dis-
might find argument for optimism in the abundant flow turbed by rash and stupid hands, instead of honey it will
of this saccharine element of pleasure in every suburb yield us bees. Our words and actions to be fair must be
and extremity of the good world. Let a man keep the timely. A gay and pleasant sound is the whetting of the
law,—any law,—and his way will be strown with satis- scythe in the mornings of June, yet what is more lone-
factions. There is more difference in the quality of our some and sad than the sound of a whetstone or mower’s
pleasures than in the amount. rifle when it is too late in the season to make hay? Scat-

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ter-brained and “afternoon” men spoil much more than who worship the Virgin and Child. Nevertheless, it awak-
their own affair in spoiling the temper of those who deal ens a deeper impression than the contortions of ten cruci-
with them. I have seen a criticism on some paintings, of fied martyrs. For beside all the resistless beauty of form, it
which I am reminded when I see the shiftless and un- possesses in the highest degree the property of the per-
happy men who are not true to their senses. The last pendicularity of all the figures.” This perpendicularity we
Grand Duke of Weimar, a man of superior understanding, demand of all the figures in this picture of life. Let them
said,—”I have sometimes remarked in the presence of stand on their feet, and not float and swing. Let us know
great works of art, and just now especially in Dresden, where to find them. Let them discriminate between what
how much a certain property contributes to the effect they remember and what they dreamed, call a spade a spade,
which gives life to the figures, and to the life an irresist- give us facts, and honor their own senses with trust.
ible truth. This property is the hitting, in all the figures But what man shall dare tax another with imprudence?
we draw, the right centre of gravity. I mean the placing Who is prudent? The men we call greatest are least in this
the figures firm upon their feet, making the hands grasp, kingdom. There is a certain fatal dislocation in our rela-
and fastening the eyes on the spot where they should tion to nature, distorting our modes of living and making
look. Even lifeless figures, as vessels and stools—let them every law our enemy, which seems at last to have aroused
be drawn ever so correctly—lose all effect so soon as all the wit and virtue in the world to ponder the question
they lack the resting upon their centre of gravity, and of Reform. We must call the highest prudence to counsel,
have a certain swimming and oscillating appearance. The and ask why health and beauty and genius should now be
Raphael in the Dresden gallery (the only greatly affect- the exception rather than the rule of human nature? We
ing picture which I have seen) is the quietest and most do not know the properties of plants and animals and the
passionless piece you can imagine; a couple of saints laws of nature, through our sympathy with the same; but

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this remains the dream of poets. Poetry and prudence should We have found out fine names to cover our sensuality
be coincident. Poets should be lawgivers; that is, the boldest withal, but no gifts can raise intemperance. The man of
lyric inspiration should not chide and insult, but should talent affects to call his transgressions of the laws of the
announce and lead the civil code and the day’s work. But senses trivial and to count them nothing considered with
now the two things seem irreconcilably parted. We have his devotion to his art. His art never taught him lewd-
violated law upon law until we stand amidst ruins, and ness, nor the love of wine, nor the wish to reap where he
when by chance we espy a coincidence between reason had not sowed. His art is less for every deduction from
and the phenomena, we are surprised. Beauty should be his holiness, and less for every defect of common sense.
the dowry of every man and woman, as invariably as sen- On him who scorned the world as he said, the scorned
sation; but it is rare. Health or sound organization should world wreaks its revenge. He that despiseth small things
be universal. Genius should be the child of genius and will perish by little and little. Goethe’s Tasso is very likely
every child should be inspired; but now it is not to be to be a pretty fair historical portrait, and that is true
predicted of any child, and nowhere is it pure. We call tragedy. It does not seem to me so genuine grief when
partial half-lights, by courtesy, genius; talent which con- some tyrannous Richard the Third oppresses and slays a
verts itself to money; talent which glitters to-day that it score of innocent persons, as when Antonio and Tasso,
may dine and sleep well to-morrow; and society is officered both apparently right, wrong each other. One living after
by men of parts, as they are properly called, and not by the maxims of this world and consistent and true to them,
divine men. These use their gifts to refine luxury, not to the other fired with all divine sentiments, yet grasping
abolish it. Genius is always ascetic, and piety, and love. also at the pleasures of sense, without submitting to their
Appetite shows to the finer souls as a disease, and they law. That is a grief we all feel, a knot we cannot untie.
find beauty in rites and bounds that resist it. Tasso’s is no infrequent case in modern biography. A man

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of genius, of an ardent temperament, reckless of physical Is it not better that a man should accept the first pains
laws, self-indulgent, becomes presently unfortunate, and mortifications of this sort, which nature is not slack
querulous, a “discomfortable cousin,” a thorn to himself in sending him, as hints that he must expect no other
and to others. good than the just fruit of his own labor and self-denial?
The scholar shames us by his bifold life. Whilst some- Health, bread, climate, social position, have their impor-
thing higher than prudence is active, he is admirable; tance, and he will give them their due. Let him esteem
when common sense is wanted, he is an encumbrance. Nature a perpetual counsellor, and her perfections the
Yesterday, Caesar was not so great; to-day, the felon at exact measure of our deviations. Let him make the night
the gallows’ foot is not more miserable. Yesterday, radi- night, and the day day. Let him control the habit of ex-
ant with the light of an ideal world in which he lives, the pense. Let him see that as much wisdom may be expended
first of men; and now oppressed by wants and by sick- on a private economy as on an empire, and as much wis-
ness, for which he must thank himself. He resembles the dom may be drawn from it. The laws of the world are
pitiful drivellers whom travellers describe as frequenting written out for him on every piece of money in his hand.
the bazaars of Constantinople, who skulk about all day, There is nothing he will not be the better for knowing,
yellow, emaciated, ragged, sneaking; and at evening, when were it only the wisdom of Poor Richard, or the State-
the bazaars are open, slink to the opium-shop, swallow Street prudence of buying by the acre to sell by the foot;
their morsel and become tranquil and glorified seers. And or the thrift of the agriculturist, to stick a tree between
who has not seen the tragedy of imprudent genius strug- whiles, because it will grow whilst he sleeps; or the pru-
gling for years with paltry pecuniary difficulties, at last dence which consists in husbanding little strokes of the
sinking, chilled, exhausted and fruitless, like a giant tool, little portions of time, particles of stock and small
slaughtered by pins? gains. The eye of prudence may never shut. Iron, if kept

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at the ironmonger’s, will rust; beer, if not brewed in the in bitter and false relations to other men; for the best
right state of the atmosphere, will sour; timber of ships good of wealth is freedom. Let him practise the minor
will rot at sea, or if laid up high and dry, will strain, warp virtues. How much of human life is lost in waiting! let
and dry-rot; money, if kept by us, yields no rent and is him not make his fellow-creatures wait. How many words
liable to loss; if invested, is liable to depreciation of the and promises are promises of conversation! Let his be
particular kind of stock. Strike, says the smith, the iron is words of fate. When he sees a folded and sealed scrap of
white; keep the rake, says the haymaker, as nigh the scythe paper float round the globe in a pine ship and come safe
as you can, and the cart as nigh the rake. Our Yankee to the eye for which it was written, amidst a swarming
trade is reputed to be very much on the extreme of this population, let him likewise feel the admonition to inte-
prudence. It takes bank-notes, good, bad, clean, ragged, grate his being across all these distracting forces, and
and saves itself by the speed with which it passes them keep a slender human word among the storms, distances
off. Iron cannot rust, nor beer sour, nor timber rot, nor and accidents that drive us hither and thither, and, by
calicoes go out of fashion, nor money stocks depreciate, persistency, make the paltry force of one man reappear
in the few swift moments in which the Yankee suffers any to redeem its pledge after months and years in the most
one of them to remain in his possession. In skating over distant climates.
thin ice our safety is in our speed. We must not try to write the laws of any one virtue,
Let him learn a prudence of a higher strain. Let him looking at that only. Human nature loves no contradic-
learn that every thing in nature, even motes and feath- tions, but is symmetrical. The prudence which secures an
ers, go by law and not by luck, and that what he sows he outward well-being is not to be studied by one set of
reaps. By diligence and self-command let him put the men, whilst heroism and holiness are studied by another,
bread he eats at his own disposal, that he may not stand but they are reconcilable. Prudence concerns the present

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time, persons, property and existing forms. But as every groundless. The Latin proverb says, “In battles the eye is
fact hath its roots in the soul, and if the soul were first overcome.” Entire self-possession may make a battle
changed, would cease to be, or would become some other very little more dangerous to life than a match at foils or
thing,—the proper administration of outward things will at football. Examples are cited by soldiers of men who
always rest on a just apprehension of their cause and have seen the cannon pointed and the fire given to it,
origin; that is, the good man will be the wise man, and and who have stepped aside from the path of the ball.
the single-hearted the politic man. Every violation of truth The terrors of the storm are chiefly confined to the parlor
is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the and the cabin. The drover, the sailor, buffets it all day,
health of human society. On the most profitable lie the and his health renews itself at as vigorous a pulse under
course of events presently lays a destructive tax; whilst the sleet as under the sun of June.
frankness invites frankness, puts the parties on a conve- In the occurrence of unpleasant things among neigh-
nient footing and makes their business a friendship. Trust bors, fear comes readily to heart and magnifies the con-
men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and sequence of the other party; but it is a bad counsellor.
they will show themselves great, though they make an Every man is actually weak and apparently strong. To him-
exception in your favor to all their rules of trade. self he seems weak; to others, formidable. You are afraid
So, in regard to disagreeable and formidable things, of Grim; but Grim also is afraid of you. You are solicitous
prudence does not consist in evasion or in flight, but in of the good-will of the meanest person, uneasy at his ill-
courage. He who wishes to walk in the most peaceful will. But the sturdiest offender of your peace and of the
parts of life with any serenity must screw himself up to neighborhood, if you rip up his claims, is as thin and
resolution. Let him front the object of his worst appre- timid as any, and the peace of society is often kept, be-
hension, and his stoutness will commonly make his fear cause, as children say, one is afraid, and the other dares

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not. Far off, men swell, bully and threaten; bring them to theirs, assume an identity of sentiment, assume that
hand to hand, and they are a feeble folk. you are saying precisely that which all think, and in the
It is a proverb that ‘courtesy costs nothing’; but calcu- flow of wit and love roll out your paradoxes in solid col-
lation might come to value love for its profit. Love is umn, with not the infirmity of a doubt. So at least shall
fabled to be blind, but kindness is necessary to percep- you get an adequate deliverance. The natural motions of
tion; love is not a hood, but an eye-water. If you meet a the soul are so much better than the voluntary ones that
sectary or a hostile partisan, never recognize the divid- you will never do yourself justice in dispute. The thought
ing lines, but meet on what common ground remains,—if is not then taken hold of by the right handle, does not
only that the sun shines and the rain rains for both; the show itself proportioned and in its true bearings, but
area will widen very fast, and ere you know it, the bound- bears extorted, hoarse, and half witness. But assume a
ary mountains on which the eye had fastened have melted consent and it shall presently be granted, since really
into air. If they set out to contend, Saint Paul will lie and and underneath their external diversities, all men are of
Saint John will hate. What low, poor, paltry, hypocritical one heart and mind.
people an argument on religion will make of the pure and Wisdom will never let us stand with any man or men on
chosen souls! They will shuffle and crow, crook and hide, an unfriendly footing. We refuse sympathy and intimacy
feign to confess here, only that they may brag and con- with people, as if we waited for some better sympathy
quer there, and not a thought has enriched either party, and intimacy to come. But whence and when? To-morrow
and not an emotion of bravery, modesty, or hope. So nei- will be like to-day. Life wastes itself whilst we are pre-
ther should you put yourself in a false position with your paring to live. Our friends and fellow-workers die off from
contemporaries by indulging a vein of hostility and bit- us. Scarcely can we say we see new men, new women,
terness. Though your views are in straight antagonism approaching us. We are too old to regard fashion, too

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old to expect patronage of any greater or more powerful. HEROISM
Let us suck the sweetness of those affections and
consuetudes that grow near us. These old shoes are easy “Paradise is under the shadow of swords.”
to the feet. Undoubtedly we can easily pick faults in our Mahomet.
company, can easily whisper names prouder, and that tickle
the fancy more. Every man’s imagination hath its friends; Ruby wine is drunk by knaves,
and life would be dearer with such companions. But if Sugar spends to fatten slaves,
you cannot have them on good mutual terms, you cannot Rose and vine-leaf deck buffoons;
have them. If not the Deity but our ambition hews and Thunderclouds are Jove’s festoons,
shapes the new relations, their virtue escapes, as straw- Drooping oft in wreaths of dread
berries lose their flavor in garden-beds. Lightning-knotted round his head;
Thus truth, frankness, courage, love, humility and all The hero is not fed on sweets,
the virtues range themselves on the side of prudence, or Daily his own heart he eats;
the art of securing a present well-being. I do not know if Chambers of the great are jails,
all matter will be found to be made of one element, as And head-winds right for royal sails.
oxygen or hydrogen, at last, but the world of manners
and actions is wrought of one stuff, and begin where we
will we are pretty sure in a short space to be mumbling
our ten commandments.

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VIII. HEROISM Sophocles will not ask his life, although assured that a
word will save him, and the execution of both proceeds:—

I
n the elder English dramatists, and mainly in the Valerius. Bid thy wife farewell.
plays Of Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a constant Soph_. No, I will take no leave. My Dorigen, Yonder,
recognition of gentility, as if a noble behavior were above, ‘bout Ariadne’s crown, My spirit shall hover for
as easily marked in the society of their age as color is in thee. Prithee, haste.
our American population. When any Rodrigo, Pedro or Dor. Stay, Sophocles,—with this tie up my sight; Let
Valerio enters, though he be a stranger, the duke or gov- not soft nature so transformed be, And lose her gentler
ernor exclaims, ‘This is a gentleman,—and proffers civili- sexed humanity, To make me see my lord bleed. So, ’tis
ties without end; but all the rest are slag and refuse. In well; Never one object underneath the sun Will I behold
harmony with this delight in personal advantages there before my Sophocles: Farewell; now teach the Romans
is in their plays a certain heroic cast of character and how to die.
dialogue, —as in Bonduca, Sophocles, the Mad Lover, Mar. Dost know what ‘t is to die?
the Double Marriage,—wherein the speaker is so earnest Soph. Thou dost not, Martius, And, therefore, not what
and cordial and on such deep grounds of character, that ’tis to live; to die Is to begin to live. It is to end An old,
the dialogue, on the slightest additional incident in the stale, weary work, and to commence A newer and a bet-
plot, rises naturally into poetry. Among many texts take ter. ’Tis to leave Deceitful knaves for the society Of gods
the following. The Roman Martius has conquered Ath- and goodness. Thou thyself must part At last from all thy
ens,—all but the invincible spirits of Sophocles, the duke garlands, pleasures, triumphs, And prove thy fortitude
of Athens, and Dorigen, his wife. The beauty of the latter what then ‘t will do.
inflames Martius, and he seeks to save her husband; but Val. But art not grieved nor vexed to leave thy life thus?

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Soph. Why should I grieve or vex for being sent To I do not readily remember any poem, play, sermon, novel,
them I ever loved best? Now I’ll kneel, But with my back or oration that our press vents in the last few years,
toward thee; ’tis the last duty This trunk can do the gods. which goes to the same tune. We have a great many flutes
Mar. Strike, strike, Valerius, Or Martius’ heart will leap and flageolets, but not often the sound of any fife. Yet,
out at his mouth. This is a man, a woman. Kiss thy lord, Wordsworth’s “Laodamia,” and the ode of “Dion,” and some
And live with all the freedom you were wont. O love! sonnets, have a certain noble music; and Scott will some-
thou doubly hast afflicted me With virtue and with beauty. times draw a stroke like the portrait of Lord Evandale
Treacherous heart, My hand shall cast thee quick into my given by Balfour of Burley. Thomas Carlyle, with his natu-
urn, Ere thou transgress this knot of piety. ral taste for what is manly and daring in character, has
Val. What ails my brother? suffered no heroic trait in his favorites to drop from his
Soph. Martius, O Martius, Thou now hast found a way to biographical and historical pictures. Earlier, Robert Burns
conquer me. has given us a song or two. In the Harleian Miscellanies
Dor. O star of Rome! what gratitude can speak Fit words there is an account of the battle of Lutzen which de-
to follow such a deed as this? serves to be read. And Simon Ockley’s History of the
Mar. This admirable duke, Valerius, With his disdain of Saracens recounts the prodigies of individual valor, with
fortune and of death, Captived himself, has captivated admiration all the more evident on the part of the narra-
me, And though my arm hath ta’en his body here, His tor that he seems to think that his place in Christian
soul hath subjugated Martius’ soul. By Romulus, he is all Oxford requires of him some proper protestations of ab-
soul, I think; He hath no flesh, and spirit cannot be gyved; horrence. But if we explore the literature of Heroism we
Then we have vanquished nothing; he is free, And Martius shall quickly come to Plutarch, who is its Doctor and his-
walks now in captivity.” torian. To him we owe the Brasidas, the Dion, the

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Epaminondas, the Scipio of old, and I must think we are human suffering. Unhappily no man exists who has not
more deeply indebted to him than to all the ancient writ- in his own person become to some amount a stockholder
ers. Each of his “Lives” is a refutation to the despon- in the sin, and so made himself liable to a share in the
dency and cowardice of our religious and political theo- expiation.
rists. A wild courage, a Stoicism not of the schools but of Our culture therefore must not omit the arming of the
the blood, shines in every anecdote, and has given that man. Let him hear in season that he is born into the
book its immense fame. state of war, and that the commonwealth and his own
We need books of this tart cathartic virtue more than well-being require that he should not go dancing in the
books of political science or of private economy. Life is a weeds of peace, but warned, self-collected and neither
festival only to the wise. Seen from the nook and chim- defying nor dreading the thunder, let him take both repu-
ney-side of prudence, it wears a ragged and dangerous tation and life in his hand, and, with perfect urbanity
front. The violations of the laws of nature by our prede- dare the gibbet and the mob by the absolute truth of his
cessors and our contemporaries are punished in us also. speech and the rectitude of his behavior.
The disease and deformity around us certify the infrac- Towards all this external evil the man within the breast
tion of natural, intellectual, and moral laws, and often assumes a warlike attitude, and affirms his ability to cope
violation on violation to breed such compound misery. A single-handed with the infinite army of enemies. To this
lock-jaw that bends a man’s head back to his heels; hy- military attitude of the soul we give the name of Hero-
drophobia that makes him bark at his wife and babes; ism. Its rudest form is the contempt for safety and ease,
insanity that makes him eat grass; war, plague, cholera, which makes the attractiveness of war. It is a self-trust
famine, indicate a certain ferocity in nature, which, as it which slights the restraints of prudence, in the plenitude
had its inlet by human crime, must have its outlet by of its energy and power to repair the harms it may suffer.

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The hero is a mind of such balance that no disturbances and in contradiction, for a time, to the voice of the great
can shake his will, but pleasantly and as it were merrily and good. Heroism is an obedience to a secret impulse of
he advances to his own music, alike in frightful alarms an individual’s character. Now to no other man can its
and in the tipsy mirth of universal dissoluteness. There is wisdom appear as it does to him, for every man must be
somewhat not philosophical in heroism; there is some- supposed to see a little farther on his own proper path
what not holy in it; it seems not to know that other souls than any one else. Therefore just and wise men take um-
are of one texture with it; it has pride; it is the extreme brage at his act, until after some little time be past: then
of individual nature. Nevertheless we must profoundly they see it to be in unison with their acts. All prudent
revere it. There is somewhat in great actions which does men see that the action is clean contrary to a sensual
not allow us to go behind them. Heroism feels and never prosperity; for every heroic act measures itself by its con-
reasons, and therefore is always right; and although a tempt of some external good. But it finds its own success
different breeding, different religion and greater intel- at last, and then the prudent also extol.
lectual activity would have modified or even reversed the Self-trust is the essence of heroism. It is the state of
particular action, yet for the hero that thing he does is the soul at war, and its ultimate objects are the last de-
the highest deed, and is not open to the censure of phi- fiance of falsehood and wrong, and the power to bear all
losophers or divines. It is the avowal of the unschooled that can be inflicted by evil agents. It speaks the truth
man that he finds a quality in him that is negligent of and it is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, scornful
expense, of health, of life, of danger, of hatred, of re- of petty calculations and scornful of being scorned. It
proach, and knows that his will is higher and more excel- persists; it is of an undaunted boldness and of a fortitude
lent than all actual and all possible antagonists. not to be wearied out. Its jest is the littleness of com-
Heroism works in contradiction to the voice of mankind mon life. That false prudence which dotes on health and

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Emerson
wealth is the butt and merriment of heroism. Heroism, the inconvenience of receiving strangers at their fireside,
like Plotinus, is almost ashamed of its body. What shall it reckon narrowly the loss of time and the unusual display;
say then to the sugar-plums and cats’-cradles, to the toi- the soul of a better quality thrusts back the unseason-
let, compliments, quarrels, cards and custard, which rack able economy into the vaults of life, and says, I will obey
the wit of all society? What joys has kind nature provided the God, and the sacrifice and the fire he will provide.
for us dear creatures! There seems to be no interval be- Ibn Hankal, the Arabian geographer, describes a heroic
tween greatness and meanness. When the spirit is not extreme in the hospitality of Sogd, in Bukharia. “When I
master of the world, then it is its dupe. Yet the little was in Sogd I saw a great building, like a palace, the
man takes the great hoax so innocently, works in it so gates of which were open and fixed back to the wall with
headlong and believing, is born red, and dies gray, ar- large nails. I asked the reason, and was told that the
ranging his toilet, attending on his own health, laying house had not been shut, night or day, for a hundred
traps for sweet food and strong wine, setting his heart on years. Strangers may present themselves at any hour and
a horse or a rifle, made happy with a little gossip or a in whatever number; the master has amply provided for
little praise, that the great soul cannot choose but laugh the reception of the men and their animals, and is never
at such earnest nonsense. “Indeed, these humble consid- happier than when they tarry for some time. Nothing of
erations make me out of love with greatness. What a dis- the kind have I seen in any other country.” The magnani-
grace is it to me to take note how many pairs of silk mous know very well that they who give time, or money,
stockings thou hast, namely, these and those that were or shelter, to the stranger,—so it be done for love and
the peach-colored ones; or to bear the inventory of thy not for ostentation,—do, as it were, put God under obli-
shirts, as one for superfluity, and one other for use!” gation to them, so perfect are the compensations of the
Citizens, thinking after the laws of arithmetic, consider universe. In some way the time they seem to lose is re-

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deemed and the pains they seem to take remunerate them- David, who poured out on the ground unto the Lord the
selves. These men fan the flame of human love and raise water which three of his warriors had brought him to
the standard of civil virtue among mankind. But hospi- drink, at the peril of their lives.
tality must be for service and not for show, or it pulls It is told of Brutus, that when he fell on his sword after
down the host. The brave soul rates itself too high to the battle of Philippi, he quoted a line of Euripides,—”O
value itself by the splendor of its table and draperies. It Virtue! I have followed thee through life, and I find thee
gives what it hath, and all it hath, but its own majesty at last but a shade.” I doubt not the hero is slandered by
can lend a better grace to bannocks and fair water than this report. The heroic soul does not sell its justice and
belong to city feasts. its nobleness. It does not ask to dine nicely and to sleep
The temperance of the hero proceeds from the same warm. The essence of greatness is the perception that
wish to do no dishonor to the worthiness he has. But he virtue is enough. Poverty is its ornament. It does not
loves it for its elegancy, not for its austerity. It seems need plenty, and can very well abide its loss.
not worth his while to be solemn and denounce with But that which takes my fancy most in the heroic class,
bitterness flesh-eating or wine-drinking, the use of to- is the good-humor and hilarity they exhibit. It is a height
bacco, or opium, or tea, or silk, or gold. A great man to which common duty can very well attain, to suffer and
scarcely knows how he dines, how he dresses; but with- to dare with solemnity. But these rare souls set opinion,
out railing or precision his living is natural and poetic. success, and life at so cheap a rate that they will not
John Eliot, the Indian Apostle, drank water, and said of soothe their enemies by petitions, or the show of sorrow,
wine,—”It is a noble, generous liquor and we should be but wear their own habitual greatness. Scipio, charged
humbly thankful for it, but, as I remember, water was with peculation, refuses to do himself so great a disgrace
made before it.” Better still is the temperance of King as to wait for justification, though he had the scroll of

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his accounts in his hands, but tears it to pieces before vision, like little children frolicking together, though to
the tribunes. Socrates’s condemnation of himself to be the eyes of mankind at large they wear a stately and
maintained in all honor in the Prytaneum, during his life, solemn garb of works and influences.
and Sir Thomas More’s playfulness at the scaffold, are of The interest these fine stories have for us, the power of
the same strain. In Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Sea Voy- a romance over the boy who grasps the forbidden book
age,” Juletta tells the stout captain and his company,— under his bench at school, our delight in the hero, is the
main fact to our purpose. All these great and transcen-
Jul. Why, slaves, ’tis in our power to hang ye. dent properties are ours. If we dilate in beholding the
Master. Very likely, Greek energy, the Roman pride, it is that we are already
’Tis in our powers, then, to be hanged, and scorn ye. domesticating the same sentiment. Let us find room for
this great guest in our small houses. The first step of
These replies are sound and whole. Sport is the bloom worthiness will be to disabuse us of our superstitious
and glow of a perfect health. The great will not conde- associations with places and times, with number and size.
scend to take any thing seriously; all must be as gay as Why should these words, Athenian, Roman, Asia and En-
the song of a canary, though it were the building of cities gland, so tingle in the ear? Where the heart is, there the
or the eradication of old and foolish churches and na- muses, there the gods sojourn, and not in any geography
tions which have cumbered the earth long thousands of of fame. Massachusetts, Connecticut River and Boston
years. Simple hearts put all the history and customs of Bay you think paltry places, and the ear loves names of
this world behind them, and play their own game in in- foreign and classic topography. But here we are; and, if
nocent defiance of the Blue-Laws of the world; and such we will tarry a little, we may come to learn that here is
would appear, could we see the human race assembled in best. See to it only that thyself is here, and art and na-

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ture, hope and fate, friends, angels and the Supreme Be- contempt on our entire polity and social state; theirs is
ing shall not be absent from the chamber where thou the tone of a youthful giant who is sent to work revolu-
sittest. Epaminondas, brave and affectionate, does not tions. But they enter an active profession and the form-
seem to us to need Olympus to die upon, nor the Syrian ing Colossus shrinks to the common size of man. The
sunshine. He lies very well where he is. The Jerseys were magic they used was the ideal tendencies, which always
handsome ground enough for Washington to tread, and make the Actual ridiculous; but the tough world had its
London streets for the feet of Milton. A great man makes revenge the moment they put their horses of the sun to
his climate genial in the imagination of men, and its air plough in its furrow. They found no example and no com-
the beloved element of all delicate spirits. That country is panion, and their heart fainted. What then? The lesson
the fairest which is inhabited by the noblest minds. The they gave in their first aspirations is yet true; and a bet-
pictures which fill the imagination in reading the actions ter valor and a purer truth shall one day organize their
of Pericles, Xenophon, Columbus, Bayard, Sidney, Hampden, belief. Or why should a woman liken herself to any his-
teach us how needlessly mean our life is; that we, by the torical woman, and think, because Sappho, or Sevigne,
depth of our living, should deck it with more than regal or or De Stael, or the cloistered souls who have had genius
national splendor, and act on principles that should inter- and cultivation do not satisfy the imagination and the
est man and nature in the length of our days. serene Themis, none can,—certainly not she? Why not?
We have seen or heard of many extraordinary young She has a new and unattempted problem to solve, per-
men who never ripened, or whose performance in actual chance that of the happiest nature that ever bloomed.
life was not extraordinary. When we see their air and Let the maiden, with erect soul, walk serenely on her
mien, when we hear them speak of society, of books, of way, accept the hint of each new experience, search in
religion, we admire their superiority; they seem to throw turn all the objects that solicit her eye, that she may

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learn the power and the charm of her new-born being, thing strange and extravagant and broken the monotony
which is the kindling of a new dawn in the recesses of of a decorous age. It was a high counsel that I once
space. The fair girl who repels interference by a decided heard given to a young person,—”Always do what you
and proud choice of influences, so careless of pleasing, are afraid to do.” A simple manly character need never
so wilful and lofty, inspires every beholder with some- make an apology, but should regard its past action with
what of her own nobleness. The silent heart encourages the calmness of Phocion, when he admitted that the event
her; O friend, never strike sail to a fear! Come into port of the battle was happy, yet did not regret his dissuasion
greatly, or sail with God the seas. Not in vain you live, for from the battle.
every passing eye is cheered and refined by the vision. There is no weakness or exposure for which we cannot
The characteristic of heroism is its persistency. All men find consolation in the thought—this is a part of my
have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. constitution, part of my relation and office to my fellow-
But when you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do creature. Has nature covenanted with me that I should
not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The never appear to disadvantage, never make a ridiculous
heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the he- figure? Let us be generous of our dignity as well as of our
roic. Yet we have the weakness to expect the sympathy of money. Greatness once and for ever has done with opin-
people in those actions whose excellence is that they ion. We tell our charities, not because we wish to be
outrun sympathy and appeal to a tardy justice. If you praised for them, not because we think they have great
would serve your brother, because it is fit for you to serve merit, but for our justification. It is a capital blunder; as
him, do not take back your words when you find that you discover when another man recites his charities.
prudent people do not commend you. Adhere to your own To speak the truth, even with some austerity, to live
act, and congratulate yourself if you have done some- with some rigor of temperance, or some extremes of gen-

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erosity, seems to be an asceticism which common good- free speech and opinion, and died when it was better not
nature would appoint to those who are at ease and in to live.
plenty, in sign that they feel a brotherhood with the great I see not any road of perfect peace which a man can
multitude of suffering men. And not only need we breathe walk, but after the counsel of his own bosom. Let him
and exercise the soul by assuming the penalties of absti- quit too much association, let him go home much, and
nence, of debt, of solitude, of unpopularity,—but it be- stablish himself in those courses he approves. The unre-
hooves the wise man to look with a bold eye into those mitting retention of simple and high sentiments in ob-
rarer dangers which sometimes invade men, and to famil- scure duties is hardening the character to that temper
iarize himself with disgusting forms of disease, with which will work with honor, if need be in the tumult, or
sounds of execration, and the vision of violent death. on the scaffold. Whatever outrages have happened to
Times of heroism are generally times of terror, but the men may befall a man again; and very easily in a repub-
day never shines in which this element may not work. lic, if there appear any signs of a decay of religion. Coarse
The circumstances of man, we say, are historically some- slander, fire, tar and feathers and the gibbet, the youth
what better in this country and at this hour than perhaps may freely bring home to his mind and with what sweet-
ever before. More freedom exists for culture. It will not ness of temper he can, and inquire how fast he can fix
now run against an axe at the first step out of the beaten his sense of duty, braving such penalties, whenever it
track of opinion. But whoso is heroic will always find may please the next newspaper and a sufficient number
crises to try his edge. Human virtue demands her cham- of his neighbors to pronounce his opinions incendiary.
pions and martyrs, and the trial of persecution always It may calm the apprehension of calamity in the most
proceeds. It is but the other day that the brave Lovejoy susceptible heart to see how quick a bound Nature has
gave his breast to the bullets of a mob, for the rights of set to the utmost infliction of malice. We rapidly approach

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a brink over which no enemy can follow us:— THE OVER-SOUL

“Let them rave: “But souls that of his own good life partake,
Thou art quiet in thy grave.” He loves as his own self; dear as his eye
They are to Him: He’ll never them forsake:
In the gloom of our ignorance of what shall be, in the When they shall die, then God himself shall die:
hour when we are deaf to the higher voices, who does They live, they live in blest eternity.”
not envy those who have seen safely to an end their Henry More.
manful endeavor? Who that sees the meanness of our
politics but inly congratulates Washington that he is long Space is ample, east and west,
already wrapped in his shroud, and for ever safe; that he But two cannot go abreast,
was laid sweet in his grave, the hope of humanity not yet Cannot travel in it two:
subjugated in him? Who does not sometimes envy the Yonder masterful cuckoo
good and brave who are no more to suffer from the tu- Crowds every egg out of the nest,
mults of the natural world, and await with curious com- Quick or dead, except its own;
placency the speedy term of his own conversation with A spell is laid on sod and stone,
finite nature? And yet the love that will be annihilated Night and Day ‘ve been tampered with,
sooner than treacherous has already made death impos- Every quality and pith
sible, and affirms itself no mortal but a native of the Surcharged and sultry with a power
deeps of absolute and inextinguishable being. That works its will on age and hour.

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IX. THE OVER-SOUL searched the chambers and magazines of the soul. In its
experiments there has always remained, in the last analy-

T
here is a difference between one and another hour sis, a residuum it could not resolve. Man is a stream whose
of life in their authority and subsequent effect. source is hidden. Our being is descending into us from
Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual. we know not whence. The most exact calculator has no
Yet there is a depth in those brief moments which con- prescience that somewhat incalculable may not balk the
strains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all very next moment. I am constrained every moment to
other experiences. For this reason the argument which is acknowledge a higher origin for events than the will I
always forthcoming to silence those who conceive ex- call mine.
traordinary hopes of man, namely the appeal to experi- As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch
ence, is for ever invalid and vain. We give up the past to that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours
the objector, and yet we hope. He must explain this hope. for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pen-
We grant that human life is mean, but how did we find sioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethe-
out that it was mean? What is the ground of this uneasi- real water; that I desire and look up and put myself in
ness of ours; of this old discontent? What is the universal the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the
sense of want and ignorance, but the fine innuendo by visions come.
which the soul makes its enormous claim? Why do men The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the
feel that the natural history of man has never been writ- present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is
ten, but he is always leaving behind what you have said that great nature in which we rest as the earth lies in the
of him, and it becomes old, and books of metaphysics soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul,
worthless? The philosophy of six thousand years has not within which every man’s particular being is contained

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and made one with all other; that common heart of which which is innate in every man, we can know what it saith.
all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right Every man’s words who speaks from that life must sound
action is submission; that overpowering reality which vain to those who do not dwell in the same thought on
confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one their own part. I dare not speak for it. My words do not
to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character carry its august sense; they fall short and cold. Only it-
and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to self can inspire whom it will, and behold! their speech
pass into our thought and hand and become wisdom and shall be lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of
virtue and power and beauty. We live in succession, in the wind. Yet I desire, even by profane words, if I may
division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is not use sacred, to indicate the heaven of this deity and
the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal to report what hints I have collected of the transcendent
beauty, to which every part and particle is equally re- simplicity and energy of the Highest Law.
lated; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we If we consider what happens in conversation, in rever-
exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not ies, in remorse, in times of passion, in surprises, in the
only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act instructions of dreams, wherein often we see ourselves in
of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, masquerade,—the droll disguises only magnifying and
the subject and the object, are one. We see the world enhancing a real element and forcing it on our distinct
piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the notice,—we shall catch many hints that will broaden and
tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, lighten into knowledge of the secret of nature. All goes
is the soul. Only by the vision of that Wisdom can the to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but ani-
horoscope of the ages be read, and by falling back on our mates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like
better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but

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uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light; Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible.
is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtile.
intellect and the will; is the background of our being, in It is undefinable, unmeasurable; but we know that it per-
which they lie,—an immensity not possessed and that vades and contains us. We know that all spiritual being is
cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light in man. A wise old proverb says, “God comes to see us
shines through us upon things and makes us aware that without bell;” that is, as there is no screen or ceiling
we are nothing, but the light is all. A man is the facade between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there
of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases,
we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We
counting man, does not, as we know him, represent him- lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to
self, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, the attributes of God. Justice we see and know, Love,
but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear Freedom, Power. These natures no man ever got above,
through his action, would make our knees bend. When it but they tower over us, and most in the moment when
breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it our interests tempt us to wound them.
breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows The sovereignty of this nature whereof we speak is made
through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the known by its independency of those limitations which
intellect begins when it would be something of itself. circumscribe us on every hand. The soul circumscribes all
The weakness of the will begins when the individual would things. As I have said, it contradicts all experience. In
be something of himself. All reform aims in some one like manner it abolishes time and space. The influence of
particular to let the soul have its way through us; in the senses has in most men overpowered the mind to
other words, to engage us to obey. that degree that the walls of time and space have come

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to look real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity lenniums and makes itself present through all ages. Is
of these limits is, in the world, the sign of insanity. Yet the teaching of Christ less effective now than it was when
time and space are but inverse measures of the force of first his mouth was opened? The emphasis of facts and
the soul. The spirit sports with time,— persons in my thought has nothing to do with time. And
so always the soul’s scale is one, the scale of the senses
“Can crowd eternity into an hour, and the understanding is another. Before the revelations
Or stretch an hour to eternity.” of the soul, Time, Space and Nature shrink away. In com-
mon speech we refer all things to time, as we habitually
We are often made to feel that there is another youth refer the immensely sundered stars to one concave sphere.
and age than that which is measured from the year of our And so we say that the Judgment is distant or near, that
natural birth. Some thoughts always find us young, and the Millennium approaches, that a day of certain politi-
keep us so. Such a thought is the love of the universal cal, moral, social reforms is at hand, and the like, when
and eternal beauty. Every man parts from that contem- we mean that in the nature of things one of the facts we
plation with the feeling that it rather belongs to ages contemplate is external and fugitive, and the other is
than to mortal life. The least activity of the intellectual permanent and connate with the soul. The things we now
powers redeems us in a degree from the conditions of esteem fixed shall, one by one, detach themselves like
time. In sickness, in languor, give us a strain of poetry or ripe fruit from our experience, and fall. The wind shall
a profound sentence, and we are refreshed; or produce a blow them none knows whither. The landscape, the fig-
volume of Plato or Shakspeare, or remind us of their names, ures, Boston, London, are facts as fugitive as any institu-
and instantly we come into a feeling of longevity. See tion past, or any whiff of mist or smoke, and so is soci-
how the deep divine thought reduces centuries and mil- ety, and so is the world. The soul looketh steadily for-

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wards, creating a world before her, leaving worlds behind This is the law of moral and of mental gain. The simple
her. She has no dates, nor rites, nor persons, nor special- rise as by specific levity not into a particular virtue, but
ties nor men. The soul knows only the soul; the web of into the region of all the virtues. They are in the spirit
events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed. which contains them all. The soul requires purity, but
After its own law and not by arithmetic is the rate of its purity is not it; requires justice, but justice is not that;
progress to be computed. The soul’s advances are not requires beneficence, but is somewhat better; so that there
made by gradation, such as can be represented by mo- is a kind of descent and accommodation felt when we
tion in a straight line, but rather by ascension of state, leave speaking of moral nature to urge a virtue which it
such as can be represented by metamorphosis,—from the enjoins. To the well-born child all the virtues are natural,
egg to the worm, from the worm to the fly. The growths and not painfully acquired. Speak to his heart, and the
of genius are of a certain total character, that does not man becomes suddenly virtuous.
advance the elect individual first over John, then Adam, Within the same sentiment is the germ of intellectual
then Richard, and give to each the pain of discovered growth, which obeys the same law. Those who are ca-
inferiority,—but by every throe of growth the man ex- pable of humility, of justice, of love, of aspiration, stand
pands there where he works, passing, at each pulsation, already on a platform that commands the sciences and
classes, populations, of men. With each divine impulse arts, speech and poetry, action and grace. For whoso dwells
the mind rends the thin rinds of the visible and finite, in this moral beatitude already anticipates those special
and comes out into eternity, and inspires and expires its powers which men prize so highly. The lover has no tal-
air. It converses with truths that have always been spo- ent, no skill, which passes for quite nothing with his
ken in the world, and becomes conscious of a closer sym- enamoured maiden, however little she may possess of
pathy with Zeno and Arrian than with persons in the house. related faculty; and the heart which abandons itself to

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the Supreme Mind finds itself related to all its works, and sons themselves acquaint us with the impersonal. In all
will travel a royal road to particular knowledges and pow- conversation between two persons tacit reference is made,
ers. In ascending to this primary and aboriginal senti- as to a third party, to a common nature. That third party
ment we have come from our remote station on the cir- or common nature is not social; it is impersonal; is God.
cumference instantaneously to the centre of the world, And so in groups where debate is earnest, and especially
where, as in the closet of God, we see causes, and antici- on high questions, the company become aware that the
pate the universe, which is but a slow effect. thought rises to an equal level in all bosoms, that all
One mode of the divine teaching is the incarnation of have a spiritual property in what was said, as well as the
the spirit in a form,—in forms, like my own. I live in sayer. They all become wiser than they were. It arches
society, with persons who answer to thoughts in my own over them like a temple, this unity of thought in which
mind, or express a certain obedience to the great in- every heart beats with nobler sense of power and duty,
stincts to which I live. I see its presence to them. I am and thinks and acts with unusual solemnity. All are con-
certified of a common nature; and these other souls, these scious of attaining to a higher self-possession. It shines
separated selves, draw me as nothing else can. They stir for all. There is a certain wisdom of humanity which is
in me the new emotions we call passion; of love, hatred, common to the greatest men with the lowest, and which
fear, admiration, pity; thence come conversation, com- our ordinary education often labors to silence and ob-
petition, persuasion, cities and war. Persons are supple- struct. The mind is one, and the best minds, who love
mentary to the primary teaching of the soul. In youth we truth for its own sake, think much less of property in
are mad for persons. Childhood and youth see all the truth. They accept it thankfully everywhere, and do not
world in them. But the larger experience of man discov- label or stamp it with any man’s name, for it is theirs
ers the identical nature appearing through them all. Per- long beforehand, and from eternity. The learned and the

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studious of thought have no monopoly of wisdom. Their life. It is adult already in the infant man. In my dealing
violence of direction in some degree disqualifies them to with my child, my Latin and Greek, my accomplishments
think truly. We owe many valuable observations to people and my money stead me nothing; but as much soul as I
who are not very acute or profound, and who say the thing have avails. If I am wilful, he sets his will against mine,
without effort which we want and have long been hunting one for one, and leaves me, if I please, the degradation
in vain. The action of the soul is oftener in that which is of beating him by my superiority of strength. But if I
felt and left unsaid than in that which is said in any con- renounce my will and act for the soul, setting that up as
versation. It broods over every society, and they uncon- umpire between us two, out of his young eyes looks the
sciously seek for it in each other. We know better than we same soul; he reveres and loves with me.
do. We do not yet possess ourselves, and we know at the The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth. We know
same time that we are much more. I feel the same truth truth when we see it, let skeptic and scoffer say what
how often in my trivial conversation with my neighbors, they choose. Foolish people ask you, when you have spo-
that somewhat higher in each of us overlooks this by-play, ken what they do not wish to hear, ‘How do you know it is
and Jove nods to Jove from behind each of us. truth, and not an error of your own?’ We know truth when
Men descend to meet. In their habitual and mean ser- we see it, from opinion, as we know when we are awake
vice to the world, for which they forsake their native that we are awake. It was a grand sentence of Emanuel
nobleness, they resemble those Arabian sheiks who dwell Swedenborg, which would alone indicate the greatness
in mean houses and affect an external poverty, to escape of that man’s perception,—”It is no proof of a man’s
the rapacity of the Pacha, and reserve all their display of understanding to be able to confirm whatever he pleases;
wealth for their interior and guarded retirements. but to be able to discern that what is true is true, and
As it is present in all persons, so it is in every period of that what is false is false,—this is the mark and charac-

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ter of intelligence.” In the book I read, the good thought are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. For
returns to me, as every truth will, the image of the whole this communication is an influx of the Divine mind into
soul. To the bad thought which I find in it, the same soul our mind. It is an ebb of the individual rivulet before the
becomes a discerning, separating sword, and lops it away. flowing surges of the sea of life. Every distinct apprehen-
We are wiser than we know. If we will not interfere with sion of this central commandment agitates men with awe
our thought, but will act entirely, or see how the thing and delight. A thrill passes through all men at the recep-
stands in God, we know the particular thing, and every tion of new truth, or at the performance of a great ac-
thing, and every man. For the Maker of all things and all tion, which comes out of the heart of nature. In these
persons stands behind us and casts his dread omniscience communications the power to see is not separated from
through us over things. the will to do, but the insight proceeds from obedience,
But beyond this recognition of its own in particular pas- and the obedience proceeds from a joyful perception. Every
sages of the individual’s experience, it also reveals truth. moment when the individual feels himself invaded by it
And here we should seek to reinforce ourselves by its very is memorable. By the necessity of our constitution a cer-
presence, and to speak with a worthier, loftier strain of tain enthusiasm attends the individual’s consciousness
that advent. For the soul’s communication of truth is the of that divine presence. The character and duration of
highest event in nature, since it then does not give some- this enthusiasm varies with the state of the individual,
what from itself, but it gives itself, or passes into and from an ecstasy and trance and prophetic inspiration,—
becomes that man whom it enlightens; or, in proportion to which is its rarer appearance,—to the faintest glow of
that truth he receives, it takes him to itself. virtuous emotion, in which form it warms, like our house-
We distinguish the announcements of the soul, its mani- hold fires, all the families and associations of men, and
festations of its own nature, by the term Revelation. These makes society possible. A certain tendency to insanity

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has always attended the opening of the religious sense Revelation is the disclosure of the soul. The popular
in men, as if they had been “blasted with excess of light.” notion of a revelation is that it is a telling of fortunes. In
The trances of Socrates, the “union” of Plotinus, the vi- past oracles of the soul the understanding seeks to find
sion of Porphyry, the conversion of Paul, the aurora of answers to sensual questions, and undertakes to tell from
Behmen, the convulsions of George Fox and his Quakers, God how long men shall exist, what their hands shall do
the illumination of Swedenborg, are of this kind. What and who shall be their company, adding names and dates
was in the case of these remarkable persons a ravish- and places. But we must pick no locks. We must check
ment, has, in innumerable instances in common life, been this low curiosity. An answer in words is delusive; it is
exhibited in less striking manner. Everywhere the history really no answer to the questions you ask. Do not require
of religion betrays a tendency to enthusiasm. The rap- a description of the countries towards which you sail.
ture of the Moravian and Quietist; the opening of the The description does not describe them to you, and to-
internal sense of the Word, in the language of the New morrow you arrive there and know them by inhabiting
Jerusalem Church; the revival of the Calvinistic churches; them. Men ask concerning the immortality of the soul,
the experiences of the Methodists, are varying forms of the employments of heaven, the state of the sinner, and
that shudder of awe and delight with which the indi- so forth. They even dream that Jesus has left replies to
vidual soul always mingles with the universal soul. precisely these interrogatories. Never a moment did that
The nature of these revelations is the same; they are sublime spirit speak in their patois. To truth, justice, love,
perceptions of the absolute law. They are solutions of the the attributes of the soul, the idea of immutableness is
soul’s own questions. They do not answer the questions essentially associated. Jesus, living in these moral senti-
which the understanding asks. The soul answers never by ments, heedless of sensual fortunes, heeding only the
words, but by the thing itself that is inquired after. manifestations of these, never made the separation of

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the idea of duration from the essence of these attributes, senses is to forego all low curiosity, and, accepting the
nor uttered a syllable concerning the duration of the soul. tide of being which floats us into the secret of nature,
It was left to his disciples to sever duration from the moral work and live, work and live, and all unawares the ad-
elements, and to teach the immortality of the soul as a vancing soul has built and forged for itself a new condi-
doctrine, and maintain it by evidences. The moment the tion, and the question and the answer are one.
doctrine of the immortality is separately taught, man is By the same fire, vital, consecrating, celestial, which
already fallen. In the flowing of love, in the adoration of burns until it shall dissolve all things into the waves and
humility, there is no question of continuance. No inspired surges of an ocean of light, we see and know each other,
man ever asks this question or condescends to these evi- and what spirit each is of. Who can tell the grounds of
dences. For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom his knowledge of the character of the several individuals
it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is in his circle of friends? No man. Yet their acts and words
infinite, to a future which would be finite. do not disappoint him. In that man, though he knew no
These questions which we lust to ask about the future ill of him, he put no trust. In that other, though they had
are a confession of sin. God has no answer for them. No seldom met, authentic signs had yet passed, to signify
answer in words can reply to a question of things. It is that he might be trusted as one who had an interest in
not in an arbitrary “decree of God,” but in the nature of his own character. We know each other very well, —which
man, that a veil shuts down on the facts of to-morrow; of us has been just to himself and whether that which we
for the soul will not have us read any other cipher than teach or behold is only an aspiration or is our honest
that of cause and effect. By this veil which curtains events effort also.
it instructs the children of men to live in to-day. The only We are all discerners of spirits. That diagnosis lies aloft
mode of obtaining an answer to these questions of the in our life or unconscious power. The intercourse of soci-

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ety, its trade, its religion, its friendships, its quarrels, is being deferential to a higher spirit than his own. If he
one wide, judicial investigation of character. In full court, have not found his home in God, his manners, his forms
or in small committee, or confronted face to face, ac- of speech, the turn of his sentences, the build, shall I
cuser and accused, men offer themselves to be judged. say, of all his opinions will involuntarily confess it, let
Against their will they exhibit those decisive trifles by him brave it out how he will. If he have found his centre,
which character is read. But who judges? and what? Not the Deity will shine through him, through all the dis-
our understanding. We do not read them by learning or guises of ignorance, of ungenial temperament, of unfa-
craft. No; the wisdom of the wise man consists herein, vorable circumstance. The tone of seeking is one, and the
that he does not judge them; he lets them judge them- tone of having is another.
selves and merely reads and records their own verdict. The great distinction between teachers sacred or liter-
By virtue of this inevitable nature, private will is over- ary,—between poets like Herbert, and poets like Pope,—
powered, and, maugre our efforts or our imperfections, between philosophers like Spinoza, Kant and Coleridge,
your genius will speak from you, and mine from me. That and philosophers like Locke, Paley, Mackintosh and
which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily but invol- Stewart,—between men of the world who are reckoned
untarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which accomplished talkers, and here and there a fervent mys-
we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds tic, prophesying half insane under the infinitude of his
through avenues which we never voluntarily opened. Char- thought,—is that one class speak from within, or from
acter teaches over our head. The infallible index of true experience, as parties and possessors of the fact; and the
progress is found in the tone the man takes. Neither his other class from without, as spectators merely, or per-
age, nor his breeding, nor company, nor books, nor ac- haps as acquainted with the fact on the evidence of third
tions, nor talents, nor all together can hinder him from persons. It is of no use to preach to me from without. I

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can do that too easily myself. Jesus speaks always from It is not anomalous, but more like and not less like other
within, and in a degree that transcends all others. In men. There is in all great poets a wisdom of humanity
that is the miracle. I believe beforehand that it ought so which is superior to any talents they exercise. The au-
to be. All men stand continually in the expectation of the thor, the wit, the partisan, the fine gentleman, does not
appearance of such a teacher. But if a man do not speak take place of the man. Humanity shines in Homer, in
from within the veil, where the word is one with that it Chaucer, in Spenser, in Shakspeare, in Milton. They are
tells of, let him lowly confess it. content with truth. They use the positive degree. They
The same Omniscience flows into the intellect, and seem frigid and phlegmatic to those who have been spiced
makes what we call genius. Much of the wisdom of the with the frantic passion and violent coloring of inferior
world is not wisdom, and the most illuminated class of but popular writers. For they are poets by the free course
men are no doubt superior to literary fame, and are not which they allow to the informing soul, which through
writers. Among the multitude of scholars and authors, we their eyes beholds again and blesses the things which it
feel no hallowing presence; we are sensible of a knack hath made. The soul is superior to its knowledge, wiser
and skill rather than of inspiration; they have a light and than any of its works. The great poet makes us feel our
know not whence it comes and call it their own; their own wealth, and then we think less of his compositions.
talent is some exaggerated faculty, some overgrown mem- His best communication to our mind is to teach us to
ber, so that their strength is a disease. In these instances despise all he has done. Shakspeare carries us to such a
the intellectual gifts do not make the impression of vir- lofty strain of intelligent activity as to suggest a wealth
tue, but almost of vice; and we feel that a man’s talents which beggars his own; and we then feel that the splen-
stand in the way of his advancement in truth. But genius did works which he has created, and which in other hours
is religious. It is a larger imbibing of the common heart. we extol as a sort of self-existent poetry, take no stron-

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ger hold of real nature than the shadow of a passing etic circumstance,—the visit to Rome, the man of genius
traveller on the rock. The inspiration which uttered itself they saw, the brilliant friend They know; still further on
in Hamlet and Lear could utter things as good from day perhaps the gorgeous landscape, the mountain lights, the
to day for ever. Why then should I make account of Ham- mountain thoughts they enjoyed yesterday,—and so seek
let and Lear, as if we had not the soul from which they to throw a romantic color over their life. But the soul that
fell as syllables from the tongue? ascends to worship the great God is plain and true; has no
This energy does not descend into individual life on rose-color, no fine friends, no chivalry, no adventures; does
any other condition than entire possession. It comes to not want admiration; dwells in the hour that now is, in the
the lowly and simple; it comes to whomsoever will put earnest experience of the common day,—by reason of the
off what is foreign and proud; it comes as insight; it present moment and the mere trifle having become porous
comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see those whom to thought and bibulous of the sea of light.
it inhabits, we are apprised of new degrees of greatness. Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and litera-
From that inspiration the man comes back with a changed ture looks like word-catching. The simplest utterances
tone. He does not talk with men with an eye to their are worthiest to be written, yet are they so cheap and so
opinion. He tries them. It requires of us to be plain and things of course, that in the infinite riches of the soul it
true. The vain traveller attempts to embellish his life by is like gathering a few pebbles off the ground, or bottling
quoting my lord and the prince and the countess, who a little air in a phial, when the whole earth and the whole
thus said or did to him. The ambitious vulgar show you atmosphere are ours. Nothing can pass there, or make
their spoons and brooches and rings, and preserve their you one of the circle, but the casting aside your trap-
cards and compliments. The more cultivated, in their ac- pings, and dealing man to man in naked truth, plain con-
count of their own experience, cull out the pleasing, po- fession, and omniscient affirmation.

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Souls such as these treat you as gods would, walk as pliment you can pay. Their “highest praising,” said Milton,
gods in the earth, accepting without any admiration your “is not flattery, and their plainest advice is a kind of
wit, your bounty, your virtue even,—say rather your act praising.”
of duty, for your virtue they own as their proper blood, Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of
royal as themselves, and over-royal, and the father of the the soul. The simplest person who in his integrity wor-
gods. But what rebuke their plain fraternal bearing casts ships God, becomes God; yet for ever and ever the influx
on the mutual flattery with which authors solace each of this better and universal self is new and unsearchable.
other and wound themselves! These flatter not. I do not It inspires awe and astonishment. How dear, how sooth-
wonder that these men go to see Cromwell and Christina ing to man, arises the idea of God, peopling the lonely
and Charles the Second and James the First and the Grand place, effacing the scars of our mistakes and disappoint-
Turk. For they are, in their own elevation, the fellows of ments! When we have broken our god of tradition and
kings, and must feel the servile tone of conversation in ceased from our god of rhetoric, then may God fire the
the world. They must always be a godsend to princes, for heart with his presence. It is the doubling of the heart
they confront them, a king to a king, without ducking or itself, nay, the infinite enlargement of the heart with a
concession, and give a high nature the refreshment and power of growth to a new infinity on every side. It in-
satisfaction of resistance, of plain humanity, of even com- spires in man an infallible trust. He has not the convic-
panionship and of new ideas. They leave them wiser and tion, but the sight, that the best is the true, and may in
superior men. Souls like these make us feel that sincerity that thought easily dismiss all particular uncertainties
is more excellent than flattery. Deal so plainly with man and fears, and adjourn to the sure revelation of time the
and woman as to constrain the utmost sincerity and de- solution of his private riddles. He is sure that his welfare
stroy all hope of trifling with you. It is the highest com- is dear to the heart of being. In the presence of law to

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his mind he is overflowed with a reliance so universal der heart in thee craveth, shall lock thee in his embrace.
that it sweeps away all cherished hopes and the most And this because the heart in thee is the heart of all; not
stable projects of mortal condition in its flood. He be- a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere
lieves that he cannot escape from his good. The things in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless
that are really for thee gravitate to thee. You are running circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is
to seek your friend. Let your feet run, but your mind all one sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one.
need not. If you do not find him, will you not acquiesce Let man then learn the revelation of all nature and all
that it is best you should not find him? for there is a thought to his heart; this, namely; that the Highest dwells
power, which, as it is in you, is in him also, and could with him; that the sources of nature are in his own mind,
therefore very well bring you together, if it were for the if the sentiment of duty is there. But if he would know
best. You are preparing with eagerness to go and render a what the great God speaketh, he must ‘go into his closet
service to which your talent and your taste invite you, and shut the door,’ as Jesus said. God will not make him-
the love of men and the hope of fame. Has it not oc- self manifest to cowards. He must greatly listen to him-
curred to you that you have no right to go, unless you self, withdrawing himself from all the accents of other
are equally willing to be prevented from going? O, be- men’s devotion. Even their prayers are hurtful to him,
lieve, as thou livest, that every sound that is spoken over until he have made his own. Our religion vulgarly stands
the round world, which thou oughtest to hear, will vi- on numbers of believers. Whenever the appeal is made,—
brate on thine ear! Every proverb, every book, every by- no matter how indirectly,—to numbers, proclamation is
word that belongs to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely then and there made that religion is not. He that finds
come home through open or winding passages. Every God a sweet enveloping thought to him never counts his
friend whom not thy fantastic will but the great and ten- company. When I sit in that presence, who shall dare to

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come in? When I rest in perfect humility, when I burn strength out of their memory, yet, pressed on our atten-
with pure love, what can Calvin or Swedenborg say? tion, as they are by the thoughtless and customary, they
It makes no difference whether the appeal is to num- fatigue and invade. The soul gives itself, alone, original
bers or to one. The faith that stands on authority is not and pure, to the Lonely, Original and Pure, who, on that
faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of condition, gladly inhabits, leads and speaks through it.
religion, the withdrawal of the soul. The position men Then is it glad, young and nimble. It is not wise, but it
have given to Jesus, now for many centuries of history, is sees through all things. It is not called religious, but it is
a position of authority. It characterizes themselves. It innocent. It calls the light its own, and feels that the
cannot alter the eternal facts. Great is the soul, and plain. grass grows and the stone falls by a law inferior to, and
It is no flatterer, it is no follower; it never appeals from dependent on, its nature. Behold, it saith, I am born into
itself. It believes in itself. Before the immense possibili- the great, the universal mind. I, the imperfect, adore my
ties of man all mere experience, all past biography, how- own Perfect. I am somehow receptive of the great soul,
ever spotless and sainted, shrinks away. Before that and thereby I do Overlook the sun and the stars and feel
heaven which our presentiments foreshow us, we cannot them to be the fair accidents and effects which change
easily praise any form of life we have seen or read of. We and pass. More and more the surges of everlasting nature
not only affirm that we have few great men, but, abso- enter into me, and I become public and human in my
lutely speaking, that we have none; that we have no regards and actions. So come I to live in thoughts and
history, no record of any character or mode of living that act with energies which are immortal. Thus revering the
entirely contents us. The saints and demigods whom his- soul, and learning, as the ancient said, that “its beauty
tory worships we are constrained to accept with a grain is immense,” man will come to see that the world is the
of allowance. Though in our lonely hours we draw a new perennial miracle which the soul worketh, and be less

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astonished at particular wonders; he will learn that there CIRCLES
is no profane history; that all history is sacred; that the
universe is represented in an atom, in a moment of time. Nature centres into balls,
He will weave no longer a spotted life of shreds and And her proud ephemerals,
patches, but he will live with a divine unity. He will cease Fast to surface and outside,
from what is base and frivolous in his life and be content Scan the profile of the sphere;
with all places and with any service he can render. He Knew they what that signified,
will calmly front the morrow in the negligency of that A new genesis were here.
trust which carries God with it and so hath already the
whole future in the bottom of the heart. X. CIRCLES

T
he eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms
is the second; and throughout nature this primary
figure is repeated without end. It is the highest
emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine de-
scribed the nature of God as a circle whose centre was
everywhere and its circumference nowhere. We are all our
lifetime reading the copious sense of this first of forms.
One moral we have already deduced, in considering the
circular or compensatory character of every human ac-
tion. Another analogy we shall now trace, that every ac-

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tion admits of being outdone. Our life is an apprentice- clefts in June and July. For the genius that created it
ship to the truth that around every circle another can be creates now somewhat else. The Greek letters last a little
drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a longer, but are already passing under the same sentence
beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on and tumbling into the inevitable pit which the creation
mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens. of new thought opens for all that is old. The new conti-
This fact, as far as it symbolizes the moral fact of the nents are built out of the ruins of an old planet; the new
Unattainable, the flying Perfect, around which the hands races fed out of the decomposition of the foregoing. New
of man can never meet, at once the inspirer and the con- arts destroy the old. See the investment of capital in
demner of every success, may conveniently serve us to aqueducts made useless by hydraulics; fortifications, by
connect many illustrations of human power in every de- gunpowder; roads and canals, by railways; sails, by steam;
partment. steam by electricity.
There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid You admire this tower of granite, weathering the hurts
and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our of so many ages. Yet a little waving hand built this huge
globe seen by God is a transparent law, not a mass of wall, and that which builds is better than that which is
facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds it fluid. Our built. The hand that built can topple it down much faster.
culture is the predominance of an idea which draws after Better than the hand and nimbler was the invisible
it this train of cities and institutions. Let us rise into thought which wrought through it; and thus ever, behind
another idea: they will disappear. The Greek sculpture is the coarse effect, is a fine cause, which, being narrowly
all melted away, as if it had been statues of ice; here and seen, is itself the effect of a finer cause. Every thing
there a solitary figure or fragment remaining, as we see looks permanent until its secret is known. A rich estate
flecks and scraps of snow left in cold dells and mountain appears to women a firm and lasting fact; to a merchant,

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one easily created out of any materials, and easily lost. stance,—as for instance an empire, rules of an art, a
An orchard, good tillage, good grounds, seem a fixture, local usage, a religious rite,—to heap itself on that ridge
like a gold mine, or a river, to a citizen; but to a large and to solidify and hem in the life. But if the soul is
farmer, not much more fixed than the state of the crop. quick and strong it bursts over that boundary on all sides
Nature looks provokingly stable and secular, but it has a and expands another orbit on the great deep, which also
cause like all the rest; and when once I comprehend that, runs up into a high wave, with attempt again to stop and
will these fields stretch so immovably wide, these leaves to bind. But the heart refuses to be imprisoned; in its
hang so individually considerable? Permanence is a word first and narrowest pulses, it already tends outward with
of degrees. Every thing is medial. Moons are no more a vast force and to immense and innumerable expansions.
bounds to spiritual power than bat-balls. Every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series.
The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defy- Every general law only a particular fact of some more
ing though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which general law presently to disclose itself. There is no out-
is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can side, no inclosing wall, no circumference to us. The man
only be reformed by showing him a new idea which com- finishes his story,—how good! how final! how it puts a
mands his own. The life of man is a self-evolving circle, new face on all things! He fills the sky. Lo! on the other
which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides side rises also a man and draws a circle around the circle
outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end. we had just pronounced the outline of the sphere. Then
The extent to which this generation of circles, wheel with- already is our first speaker not man, but only a first
out wheel, will go, depends on the force or truth of the speaker. His only redress is forthwith to draw a circle
individual soul. For it is the inert effort of each thought, outside of his antagonist. And so men do by themselves.
having formed itself into a circular wave of circum- The result of to-day, which haunts the mind and cannot

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be escaped, will presently be abridged into a word, and crass and material, threatening to degrade thy theory of
the principle that seemed to explain nature will itself be spirit? Resist it not; it goes to refine and raise thy theory
included as one example of a bolder generalization. In of matter just as much.
the thought of to-morrow there is a power to upheave all There are no fixtures to men, if we appeal to conscious-
thy creed, all the creeds, all the literatures of the na- ness. Every man supposes himself not to be fully under-
tions, and marshal thee to a heaven which no epic dream stood; and if there is any truth in him, if he rests at last
has yet depicted. Every man is not so much a workman in on the divine soul, I see not how it can be otherwise. The
the world as he is a suggestion of that he should be. Men last chamber, the last closet, he must feel was never
walk as prophecies of the next age. opened; there is always a residuum unknown,
Step by step we scale this mysterious ladder: the steps unanalyzable. That is, every man believes that he has a
are actions; the new prospect is power. Every several re- greater possibility.
sult is threatened and judged by that which follows. Ev- Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am
ery one seems to be contradicted by the new; it is only full of thoughts and can write what I please. I see no
limited by the new. The new statement is always hated reason why I should not have the same thought, the same
by the old, and, to those dwelling in the old, comes like power of expression, to-morrow. What I write, whilst I
an abyss of scepticism. But the eye soon gets wonted to write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but
it, for the eye and it are effects of one cause; then its yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which
innocency and benefit appear, and presently, all its en- now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I
ergy spent, it pales and dwindles before the revelation of shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous
the new hour. pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous,
Fear not the new generalization. Does the fact look this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a

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weed by the wall. limitation. As soon as you once come up with a man’s
The continual effort to raise himself above himself, to limitations, it is all over with him. Has he talents? has he
work a pitch above his last height, betrays itself in a man’s enterprise? has he knowledge? It boots not. Infinitely al-
relations. We thirst for approbation, yet cannot forgive the luring and attractive was he to you yesterday, a great hope,
approver. The sweet of nature is love; yet, if I have a friend a sea to swim in; now, you have found his shores, found it
I am tormented by my imperfections. The love of me ac- a pond, and you care not if you never see it again.
cuses the other party. If he were high enough to slight me, Each new step we take in thought reconciles twenty
then could I love him, and rise by my affection to new seemingly discordant facts, as expressions of one law.
heights. A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of Aristotle and Plato are reckoned the respective heads of
his friends. For every friend whom he loses for truth, he two schools. A wise man will see that Aristotle platonizes.
gains a better. I thought as I walked in the woods and By going one step farther back in thought, discordant
mused on my friends, why should I play with them this opinions are reconciled by being seen to be two extremes
game of idolatry? I know and see too well, when not vol- of one principle, and we can never go so far back as to
untarily blind, the speedy limits of persons called high and preclude a still higher vision.
worthy. Rich, noble and great they are by the liberality of Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this
our speech, but truth is sad. O blessed Spirit, whom I planet. Then all things are at risk. It is as when a confla-
forsake for these, they are not thou! Every personal con- gration has broken out in a great city, and no man knows
sideration that we allow costs us heavenly state. We sell what is safe, or where it will end. There is not a piece of
the thrones of angels for a short and turbulent pleasure. science but its flank may be turned to-morrow; there is
How often must we learn this lesson? Men cease to not any literary reputation, not the so-called eternal names
interest us when we find their limitations. The only sin is of fame, that may not be revised and condemned. The

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very hopes of man, the thoughts of his heart, the religion crude statement of the idealism of Jesus, and that again
of nations, the manners and morals of mankind are all at is a crude statement of the fact that all nature is the
the mercy of a new generalization. Generalization is al- rapid efflux of goodness executing and organizing itself.
ways a new influx of the divinity into the mind. Hence Much more obviously is history and the state of the world
the thrill that attends it. at any one time directly dependent on the intellectual
Valor consists in the power of self-recovery, so that a classification then existing in the minds of men. The things
man cannot have his flank turned, cannot be out- which are dear to men at this hour are so on account of
generalled, but put him where you will, he stands. This the ideas which have emerged on their mental horizon,
can only be by his preferring truth to his past apprehen- and which cause the present order of things, as a tree
sion of truth, and his alert acceptance of it from what- bears its apples. A new degree of culture would instantly
ever quarter; the intrepid conviction that his laws, his revolutionize the entire system of human pursuits.
relations to society, his Christianity, his world, may at Conversation is a game of circles. In conversation we
any time be superseded and decease. pluck up the termini which bound the common of silence
There are degrees in idealism. We learn first to play on every side. The parties are not to be judged by the
with it academically, as the magnet was once a toy. Then spirit they partake and even express under this Pente-
we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be cost. To-morrow they will have receded from this high-
true, that it is true in gleams and fragments. Then its water mark. To-morrow you shall find them stooping un-
countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it der the old pack-saddles. Yet let us enjoy the cloven flame
must be true. It now shows itself ethical and practical. whilst it glows on our walls. When each new speaker strikes
We learn that God is; that he is in me; and that all things a new light, emancipates us from the oppression of the
are shadows of him. The idealism of Berkeley is only a last speaker, to oppress us with the greatness and exclu-

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siveness of his own thought, then yields us to another they were at a perfect understanding in any part, no words
redeemer, we seem to recover our rights, to become men. would be necessary thereon. If at one in all parts, no
O, what truths profound and executable only in ages and words would be suffered.
orbs, are supposed in the announcement of every truth! Literature is a point outside of our hodiernal circle
In common hours, society sits cold and statuesque. We through which a new one may be described. The use of
all stand waiting, empty,—knowing, possibly, that we literature is to afford us a platform whence we may com-
can be full, surrounded by mighty symbols which are not mand a view of our present life, a purchase by which we
symbols to us, but prose and trivial toys. Then cometh may move it. We fill ourselves with ancient learning, in-
the god and converts the statues into fiery men, and by a stall ourselves the best we can in Greek, in Punic, in
flash of his eye burns up the veil which shrouded all Roman houses, only that we may wiselier see French,
things, and the meaning of the very furniture, of cup and English and American houses and modes of living. In like
saucer, of chair and clock and tester, is manifest. The manner we see literature best from the midst of wild na-
facts which loomed so large in the fogs of yesterday,— ture, or from the din of affairs, or from a high religion.
property, climate, breeding, personal beauty and the like, The field cannot be well seen from within the field. The
have strangely changed their proportions. All that we reck- astronomer must have his diameter of the earth’s orbit as
oned settled shakes and rattles; and literatures, cities, a base to find the parallax of any star.
climates, religions, leave their foundations and dance Therefore we value the poet. All the argument and all
before our eyes. And yet here again see the swift circum- the wisdom is not in the encyclopaedia, or the treatise
spection! Good as is discourse, silence is better, and on metaphysics, or the Body of Divinity, but in the son-
shames it. The length of the discourse indicates the dis- net or the play. In my daily work I incline to repeat my
tance of thought betwixt the speaker and the hearer. If old steps, and do not believe in remedial force, in the

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power of change and reform. But some Petrarch or Ariosto, sons be never so great and welcome, the instinct of man
filled with the new wine of his imagination, writes me an presses eagerly onward to the impersonal and illimitable,
ode or a brisk romance, full of daring thought and action. and gladly arms itself against the dogmatism of bigots
He smites and arouses me with his shrill tones, breaks up with this generous word out of the book itself.
my whole chain of habits, and I open my eye on my own The natural world may be conceived of as a system of
possibilities. He claps wings to the sides of all the solid concentric circles, and we now and then detect in nature
old lumber of the world, and I am capable once more of slight dislocations which apprise us that this surface on
choosing a straight path in theory and practice. which we now stand is not fixed, but sliding. These mani-
We have the same need to command a view of the reli- fold tenacious qualities, this chemistry and vegetation,
gion of the world. We can never see Christianity from the these metals and animals, which seem to stand there for
catechism:—from the pastures, from a boat in the pond, their own sake, are means and methods only,—are words
from amidst the songs of wood-birds we possibly may. of God, and as fugitive as other words. Has the naturalist
Cleansed by the elemental light and wind, steeped in the or chemist learned his craft, who has explored the grav-
sea of beautiful forms which the field offers us, we may ity of atoms and the elective affinities, who has not yet
chance to cast a right glance back upon biography. Chris- discerned the deeper law whereof this is only a partial or
tianity is rightly dear to the best of mankind; yet was approximate statement, namely that like draws to like,
there never a young philosopher whose breeding had fallen and that the goods which belong to you gravitate to you
into the Christian church by whom that brave text of and need not be pursued with pains and cost? Yet is that
Paul’s was not specially prized:—”Then shall also the Son statement approximate also, and not final. Omnipresence
be subject unto Him who put all things under him, that is a higher fact. Not through subtle subterranean chan-
God may be all in all.” Let the claims and virtues of per- nels need friend and fact be drawn to their counterpart,

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but, rightly considered, these things proceed from the great sentiment, or make the verge of to-day the new
eternal generation of the soul. Cause and effect are two centre. Besides, your bravest sentiment is familiar to the
sides of one fact. humblest men. The poor and the low have their way of
The same law of eternal procession ranges all that we expressing the last facts of philosophy as well as you.
call the virtues, and extinguishes each in the light of a “Blessed be nothing” and “The worse things are, the bet-
better. The great man will not be prudent in the popular ter they are” are proverbs which express the transcen-
sense; all his prudence will be so much deduction from dentalism of common life.
his grandeur. But it behooves each to see, when he sac- One man’s justice is another’s injustice; one man’s beauty
rifices prudence, to what god he devotes it; if to ease another’s ugliness; one man’s wisdom another’s folly; as
and pleasure, he had better be prudent still; if to a great one beholds the same objects from a higher point. One
trust, he can well spare his mule and panniers who has a man thinks justice consists in paying debts, and has no
winged chariot instead. Geoffrey draws on his boots to measure in his abhorrence of another who is very remiss
go through the woods, that his feet may be safer from in this duty and makes the creditor wait tediously. But
the bite of snakes; Aaron never thinks of such a peril. In that second man has his own way of looking at things;
many years neither is harmed by such an accident. Yet it asks himself Which debt must I pay first, the debt to the
seems to me that with every precaution you take against rich, or the debt to the poor? the debt of money, or the
such an evil you put yourself into the power of the evil. I debt of thought to mankind, of genius to nature? For
suppose that the highest prudence is the lowest prudence. you, O broker, there is no other principle but arithmetic.
Is this too sudden a rushing from the centre to the verge For me, commerce is of trivial import; love, faith, truth of
of our orbit? Think how many times we shall fall back character, the aspiration of man, these are sacred; nor
into pitiful calculations before we take up our rest in the can I detach one duty, like you, from all other duties, and

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concentrate my forces mechanically on the payment of poorly compute my possible achievement by what remains
moneys. Let me live onward; you shall find that, though to me of the month or the year; for these moments confer
slower, the progress of my character will liquidate all these a sort of omnipresence and omnipotence which asks noth-
debts without injustice to higher claims. If a man should ing of duration, but sees that the energy of the mind is
dedicate himself to the payment of notes, would not this commensurate with the work to be done, without time.
be injustice? Does he owe no debt but money? And are all And thus, O circular philosopher, I hear some reader
claims on him to be postponed to a landlord’s or a exclaim, you have arrived at a fine Pyrrhonism, at an
banker’s? equivalence and indifferency of all actions, and would
There is no virtue which is final; all are initial. The fain teach us that if we are true, forsooth, our crimes
virtues of society are vices of the saint. The terror of may be lively stones out of which we shall construct the
reform is the discovery that we must cast away our vir- temple of the true God!
tues, or what we have always esteemed such, into the I am not careful to justify myself. I own I am glad-
same pit that has consumed our grosser vices:— dened by seeing the predominance of the saccharine prin-
ciple throughout vegetable nature, and not less by be-
“Forgive his crimes, forgive his virtues too, holding in morals that unrestrained inundation of the
Those smaller faults, half converts to the right.” principle of good into every chink and hole that selfish-
ness has left open, yea into selfishness and sin itself; so
It is the highest power of divine moments that they that no evil is pure, nor hell itself without its extreme
abolish our contritions also. I accuse myself of sloth and satisfactions. But lest I should mislead any when I have
unprofitableness day by day; but when these waves of my own head and obey my whims, let me remind the
God flow into me I no longer reckon lost time. I no longer reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the

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least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I forms of old age; they are rest, conservatism, appropria-
do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or tion, inertia; not newness, not the way onward. We grizzle
false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; every day. I see no need of it. Whilst we converse with
none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker what is above us, we do not grow old, but grow young.
with no Past at my back. Infancy, youth, receptive, aspiring, with religious eye look-
Yet this incessant movement and progression which all ing upward, counts itself nothing and abandons itself to
things partake could never become sensible to us but by the instruction flowing from all sides. But the man and
contrast to some principle of fixture or stability in the woman of seventy assume to know all, they have out-
soul. Whilst the eternal generation of circles proceeds, lived their hope, they renounce aspiration, accept the
the eternal generator abides. That central life is some- actual for the necessary and talk down to the young. Let
what superior to creation, superior to knowledge and them, then, become organs of the Holy Ghost; let them
thought, and contains all its circles. For ever it labors to be lovers; let them behold truth; and their eyes are up-
create a life and thought as Large and excellent as itself, lifted, their wrinkles smoothed, they are perfumed again
but in vain, for that which is made instructs how to make with hope and power. This old age ought not to creep on
a better. a human mind. In nature every moment is new; the past
Thus there is no sleep, no pause, no preservation, but is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is
all things renew, germinate and spring. Why should we sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the ener-
import rags and relics into the new hour? Nature abhors gizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant
the old, and old age seems the only disease; all others to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime
run into this one. We call it by many names,—fever, in- but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new
temperance, insanity, stupidity and crime; they are all thoughts. People wish to be settled; only as far as they

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are unsettled is there any hope for them. determined hour, which fortifies all the company by mak-
Life is a series of surprises. We do not guess to-day the ing them see that much is possible and excellent that
mood, the pleasure, the power of to-morrow, when we was not thought of. Character dulls the impression of
are building up our being. Of lower states, of acts of particular events. When we see the conqueror we do not
routine and sense, we can tell somewhat; but the master- think much of any one battle or success. We see that we
pieces of God, the total growths and universal movements had exaggerated the difficulty. It was easy to him. The
of the soul, he hideth; they are incalculable. I can know great man is not convulsible or tormentable; events pass
that truth is divine and helpful; but how it shall help me over him without much impression. People say sometimes,
I can have no guess, for so to be is the sole inlet of so to ‘See what I have overcome; see how cheerful I am; see
know. The new position of the advancing man has all the how completely I have triumphed over these black events.’
powers of the old, yet has them all new. It carries in its Not if they still remind me of the black event. True con-
bosom all the energies of the past, yet is itself an exha- quest is the causing the calamity to fade and disappear
lation of the morning. I cast away in this new moment all as an early cloud of insignificant result in a history so
my once hoarded knowledge, as vacant and vain. Now, large and advancing.
for the first time seem I to know any thing rightly. The The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is
simplest words,—we do not know what they mean except to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety,
when we love and aspire. to lose our sempiternal memory and to do something with-
The difference between talents and character is adroit- out knowing how or why; in short to draw a new circle.
ness to keep the old and trodden round, and power and Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The
courage to make a new road to new and better goals. way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment. The great
Character makes an overpowering present; a cheerful, moments of history are the facilities of performance

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through the strength of ideas, as the works of genius and INTELLECT
religion. “A man” said Oliver Cromwell “never rises so
high as when he knows not whither he is going.” Dreams Go, speed the stars of Thought
and drunkenness, the use of opium and alcohol are the On to their shining goals;—
semblance and counterfeit of this oracular genius, and The sower scatters broad his seed,
hence their dangerous attraction for men. For the like The wheat thou strew’st be souls.
reason they ask the aid of wild passions, as in gaming
and war, to ape in some manner these flames and gener- XI. INTELLECT
osities of the heart.

E
very substance is negatively electric to that which
stands above it in the chemical tables, positively
to that which stands below it. Water dissolves wood
and iron and salt; air dissolves water; electric fire dis-
solves air, but the intellect dissolves fire, gravity, laws,
method, and the subtlest unnamed relations of nature in
its resistless menstruum. Intellect lies behind genius,
which is intellect constructive. Intellect is the simple
power anterior to all action or construction. Gladly would
I unfold in calm degrees a natural history of the intel-
lect, but what man has yet been able to mark the steps
and boundaries of that transparent essence? The first ques-

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tions are always to be asked, and the wisest doctor is grav- the problem of existence. This the intellect always pon-
elled by the inquisitiveness of a child. How can we speak ders. Nature shows all things formed and bound. The
of the action of the mind under any divisions, as of its intellect pierces the form, overleaps the wall, detects
knowledge, of its ethics, of its works, and so forth, since it intrinsic likeness between remote things and reduces all
melts will into perception, knowledge into act? Each be- things into a few principles.
comes the other. Itself alone is. Its vision is not like the The making a fact the subject of thought raises it. All
vision of the eye, but is union with the things known. that mass of mental and moral phenomena which we do
Intellect and intellection signify to the common ear not make objects of voluntary thought, come within the
consideration of abstract truth. The considerations of time power of fortune; they constitute the circumstance of daily
and place, of you and me, of profit and hurt tyrannize life; they are subject to change, to fear, and hope. Every
over most men’s minds. Intellect separates the fact con- man beholds his human condition with a degree of melan-
sidered, from you, from all local and personal reference, choly. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man,
and discerns it as if it existed for its own sake. Heraclitus imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming
looked upon the affections as dense and colored mists. events. But a truth, separated by the intellect, is no longer
In the fog of good and evil affections it is hard for man a subject of destiny. We behold it as a god upraised above
to walk forward in a straight line. Intellect is void of care and fear. And so any fact in our life, or any record of
affection and sees an object as it stands in the light of our fancies or reflections, disentangled from the web of
science, cool and disengaged. The intellect goes out of our unconsciousness, becomes an object impersonal and
the individual, floats over its own personality, and re- immortal. It is the past restored, but embalmed. A better
gards it as a fact, and not as I and mine. He who is art than that of Egypt has taken fear and corruption out of
immersed in what concerns person or place cannot see it. It is eviscerated of care. It is offered for science. What

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is addressed to us for contemplation does not threaten Our spontaneous action is always the best. You cannot
us but makes us intellectual beings. with your best deliberation and heed come so close to
The growth of the intellect is spontaneous in every ex- any question as your spontaneous glance shall bring you,
pansion. The mind that grows could not predict the times, whilst you rise from your bed, or walk abroad in the morn-
the means, the mode of that spontaneity. God enters by a ing after meditating the matter before sleep on the pre-
private door into every individual. Long prior to the age vious night. Our thinking is a pious reception. Our truth
of reflection is the thinking of the mind. Out of darkness of thought is therefore vitiated as much by too violent
it came insensibly into the marvellous light of to-day. In direction given by our will, as by too great negligence.
the period of infancy it accepted and disposed of all im- We do not determine what we will think. We only open
pressions from the surrounding creation after its own way. our senses, clear away as we can all obstruction from the
Whatever any mind doth or saith is after a law; and this fact, and suffer the intellect to see. We have little con-
native law remains over it after it has come to reflection trol over our thoughts. We are the prisoners of ideas.
or conscious thought. In the most worn, pedantic, intro- They catch us up for moments into their heaven and so
verted self-tormenter’s life, the greatest part is incalcu- fully engage us that we take no thought for the morrow,
lable by him, unforeseen, unimaginable, and must be, gaze like children, without an effort to make them our
until he can take himself up by his own ears. What am I? own. By and by we fall out of that rapture, bethink us
What has my will done to make me that I am? Nothing. I where we have been, what we have seen, and repeat as
have been floated into this thought, this hour, this con- truly as we can what we have beheld. As far as we can
nection of events, by secret currents of might and mind, recall these ecstasies we carry away in the ineffaceable
and my ingenuity and wilfulness have not thwarted, have memory the result, and all men and all the ages confirm
not aided to an appreciable degree. it. It is called Truth. But the moment we cease to report

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and attempt to correct and contrive, it is not truth. natural manner surprises and delights when it is produced.
If we consider what persons have stimulated and prof- For we cannot oversee each other’s secret. And hence the
ited us, we shall perceive the superiority of the spontane- differences between men in natural endowment are insig-
ous or intuitive principle over the arithmetical or logical. nificant in comparison with their common wealth. Do you
The first contains the second, but virtual and latent. We think the porter and the cook have no anecdotes, no expe-
want in every man a long logic; we cannot pardon the riences, no wonders for you? Every body knows as much as
absence of it, but it must not be spoken. Logic is the the savant. The walls of rude minds are scrawled all over
procession or proportionate unfolding of the intuition; but with facts, with thoughts. They shall one day bring a lan-
its virtue is as silent method; the moment it would appear tern and read the inscriptions. Every man, in the degree in
as propositions and have a separate value it is worthless. which he has wit and culture, finds his curiosity inflamed
In every man’s mind, some images, words and facts re- concerning the modes of living and thinking of other men,
main, without effort on his part to imprint them, which and especially of those classes whose minds have not been
others forget, and afterwards these illustrate to him im- subdued by the drill of school education.
portant laws. All our progress is an unfolding, like the This instinctive action never ceases in a healthy mind,
vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, but becomes richer and more frequent in its informations
then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. through all states of culture. At last comes the era of
Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reflection, when we not only observe, but take pains to
reason. It is vain to hurry it. By trusting it to the end, it observe; when we of set purpose sit down to consider an
shall ripen into truth and you shall know why you believe. abstract truth; when we keep the mind’s eye open whilst
Each mind has its own method. A true man never ac- we converse, whilst we read, whilst we act, intent to
quires after college rules. What you have aggregated in a learn the secret law of some class of facts.

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What is the hardest task in the world? To think. I would blood,—the law of undulation. So now you must labor
put myself in the attitude to look in the eye an abstract with your brains, and now you must forbear your activity
truth, and I cannot. I blench and withdraw on this side and see what the great Soul showeth.
and on that. I seem to know what he meant who said, No The immortality of man is as legitimately preached from
man can see God face to face and live. For example, a the intellections as from the moral volitions. Every intel-
man explores the basis of civil government. Let him in- lection is mainly prospective. Its present value is its least.
tend his mind without respite, without rest, in one direc- Inspect what delights you in Plutarch, in Shakspeare, in
tion. His best heed long time avails him nothing. Yet Cervantes. Each truth that a writer acquires is a lantern,
thoughts are flitting before him. We all but apprehend, which he turns full on what facts and thoughts lay al-
we dimly forebode the truth. We say I will walk abroad, ready in his mind, and behold, all the mats and rubbish
and the truth will take form and clearness to me. We go which had littered his garret become precious. Every trivial
forth, but cannot find it. It seems as if we needed only fact in his private biography becomes an illustration of
the stillness and composed attitude of the library to seize this new principle, revisits the day, and delights all men
the thought. But we come in, and are as far from it as at by its piquancy and new charm. Men say, Where did he
first. Then, in a moment, and unannounced, the truth get this? and think there was something divine in his
appears. A certain wandering light appears, and is the life. But no; they have myriads of facts just as good,
distinction, the principle, we wanted. But the oracle comes would they only get a lamp to ransack their attics withal.
because we had previously laid siege to the shrine. It We are all wise. The difference between persons is not
seems as if the law of the intellect resembled that law of in wisdom but in art. I knew, in an academical club, a
nature by which we now inspire, now expire the breath; person who always deferred to me; who, seeing my whim
by which the heart now draws in, then hurls out the for writing, fancied that my experiences had somewhat

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superior; whilst I saw that his experiences were as good you acquainted, in your memory, though you know it not;
as mine. Give them to me and I would make the same use and a thrill of passion flashes light on their dark cham-
of them. He held the old; he holds the new; I had the ber, and the active power seizes instantly the fit image,
habit of tacking together the old and the new which he as the word of its momentary thought.
did not use to exercise. This may hold in the great ex- It is long ere we discover how rich we are. Our history,
amples. Perhaps if we should meet Shakspeare we should we are sure, is quite tame: we have nothing to write,
not be conscious of any steep inferiority; no, but of a nothing to infer. But our wiser years still run back to the
great equality,—only that he possessed a strange skill of despised recollections of childhood, and always we are
using, of classifying, his facts, which we lacked. For not- fishing up some wonderful article out of that pond; until
withstanding our utter incapacity to produce anything by and by we begin to suspect that the biography of the
like Hamlet and Othello, see the perfect reception this one foolish person we know is, in reality, nothing less
wit and immense knowledge of life and liquid eloquence than the miniature paraphrase of the hundred volumes of
find in us all. the Universal History.
If you gather apples in the sunshine, or make hay, or In the intellect constructive, which we popularly desig-
hoe corn, and then retire within doors and shut your eyes nate by the word Genius, we observe the same balance of
and press them with your hand, you shall still see apples two elements as in intellect receptive. The constructive
hanging in the bright light with boughs and leaves thereto, intellect produces thoughts, sentences, poems, plans,
or the tasselled grass, or the corn-flags, and this for five designs, systems. It is the generation of the mind, the
or six hours afterwards. There lie the impressions on the marriage of thought with nature. To genius must always
retentive organ, though you knew it not. So lies the whole go two gifts, the thought and the publication. The first is
series of natural images with which your life has made revelation, always a miracle, which no frequency of oc-

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currence or incessant study can ever familiarize, but which break through the silence into adequate rhyme. As all
must always leave the inquirer stupid with wonder. It is men have some access to primary truth, so all have some
the advent of truth into the world, a form of thought now art or power of communication in their head, but only in
for the first time bursting into the universe, a child of the artist does it descend into the hand. There is an in-
the old eternal soul, a piece of genuine and immeasur- equality, whose laws we do not yet know, between two
able greatness. It seems, for the time, to inherit all that men and between two moments of the same man, in re-
has yet existed and to dictate to the unborn. It affects spect to this faculty. In common hours we have the same
every thought of man and goes to fashion every institu- facts as in the uncommon or inspired, but they do not sit
tion. But to make it available it needs a vehicle or art by for their portraits; they are not detached, but lie in a
which it is conveyed to men. To be communicable it must web. The thought of genius is spontaneous; but the power
become picture or sensible object. We must learn the of picture or expression, in the most enriched and flow-
language of facts. The most wonderful inspirations die ing nature, implies a mixture of will, a certain control
with their subject if he has no hand to paint them to the over the spontaneous states, without which no produc-
senses. The ray of light passes invisible through space tion is possible. It is a conversion of all nature into the
and only when it falls on an object is it seen. When the rhetoric of thought, under the eye of judgment, with a
spiritual energy is directed on something outward, then strenuous exercise of choice. And yet the imaginative
it is a thought. The relation between it and you first vocabulary seems to be spontaneous also. It does not
makes you, the value of you, apparent to me. The rich flow from experience only or mainly, but from a richer
inventive genius of the painter must be smothered and source. Not by any conscious imitation of particular forms
lost for want of the power of drawing, and in our happy are the grand strokes of the painter executed, but by
hours we should be inexhaustible poets if once we could repairing to the fountain-head of all forms in his mind.

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Who is the first drawing-master? Without instruction we with desire and with grief. Neither are the artist’s copies
know very well the ideal of the human form. A child knows from experience ever mere copies, but always touched
if an arm or a leg be distorted in a picture; if the attitude and softened by tints from this ideal domain.
be natural or grand or mean; though he has never re- The conditions essential to a constructive mind do not
ceived any instruction in drawing or heard any conversa- appear to be so often combined but that a good sentence
tion on the subject, nor can himself draw with correct- or verse remains fresh and memorable for a long time. Yet
ness a single feature. A good form strikes all eyes pleas- when we write with ease and come out into the free air
antly, long before they have any science on the subject, of thought, we seem to be assured that nothing is easier
and a beautiful face sets twenty hearts in palpitation, than to continue this communication at pleasure. Up,
prior to all consideration of the mechanical proportions down, around, the kingdom of thought has no inclosures,
of the features and head. We may owe to dreams some but the Muse makes us free of her city. Well, the world
light on the fountain of this skill; for as soon as we let has a million writers. One would think then that good
our will go and let the unconscious states ensue, see thought would be as familiar as air and water, and the
what cunning draughtsmen we are! We entertain ourselves gifts of each new hour would exclude the last. Yet we can
with wonderful forms of men, of women, of animals, of count all our good books; nay, I remember any beautiful
gardens, of woods and of monsters, and the mystic pencil verse for twenty years. It is true that the discerning in-
wherewith we then draw has no awkwardness or inexperi- tellect of the world is always much in advance of the
ence, no meagreness or poverty; it can design well and creative, so that there are many competent judges of the
group well; its composition is full of art, its colors are best book, and few writers of the best books. But some of
well laid on and the whole canvas which it paints is life- the conditions of intellectual construction are of rare
like and apt to touch us with terror, with tenderness, occurrence. The intellect is a whole and demands integ-

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rity in every work. This is resisted equally by a man’s refuses to be analyzed by addition and subtraction. When
devotion to a single thought and by his ambition to com- we are young we spend much time and pains in filling our
bine too many. note-books with all definitions of Religion, Love, Poetry,
Truth is our element of life, yet if a man fasten his Politics, Art, in the hope that in the course of a few years
attention on a single aspect of truth and apply himself to we shall have condensed into our encyclopaedia the net
that alone for a long time, the truth becomes distorted value of all the theories at which the world has yet ar-
and not itself but falsehood; herein resembling the air, rived. But year after year our tables get no complete-
which is our natural element, and the breath of our nos- ness, and at last we discover that our curve is a parabola,
trils, but if a stream of the same be directed on the body whose arcs will never meet.
for a time, it causes cold, fever, and even death. How Neither by detachment neither by aggregation is the
wearisome the grammarian, the phrenologist, the politi- integrity of the intellect transmitted to its works, but by
cal or religious fanatic, or indeed any possessed mortal a vigilance which brings the intellect in its greatness and
whose balance is lost by the exaggeration of a single best state to operate every moment. It must have the
topic. It is incipient insanity. Every thought is a prison same wholeness which nature has. Although no diligence
also. I cannot see what you see, because I am caught up can rebuild the universe in a model by the best accumu-
by a strong wind and blown so far in one direction that I lation or disposition of details, yet does the world reap-
am out of the hoop of your horizon. pear in miniature in every event, so that all the laws of
Is it any better if the student, to avoid this offence, nature may be read in the smallest fact. The intellect
and to liberalize himself, aims to make a mechanical whole must have the like perfection in its apprehension and in
of history, or science, or philosophy, by a numerical addi- its works. For this reason, an index or mercury of intel-
tion of all the facts that fall within his vision? The world lectual proficiency is the perception of identity. We talk

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with accomplished persons who appear to be strangers in must worship truth, and forego all things for that, and
nature. The cloud, the tree, the turf, the bird are not choose defeat and pain, so that his treasure in thought
theirs, have nothing of them; the world is only their lodg- is thereby augmented.
ing and table. But the poet, whose verses are to be spheral God offers to every mind its choice between truth and
and complete, is one whom Nature cannot deceive, what- repose. Take which you please,—you can never have both.
soever face of strangeness she may put on. He feels a Between these, as a pendulum, man oscillates. He in whom
strict consanguinity, and detects more likeness than va- the love of repose predominates will accept the first creed,
riety in all her changes. We are stung by the desire for the first philosophy, the first political party he meets,—
new thought; but when we receive a new thought it is most likely his father’s. He gets rest, commodity, and
only the old thought with a new face, and though we reputation; but he shuts the door of truth. He in whom
make it our own we instantly crave another; we are not the love of truth predominates will keep himself aloof
really enriched. For the truth was in us before it was from all moorings, and afloat. He will abstain from dog-
reflected to us from natural objects; and the profound matism, and recognize all the opposite negations between
genius will cast the likeness of all creatures into every which, as walls, his being is swung. He submits to the
product of his wit. inconvenience of suspense and imperfect opinion, but
But if the constructive powers are rare and it is given he is a candidate for truth, as the other is not, and re-
to few men to be poets, yet every man is a receiver of spects the highest law of his being.
this descending holy ghost, and may well study the laws The circle of the green earth he must measure with his
of its influx. Exactly parallel is the whole rule of intellec- shoes to find the man who can yield him truth. He shall
tual duty to the rule of moral duty. A self-denial no less then know that there is somewhat more blessed and great
austere than the saint’s is demanded of the scholar. He in hearing than in speaking. Happy is the hearing man;

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unhappy the speaking man. As long as I hear truth I am all, receives more. This is as true intellectually as mor-
bathed by a beautiful element and am not conscious of ally. Each new mind we approach seems to require an
any limits to my nature. The suggestions are thousand- abdication of all our past and present possessions. A new
fold that I hear and see. The waters of the great deep doctrine seems at first a subversion of all our opinions,
have ingress and egress to the soul. But if I speak, I tastes, and manner of living. Such has Swedenborg, such
define, I confine and am less. When Socrates speaks, Ly- has Kant, such has Coleridge, such has Hegel or his inter-
sis and Menexenus are afflicted by no shame that they do preter Cousin seemed to many young men in this coun-
not speak. They also are good. He likewise defers to try. Take thankfully and heartily all they can give. Ex-
them, loves them, whilst he speaks. Because a true and haust them, wrestle with them, let them not go until
natural man contains and is the same truth which an their blessing be won, and after a short season the dis-
eloquent man articulates; but in the eloquent man, be- may will be overpast, the excess of influence withdrawn,
cause he can articulate it, it seems something the less to and they will be no longer an alarming meteor, but one
reside, and he turns to these silent beautiful with the more bright star shining serenely in your heaven and
more inclination and respect. The ancient sentence said, blending its light with all your day.
Let us be silent, for so are the gods. Silence is a solvent But whilst he gives himself up unreservedly to that
that destroys personality, and gives us leave to be great which draws him, because that is his own, he is to refuse
and universal. Every man’s progress is through a succes- himself to that which draws him not, whatsoever fame
sion of teachers, each of whom seems at the time to have and authority may attend it, because it is not his own.
a superlative influence, but it at last gives place to a Entire self-reliance belongs to the intellect. One soul is a
new. Frankly let him accept it all. Jesus says, Leave fa- counterpoise of all souls, as a capillary column of water
ther, mother, house and lands, and follow me. Who leaves is a balance for the sea. It must treat things and books

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and sovereign genius as itself also a sovereign. If But let us end these didactics. I will not, though the
Aeschylus be that man he is taken for, he has not yet subject might provoke it, speak to the open question
done his office when he has educated the learned of Eu- between Truth and Love. I shall not presume to interfere
rope for a thousand years. He is now to approve himself a in the old politics of the skies;—”The cherubim know
master of delight to me also. If he cannot do that, all his most; the seraphim love most.” The gods shall settle their
fame shall avail him nothing with me. I were a fool not to own quarrels. But I cannot recite, even thus rudely, laws
sacrifice a thousand Aeschyluses to my intellectual in- of the intellect, without remembering that lofty and se-
tegrity. Especially take the same ground in regard to ab- questered class of men who have been its prophets and
stract truth, the science of the mind. The Bacon, the oracles, the high-priesthood of the pure reason, the
Spinoza, the Hume, Schelling, Kant, or whosoever pro- Trismegisti, the expounders of the principles of thought
pounds to you a philosophy of the mind, is only a more from age to age. When at long intervals we turn over
or less awkward translator of things in your conscious- their abstruse pages, wonderful seems the calm and grand
ness which you have also your way of seeing, perhaps of air of these few, these great spiritual lords who have
denominating. Say then, instead of too timidly poring walked in the world,—these of the old religion,—dwell-
into his obscure sense, that he has not succeeded in ren- ing in a worship which makes the sanctities of Christian-
dering back to you your consciousness. He has not suc- ity look parvenues and popular; for “persuasion is in soul,
ceeded; now let another try. If Plato cannot, perhaps but necessity is in intellect.” This band of grandees,
Spinoza will. If Spinoza cannot, then perhaps Kant. Any- Hermes, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Plato, Plotinus,
how, when at last it is done, you will find it is no recon- Olympiodorus, Proclus, Synesius and the rest, have some-
dite, but a simple, natural, common state which the writer what so vast in their logic, so primary in their thinking,
restores to you. that it seems antecedent to all the ordinary distinctions

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of rhetoric and literature, and to be at once poetry and ART
music and dancing and astronomy and mathematics. I am
present at the sowing of the seed of the world. With a ge- Give to barrows trays and pans
ometry of sunbeams the soul lays the foundations of nature. Grace and glimmer of romance,
The truth and grandeur of their thought is proved by its Bring the moonlight into noon
scope and applicability, for it commands the entire schedule Hid in gleaming piles of stone;
and inventory of things for its illustration. But what marks On the city’s paved street
its elevation and has even a comic look to us, is the inno- Plant gardens lined with lilac sweet,
cent serenity with which these babe-like Jupiters sit in their Let spouting fountains cool the air,
clouds, and from age to age prattle to each other and to no Singing in the sun-baked square.
contemporary. Well assured that their speech is intelligible Let statue, picture, park and hall,
and the most natural thing in the world, they add thesis to Ballad, flag and festival,
thesis, without a moment’s heed of the universal astonish- The past restore, the day adorn
ment of the human race below, who do not comprehend And make each morrow a new morn
their plainest argument; nor do they ever relent so much as So shall the drudge in dusty frock
to insert a popular or explaining sentence, nor testify the Spy behind the city clock
least displeasure or petulance at the dulness of their amazed Retinues of airy kings,
auditory. The angels are so enamored of the language that Skirts of angels, starry wings,
is spoken in heaven that they will not distort their lips with His fathers shining in bright fables,
the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their His children fed at heavenly tables.
own, whether there be any who understand it or not. ’Tis the privilege of Art

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Thus to play its cheerful part, give us only the spirit and splendor. He should know that
Man in Earth to acclimate the landscape has beauty for his eye because it expresses
And bend the exile to his fate, a thought which is to him good; and this because the
And, moulded of one element same power which sees through his eyes is seen in that
With the days and firmament, spectacle; and he will come to value the expression of
Teach him on these as stairs to climb nature and not nature itself, and so exalt in his copy the
And live on even terms with Time; features that please him. He will give the gloom of gloom
Whilst upper life the slender rill and the sunshine of sunshine. In a portrait he must in-
Of human sense doth overfill. scribe the character and not the features, and must es-
teem the man who sits to him as himself only an imperfect
XII. ART picture or likeness of the aspiring original within.
What is that abridgment and selection we observe in

B
ecause the soul is progressive, it never quite re- all spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse? for
peats itself, but in every act attempts the pro- it is the inlet of that higher illumination which teaches
duction of a new and fairer whole. This appears to convey a larger sense by simpler symbols. What is a
in works both of the useful and the fine arts, if we em- man but nature’s finer success in self-explication? What
ploy the popular distinction of works according to their is a man but a finer and compacter landscape than the
aim either at use or beauty. Thus in our fine arts, not horizon figures,—nature’s eclecticism? and what is his
imitation but creation is the aim. In landscapes the painter speech, his love of painting, love of nature, but a still
should give the suggestion of a fairer creation than we finer success, —all the weary miles and tons of space
know. The details, the prose of nature he should omit and and bulk left out, and the spirit or moral of it contracted

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into a musical word, or the most cunning stroke of the contemporaries live and toil, to share the manner of his
pencil? times, without knowing what that manner is. Now that
But the artist must employ the symbols in use in his which is inevitable in the work has a higher charm than
day and nation to convey his enlarged sense to his fel- individual talent can ever give, inasmuch as the artist’s
low-men. Thus the new in art is always formed out of the pen or chisel seems to have been held and guided by a
old. The Genius of the Hour sets his ineffaceable seal on gigantic hand to inscribe a line in the history of the
the work and gives it an inexpressible charm for the imagi- human race. This circumstance gives a value to the Egyp-
nation. As far as the spiritual character of the period tian hieroglyphics, to the Indian, Chinese and Mexican
overpowers the artist and finds expression in his work, idols, however gross and shapeless. They denote the
so far it will retain a certain grandeur, and will represent height of the human soul in that hour, and were not
to future beholders the Unknown, the Inevitable, the Di- fantastic, but sprung from a necessity as deep as the
vine. No man can quite exclude this element of Necessity world. Shall I now add that the whole extant product of
from his labor. No man can quite emancipate himself from the plastic arts has herein its highest value, as history;
his age and country, or produce a model in which the as a stroke drawn in the portrait of that fate, perfect
education, the religion, the politics, usages and arts of and beautiful, according to whose ordinations all be-
his times shall have no share. Though he were never so ings advance to their beatitude?
original, never so wilful and fantastic, he cannot wipe Thus, historically viewed, it has been the office of art
out of his work every trace of the thoughts amidst which to educate the perception of beauty. We are immersed in
it grew. The very avoidance betrays the usage he avoids. beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision. It needs, by
Above his will and out of his sight he is necessitated by the exhibition of single traits, to assist and lead the dor-
the air he breathes and the idea on which he and his mant taste. We carve and paint, or we behold what is

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carved and painted, as students of the mystery of Form. plates. For every object has its roots in central nature,
The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one and may of course be so exhibited to us as to represent
object from the embarrassing variety. Until one thing the world. Therefore each work of genius is the tyrant of
comes out from the connection of things, there can be the hour And concentrates attention on itself. For the
enjoyment, contemplation, but no thought. Our happi- time, it is the only thing worth naming to do that,—be it
ness and unhappiness are unproductive. The infant lies a sonnet, an opera, a landscape, a statue, an oration, the
in a pleasing trance, but his individual character and his plan of a temple, of a campaign, or of a voyage of discov-
practical power depend on his daily progress in the sepa- ery. Presently we pass to some other object, which rounds
ration of things, and dealing with one at a time. Love itself into a whole as did the first; for example a well-laid
and all the passions concentrate all existence around a garden; and nothing seems worth doing but the laying
single form. It is the habit of certain minds to give an out of gardens. I should think fire the best thing in the
all-excluding fulness to the object, the thought, the word, world, if I were not acquainted with air, and water, and
they alight upon, and to make that for the time the deputy earth. For it is the right and property of all natural ob-
of the world. These are the artists, the orators, the lead- jects, of all genuine talents, of all native properties what-
ers of society. The power to detach and to magnify by soever, to be for their moment the top of the world. A
detaching is the essence of rhetoric in the hands of the squirrel leaping from bough to bough and making the
orator and the poet. This rhetoric, or power to fix the Wood but one wide tree for his pleasure, fills the eye not
momentary eminency of an object,—so remarkable in less than a lion,—is beautiful, self-sufficing, and stands
Burke, in Byron, in Carlyle,—the painter and sculptor then and there for nature. A good ballad draws my ear
exhibit in color and in stone. The power depends on the and heart whilst I listen, as much as an epic has done
depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contem- before. A dog, drawn by a master, or a litter of pigs,

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satisfies and is a reality not less than the frescoes of and then is my eye opened to the eternal picture which
Angelo. From this succession of excellent objects we learn nature paints in the street, with moving men and chil-
at last the immensity of the world, the opulence of hu- dren, beggars and fine ladies, draped in red and green
man nature, which can run out to infinitude in any direc- and blue and gray; long-haired, grizzled, white-faced,
tion. But I also learn that what astonished and fasci- black-faced, wrinkled, giant, dwarf, expanded, elfish,—
nated me in the first work astonished me in the second capped and based by heaven, earth and sea.
work also; that excellence of all things is one. A gallery of sculpture teaches more austerely the same
The office of painting and sculpture seems to be merely lesson. As picture teaches the coloring, so sculpture the
initial. The best pictures can easily tell us their last se- anatomy of form. When I have seen fine statues and
cret. The best pictures are rude draughts of a few of the afterwards enter a public assembly, I understand well what
miraculous dots and lines and dyes which make up the he meant who said, “When I have been reading Homer,
ever-changing “landscape with figures” amidst which we all men look like giants.” I too see that painting and
dwell. Painting seems to be to the eye what dancing is to sculpture are gymnastics of the eye, its training to the
the limbs. When that has educated the frame to self- niceties and curiosities of its function. There is no statue
possession, to nimbleness, to grace, the steps of the danc- like this living man, with his infinite advantage over all
ing-master are better forgotten; so painting teaches me ideal sculpture, of perpetual variety. What a gallery of art
the splendor of color and the expression of form, and as have I here! No mannerist made these varied groups and
I see many pictures and higher genius in the art, I see diverse original single figures. Here is the artist himself
the boundless opulence of the pencil, the indifferency in improvising, grim and glad, at his block. Now one thought
which the artist stands free to choose out of the possible strikes him, now another, and with each moment he al-
forms. If he can draw every thing, why draw any thing? ters the whole air, attitude and expression of his clay.

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Away with your nonsense of oil and easels, of marble and simplest attributes of our nature, and therefore most in-
chisels; except to open your eyes to the masteries of telligible at last to those souls which have these attributes.
eternal art, they are hypocritical rubbish. In the sculptures of the Greeks, in the masonry of the
The reference of all production at last to an aboriginal Romans, and in the pictures of the Tuscan and Venetian
Power explains the traits common to all works of the masters, the highest charm is the universal language they
highest art,—that they are universally intelligible; that speak. A confession of moral nature, of purity, love, and
they restore to us the simplest states of mind, and are hope, breathes from them all. That which we carry to
religious. Since what skill is therein shown is the reap- them, the same we bring back more fairly illustrated in
pearance of the original soul, a jet of pure light, it should the memory. The traveller who visits the Vatican, and
produce a similar impression to that made by natural passes from chamber to chamber through galleries of stat-
objects. In happy hours, nature appears to us one with ues, vases, sarcophagi and candelabra, through all forms
art; art perfected, —the work of genius. And the indi- of beauty cut in the richest materials, is in danger of
vidual, in whom simple tastes and susceptibility to all forgetting the simplicity of the principles out of which
the great human influences overpower the accidents of a they all sprung, and that they had their origin from
local and special culture, is the best critic of art. Though thoughts and laws in his own breast. He studies the tech-
we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must nical rules on these wonderful remains, but forgets that
carry it with us, or we find it not. The best of beauty is a these works were not always thus constellated; that they
finer charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of are the contributions of many ages and many countries;
art can ever teach, namely a radiation from the work of that each came out of the solitary workshop of one art-
art of human character,—a wonderful expression through ist, who toiled perhaps in ignorance of the existence of
stone, or canvas, or musical sound, of the deepest and other sculpture, created his work without other model

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save life, household life, and the sweet and smart of per- I remember when in my younger days I had heard of
sonal relations, of beating hearts, and meeting eyes; of the wonders of Italian painting, I fancied the great pic-
poverty and necessity and hope and fear. These were his tures would be great strangers; some surprising combina-
inspirations, and these are the effects he carries home to tion of color and form; a foreign wonder, barbaric pearl
your heart and mind. In proportion to his force, the artist and gold, like the spontoons and standards of the militia,
will find in his work an outlet for his proper character. He which play such pranks in the eyes and imaginations of
must not be in any manner pinched or hindered by his school-boys. I was to see and acquire I knew not what.
material, but through his necessity of imparting himself When I came at last to Rome and saw with eyes the pic-
the adamant will be wax in his hands, and will allow an tures, I found that genius left to novices the gay and
adequate communication of himself, in his full stature fantastic and ostentatious, and itself pierced directly to
and proportion. He need not cumber himself with a con- the simple and true; that it was familiar and sincere; that
ventional nature and culture, nor ask what is the mode in it was the old, eternal fact I had met already in so many
Rome or in Paris, but that house and weather and manner forms,—unto which I lived; that it was the plain you and
of living which poverty and the fate of birth have made me I knew so well,—had left at home in so many conver-
at once so odious and so dear, in the gray unpainted sations. I had the same experience already in a church at
wood cabin, on the corner of a New Hampshire farm, or Naples. There I saw that nothing was changed with me but
in the log-hut of the backwoods, or in the narrow lodging the place, and said to myself—’Thou foolish child, hast
where he has endured the constraints and seeming of a thou come out hither, over four thousand miles of salt
city poverty, will serve as well as any other condition as water, to find that which was perfect to thee there at home?’
the symbol of a thought which pours itself indifferently That fact I saw again in the Academmia at Naples, in the
through all. chambers of sculpture, and yet again when I came to Rome

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and to the paintings of Raphael, Angelo, Sacchi, Titian, and lofty emotions.
and Leonardo da Vinci. “What, old mole! workest thou in Yet when we have said all our fine things about the
the earth so fast?” It had travelled by my side; that which arts, we must end with a frank confession, that the arts,
I fancied I had left in Boston was here in the Vatican, and as we know them, are but initial. Our best praise is given
again at Milan and at Paris, and made all travelling ridicu- to what they aimed and promised, not to the actual re-
lous as a treadmill. I now require this of all pictures, that sult. He has conceived meanly of the resources of man,
they domesticate me, not that they dazzle me. Pictures who believes that the best age of production is past. The
must not be too picturesque. Nothing astonishes men so real value of the Iliad or the Transfiguration is as signs of
much as common-sense and plain dealing. All great ac- power; billows or ripples they are of the stream of ten-
tions have been simple, and all great pictures are. dency; tokens of the everlasting effort to produce, which
The Transfiguration, by Raphael, is an eminent example even in its worst estate the soul betrays. Art has not yet
of this peculiar merit. A calm benignant beauty shines come to its maturity if it do not put itself abreast with
over all this picture, and goes directly to the heart. It the most potent influences of the world, if it is not prac-
seems almost to call you by name. The sweet and sublime tical and moral, if it do not stand in connection with the
face of Jesus is beyond praise, yet how it disappoints all conscience, if it do not make the poor and uncultivated
florid expectations! This familiar, simple, home-speaking feel that it addresses them with a voice of lofty cheer.
countenance is as if one should meet a friend. The knowl- There is higher work for Art than the arts. They are abor-
edge of picture-dealers has its value, but listen not to tive births of an imperfect or vitiated instinct. Art is the
their criticism when your heart is touched by genius. It need to create; but in its essence, immense and univer-
was not painted for them, it was painted for you; for sal, it is impatient of working with lame or tied hands,
such as had eyes capable of being touched by simplicity and of making cripples and monsters, such as all pictures

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and statues are. Nothing less than the creation of man certain appearance of paltriness, as of toys and the trum-
and nature is its end. A man should find in it an outlet pery of a theatre, in sculpture. Nature transcends all our
for his whole energy. He may paint and carve only as long moods of thought, and its secret we do not yet find. But
as he can do that. Art should exhilarate, and throw down the gallery stands at the mercy of our moods, and there
the walls of circumstance on every side, awakening in is a moment when it becomes frivolous. I do not wonder
the beholder the same sense of universal relation and that Newton, with an attention habitually engaged on
power which the work evinced in the artist, and its high- the paths of planets and suns, should have wondered
est effect is to make new artists. what the Earl of Pembroke found to admire in “stone dolls.”
Already History is old enough to witness the old age Sculpture may serve to teach the pupil how deep is the
and disappearance of particular arts. The art of sculpture secret of form, how purely the spirit can translate its
is long ago perished to any real effect. It was originally a meanings into that eloquent dialect. But the statue will
useful art, a mode of writing, a savage’s record of grati- look cold and false before that new activity which needs
tude or devotion, and among a people possessed of a to roll through all things, and is impatient of counter-
wonderful perception of form this childish carving was feits and things not alive. Picture and sculpture are the
refined to the utmost splendor of effect. But it is the celebrations and festivities of form. But true art is never
game of a rude and youthful people, and not the manly fixed, but always flowing. The sweetest music is not in
labor of a wise and spiritual nation. Under an oak-tree the oratorio, but in the human voice when it speaks from
loaded with leaves and nuts, under a sky full of eternal its instant life tones of tenderness, truth, or courage.
eyes, I stand in a thoroughfare; but in the works of our The oratorio has already lost its relation to the morning,
plastic arts and especially of sculpture, creation is driven to the sun, and the earth, but that persuading voice is in
into a corner. I cannot hide from myself that there is a tune with these. All works of art should not be detached,

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but extempore performances. A great man is a new statue Men are not well pleased with the figure they make in
in every attitude and action. A beautiful woman is a pic- their own imaginations, and they flee to art, and convey
ture which drives all beholders nobly mad. Life may be their better sense in an oratorio, a statue, or a picture.
lyric or epic, as well as a poem or a romance. Art makes the same effort which a sensual prosperity
A true announcement of the law of creation, if a man makes; namely to detach the beautiful from the useful,
were found worthy to declare it, would carry art up into to do up the work as unavoidable, and, hating it, pass on
the kingdom of nature, and destroy its separate and con- to enjoyment. These solaces and compensations, this di-
trasted existence. The fountains of invention and beauty vision of beauty from use, the laws of nature do not per-
in modern society are all but dried up. A popular novel, a mit. As soon as beauty is sought, not from religion and
theatre, or a ball-room makes us feel that we are all pau- love but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker. High beauty
pers in the alms-house of this world, without dignity, is no longer attainable by him in canvas or in stone, in
without skill or industry. Art is as poor and low. The old sound, or in lyrical construction; an effeminate, prudent,
tragic Necessity, which lowers on the brows even of the sickly beauty, which is not beauty, is all that can be
Venuses and the Cupids of the antique, and furnishes the formed; for the hand can never execute any thing higher
sole apology for the intrusion of such anomalous figures than the character can inspire.
into nature,—namely, that they were inevitable; that the The art that thus separates is itself first separated. Art
artist was drunk with a passion for form which he could must not be a superficial talent, but must begin farther
not resist, and which vented itself in these fine extrava- back in man. Now men do not see nature to be beautiful,
gances,—no longer dignifies the chisel or the pencil. But and they go to make a statue which shall be. They abhor
the artist and the connoisseur now seek in art the exhi- men as tasteless, dull, and inconvertible, and console
bition of their talent, or an asylum from the evils of life. themselves with color-bags and blocks of marble. They

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reject life as prosaic, and create a death which they call vain that we look for genius to reiterate its miracles in
poetic. They despatch the day’s weary chores, and fly to the old arts; it is its instinct to find beauty and holiness
voluptuous reveries. They eat and drink, that they may in new and necessary facts, in the field and road-side, in
afterwards execute the ideal. Thus is art vilified; the name the shop and mill. Proceeding from a religious heart it
conveys to the mind its secondary and bad senses; it will raise to a divine use the railroad, the insurance of-
stands in the imagination as somewhat contrary to na- fice, the joint-stock company; our law, our primary as-
ture, and struck with death from the first. Would it not semblies, our commerce, the galvanic battery, the elec-
be better to begin higher up,—to serve the ideal before tric jar, the prism, and the chemist’s retort; in which we
they eat and drink; to serve the ideal in eating and drink- seek now only an economical use. Is not the selfish and
ing, in drawing the breath, and in the functions of life? even cruel aspect which belongs to our great mechanical
Beauty must come back to the useful arts, and the dis- works, to mills, railways, and machinery, the effect of the
tinction between the fine and the useful arts be forgot- mercenary impulses which these works obey? When its
ten. If history were truly told, if life were nobly spent, it errands are noble and adequate, a steamboat bridging
would be no longer easy or possible to distinguish the the Atlantic between Old and New England and arriving
one from the other. In nature, all is useful, all is beauti- at its ports with the punctuality of a planet, is a step of
ful. It is therefore beautiful because it is alive, moving, man into harmony with nature. The boat at St. Peters-
reproductive; it is therefore useful because it is symmetri- burg, which plies along the Lena by magnetism, needs
cal and fair. Beauty will not come at the call of a legisla- little to make it sublime. When science is learned in love,
ture, nor will it repeat in England or America its history and its powers are wielded by love, they will appear the
in Greece. It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring supplements and continuations of the material creation.
up between the feet of brave and earnest men. It is in

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Emerson
THE POET XIII. THE POET

T
A moody child and wildly wise hose who are esteemed umpires of taste are often
Pursued the game with joyful eyes, persons who have acquired some knowledge of ad-
Which chose, like meteors, their way, mired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclina-
And rived the dark with private ray: tion for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether
They overleapt the horizon’s edge, they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are
Searched with Apollo’s privilege; like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sen-
Through man, and woman, and sea, and star sual. Their cultivation is local, as if you should rub a log
Saw the dance of nature forward far; of dry wood in one spot to produce fire, all the rest re-
Through worlds, and races, and terms, and times maining cold. Their knowledge of the fine arts is some
Saw musical order, and pairing rhymes. study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment
of color or form, which is exercised for amusement or for
Olympian bards who sung show. It is a proof of the shallowness of the doctrine of
Divine ideas below, beauty as it lies in the minds of our amateurs, that men
Which always find us young, seem to have lost the perception of the instant depen-
And always keep us so. dence of form upon soul. There is no doctrine of forms in
our philosophy. We were put into our bodies, as fire is
put into a pan to be carried about; but there is no accu-
rate adjustment between the spirit and the organ, much
less is the latter the germination of the former. So in

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regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not be- ture and functions of the Poet, or the man of Beauty; to
lieve in any essential dependence of the material world the means and materials he uses, and to the general as-
on thought and volition. Theologians think it a pretty pect of the art in the present time.
air-castle to talk of the Spiritual meaning of a ship or a The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is
cloud, of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come representative. He stands among partial men for the com-
again to the solid ground of historical evidence; and even plete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the
the poets are contented with a civil and conformed man- common wealth. The young man reveres men of genius,
ner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is.
distance from their own experience. But the highest minds They receive of the soul as he also receives, but they
of the world have never ceased to explore the double more. Nature enhances her beauty, to the eye of loving
meaning, or shall I say the quadruple or the centuple or men, from their belief that the poet is beholding her
much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact; shows at the same time. He is isolated among his con-
Orpheus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, temporaries by truth and by his art, but with this conso-
Swedenborg, and the masters of sculpture, picture, and lation in his pursuits, that they will draw all men sooner
poetry. For we are not pans and barrows, nor even porters or later. For all men live by truth and stand in need of
of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in la-
made of it, and only the same divinity transmuted and at bor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The
two or three removes, when we know least about it. And man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.
this hidden truth, that the fountains whence all this river Notwithstanding this necessity to be published, ad-
of Time and its creatures floweth are intrinsically ideal equate expression is rare. I know not how it is that we
and beautiful, draws us to the consideration of the na- need an interpreter, but the great majority of men seem

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to be minors, who have not yet come into possession of which reappear under different names in every system of
their own, or mutes, who cannot report the conversation thought, whether they be called cause, operation, and
they have had with nature. There is no man who does not effect; or, more poetically, Jove, Pluto, Neptune; or, theo-
anticipate a supersensual utility in the sun and stars, logically, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son; but which
earth and water. These stand and wait to render him a we will call here the Knower, the Doer, and the Sayer.
peculiar service. But there is some obstruction or some These stand respectively for the love of truth, for the
excess of phlegm in our constitution, which does not love of good, and for the love of beauty. These three are
suffer them to yield the due effect. Too feeble fall the equal. Each is that which he is essentially, so that he
impressions of nature on us to make us artists. Every cannot be surmounted or analyzed, and each of these
touch should thrill. Every man should be so much an art- three has the power of the others latent in him, and his
ist that he could report in conversation what had be- own, patent.
fallen him. Yet, in our experience, the rays or appulses The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.
have sufficient force to arrive at the senses, but not He is a sovereign, and stands on the centre. For the world
enough to reach the quick and compel the reproduction is not painted or adorned, but is from the beginning beau-
of themselves in speech. The poet is the person in whom tiful; and God has not made some beautiful things, but
these powers are in balance, the man without impedi- Beauty is the creator of the universe. Therefore the poet
ment, who sees and handles that which others dream of, is not any permissive potentate, but is emperor in his
traverses the whole scale of experience, and is represen- own right. Criticism is infested with a cant of material-
tative of man, in virtue of being the largest power to ism, which assumes that manual skill and activity is the
receive and to impart. first merit of all men, and disparages such as say and do
For the Universe has three children, born at one time, not, overlooking the fact that some men, namely poets,

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are natural sayers, sent into the world to the end of ex- much appear as it must be done, or be known. Words and
pression, and confounds them with those whose province deeds are quite indifferent modes of the divine energy.
is action but who quit it to imitate the sayers. But Homer’s Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.
words are as costly and admirable to Homer as The sign and credentials of the poet are that he an-
Agamemnon’s victories are to Agamemnon. The poet does nounces that which no man foretold. He is the true and
not wait for the hero or the sage, but, as they act and only doctor; he knows and tells; he is the only teller of
think primarily, so he writes primarily what will and must news, for he was present and privy to the appearance
be spoken, reckoning the others, though primaries also, which he describes. He is a beholder of ideas and an
yet, in respect to him, secondaries and servants; as sit- utterer of the necessary and causal. For we do not speak
ters or models in the studio of a painter, or as assistants now of men of poetical talents, or of industry and skill in
who bring building materials to an architect. metre, but of the true poet. I took part in a conversation
For poetry was all written before time was, and when- the other day concerning a recent writer of lyrics, a man
ever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate of subtle mind, whose head appeared to be a music-box
into that region where the air is music, we hear those of delicate tunes and rhythms, and whose skill and com-
primal warblings and attempt to write them down, but mand of language, we could not sufficiently praise. But
we lose ever and anon a word or a verse and substitute when the question arose whether he was not only a lyrist
something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem. The but a poet, we were obliged to confess that he is plainly
men of more delicate ear write down these cadences more a contemporary, not an eternal man. He does not stand
faithfully, and these transcripts, though imperfect, be- out of our low limitations, like a Chimborazo under the
come the songs of the nations. For nature is as truly line, running up from the torrid Base through all the cli-
beautiful as it is good, or as it is reasonable, and must as mates of the globe, with belts of the herbage of every

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latitude on its high and mottled sides; but this genius is me at table. He had left his work and gone rambling none
the landscape-garden of a modern house, adorned with knew whither, and had written hundreds of lines, but
fountains and statues, with well-bred men and women could not tell whether that which was in him was therein
standing and sitting in the walks and terraces. We hear, told; he could tell nothing but that all was changed,—
through all the varied music, the ground-tone of conven- man, beast, heaven, earth and sea. How gladly we lis-
tional life. Our poets are men of talents who sing, and tened! how credulous! Society seemed to be compromised.
not the children of music. The argument is secondary, the We sat in the aurora of a sunrise which was to put out all
finish of the verses is primary. the stars. Boston seemed to be at twice the distance it
For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that had the night before, or was much farther than that.
makes a poem,—a thought so passionate and alive that Rome,—what was Rome? Plutarch and Shakspeare were
like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architec- in the yellow leaf, and Homer no more should be heard
ture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The of. It is much to know that poetry has been written this
thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but very day, under this very roof, by your side. What! that
in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form. wonderful spirit has not expired! These stony moments
The poet has a new thought; he has a whole new experi- are still sparkling and animated! I had fancied that the
ence to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and oracles were all silent, and nature had spent her fires;
all men will be the richer in his fortune. For the experi- and behold! all night, from every pore, these fine auroras
ence of each new age requires a new confession, and the have been streaming. Every one has some interest in the
world seems always waiting for its poet. I remember when advent of the poet, and no one knows how much it may
I was young how much I was moved one morning by concern him. We know that the secret of the world is
tidings that genius had appeared in a youth who sat near profound, but who or what shall be our interpreter, we

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know not. A mountain ramble, a new style of face, a new a noise; now I shall see men and women, and know the
person, may put the key into our hands. Of course the signs by which they may be discerned from fools and
value of genius to us is in the veracity of its report. Tal- satans. This day shall be better than my birthday: then I
ent may frolic and juggle; genius realizes and adds. Man- became an animal; now I am invited into the science of
kind in good earnest have availed so far in understand- the real. Such is the hope, but the fruition is postponed.
ing themselves and their work, that the foremost watch- Oftener it falls that this winged man, who will carry me
man on the peak announces his news. It is the truest into the heaven, whirls me into mists, then leaps and
word ever spoken, and the phrase will be the fittest, most frisks about with me as it were from cloud to cloud, still
musical, and the unerring voice of the world for that time. affirming that he is bound heavenward; and I, being myself
All that we call sacred history attests that the birth of a novice, am slow in perceiving that he does not know
a poet is the principal event in chronology. Man, never so the way into the heavens, and is merely bent that I should
often deceived, still watches for the arrival of a brother admire his skill to rise like a fowl or a flying fish, a little
who can hold him steady to a truth until he has made it way from the ground or the water; but the all-piercing,
his own. With what joy I begin to read a poem which I all-feeding, and ocular air of heaven that man shall never
confide in as an inspiration! And now my chains are to be inhabit. I tumble down again soon into my old nooks,
broken; I shall mount above these clouds and opaque and lead the life of exaggerations as before, and have
airs in which I live,—opaque, though they seem trans- lost my faith in the possibility of any guide who can lead
parent, —and from the heaven of truth I shall see and me thither where I would be.
comprehend my relations. That will reconcile me to life But, leaving these victims of vanity, let us, with new
and renovate nature, to see trifles animated by a ten- hope, observe how nature, by worthier impulses, has en-
dency, and to know what I am doing. Life will no more be sured the poet’s fidelity to his office of announcement

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and affirming, namely by the beauty of things, which So it the fairer body doth procure
becomes a new and higher beauty when expressed. Na- To habit in, and it more fairly dight,
ture offers all her creatures to him as a picture-language. With cheerful grace and amiable sight.
Being used as a type, a second wonderful value appears For, of the soul, the body form doth take,
in the object, far better than its old value; as the For soul is form, and doth the body make.”
carpenter’s stretched cord, if you hold your ear close
enough, is musical in the breeze. “Things more excellent Here we find ourselves suddenly not in a critical specula-
than every image,” says Jamblichus, “are expressed tion but in a holy place, and should go very warily and
through images.” Things admit of being used as symbols reverently. We stand before the secret of the world, there
because nature is a symbol, in the whole, and in every where Being passes into Appearance and Unity into Variety.
part. Every line we can draw in the sand has expression; The Universe is the externization of the soul. Wherever
and there is no body without its spirit or genius. All form the life is, that bursts into appearance around it. Our
is an effect of character; all condition, of the quality of science is sensual, and therefore superficial. The earth
the life; all harmony, of health; and for this reason a and the heavenly bodies, physics, and chemistry, we sen-
perception of beauty should be sympathetic, or proper sually treat, as if they were self-existent; but these are
only to the good. The beautiful rests on the foundations the retinue of that Being we have. “The mighty heaven,”
of the necessary. The soul makes the body, as the wise said Proclus, “exhibits, in its transfigurations, clear im-
Spenser teaches:— ages of the splendor of intellectual perceptions; being
moved in conjunction with the unapparent periods of
“So every spirit, as it is most pure, intellectual natures.” Therefore science always goes
And hath in it the more of heavenly light, abreast with the just elevation of the man, keeping step

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with religion and metaphysics; or the state of science is commanded in nature, by the living power which he feels
an index of our self-knowledge. Since everything in na- to be there present. No imitation or playing of these things
ture answers to a moral power, if any phenomenon re- would content him; he loves the earnest of the north
mains brute and dark it is that the corresponding faculty wind, of rain, of stone, and wood, and iron. A beauty not
in the observer is not yet active. explicable is dearer than a beauty which we can see to
No wonder then, if these waters be so deep, that we the end of. It is nature the symbol, nature certifying the
hover over them with a religious regard. The beauty of supernatural, body overflowed by life which he worships
the fable proves the importance of the sense; to the poet, with coarse but sincere rites.
and to all others; or, if you please, every man is so far a The inwardness and mystery of this attachment drives
poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments of na- men of every class to the use of emblems. The schools of
ture; for all men have the thoughts whereof the universe poets and philosophers are not more intoxicated with
is the celebration. I find that the fascination resides in their symbols than the populace with theirs. In our po-
the symbol. Who loves nature? Who does not? Is it only litical parties, compute the power of badges and emblems.
poets, and men of leisure and cultivation, who live with See the great ball which they roll from Baltimore to Bun-
her? No; but also hunters, farmers, grooms, and butchers, ker hill! In the political processions, Lowell goes in a
though they express their affection in their choice of life loom, and Lynn in a shoe, and Salem in a ship. Witness
and not in their choice of words. The writer wonders what the cider-barrel, the log-cabin, the hickory-stick, the pal-
the coachman or the hunter values in riding, in horses metto, and all the cognizances of party. See the power of
and dogs. It is not superficial qualities. When you talk national emblems. Some stars, lilies, leopards, a cres-
with him he holds these at as slight a rate as you. His cent, a lion, an eagle, or other figure which came into
worship is sympathetic; he has no definitions, but he is credit God knows how, on an old rag of bunting, blowing

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in the wind on a fort at the ends of the earth, shall make law is expressed, the more pungent it is, and the more
the blood tingle under the rudest or the most conven- lasting in the memories of men: just as we choose the
tional exterior. The people fancy they hate poetry, and smallest box or case in which any needful utensil can be
they are all poets and mystics! carried. Bare lists of words are found suggestive to an
Beyond this universality of the symbolic language, we imaginative and excited mind; as it is related of Lord
are apprised of the divineness of this superior use of Chatham that he was accustomed to read in Bailey’s Dic-
things, whereby the world is a temple whose walls are tionary when he was preparing to speak in Parliament. The
covered with emblems, pictures, and commandments of poorest experience is rich enough for all the purposes of
the Deity,—in this, that there is no fact in nature which expressing thought. Why covet a knowledge of new facts?
does not carry the whole sense of nature; and the dis- Day and night, house and garden, a few books, a few ac-
tinctions which we make in events and in affairs, of low tions, serve us as well as would all trades and all spec-
and high, honest and base, disappear when nature is used tacles. We are far from having exhausted the significance
as a symbol. Thought makes everything fit for use. The of the few symbols we use. We can come to use them yet
vocabulary of an omniscient man would embrace words with a terrible simplicity. It does not need that a poem
and images excluded from polite conversation. What would should be long. Every word was once a poem. Every new
be base, or even obscene, to the obscene, becomes illus- relation is a new word. Also we use defects and deformi-
trious, spoken in a new connexion of thought. The piety ties to a sacred purpose, so expressing our sense that the
of the Hebrew prophets purges their grossness. The cir- evils of the world are such only to the evil eye. In the old
cumcision is an example of the power of poetry to raise mythology, mythologists observe, defects are ascribed to
the low and offensive. Small and mean things serve as divine natures, as lameness to Vulcan, blindness to Cupid,
well as great symbols. The meaner the type by which a and the like, —to signify exuberances.

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For as it is dislocation and detachment from the life of and know that he never saw such before, but he disposes
God that makes things ugly, the poet, who re-attaches of them as easily as the poet finds place for the railway.
things to nature and the Whole,—re-attaching even artifi- The chief value of the new fact is to enhance the great and
cial things and violations of nature, to nature, by a deeper constant fact of Life, which can dwarf any and every cir-
insight,—disposes very easily of the most disagreeable cumstance, and to which the belt of wampum and the com-
facts. Readers of poetry see the factory-village and the merce of America are alike.
railway, and fancy that the poetry of the landscape is bro- The world being thus put under the mind for verb and
ken up by these; for these works of art are not yet conse- noun, the poet is he who can articulate it. For though
crated in their reading; but the poet sees them fall within life is great, and fascinates, and absorbs; and though all
the great Order not less than the beehive or the spider’s men are intelligent of the symbols through which it is
geometrical web. Nature adopts them very fast into her named; yet they cannot originally use them. We are sym-
vital circles, and the gliding train of cars she loves like her bols and inhabit symbols; workmen, work, and tools, words
own. Besides, in a centred mind, it signifies nothing how and things, birth and death, all are emblems; but we
many mechanical inventions you exhibit. Though you add sympathize with the symbols, and being infatuated with
millions, and never so surprising, the fact of mechanics the economical uses of things, we do not know that they
has not gained a grain’s weight. The spiritual fact remains are thoughts. The poet, by an ulterior intellectual per-
unalterable, by many or by few particulars; as no mountain ception, gives them a power which makes their old use
is of any appreciable height to break the curve of the sphere. forgotten, and puts eyes and a tongue into every dumb
A shrewd country-boy goes to the city for the first time, and inanimate object. He perceives the independence of
and the complacent citizen is not satisfied with his little the thought on the symbol, the stability of the thought,
wonder. It is not that he does not see all the fine houses the accidency and fugacity of the symbol. As the eyes of

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Lyncaeus were said to see through the earth, so the poet By virtue of this science the poet is the Namer or Lan-
turns the world to glass, and shows us all things in their guage-maker, naming things sometimes after their ap-
right series and procession. For through that better per- pearance, sometimes after their essence, and giving to
ception he stands one step nearer to things, and sees the every one its own name and not another’s, thereby re-
flowing or metamorphosis; perceives that thought is joicing the intellect, which delights in detachment or
multiform; that within the form of every creature is a boundary. The poets made all the words, and therefore
force impelling it to ascend into a higher form; and fol- language is the archives of history, and, if we must say
lowing with his eyes the life, uses the forms which ex- it, a sort of tomb of the muses. For though the origin of
press that life, and so his speech flows with the flowing most of our words is forgotten, each word was at first a
of nature. All the facts of the animal economy, sex, nutri- stroke of genius, and obtained currency because for the
ment, gestation, birth, growth, are symbols of the pas- moment it symbolized the world to the first speaker and
sage of the world into the soul of man, to suffer there a to the hearer. The etymologist finds the deadest word to
change and reappear a new and higher fact. He uses have been once a brilliant picture. Language is fossil po-
forms according to the life, and not according to the etry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infi-
form. This is true science. The poet alone knows astronomy, nite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is
chemistry, vegetation and animation, for he does not stop made up of images or tropes, which now, in their second-
at these facts, but employs them as signs. He knows why ary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic
the plain or meadow of space was strewn with these flow- origin. But the poet names the thing because he sees it,
ers we call suns and moons and stars; why the great deep or comes one step nearer to it than any other. This ex-
is adorned with animals, with men, and gods; for in every pression or naming is not art, but a second nature, grown
word he speaks he rides on them as the horses of thought. out of the first, as a leaf out of a tree. What we call

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nature is a certain self-regulated motion or change; and or songs,—a fearless, sleepless, deathless progeny, which
nature does all things by her own hands, and does not is not exposed to the accidents of the weary kingdom of
leave another to baptize her but baptizes herself; and time; a fearless, vivacious offspring, clad with wings (such
this through the metamorphosis again. I remember that was the virtue of the soul out of which they came) which
a certain poet described it to me thus: carry them fast and far, and infix them irrecoverably into
Genius is the activity which repairs the decays of things, the hearts of men. These wings are the beauty of the
whether wholly or partly of a material and finite kind. poet’s soul. The songs, thus flying immortal from their
Nature, through all her kingdoms, insures herself. No- mortal parent, are pursued by clamorous flights of cen-
body cares for planting the poor fungus; so she shakes sures, which swarm in far greater numbers and threaten
down from the gills of one agaric countless spores, any to devour them; but these last are not winged. At the end
one of which, being preserved, transmits new billions of of a very short leap they fall plump down and rot, having
spores to-morrow or next day. The new agaric of this hour received from the souls out of which they came no beau-
has a chance which the old one had not. This atom of tiful wings. But the melodies of the poet ascend and leap
seed is thrown into a new place, not subject to the acci- and pierce into the deeps of infinite time.
dents which destroyed its parent two rods off. She makes So far the bard taught me, using his freer speech. But
a man; and having brought him to ripe age, she will no nature has a higher end, in the production of New indi-
longer run the risk of losing this wonder at a blow, but viduals, than security, namely ascension, or the passage
she detaches from him a new self, that the kind may be of the soul into higher forms. I knew in my younger days
safe from accidents to which the individual is exposed. the sculptor who made the statue of the youth which
So when the soul of the poet has come to ripeness of stands in the public garden. He was, as I remember, un-
thought, she detaches and sends away from it its poems able to tell directly, what made him happy or unhappy,

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but by wonderful indirections he could tell. He rose one in the air, and when any man goes by with an ear suffi-
day, according to his habit, before the dawn, and saw the ciently fine, he overhears them and endeavors to write
morning break, grand as the eternity out of which it came, down the notes without diluting or depraving them. And
and for many days after, he strove to express this tran- herein is the legitimation of criticism, in the mind’s faith
quillity, and lo! his chisel had fashioned out of marble that the poems are a corrupt version of some text in
the form of a beautiful youth, Phosphorus, whose aspect nature with which they ought to be made to tally. A rhyme
is such that it is said all persons who look on it become in one of our sonnets should not be less pleasing than the
silent. The poet also resigns himself to his mood, and iterated nodes of a sea-shell, or the resembling difference
that thought which agitated him is expressed, but alter of a group of flowers. The pairing of the birds is an idyl,
idem, in a manner totally new. The expression is organic, not tedious as our idyls are; a tempest is a rough ode,
or the new type which things themselves take when lib- without falsehood or rant; a summer, with its harvest sown,
erated. As, in the sun, objects paint their images on the reaped, and stored, is an epic song, subordinating how
retina of the eye, so they, sharing the aspiration of the many admirably executed parts. Why should not the sym-
whole universe, tend to paint a far more delicate copy of metry and truth that modulate these, glide into our spirits,
their essence in his mind. Like the metamorphosis of and we participate the invention of nature?
things into higher organic forms is their change into This insight, which expresses itself by what is called
melodies. Over everything stands its daemon or soul, and, Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing, which does
as the form of the thing is reflected by the eye, so the not come by study, but by the intellect being where and
soul of the thing is reflected by a melody. The sea, the what it sees; by sharing the path or circuit of things
mountain-ridge, Niagara, and every flower-bed, pre-ex- through forms, and so making them translucid to others.
ist, or super-exist, in pre-cantations, which sail like odors The path of things is silent. Will they suffer a speaker to

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go with them? A spy they will not suffer; a lover, a poet, to express themselves, not with intellect alone but with
is the transcendency of their own nature,—him they will the intellect inebriated by nectar. As the traveller who
suffer. The condition of true naming, on the poet’s part, has lost his way throws his reins on his horse’s neck and
is his resigning himself to the divine aura which breathes trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so
through forms, and accompanying that. must we do with the divine animal who carries us through
It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, this world. For if in any manner we can stimulate this
that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious instinct, new passages are opened for us into nature; the
intellect he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect mind flows into and through things hardest and highest,
doubled on itself), by abandonment to the nature of and the metamorphosis is possible.
things; that beside his privacy of power as an individual This is the reason why bards love wine, mead, narcot-
man, there is a great public power on which he can draw, ics, coffee, tea, opium, the fumes of sandal -wood and
by unlocking, at all risks, his human doors, and suffering tobacco, or whatever other procurers of animal exhilara-
the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him; then tion. All men avail themselves of such means as they can,
he is caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech to add this extraordinary power to their normal powers;
is thunder, his thought is law, and his words are univer- and to this end they prize conversation, music, pictures,
sally intelligible as the plants and animals. The poet knows sculpture, dancing, theatres, travelling, war, mobs, fires,
that he speaks adequately then only when he speaks some- gaming, politics, or love, or science, or animal intoxica-
what wildly, or, “with the flower of the mind;” not with tion,—which are several coarser or finer quasi-mechani-
the intellect used as an organ, but with the intellect cal substitutes for the true nectar, which is the ravish-
released from all service and suffered to take its direc- ment of the intellect by coming nearer to the fact. These
tion from its celestial life; or as the ancients were wont are auxiliaries to the centrifugal tendency of a man, to

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his passage out into free space, and they help him to bowl. For poetry is not ‘Devil’s wine,’ but God’s wine. It is
escape the custody of that body in which he is pent up, with this as it is with toys. We fill the hands and nurser-
and of that jail-yard of individual relations in which he is ies of our children with all manner of dolls, drums, and
enclosed. Hence a great number of such as were profes- horses; withdrawing their eyes from the plain face and
sionally expressers of Beauty, as painters, poets, musi- sufficing objects of nature, the sun, and moon, the ani-
cians, and actors, have been more than others wont to mals, the water, and stones, which should be their toys.
lead a life of pleasure and indulgence; all but the few So the poet’s habit of living should be set on a key so low
who received the true nectar; and, as it was a spurious that the common influences should delight him. His cheer-
mode of attaining freedom, as it was an emancipation fulness should be the gift of the sunlight; the air should
not into the heavens but into the freedom of baser places, suffice for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with
they were punished for that advantage they won, by a water. That spirit which suffices quiet hearts, which seems
dissipation and deterioration. But never can any advan- to come forth to such from every dry knoll of sere grass,
tage be taken of nature by a trick. The spirit of the world, from every pine-stump and half-imbedded stone on which
the great calm presence of the Creator, comes not forth the dull March sun shines, comes forth to the poor and
to the sorceries of opium or of wine. The sublime vision hungry, and such as are of simple taste. If thou fill thy
comes to the pure and simple soul in a clean and chaste brain with Boston and New York, with fashion and covet-
body. That is not an inspiration, which we owe to narcot- ousness, and wilt stimulate thy jaded senses with wine
ics, but some counterfeit excitement and fury. Milton says and French coffee, thou shalt find no radiance of wisdom
that the lyric poet may drink wine and live generously, in the lonely waste of the pinewoods.
but the epic poet, he who shall sing of the gods and their If the imagination intoxicates the poet, it is not inac-
descent unto men, must drink water out of a wooden tive in other men. The metamorphosis excites in the be-

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holder an emotion of joy. The use of symbols has a cer- these incantations are beautiful reasons, from which tem-
tain power of emancipation and exhilaration for all men. perance is generated in souls; when Plato calls the world
We seem to be touched by a wand which makes us dance an animal; and Timaeus affirms that the plants also are
and run about happily, like children. We are like persons animals; or affirms a man to be a heavenly tree, growing
who come out of a cave or cellar into the open air. This is with his root, which is his head, upward; and, as George
the effect on us of tropes, fables, oracles, and all poetic Chapman, following him, writes,—
forms. Poets are thus liberating gods. Men have really
got a new sense, and found within their world another “So in our tree of man, whose nervie root
world, or nest of worlds; for, the metamorphosis once Springs in his top;” —
seen, we divine that it does not stop. I will not now
consider how much this makes the charm of algebra and when Orpheus speaks of hoariness as “that white flower
the mathematics, which also have their tropes, but it is which marks extreme old age;” when Proclus calls the
felt in every definition; as when Aristotle defines space universe the statue of the intellect; when Chaucer, in his
to be an immovable vessel in which things are contained; praise of ‘Gentilesse,’ compares good blood in mean con-
—or when Plato defines a line to be a flowing point; or dition to fire, which, though carried to the darkest house
figure to be a bound of solid; and many the like. What a betwixt this and the mount of Caucasus, will yet hold its
joyful sense of freedom we have when Vitruvius announces natural office and burn as bright as if twenty thousand
the old opinion of artists that no architect can build any men did it behold; when John saw, in the Apocalypse,
house well who does not know something of anatomy. the ruin of the world through evil, and the stars fall from
When Socrates, in Charmides, tells us that the soul is heaven as the figtree casteth her untimely fruit; when
cured of its maladies by certain incantations, and that Aesop reports the whole catalogue of common daily rela-

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tions through the masquerade of birds and beasts;—we tificate we have of departure from routine, and that here
take the cheerful hint of the immortality of our essence is a new witness. That also is the best success in conver-
and its versatile habit and escapes, as when the gypsies sation, the magic of liberty, which puts the world like a
say “it is in vain to hang them, they cannot die.” ball in our hands. How cheap even the liberty then seems;
The poets are thus liberating gods. The ancient British how mean to study, when an emotion communicates to
bards had for the title of their order, “Those Who are free the intellect the power to sap and upheave nature; how
throughout the world.” They are free, and they make free. great the perspective! nations, times, systems, enter and
An imaginative book renders us much more service at disappear like threads in tapestry of large figure and many
first, by stimulating us through its tropes, than after- colors; dream delivers us to dream, and while the drunk-
ward when we arrive at the precise sense of the author. I enness lasts we will sell our bed, our philosophy, our
think nothing is of any value in books excepting the tran- religion, in our opulence.
scendental and extraordinary. If a man is inflamed and There is good reason why we should prize this libera-
carried away by his thought, to that degree that he for- tion. The fate of the poor shepherd, who, blinded and
gets the authors and the public and heeds only this one lost in the snow-storm, perishes in a drift within a few
dream which holds him like an insanity, let me read his feet of his cottage door, is an emblem of the state of
paper, and you may have all the arguments and histories man. On the brink of the waters of life and truth, we are
and criticism. All the value which attaches to Pythagoras, miserably dying. The inaccessibleness of every thought
Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa, Cardan, Kepler, Swedenborg, but that we are in, is wonderful. What if you come near
Schelling, Oken, or any other who introduces question- to it; you are as remote when you are nearest as when
able facts into his cosmogony, as angels, devils, magic, you are farthest. Every thought is also a prison; every
astrology, palmistry, mesmerism, and so on, is the cer- heaven is also a prison. Therefore we love the poet, the

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inventor, who in any form, whether in an ode or in an are, for conveyance, not as farms and houses are, for
action or in looks and behavior has yielded us a new homestead. Mysticism consists in the mistake of an acci-
thought. He unlocks our chains and admits us to a new dental and individual symbol for an universal one. The
scene. morning-redness happens to be the favorite meteor to
This emancipation is dear to all men, and the power to the eyes of Jacob Behmen, and comes to stand to him for
impart it, as it must come from greater depth and scope of truth and faith; and, he believes, should stand for the
thought, is a measure of intellect. Therefore all books of same realities to every reader. But the first reader prefers
the imagination endure, all which ascend to that truth as naturally the symbol of a mother and child, or a gar-
that the writer sees nature beneath him, and uses it as his dener and his bulb, or a jeweller polishing a gem. Either
exponent. Every verse or sentence possessing this virtue of these, or of a myriad more, are equally good to the
will take care of its own immortality. The religions of the person to whom they are significant. Only they must be
world are the ejaculations of a few imaginative men. held lightly, and be very willingly translated into the
But the quality of the imagination is to flow, and not to equivalent terms which others use. And the mystic must
freeze. The poet did not stop at the color or the form, but be steadily told,—All that you say is just as true without
read their meaning; neither may he rest in this meaning, the tedious use of that symbol as with it. Let us have a
but he makes the same objects exponents of his new little algebra, instead of this trite rhetoric,—universal
thought. Here is the difference betwixt the poet and the signs, instead of these village symbols,—and we shall
mystic, that the last nails a symbol to one sense, which both be gainers. The history of hierarchies seems to show
was a true sense for a moment, but soon becomes old that all religious error consisted in making the symbol
and false. For all symbols are fluxional; all language is too stark and solid, and was at last nothing but an excess
vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and horses of the organ of language.

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Swedenborg, of all men in the recent ages, stands emi- as conversing very learnedly together, appeared to the
nently for the translator of nature into thought. I do not children who were at some distance, like dead horses;
know the man in history to whom things stood so uni- and many the like misappearances. And instantly the mind
formly for words. Before him the metamorphosis continu- inquires whether these fishes under the bridge, yonder
ally plays. Everything on which his eye rests, obeys the oxen in the pasture, those dogs in the yard, are immuta-
impulses of moral nature. The figs become grapes whilst bly fishes, oxen, and dogs, or only so appear to me, and
he eats them. When some of his angels affirmed a truth, perchance to themselves appear upright men; and whether
the laurel twig which they held blossomed in their hands. I appear as a man to all eyes. The Bramins and Pythagoras
The noise which at a distance appeared like gnashing propounded the same question, and if any poet has wit-
and thumping, on coming nearer was found to be the nessed the transformation he doubtless found it in har-
voice of disputants. The men in one of his visions, seen mony with various experiences. We have all seen changes
in heavenly light, appeared like dragons, and seemed in as considerable in wheat and caterpillars. He is the poet
darkness; but to each other they appeared as men, and and shall draw us with love and terror, who sees through
when the light from heaven shone into their cabin, they the flowing vest the firm nature, and can declare it.
complained of the darkness, and were compelled to shut I look in vain for the poet whom I describe. We do not
the window that they might see. with sufficient plainness or sufficient profoundness ad-
There was this perception in him which makes the poet dress ourselves to life, nor dare we chaunt our own times
or seer an object of awe and terror, namely that the same and social circumstance. If we filled the day with brav-
man or society of men may wear one aspect to them- ery, we should not shrink from celebrating it. Time and
selves and their companions, and a different aspect to nature yield us many gifts, but not yet the timely man,
higher intelligences. Certain priests, whom he describes the new religion, the reconciler, whom all things await.

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Dante’s praise is that he dared to write his autobiography Chalmers’s collection of five centuries of English poets.
in colossal cipher, or into universality. We have yet had These are wits more than poets, though there have been
no genius in America, with tyrannous eye, which knew poets among them. But when we adhere to the ideal of
the value of our incomparable materials, and saw, in the the poet, we have our difficulties even with Milton and
barbarism and materialism of the times, another carnival Homer. Milton is too literary, and Homer too literal and
of the same gods whose picture he so much admires in historical.
Homer; then in the Middle Age; then in Calvinism. Banks But I am not wise enough for a national criticism, and
and tariffs, the newspaper and caucus, Methodism and must use the old largeness a little longer, to discharge
Unitarianism, are flat and dull to dull people, but rest on my errand from the muse to the poet concerning his art.
the same foundations of wonder as the town of Troy and Art is the path of the creator to his work. The paths or
the temple of Delphi, and are as swiftly passing away. methods are ideal and eternal, though few men ever see
Our logrolling, our stumps and their politics, our fisher- them; not the artist himself for years, or for a lifetime,
ies, our Negroes and Indians, our boats and our repudia- unless he come into the conditions. The painter, the sculp-
tions, the wrath of rogues and the pusillanimity of hon- tor, the composer, the epic rhapsodist, the orator, all
est men, the northern trade, the southern planting, the partake one desire, namely to express themselves sym-
western clearing, Oregon and Texas, are yet unsung. Yet metrically and abundantly, not dwarfishly and
America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles fragmentarily. They found or put themselves in certain
the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres. If I conditions, as, the painter and sculptor before some im-
have not found that excellent combination of gifts in my pressive human figures; the orator, into the assembly of
countrymen which I seek, neither could I aid myself to the people; and the others in such scenes as each has
fix the idea of the poet by reading now and then in found exciting to his intellect; and each presently feels

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the new desire. He hears a voice, he sees a beckoning. of the assembly, to the end namely that thought may be
Then he is apprised, with wonder, what herds of daemons ejaculated as Logos, or Word.
hem him in. He can no more rest; he says, with the old Doubt not, O poet, but persist. Say ‘It is in me, and
painter, “By God, it is in me and must go forth of me.” He shall out.’ Stand there, balked and dumb, stuttering and
pursues a beauty, half seen, which flies before him. The stammering, hissed and hooted, stand and strive, until
poet pours out verses in every solitude. Most of the things at last rage draw out of thee that dream-power which
he says are conventional, no doubt; but by and by he every night shows thee is thine own; a power transcend-
says something which is original and beautiful. That ing all limit and privacy, and by virtue of which a man is
charms him. He would say nothing else but such things. the conductor of the whole river of electricity. Nothing
In our way of talking we say ‘That is yours, this is mine;’ walks, or creeps, or grows, or exists, which must not in
but the poet knows well that it is not his; that it is as turn arise and walk before him as exponent of his mean-
strange and beautiful to him as to you; he would fain ing. Comes he to that power, his genius is no longer ex-
hear the like eloquence at length. Once having tasted haustible. All the creatures by pairs and by tribes pour
this immortal ichor, he cannot have enough of it, and as into his mind as into a Noah’s ark, to come forth again to
an admirable creative power exists in these intellections, people a new world. This is like the stock of air for our
it is of the last importance that these things get spoken. respiration or for the combustion of our fireplace; not a
What a little of all we know is said! What drops of all the measure of gallons, but the entire atmosphere if wanted.
sea of our science are baled up! and by what accident it And therefore the rich poets, as Homer, Chaucer,
is that these are exposed, when so many secrets sleep in Shakspeare, and Raphael, have obviously no limits to their
nature! Hence the necessity of speech and song; hence works except the limits of their lifetime, and resemble a
these throbs and heart-beatings in the orator, at the door mirror carried through the street, ready to render an im-

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age of every created thing. thee with tenderest love. And thou shalt not be able to
O poet! a new nobility is conferred in groves and pas- rehearse the names of thy friends in thy verse, for an old
tures, and not in castles or by the sword-blade any longer. shame before the holy ideal. And this is the reward; that
The conditions are hard, but equal. Thou shalt leave the the ideal shall be real to thee, and the impressions of the
world, and know the muse only. Thou shalt not know any actual world shall fall like summer rain, copious, but not
longer the times, customs, graces, politics, or opinions troublesome, to thy invulnerable essence. Thou shalt have
of men, but shalt take all from the muse. For the time of the whole land for thy park and manor, the sea for thy
towns is tolled from the world by funereal chimes, but in bath and navigation, without tax and without envy; the
nature the universal hours are counted by succeeding woods and the rivers thou shalt own; and thou shalt pos-
tribes of animals and plants, and by growth of joy on joy. sess that wherein others are only tenants and boarders.
God wills also that thou abdicate a manifold and duplex Thou true land-lord! sea-lord! air-lord! Wherever snow
life, and that thou be content that others speak for thee. falls or water flows or birds fly, wherever day and night
Others shall be thy gentlemen and shall represent all cour- meet in twilight, wherever the blue heaven is hung by
tesy and worldly life for thee; others shall do the great clouds or sown with stars, wherever are forms with trans-
and resounding actions also. Thou shalt lie close hid with parent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial
nature, and canst not be afforded to the Capitol or the space, wherever is danger, and awe, and love,—there is
Exchange. The world is full of renunciations and appren- Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee, and though thou
ticeships, and this is thine: thou must pass for a fool and shouldest walk the world over, thou shalt not be able to
a churl for a long season. This is the screen and sheath in find a condition inopportune or ignoble.
which Pan has protected his well-beloved flower, and thou
shalt be known only to thine own, and they shall console

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EXPERIENCE Tomorrow they will wear another face,
The founder thou! these are thy race!’
The lords of life, the lords of life,—
I saw them pass, XIV. EXPERIENCE
In their own guise,

W
Like and unlike, here do we find ourselves? In a series of which
Portly and grim, we do not know the extremes, and believe that
Use and Surprise, it has none. We wake and find ourselves on a
Surface and Dream, stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have
Succession swift, and spectral Wrong, ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which
Temperament without a tongue, go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which ac-
And the inventor of the game cording to the old belief stands at the door by which we
Omnipresent without name;— enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no
Some to see, some to be guessed, tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake
They marched from east to west: off the lethargy now at noonday. Sleep lingers all our
Little man, least of all, lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the
Among the legs of his guardians tall, boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glitter. Our
Walked about with puzzled look:— life is not so much threatened as our perception. Ghost-
Him by the hand dear Nature took; like we glide through nature, and should not know our
Dearest Nature, strong and kind, place again. Did our birth fall in some fit of indigence
Whispered, ‘Darling, never mind! and frugality in nature, that she was so sparing of her

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fire and so liberal of her earth that it appears to us that were suffered. Every ship is a romantic object, except
we lack the affirmative principle, and though we have that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel
health and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit and hangs on every other sail in the horizon. Our life
for new creation? We have enough to live and bring the looks trivial, and we shun to record it. Men seem to have
year about, but not an ounce to impart or to invest. Ah learned of the horizon the art of perpetual retreating and
that our Genius were a little more of a genius! We are like reference. ‘Yonder uplands are rich pasturage, and my
millers on the lower levels of a stream, when the facto- neighbor has fertile meadow, but my field,’ says the queru-
ries above them have exhausted the water. We too fancy lous farmer, ‘only holds the world together.’ I quote an-
that the upper people must have raised their dams. other man’s saying; unluckily that other withdraws him-
If any of us knew what we were doing, or where we are self in the same way, and quotes me. ’Tis the trick of
going, then when we think we best know! We do not nature thus to degrade to-day; a good deal of buzz, and
know to-day whether we are busy or idle. In times when somewhere a result slipped magically in. Every roof is
we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards dis- agreeable to the eye until it is lifted; then we find trag-
covered that much was accomplished, and much was be- edy and moaning women and hard-eyed husbands and
gun in us. All our days are so unprofitable while they deluges of lethe, and the men ask, ‘What’s the news?’ as
pass, that ’tis wonderful where or when we ever got any- if the old were so bad. How many individuals can we
thing of this which we call wisdom, poetry, virtue. We count in society? how many actions? how many opin-
never got it on any dated calendar day. Some heavenly ions? So much of our time is preparation, so much is
days must have been intercalated somewhere, like those routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each
that Hermes won with dice of the Moon, that Osiris might man’s genius contracts itself to a very few hours. The
be born. It is said all martyrdoms looked mean when they history of literature—take the net result of Tiraboschi,

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Warton, or Schlegel,—is a sum of very few ideas and of is. That, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and
very few original tales; all the rest being variation of never introduces me into the reality, for contact with
these. So in this great society wide lying around us, a which we would even pay the costly price of sons and
critical analysis would find very few spontaneous actions. lovers. Was it Boscovich who found out that bodies never
It is almost all custom and gross sense. There are even come in contact? Well, souls never touch their objects.
few opinions, and these seem organic in the speakers, An innavigable sea washes with silent waves between us
and do not disturb the universal necessity. and the things we aim at and converse with. Grief too
What opium is instilled into all disaster! It shows for- will make us idealists. In the death of my son, now more
midable as we approach it, but there is at last no rough than two years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful es-
rasping friction, but the most slippery sliding surfaces. tate,—no more. I cannot get it nearer to me. If to-mor-
We fall soft on a thought; Ate Dea is gentle,— row I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my princi-
pal debtors, the loss of my property would be a great
“Over men’s heads walking aloft, inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years; but it would
With tender feet treading so soft.” leave me as it found me,—neither better nor worse. So is
it with this calamity: it does not touch me; something
People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not which I fancied was a part of me, which could not be torn
half so bad with them as they say. There are moods in away without tearing me nor enlarged without enriching
which we court suffering, in the hope that here at least me, falls off from me and leaves no scar. It was caducous.
we shall find reality, sharp peaks and edges of truth. But I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me
it turns out to be scene-painting and counterfeit. The one step into real nature. The Indian who was laid under
only thing grief has taught me is to know how shallow it a curse that the wind should not blow on him, nor water

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flow to him, nor fire burn him, is a type of us all. The to the eyes that see them. It depends on the mood of the
dearest events are summer-rain, and we the Para coats man whether he shall see the sunset or the fine poem.
that shed every drop. Nothing is left us now but death. There are always sunsets, and there is always genius; but
We look to that with a grim satisfaction, saying There at only a few hours so serene that we can relish nature or
least is reality that will not dodge us. criticism. The more or less depends on structure or tem-
I take this evanescence and lubricity of all objects, perament. Temperament is the iron wire on which the
which lets them slip through our fingers then when we beads are strung. Of what use is fortune or talent to a
clutch hardest, to be the most unhandsome part of our cold and defective nature? Who cares what sensibility or
condition. Nature does not like to be observed, and likes discrimination a man has at some time shown, if he falls
that we should be her fools and playmates. We may have asleep in his chair? or if he laugh and giggle? or if he
the sphere for our cricket-ball, but not a berry for our apologize? or is infected with egotism? or thinks of his
philosophy. Direct strokes she never gave us power to dollar? or cannot go by food? or has gotten a child in his
make; all our blows glance, all our hits are accidents. Our boyhood? Of what use is genius, if the organ is too con-
relations to each other are oblique and casual. vex or too concave and cannot find a focal distance within
Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to the actual horizon of human life? Of what use, if the
illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, brain is too cold or too hot, and the man does not care
and as we pass through them they prove to be many- enough for results to stimulate him to experiment, and
colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and hold him up in it? or if the web is too finely woven, too
each shows only what lies in its focus. From the moun- irritable by pleasure and pain, so that life stagnates from
tain you see the mountain. We animate what we can, and too much reception without due outlet? Of what use to
we see only what we animate. Nature and books belong make heroic vows of amendment, if the same old law-

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Emerson
breaker is to keep them? What cheer can the religious time, it turns out to be a certain uniform tune which the
sentiment yield, when that is suspected to be secretly revolving barrel of the music-box must play. Men resist
dependent on the seasons of the year and the state of the conclusion in the morning, but adopt it as the evening
the blood? I knew a witty physician who found the creed wears on, that temper prevails over everything of time,
in the biliary duct, and used to affirm that if there was place, and condition, and is inconsumable in the flames
disease in the liver, the man became a Calvinist, and if of religion. Some modifications the moral sentiment avails
that organ was sound, he became a Unitarian. Very mor- to impose, but the individual texture holds its dominion,
tifying is the reluctant experience that some unfriendly if not to bias the moral judgments, yet to fix the measure
excess or imbecility neutralizes the promise of genius. of activity and of enjoyment.
We see young men who owe us a new world, so readily I thus express the law as it is read from the platform of
and lavishly they promise, but they never acquit the debt; ordinary life, but must not leave it without noticing the
they die young and dodge the account; or if they live capital exception. For temperament is a power which no
they lose themselves in the crowd. man willingly hears any one praise but himself. On the
Temperament also enters fully into the system of illu- platform of physics we cannot resist the contracting in-
sions and shuts us in a prison of glass which we cannot fluences of so-called science. Temperament puts all di-
see. There is an optical illusion about every person we vinity to rout. I know the mental proclivity of physicians.
meet. In truth they are all creatures of given tempera- I hear the chuckle of the phrenologists. Theoretic kid-
ment, which will appear in a given character, whose bound- nappers and slave-drivers, they esteem each man the vic-
aries they will never pass: but we look at them, they tim of another, who winds him round his finger by know-
seem alive, and we presume there is impulse in them. In ing the law of his being; and by such cheap signboards as
the moment it seems impulse; in the year, in the life- the color of his beard or the slope of his occiput, reads

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the inventory of his fortunes and character. The grossest facts!’ —I distrust the facts and the inferences. Tem-
ignorance does not disgust like this impudent perament is the veto or limitation-power in the constitu-
knowingness. The physicians say they are not material- tion, very justly applied to restrain an opposite excess in
ists; but they are:—Spirit is matter reduced to an ex- the constitution, but absurdly offered as a bar to original
treme thinness: O so thin!—But the definition of spiri- equity. When virtue is in presence, all subordinate pow-
tual should be, that which is its own evidence. What no- ers sleep. On its own level, or in view of nature, tempera-
tions do they attach to love! what to religion! One would ment is final. I see not, if one be once caught in this trap
not willingly pronounce these words in their hearing, and of so-called sciences, any escape for the man from the
give them the occasion to profane them. I saw a gracious links of the chain of physical necessity. Given such an
gentleman who adapts his conversation to the form of embryo, such a history must follow. On this platform one
the head of the man he talks with! I had fancied that the lives in a sty of sensualism, and would soon come to sui-
value of life lay in its inscrutable possibilities; in the fact cide. But it is impossible that the creative power should
that I never know, in addressing myself to a new indi- exclude itself. Into every intelligence there is a door which
vidual, what may befall me. I carry the keys of my castle is never closed, through which the creator passes. The in-
in my hand, ready to throw them at the feet of my lord, tellect, seeker of absolute truth, or the heart, lover of
whenever and in what disguise soever he shall appear. I absolute good, intervenes for our succor, and at one whis-
know he is in the neighborhood hidden among vagabonds. per of these high powers we awake from ineffectual
Shall I preclude my future by taking a high seat and kindly struggles with this nightmare. We hurl it into its own hell,
adapting my conversation to the shape of heads? When I and cannot again contract ourselves to so base a state.
come to that, the doctors shall buy me for a cent.—’But, The secret of the illusoriness is in the necessity of a
sir, medical history; the report to the Institute; the proven succession of moods or objects. Gladly we would anchor,

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but the anchorage is quicksand. This onward trick of na- the opinion which even the wise express of a new book
ture is too strong for us: Pero si muove. When at night I or occurrence. Their opinion gives me tidings of their
look at the moon and stars, I seem stationary, and they mood, and some vague guess at the new fact, but is no-
to hurry. Our love of the real draws us to permanence, but wise to be trusted as the lasting relation between that
health of body consists in circulation, and sanity of mind intellect and that thing. The child asks, ‘Mamma, why
in variety or facility of association. We need change of don’t I like the story as well as when you told it me
objects. Dedication to one thought is quickly odious. We yesterday?’ Alas! child it is even so with the oldest cheru-
house with the insane, and must humor them; then con- bim of knowledge. But will it answer thy question to say,
versation dies out. Once I took such delight in Montaigne, Because thou wert born to a whole and this story is a
that I thought I should not need any other book; before particular? The reason of the pain this discovery causes
that, in Shakspeare; then in Plutarch; then in Plotinus; us (and we make it late in respect to works of art and
at one time in Bacon; afterwards in Goethe; even in intellect), is the plaint of tragedy which murmurs from it
Bettine; but now I turn the pages of either of them lan- in regard to persons, to friendship and love.
guidly, whilst I still cherish their genius. So with pic- That immobility and absence of elasticity which we find
tures; each will bear an emphasis of attention once, which in the arts, we find with more pain in the artist. There is
it cannot retain, though we fain would continue to be no power of expansion in men. Our friends early appear
pleased in that manner. How strongly I have felt of pic- to us as representatives of certain ideas which they never
tures that when you have seen one well, you must take pass or exceed. They stand on the brink of the ocean of
your leave of it; you shall never see it again. I have had thought and power, but they never take the single step
good lessons from pictures which I have since seen with- that would bring them there. A man is like a bit of Labra-
out emotion or remark. A deduction must be made from dor spar, which has no lustre as you turn it in your hand

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until you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep by it. Like a bird which alights nowhere, but hops per-
and beautiful colors. There is no adaptation or universal petually from bough to bough, is the Power which abides
applicability in men, but each has his special talent, and in no man and in no woman, but for a moment speaks
the mastery of successful men consists in adroitly keep- from this one, and for another moment from that one.
ing themselves where and when that turn shall be oftenest But what help from these fineries or pedantries? What
to be practised. We do what we must, and call it by the help from thought? Life is not dialectics. We, I think, in
best names we can, and would fain have the praise of these times, have had lessons enough of the futility of
having intended the result which ensues. I cannot recall criticism. Our young people have thought and written
any form of man who is not superfluous sometimes. But much on labor and reform, and for all that they have
is not this pitiful? Life is not worth the taking, to do written, neither the world nor themselves have got on a
tricks in. step. Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede mus-
Of course it needs the whole society to give the sym- cular activity. If a man should consider the nicety of the
metry we seek. The party-colored wheel must revolve very passage of a piece of bread down his throat, he would
fast to appear white. Something is earned too by con- starve. At Education-Farm, the noblest theory of life sat
versing with so much folly and defect. In fine, whoever on the noblest figures of young men and maidens, quite
loses, we are always of the gaining party. Divinity is be- powerless and melancholy. It would not rake or pitch a
hind our failures and follies also. The plays of children ton of hay; it would not rub down a horse; and the men
are nonsense, but very educative nonsense. So it is with and maidens it left pale and hungry. A political orator
the largest and solemnest things, with commerce, gov- wittily compared our party promises to western roads,
ernment, church, marriage, and so with the history of which opened stately enough, with planted trees on ei-
every man’s bread, and the ways by which he is to come ther side to tempt the traveller, but soon became narrow

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and narrower and ended in a squirrel-track and ran up a pers just as well as in the newest world, and that by skill
tree. So does culture with us; it ends in headache. Un- of handling and treatment. He can take hold anywhere.
speakably sad and barren does life look to those who a Life itself is a mixture of power and form, and will not
few months ago were dazzled with the splendor of the bear the least excess of either. To finish the moment, to
promise of the times. “There is now no longer any right find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live
course of action nor any self-devotion left among the the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. It is not
Iranis.” Objections and criticism we have had our fill of. the part of men, but of fanatics, or of mathematicians if
There are objections to every course of life and action, you will, to say that the shortness of life considered, it is
and the practical wisdom infers an indifferency, from the not worth caring whether for so short a duration we were
omnipresence of objection. The whole frame of things sprawling in want or sitting high. Since our office is with
preaches indifferency. Do not craze yourself with think- moments, let us husband them. Five minutes of today are
ing, but go about your business anywhere. Life is not worth as much to me as five minutes in the next millen-
intellectual or critical, but sturdy. Its chief good is for nium. Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today. Let
well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find, with- us treat the men and women well; treat them as if they
out question. Nature hates peeping, and our mothers speak were real; perhaps they are. Men live in their fancy, like
her very sense when they say, “Children, eat your vict- drunkards whose hands are too soft and tremulous for
uals, and say no more of it.” To fill the hour,—that is successful labor. It is a tempest of fancies, and the only
happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a ballast I know is a respect to the present hour. Without
repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and any shadow of doubt, amidst this vertigo of shows and
the true art of life is to skate well on them. Under the politics, I settle myself ever the firmer in the creed that
oldest mouldiest conventions a man of native force pros- we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad

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justice where we are, by whomsoever we deal with, ac- oldest gossip in the bar-room. I am thankful for small
cepting our actual companions and circumstances, how- mercies. I compared notes with one of my friends who
ever humble or odious as the mystic officials to whom expects everything of the universe and is disappointed
the universe has delegated its whole pleasure for us. If when anything is less than the best, and I found that I
these are mean and malignant, their contentment, which begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am
is the last victory of justice, is a more satisfying echo to always full of thanks for moderate goods. I accept the
the heart than the voice of poets and the casual sympa- clangor and jangle of contrary tendencies. I find my ac-
thy of admirable persons. I think that however a thought- count in sots and bores also. They give a reality to the
ful man may suffer from the defects and absurdities of circumjacent picture which such a vanishing meteorous
his company, he cannot without affectation deny to any appearance can ill spare. In the morning I awake and
set of men and women a sensibility to extraordinary merit. find the old world, wife, babes, and mother, Concord and
The coarse and frivolous have an instinct of superiority, Boston, the dear old spiritual world and even the dear
if they have not a sympathy, and honor it in their blind old devil not far off. If we will take the good we find,
capricious way with sincere homage. asking no questions, we shall have heaping measures.
The fine young people despise life, but in me, and in The great gifts are not got by analysis. Everything good
such as with me are free from dyspepsia, and to whom a is on the highway. The middle region of our being is the
day is a sound and solid good, it is a great excess of temperate zone. We may climb into the thin and cold
politeness to look scornful and to cry for company. I am realm of pure geometry and lifeless science, or sink into
grown by sympathy a little eager and sentimental, but that of sensation. Between these extremes is the equator
leave me alone and I should relish every hour and what it of life, of thought, of spirit, of poetry,—a narrow belt.
brought me, the potluck of the day, as heartily as the Moreover, in popular experience everything good is on

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the highway. A collector peeps into all the picture-shops ing, flying, gliding, feathered and four-footed man. Fox
of Europe for a landscape of Poussin, a crayon-sketch of and woodchuck, hawk and snipe and bittern, when nearly
Salvator; but the Transfiguration, the Last Judgment, the seen, have no more root in the deep world than man, and
Communion of St. Jerome, and what are as transcendent are just such superficial tenants of the globe. Then the
as these, are on the walls of the Vatican, the Uffizii, or new molecular philosophy shows astronomical interspaces
the Louvre, where every footman may see them; to say betwixt atom and atom, shows that the world is all out-
nothing of Nature’s pictures in every street, of sunsets side; it has no inside.
and sunrises every day, and the sculpture of the human The mid-world is best. Nature, as we know her, is no
body never absent. A collector recently bought at public saint. The lights of the church, the ascetics, Gentoos,
auction, in London, for one hundred and fifty-seven guin- and corn-eaters, she does not distinguish by any favor.
eas, an autograph of Shakspeare; but for nothing a school- She comes eating and drinking and sinning. Her darlings,
boy can read Hamlet and can detect secrets of highest the great, the strong, the beautiful, are not children of
concernment yet unpublished therein. I think I will never our law; do not come out of the Sunday School, nor weigh
read any but the commonest books,—the Bible, Homer, their food, nor punctually keep the commandments. If we
Dante, Shakspeare, and Milton. Then we are impatient of will be strong with her strength we must not harbor such
so public a life and planet, and run hither and thither for disconsolate consciences, borrowed too from the con-
nooks and secrets. The imagination delights in the wood- sciences of other nations. We must set up the strong
craft of Indians, trappers, and bee-hunters. We fancy that present tense against all the rumors of wrath, past or to
we are strangers, and not so intimately domesticated in come. So many things are unsettled which it is of the
the planet as the wild man and the wild beast and bird. first importance to settle;—and, pending their settle-
But the exclusion reaches them also; reaches the climb- ment, we will do as we do. Whilst the debate goes for-

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ward on the equity of commerce, and will not be closed a night, and do thou, sick or well, finish that stint. Thou
for a century or two, New and Old England may keep art sick, but shalt not be worse, and the universe, which
shop. Law of copyright and international copyright is to holds thee dear, shall be the better.
be discussed, and in the interim we will sell our books for Human life is made up of the two elements, power and
the most we can. Expediency of literature, reason of form, and the proportion must be invariably kept if we
literature, lawfulness of writing down a thought, is ques- would have it sweet and sound. Each of these elements
tioned; much is to say on both sides, and, while the fight in excess makes a mischief as hurtful as its defect. Every-
waxes hot, thou, dearest scholar, stick to thy foolish task, thing runs to excess; every good quality is noxious if
add a line every hour, and between whiles add a line. unmixed, and, to carry the danger to the edge of ruin,
Right to hold land, right of property, is disputed, and the nature causes each man’s peculiarity to superabound. Here,
conventions convene, and before the vote is taken, dig among the farms, we adduce the scholars as examples of
away in your garden, and spend your earnings as a waif this treachery. They are nature’s victims of expression.
or godsend to all serene and beautiful purposes. Life it- You who see the artist, the orator, the poet, too near,
self is a bubble and a skepticism, and a sleep within a and find their life no more excellent than that of me-
sleep. Grant it, and as much more as they will,—but thou, chanics or farmers, and themselves victims of partiality,
God’s darling! heed thy private dream; thou wilt not be very hollow and haggard, and pronounce them failures,
missed in the scorning and skepticism; there are enough not heroes, but quacks,—conclude very reasonably that
of them; stay there in thy closet and toil until the rest these arts are not for man, but are disease. Yet nature
are agreed what to do about it. Thy sickness, they say, will not bear you out. Irresistible nature made men such,
and thy puny habit require that thou do this or avoid and makes legions more of such, every day. You love the
that, but know that thy life is a flitting state, a tent for boy reading in a book, gazing at a drawing, or a cast; yet

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what are these millions who read and behold, but incipi- who should do his business on this understanding would
ent writers and sculptors? Add a little more of that qual- be quickly bankrupt. Power keeps quite another road than
ity which now reads and sees, and they will seize the pen the turnpikes of choice and will; namely the subterra-
and chisel. And if one remembers how innocently he be- nean and invisible tunnels and channels of life. It is ri-
gan to be an artist, he perceives that nature joined with diculous that we are diplomatists, and doctors, and con-
his enemy. A man is a golden impossibility. The line he siderate people: there are no dupes like these. Life is a
must walk is a hair’s breadth. The wise through excess of series of surprises, and would not be worth taking or
wisdom is made a fool. keeping if it were not. God delights to isolate us every
How easily, if fate would suffer it, we might keep for- day, and hide from us the past and the future. We would
ever these beautiful limits, and adjust ourselves, once look about us, but with grand politeness he draws down
for all, to the perfect calculation of the kingdom of known before us an impenetrable screen of purest sky, and an-
cause and effect. In the street and in the newspapers, other behind us of purest sky. ‘You will not remember,’ he
life appears so plain a business that manly resolution seems to say, `and you will not expect.’ All good conver-
and adherence to the multiplication-table through all sation, manners, and action, come from a spontaneity
weathers will insure success. But ah! presently comes a which forgets usages and makes the moment great. Na-
day, or is it only a half-hour, with its angel-whispering, ture hates calculators; her methods are saltatory and
—which discomfits the conclusions of nations and of impulsive. Man lives by pulses; our organic movements
years! Tomorrow again everything looks real and angu- are such; and the chemical and ethereal agents are undu-
lar, the habitual standards are reinstated, common sense latory and alternate; and the mind goes antagonizing on,
is as rare as genius,—is the basis of genius, and experi- and never prospers but by fits. We thrive by casualties.
ence is hands and feet to every enterprise;—and yet, he Our chief experiences have been casual. The most attrac-

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tive class of people are those who are powerful obliquely and keep due metes and bounds, which I dearly love, and
and not by the direct stroke; men of genius, but not yet allow the most to the will of man; but I have set my heart
accredited; one gets the cheer of their light without pay- on honesty in this chapter, and I can see nothing at last,
ing too great a tax. Theirs is the beauty of the bird or the in success or failure, than more or less of vital force sup-
morning light, and not of art. In the thought of genius plied from the Eternal. The results of life are uncalculated
there is always a surprise; and the moral sentiment is and uncalculable. The years teach much which the days
well called “the newness,” for it is never other; as new to never know. The persons who compose our company, con-
the oldest intelligence as to the young child;—”the king- verse, and come and go, and design and execute many
dom that cometh without observation.” In like manner, things, and somewhat comes of it all, but an unlooked-
for practical success, there must not be too much design. for result. The individual is always mistaken. He designed
A man will not be observed in doing that which he can do many things, and drew in other persons as coadjutors,
best. There is a certain magic about his properest action quarrelled with some or all, blundered much, and some-
which stupefies your powers of observation, so that though thing is done; all are a little advanced, but the individual
it is done before you, you wist not of it. The art of life is always mistaken. It turns out somewhat new and very
has a pudency, and will not be exposed. Every man is an unlike what he promised himself.
impossibility until he is born; every thing impossible until The ancients, struck with this irreducibleness of the
we see a success. The ardors of piety agree at last with elements of human life to calculation, exalted Chance
the coldest skepticism,—that nothing is of us or our into a divinity; but that is to stay too long at the spark,
works,—that all is of God. Nature will not spare us the which glitters truly at one point, but the universe is warm
smallest leaf of laurel. All writing comes by the grace of with the latency of the same fire. The miracle of life which
God, and all doing and having. I would gladly be moral will not be expounded but will remain a miracle, intro-

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duces a new element. In the growth of the embryo, Sir water; or go to the fire, being cold; no! but I am at first
Everard Home I think noticed that the evolution was not apprised of my vicinity to a new and excellent region of
from one central point, but coactive from three or more life. By persisting to read or to think, this region gives
points. Life has no memory. That which proceeds in suc- further sign of itself, as it were in flashes of light, in
cession might be remembered, but that which is coexist- sudden discoveries of its profound beauty and repose, as
ent, or ejaculated from a deeper cause, as yet far from if the clouds that covered it parted at intervals and showed
being conscious, knows not its own tendency. So is it the approaching traveller the inland mountains, with the
with us, now skeptical or without unity, because immersed tranquil eternal meadows spread at their base, whereon
in forms and effects all seeming to be of equal yet hostile flocks graze and shepherds pipe and dance. But every
value, and now religious, whilst in the reception of spiri- insight from this realm of thought is felt as initial, and
tual law. Bear with these distractions, with this coetaneous promises a sequel. I do not make it; I arrive there, and
growth of the parts; they will one day be members, and behold what was there already. I make! O no! I clap my
obey one will. On that one will, on that secret cause, hands in infantine joy and amazement before the first
they nail our attention and hope. Life is hereby melted opening to me of this august magnificence, old with the
into an expectation or a religion. Underneath the inhar- love and homage of innumerable ages, young with the
monious and trivial particulars, is a musical perfection; life of life, the sunbright Mecca of the desert. And what a
the Ideal journeying always with us, the heaven without future it opens! I feel a new heart beating with the love
rent or seam. Do but observe the mode of our illumina- of the new beauty. I am ready to die out of nature and be
tion. When I converse with a profound mind, or if at any born again into this new yet unapproachable America I
time being alone I have good thoughts, I do not at once have found in the West:—
arrive at satisfactions, as when, being thirsty, I drink

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“Since neither now nor yesterday began and the moderns by love; and the metaphor of each has
These thoughts, which have been ever, nor yet can become a national religion. The Chinese Mencius has not
A man be found who their first entrance knew.” been the least successful in his generalization. “I fully
understand language,” he said, “and nourish well my vast-
If I have described life as a flux of moods, I must now flowing vigor.”—”I beg to ask what you call vast-flowing
add that there is that in us which changes not and which vigor?”—said his companion. “The explanation,” replied
ranks all sensations and states of mind. The conscious- Mencius, “is difficult. This vigor is supremely great, and
ness in each man is a sliding scale, which identifies him in the highest degree unbending. Nourish it correctly and
now with the First Cause, and now with the flesh of his do it no injury, and it will fill up the vacancy between
body; life above life, in infinite degrees. The sentiment heaven and earth. This vigor accords with and assists
from which it sprung determines the dignity of any deed, justice and reason, and leaves no hunger.”—In our more
and the question ever is, not what you have done or correct writing we give to this generalization the name
forborne, but at whose command you have done or for- of Being, and thereby confess that we have arrived as far
borne it. as we can go. Suffice it for the joy of the universe that
Fortune, Minerva, Muse, Holy Ghost,—these are quaint we have not arrived at a wall, but at interminable oceans.
names, too narrow to cover this unbounded substance. Our life seems not present so much as prospective; not
The baffled intellect must still kneel before this cause, for the affairs on which it is wasted, but as a hint of this
which refuses to be named,—ineffable cause, which ev- vast-flowing vigor. Most of life seems to be mere adver-
ery fine genius has essayed to represent by some em- tisement of faculty; information is given us not to sell
phatic symbol, as, Thales by water, Anaximenes by air, ourselves cheap; that we are very great. So, in particu-
Anaxagoras by (Nous) thought, Zoroaster by fire, Jesus lars, our greatness is always in a tendency or direction,

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not in an action. It is for us to believe in the rule, not in wealth of friendship and wisdom, as would be my pres-
the exception. The noble are thus known from the ig- ence in that place. I exert the same quality of power in
noble. So in accepting the leading of the sentiments, it all places. Thus journeys the mighty Ideal before us; it
is not what we believe concerning the immortality of the never was known to fall into the rear. No man ever came
soul or the like, but the universal impulse to believe, to an experience which was satiating, but his good is
that is the material circumstance and is the principal fact tidings of a better. Onward and onward! In liberated mo-
in the history of the globe. Shall we describe this cause ments we know that a new picture of life and duty is
as that which works directly? The spirit is not helpless or already possible; the elements already exist in many minds
needful of mediate organs. It has plentiful powers and around you of a doctrine of life which shall transcend any
direct effects. I am explained without explaining, I am written record we have. The new statement will comprise
felt without acting, and where I am not. Therefore all the skepticisms as well as the faiths of society, and out
just persons are satisfied with their own praise. They refuse of unbeliefs a creed shall be formed. For skepticisms are
to explain themselves, and are content that new actions not gratuitous or lawless, but are limitations of the affir-
should do them that office. They believe that we commu- mative statement, and the new philosophy must take them
nicate without speech and above speech, and that no in and make affirmations outside of them, just as much
right action of ours is quite unaffecting to our friends, at as it must include the oldest beliefs.
whatever distance; for the influence of action is not to It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the dis-
be measured by miles. Why should I fret myself because a covery we have made that we exist. That discovery is
circumstance has occurred which hinders my presence called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards we suspect our
where I was expected? If I am not at the meeting, my instruments. We have learned that we do not see directly,
presence where I am should be as useful to the common- but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting

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these colored and distorting lenses which we are, or of are agreed that these optical laws shall take effect. By
computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these sub- love on one part and by forbearance to press objection
ject-lenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no on the other part, it is for a time settled, that we will
objects. Once we lived in what we saw; now, the rapa- look at him in the centre of the horizon, and ascribe to
ciousness of this new power, which threatens to absorb him the properties that will attach to any man so seen.
all things, engages us. Nature, art, persons, letters, reli- But the longest love or aversion has a speedy term. The
gions, objects, successively tumble in, and God is but great and crescive self, rooted in absolute nature, sup-
one of its ideas. Nature and literature are subjective phe- plants all relative existence and ruins the kingdom of
nomena; every evil and every good thing is a shadow mortal friendship and love. Marriage (in what is called
which we cast. The street is full of humiliations to the the spiritual world) is impossible, because of the inequality
proud. As the fop contrived to dress his bailiffs in his between every subject and every object. The subject is
livery and make them wait on his guests at table, so the the receiver of Godhead, and at every comparison must
chagrins which the bad heart gives off as bubbles, at feel his being enhanced by that cryptic might. Though
once take form as ladies and gentlemen in the street, not in energy, yet by presence, this magazine of sub-
shopmen or bar-keepers in hotels, and threaten or insult stance cannot be otherwise than felt; nor can any force
whatever is threatenable and insultable in us. ’Tis the of intellect attribute to the object the proper deity which
same with our idolatries. People forget that it is the eye sleeps or wakes forever in every subject. Never can love
which makes the horizon, and the rounding mind’s eye make consciousness and ascription equal in force. There
which makes this or that man a type or representative of will be the same gulf between every me and thee as be-
humanity, with the name of hero or saint. Jesus, the tween the original and the picture. The universe is the
“providential man,” is a good man on whom many people bride of the soul. All private sympathy is partial. Two

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human beings are like globes, which can touch only in a notice of trifles; it is an act quite easy to be contem-
point, and whilst they remain in contact, all other points plated; but in its sequel it turns out to be a horrible
of each of the spheres are inert; their turn must also jangle and confounding of all relations. Especially the
come, and the longer a particular union lasts the more crimes that spring from love seem right and fair from the
energy of appetency the parts not in union acquire. actor’s point of view, but when acted are found destruc-
Life will be imaged, but cannot be divided nor doubled. tive of society. No man at last believes that he can be
Any invasion of its unity would be chaos. The soul is not lost, nor that the crime in him is as black as in the felon.
twin-born but the only begotten, and though revealing Because the intellect qualifies in our own case the moral
itself as child in time, child in appearance, is of a fatal judgments. For there is no crime to the intellect. That is
and universal power, admitting no co-life. Every day, ev- antinomian or hypernomian, and judges law as well as
ery act betrays the ill-concealed deity. We believe in our- fact. “It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder,” said Na-
selves as we do not believe in others. We permit all things poleon, speaking the language of the intellect. To it, the
to ourselves, and that which we call sin in others is ex- world is a problem in mathematics or the science of quan-
periment for us. It is an instance of our faith in ourselves tity, and it leaves out praise and blame and all weak
that men never speak of crime as lightly as they think; or emotions. All stealing is comparative. If you come to
every man thinks a latitude safe for himself which is no- absolutes, pray who does not steal? Saints are sad, be-
wise to be indulged to another. The act looks very differ- cause they behold sin (even when they speculate), from
ently on the inside and on the outside; in its quality and the point of view of the conscience, and not of the intel-
in its consequences. Murder in the murderer is no such lect; a confusion of thought. Sin, seen from the thought,
ruinous thought as poets and romancers will have it; it is a diminution, or less: seen from the conscience or will,
does not unsettle him or fright him from his ordinary it is pravity or bad. The intellect names it shade, absence

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of light, and no essence. The conscience must feel it as tions, many characters, many ups and downs of fate,—
essence, essential evil. This it is not; it has an objective and meantime it is only puss and her tail. How long be-
existence, but no subjective. fore our masquerade will end its noise of tambourines,
Thus inevitably does the universe wear our color, and laughter, and shouting, and we shall find it was a solitary
every object fall successively into the subject itself. The performance? A subject and an object,—it takes so much
subject exists, the subject enlarges; all things sooner or to make the galvanic circuit complete, but magnitude
later fall into place. As I am, so I see; use what language adds nothing. What imports it whether it is Kepler and
we will, we can never say anything but what we are; the sphere, Columbus and America, a reader and his book,
Hermes, Cadmus, Columbus, Newton, Bonaparte, are the or puss with her tail?
mind’s ministers. Instead of feeling a poverty when we It is true that all the muses and love and religion hate
encounter a great man, let us treat the new comer like a these developments, and will find a way to punish the
travelling geologist who passes through our estate and chemist who publishes in the parlor the secrets of the
shows us good slate, or limestone, or anthracite, in our laboratory. And we cannot say too little of our constitu-
brush pasture. The partial action of each strong mind in tional necessity of seeing things under private aspects,
one direction is a telescope for the objects on which it is or saturated with our humors. And yet is the God the
pointed. But every other part of knowledge is to be pushed native of these bleak rocks. That need makes in morals
to the same extravagance, ere the soul attains her due the capital virtue of self-trust. We must hold hard to this
sphericity. Do you see that kitten chasing so prettily her poverty, however scandalous, and by more vigorous self-
own tail? If you could look with her eyes you might see recoveries, after the sallies of action, possess our axis
her surrounded with hundreds of figures performing com- more firmly. The life of truth is cold and so far mournful;
plex dramas, with tragic and comic issues, long conversa- but it is not the slave of tears, contritions and perturba-

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tions. It does not attempt another’s work, nor adopt Flaxman’s drawing of the Eumenides of Aeschylus, Orestes
another’s facts. It is a main lesson of wisdom to know supplicates Apollo, whilst the Furies sleep on the thresh-
your own from another’s. I have learned that I cannot old. The face of the god expresses a shade of regret and
dispose of other people’s facts; but I possess such a key compassion, but is calm with the conviction of the irrec-
to my own as persuades me, against all their denials, oncilableness of the two spheres. He is born into other
that they also have a key to theirs. A sympathetic person politics, into the eternal and beautiful. The man at his
is placed in the dilemma of a swimmer among drowning feet asks for his interest in turmoils of the earth, into
men, who all catch at him, and if he give so much as a which his nature cannot enter. And the Eumenides there
leg or a finger they will drown him. They wish to be saved lying express pictorially this disparity. The god is sur-
from the mischiefs of their vices, but not from their vices. charged with his divine destiny.
Charity would be wasted on this poor waiting on the symp- Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise,
toms. A wise and hardy physician will say, Come out of Reality, Subjectiveness,—these are threads on the loom
that, as the first condition of advice. of time, these are the lords of life. I dare not assume to
In this our talking America we are ruined by our good give their order, but I name them as I find them in my
nature and listening on all sides. This compliance takes way. I know better than to claim any completeness for
away the power of being greatly useful. A man should my picture. I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of
not be able to look other than directly and forthright. A me. I can very confidently announce one or another law,
preoccupied attention is the only answer to the importu- which throws itself into relief and form, but I am too
nate frivolity of other people; an attention, and to an young yet by some ages to compile a code. I gossip for
aim which makes their wants frivolous. This is a divine my hour concerning the eternal politics. I have seen many
answer, and leaves no appeal and no hard thoughts. In fair pictures not in vain. A wonderful time I have lived

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in. I am not the novice I was fourteen, nor yet seven seems to me an apostasy. In good earnest I am willing to
years ago. Let who will ask Where is the fruit? I find a spare this most unnecessary deal of doing. Life wears to
private fruit sufficient. This is a fruit,—that I should not me a visionary face. Hardest roughest action is visionary
ask for a rash effect from meditations, counsels and the also. It is but a choice between soft and turbulent dreams.
hiving of truths. I should feel it pitiful to demand a re- People disparage knowing and the intellectual life, and
sult on this town and county, an overt effect on the in- urge doing. I am very content with knowing, if only I
stant month and year. The effect is deep and secular as could know. That is an august entertainment, and would
the cause. It works on periods in which mortal lifetime is suffice me a great while. To know a little would be worth
lost. All I know is reception; I am and I have: but I do the expense of this world. I hear always the law of Adrastia,
not get, and when I have fancied I had gotten anything, “that every soul which had acquired any truth, should be
I found I did not. I worship with wonder the great For- safe from harm until another period.”
tune. My reception has been so large, that I am not an- I know that the world I converse with in the city and in
noyed by receiving this or that superabundantly. I say to the farms, is not the world I think. I observe that differ-
the Genius, if he will pardon the proverb, In for a mill, in ence, and shall observe it. One day I shall know the value
for a million. When I receive a new gift, I do not macer- and law of this discrepance. But I have not found that
ate my body to make the account square, for if I should much was gained by manipular attempts to realize the
die I could not make the account square. The benefit world of thought. Many eager persons successively make
overran the merit the first day, and has overrun the merit an experiment in this way, and make themselves ridicu-
ever since. The merit itself, so-called, I reckon part of lous. They acquire democratic manners, they foam at the
the receiving. mouth, they hate and deny. Worse, I observe that in the
Also that hankering after an overt or practical effect history of mankind there is never a solitary example of

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success,—taking their own tests of success. I say this CHARACTER
polemically, or in reply to the inquiry, Why not realize
your world? But far be from me the despair which pre- The sun set; but set not his hope:
judges the law by a paltry empiricism;—since there never Stars rose; his faith was earlier up:
was a right endeavor but it succeeded. Patience and Fixed on the enormous galaxy,
patience, we shall win at the last. We must be very suspi- Deeper and older seemed his eye:
cious of the deceptions of the element of time. It takes a And matched his sufferance sublime
good deal of time to eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred The taciturnity of time.
dollars, and a very little time to entertain a hope and an He spoke, and words more soft than rain
insight which becomes the light of our life. We dress our Brought the Age of Gold again:
garden, eat our dinners, discuss the household with our His action won such reverence sweet,
wives, and these things make no impression, are forgot- As hid all measure of the feat.
ten next week; but, in the solitude to which every man is
always returning, he has a sanity and revelations which Work of his hand
in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him. He nor commends nor grieves
Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat; up again, Pleads for itself the fact;
old heart!—it seems to say,—there is victory yet for all As unrepenting Nature leaves
justice; and the true romance which the world exists to Her every act.
realize will be the transformation of genius into practical
power.

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Essays
XV. CHARACTER by presence, and without means. It is conceived of as a
certain undemonstrable force, a Familiar or Genius, by

I
have read that those who listened to Lord Chatham whose impulses the man is guided but whose counsels he
felt that there was something finer in the man than cannot impart; which is company for him, so that such
any thing which he said. It has been complained of men are often solitary, or if they chance to be social, do
our brilliant English historian of the French Revolution not need society but can entertain themselves very well
that when he has told all his facts about Mirabeau, they alone. The purest literary talent appears at one time great,
do not justify his estimate of his genius. The Gracchi, at another time small, but character is of a stellar and
Agis, Cleomenes, and others of Plutarch’s heroes, do not undiminishable greatness. What others effect by talent
in the record of facts equal their own fame. Sir Philip or by eloquence, this man accomplishes by some magne-
Sidney, the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, are men of tism. “Half his strength he put not forth.” His victories
great figure and of few deeds. We cannot find the small- are by demonstration of superiority, and not by crossing
est part of the personal weight of Washington in the nar- of bayonets. He conquers because his arrival alters the
rative of his exploits. The authority of the name of Schiller face of affairs. “O Iole! how did you know that Hercules
is too great for his books. This inequality of the reputa- was a god?” “Because,” answered Iole, “I was content
tion to the works or the anecdotes is not accounted for the moment my eyes fell on him. When I beheld Theseus,
by saying that the reverberation is longer than the thun- I desired that I might see him offer battle, or at least
der-clap, but somewhat resided in these men which be- guide his horses in the chariot-race; but Hercules did not
got an expectation that outran all their performance. The wait for a contest; he conquered whether he stood, or
largest part of their power was latent. This is that which walked, or sat, or whatever thing he did.” Man, ordi-
we call Character,—a reserved force which acts directly narily a pendant to events, only half attached, and that

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Emerson
awkwardly, to the world he lives in, in these examples ions so instant and true as in them; nowhere so pure from
appears to share the life of things, and to be an expres- a selfish infusion. The constituency at home hearkens to
sion of the same laws which control the tides and the their words, watches the color of their cheek, and therein,
sun, numbers and quantities. as in a glass, dresses its own. Our public assemblies are
But to use a more modest illustration and nearer home, pretty good tests of manly force. Our frank countrymen of
I observe that in our political elections, where this ele- the west and south have a taste for character, and like to
ment, if it appears at all, can only occur in its coarsest know whether the New Englander is a substantial man, or
form, we sufficiently understand its incomparable rate. whether the hand can pass through him.
The people know that they need in their representative The same motive force appears in trade. There are ge-
much more than talent, namely the power to make his niuses in trade, as well as in war, or the State, or letters;
talent trusted. They cannot come at their ends by send- and the reason why this or that man is fortunate is not to
ing to Congress a learned, acute, and fluent speaker, if he be told. It lies in the man; that is all anybody can tell
be not one who, before he was appointed by the people to you about it. See him and you will know as easily why he
represent them, was appointed by Almighty God to stand succeeds, as, if you see Napoleon, you would compre-
for a fact,—invincibly persuaded of that fact in himself,— hend his fortune. In the new objects we recognize the
so that the most confident and the most violent persons old game, the Habit of fronting the fact, and not dealing
learn that here is resistance on which both impudence and with it at second hand, through the perceptions of some-
terror are wasted, namely faith in a fact. The men who body else. Nature seems to authorize trade, as soon as
carry their points do not need to inquire of their constitu- you see the natural merchant, who appears not so much
ents what they should say, but are themselves the country a private agent as her factor and Minister of Commerce.
which they represent; nowhere are its emotions or opin- His natural probity combines with his insight into the

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Essays
fabric of society to put him above tricks, and he commu- be born to trade or he cannot learn it.
nicates to all his own faith that contracts are of no pri- This virtue draws the mind more when it appears in
vate interpretation. The habit of his mind is a reference action to ends not so mixed. It works with most energy
to standards of natural equity and public advantage; and in the smallest companies and in private relations. In all
he inspires respect and the wish to deal with him, both cases it is an extraordinary and incomputable agent. The
for the quiet spirit of honor which attends him, and for excess of physical strength is paralyzed by it. Higher na-
the intellectual pastime which the spectacle of so much tures overpower lower ones by affecting them with a cer-
ability affords. This immensely stretched trade, which tain sleep. The faculties are locked up, and offer no resis-
makes the capes of the Southern Ocean his wharves, and tance. Perhaps that is the universal law. When the high
the Atlantic Sea his familiar port, centres in his brain cannot bring up the low to itself, it benumbs it, as man
only; and nobody in the universe can make his place good. charms down the resistance of the lower animals. Men
In his parlor I see very well that he has been at hard exert on each other a similar occult power. How often
work this morning, with that knitted brow and that settled has the influence of a true master realized all the tales of
humor, which all his desire to be courteous cannot shake magic! A river of command seemed to run down from his
off. I see plainly how many firm acts have been done; eyes into all those who beheld him, a torrent of strong
how many valiant noes have this day been spoken, when sad light, like an Ohio or Danube, which pervaded them
others would have uttered ruinous yeas. I see, with the with his thoughts and colored all events with the hue of
pride of art and skill of masterly arithmetic and power of his mind. “What means did you employ?” was the ques-
remote combination, the consciousness of being an agent tion asked of the wife of Concini, in regard to her treat-
and playfellow of the original laws of the world. He too ment of Mary of Medici; and the answer was, “Only that
believes that none can supply him, and that a man must influence which every strong mind has over a weak one.”

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Cannot Caesar in irons shuffle off the irons and transfer sel. This natural force is no more to be withstood than
them to the person of Hippo or Thraso the turnkey? Is an any other natural force. We can drive a stone upward for
iron handcuff so immutable a bond? Suppose a slaver on a moment into the air, but it is yet true that all stones
the coast of Guinea should take on board a gang of negroes will forever fall; and whatever instances can be quoted of
which should contain persons of the stamp of Toussaint unpunished theft, or of a lie which somebody credited,
L’Ouverture: or, let us fancy, under these swarthy masks justice must prevail, and it is the privilege of truth to
he has a gang of Washingtons in chains. When they ar- make itself believed. Character is this moral order seen
rive at Cuba, will the relative order of the ship’s company through the medium of an individual nature. An indi-
be the same? Is there nothing but rope and iron? Is there vidual is an encloser. Time and space, liberty and neces-
no love, no reverence? Is there never a glimpse of right sity, truth and thought, are left at large no longer. Now,
in a poor slave-captain’s mind; and cannot these be sup- the universe is a close or pound. All things exist in the
posed available to break or elude or in any manner over- man tinged with the manners of his soul. With what qual-
match the tension of an inch or two of iron ring? ity is in him he infuses all nature that he can reach; nor
This is a natural power, like light and heat, and all does he tend to lose himself in vastness, but, at how
nature cooperates with it. The reason why we feel one long a curve soever, all his regards return into his own
man’s presence and do not feel another’s is as simple as good at last. He animates all he can, and he sees only
gravity. Truth is the summit of being; justice is the appli- what he animates. He encloses the world, as the patriot
cation of it to affairs. All individual natures stand in a does his country, as a material basis for his character,
scale, according to the purity of this element in them. and a theatre for action. A healthy soul stands united
The will of the pure runs down from them into other na- with the Just and the True, as the magnet arranges itself
tures as water runs down from a higher into a lower ves- with the pole; so that he stands to all beholders like a

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Essays
transparent object betwixt them and the sun, and whoso other class do not like to hear of faults; they worship
journeys towards the sun, journeys towards that person. events; secure to them a fact, a connection, a certain
He is thus the medium of the highest influence to all who chain of circumstances, and they will ask no more. The
are not on the same level. Thus, men of character are the hero sees that the event is ancillary; it must follow him.
conscience of the society to which they belong. A given order of events has no power to secure to him
The natural measure of this power is the resistance of the satisfaction which the imagination attaches to it;
circumstances. Impure men consider life as it is reflected the soul of goodness escapes from any set of circum-
in opinions, events, and persons. They cannot see the stances; whilst prosperity belongs to a certain mind, and
action until it is done. Yet its moral element preexisted will introduce that power and victory which is its natural
in the actor, and its quality as right or wrong it was easy fruit, into any order of events. No change of circumstances
to predict. Everything in nature is bipolar, or has a posi- can repair a defect of character. We boast our emancipa-
tive and negative pole. There is a male and a female, a tion from many superstitions; but if we have broken any
spirit and a fact, a north and a south. Spirit is the posi- idols it is through a transfer of the idolatry. What have I
tive, the event is the negative. Will is the north, action gained, that I no longer immolate a bull to Jove or to
the south pole. Character may be ranked as having its Neptune, or a mouse to Hecate; that I do not tremble
natural place in the north. It shares the magnetic cur- before the Eumenides, or the Catholic Purgatory, or the
rents of the system. The feeble souls are drawn to the Calvinistic Judgment-day,—if I quake at opinion, the
south or negative pole. They look at the profit or hurt of public opinion, as we call it; or at the threat of assault,
the action. They never behold a principle until it is lodged or contumely, or bad neighbors, or poverty, or mutila-
in a person. They do not wish to be lovely, but to be tion, or at the rumor of revolution, or of murder? If I
loved. Men of character like to hear of their faults; the quake, what matters it what I quake at? Our proper vice

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Emerson
takes form in one or another shape, according to the sex, cannot think of him as alone, or poor, or exiled, or un-
age, or temperament of the person, and, if we are ca- happy, or a client, but as perpetual patron, benefactor,
pable of fear, will readily find terrors. The covetousness and beatified man. Character is centrality, the impossi-
or the malignity which saddens me when I ascribe it to bility of being displaced or overset. A man should give us
society, is my own. I am always environed by myself. On a sense of mass. Society is frivolous, and shreds its day
the other part, rectitude is a perpetual victory, celebrated into scraps, its conversation into ceremonies and escapes.
not by cries of joy but by serenity, which is joy fixed or But if I go to see an ingenious man I shall think myself
habitual. It is disgraceful to fly to events for confirma- poorly entertained if he give me nimble pieces of be-
tion of our truth and worth. The capitalist does not run nevolence and etiquette; rather he shall stand stoutly in
every hour to the broker to coin his advantages into cur- his place and let me apprehend if it were only his resis-
rent money of the realm; he is satisfied to read in the tance; know that I have encountered a new and positive
quotations of the market that his stocks have risen. The quality;—great refreshment for both of us. It is much
same transport which the occurrence of the best events that he does not accept the conventional opinions and
in the best order would occasion me, I must learn to practices. That nonconformity will remain a goad and
taste purer in the perception that my position is every remembrancer, and every inquirer will have to dispose of
hour meliorated, and does already command those events him, in the first place. There is nothing real or useful
I desire. That exultation is only to be checked by the that is not a seat of war. Our houses ring with laughter
foresight of an order of things so excellent as to throw all and personal and critical gossip, but it helps little. But
our prosperities into the deepest shade. the uncivil, unavailable man, who is a problem and a
The face which character wears to me is self- threat to society, whom it cannot let pass in silence but
sufficingness. I revere the person who is riches; so that I must either worship or hate,—and to whom all parties

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Essays
feel related, both the leaders of opinion and the obscure land) said, he must have the Treasury; he had served up
and eccentric,—he helps; he puts America and Europe in to it, and would have it.” Xenophon and his Ten Thou-
the wrong, and destroys the skepticism which says, ‘man sand were quite equal to what they attempted, and did
is a doll, let us eat and drink, ’tis the best we can do,’ by it; so equal, that it was not suspected to be a grand and
illuminating the untried and unknown. Acquiescence in inimitable exploit. Yet there stands that fact unrepeated,
the establishment and appeal to the public, indicate in- a high-water mark in military history. Many have at-
firm faith, heads which are not clear, and which must see tempted it since, and not been equal to it. It is only on
a house built, before they can comprehend the plan of it. reality that any power of action can be based. No institu-
The wise man not only leaves out of his thought the tion will be better than the institutor. I knew an amiable
many, but leaves out the few. Fountains, the self-moved, and accomplished person who undertook a practical re-
the absorbed, the commander because he is commanded, form, yet I was never able to find in him the enterprise of
the assured, the primary,—they are good; for these an- love he took in hand. He adopted it by ear and by the
nounce the instant presence of supreme power. understanding from the books he had been reading. All
Our action should rest mathematically on our substance. his action was tentative, a piece of the city carried out
In nature, there are no false valuations. A pound of water into the fields, and was the city still, and no new fact,
in the ocean-tempest has no more gravity than in a mid- and could not inspire enthusiasm. Had there been some-
summer pond. All things work exactly according to their thing latent in the man, a terrible undemonstrated ge-
quality and according to their quantity; attempt nothing nius agitating and embarrassing his demeanor, we had
they cannot do, except man only. He has pretension; he watched for its advent. It is not enough that the intel-
wishes and attempts things beyond his force. I read in a lect should see the evils and their remedy. We shall still
book of English memoirs, “Mr. Fox (afterwards Lord Hol- postpone our existence, nor take the ground to which we

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Emerson
are entitled, whilst it is only a thought and not a spirit if its estate is wasted, its granary emptied, still cheers
that incites us. We have not yet served up to it. and enriches, and the man, though he sleep, seems to
These are properties of life, and another trait is the purify the air and his house to adorn the landscape and
notice of incessant growth. Men should be intelligent and strengthen the laws. People always recognize this differ-
earnest. They must also make us feel that they have a ence. We know who is benevolent, by quite other means
controlling happy future opening before them, whose early than the amount of subscription to soup-societies. It is
twilights already kindle in the passing hour. The hero is only low merits that can be enumerated. Fear, when your
misconceived and misreported; he cannot therefore wait friends say to you what you have done well, and say it
to unravel any man’s blunders; he is again on his road, through; but when they stand with uncertain timid looks
adding new powers and honors to his domain and new of respect and half-dislike, and must suspend their judg-
claims on your heart, which will bankrupt you if you have ment for years to come, you may begin to hope. Those
loitered about the old things and have not kept your who live to the future must always appear selfish to those
relation to him by adding to your wealth. New actions who live to the present. Therefore it was droll in the good
are the only apologies and explanations of old ones which Riemer, who has written memoirs of Goethe, to make out
the noble can bear to offer or to receive. If your friend a list of his donations and good deeds, as, so many hun-
has displeased you, you shall not sit down to consider it, dred thalers given to Stilling, to Hegel, to Tischbein; a
for he has already lost all memory of the passage, and lucrative place found for Professor Voss, a post under the
has doubled his power to serve you, and ere you can rise Grand Duke for Herder, a pension for Meyer, two profes-
up again will burden you with blessings. sors recommended to foreign universities; &c., &c. The
We have no pleasure in thinking of a benevolence that longest list of specifications of benefit would look very
is only measured by its works. Love is inexhaustible, and short. A man is a poor creature if he is to be measured so.

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For all these of course are exceptions, and the rule and ter repudiates intellect, yet excites it; and character passes
hodiernal life of a good man is benefaction. The true into thought, is published so, and then is ashamed be-
charity of Goethe is to be inferred from the account he fore new flashes of moral worth.
gave Dr. Eckermann of the way in which he had spent his Character is nature in the highest form. It is of no use
fortune. “Each bon-mot of mine has cost a purse of gold. to ape it or to contend with it. Somewhat is possible of
Half a million of my own money, the fortune I inherited, resistance, and of persistence, and of creation, to this
my salary and the large income derived from my writings power, which will foil all emulation.
for fifty years back, have been expended to instruct me This masterpiece is best where no hands but nature’s
in what I now know. I have besides seen,” &c. have been laid on it. Care is taken that the greatly-des-
I own it is but poor chat and gossip to go to enumerate tined shall slip up into life in the shade, with no thou-
traits of this simple and rapid power, and we are painting sand-eyed Athens to watch and blazon every new thought,
the lightning with charcoal; but in these long nights and every blushing emotion of young genius. Two persons
vacations I like to console myself so. Nothing but itself lately, very young children of the most high God, have
can copy it. A word warm from the heart enriches me. I given me occasion for thought. When I explored the source
surrender at discretion. How death-cold is literary genius of their sanctity and charm for the imagination, it seemed
before this fire of life! These are the touches that reani- as if each answered, ‘From my nonconformity; I never
mate my heavy soul and give it eyes to pierce the dark of listened to your people’s law, or to what they call their
nature. I find, where I thought myself poor, there was I gospel, and wasted my time. I was content with the simple
most rich. Thence comes a new intellectual exaltation, rural poverty of my own; hence this sweetness; my work
to be again rebuked by some new exhibition of character. never reminds you of that;—is pure of that.’ And nature
Strange alternation of attraction and repulsion! Charac- advertises me in such persons that in democratic America

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Emerson
she will not be democratized. How cloistered and consti- nitions of a Doctor of Divinity,—’My friend, a man can
tutionally sequestered from the market and from scandal! neither be praised nor insulted.’ But forgive the counsels;
It was only this morning that I sent away some wild they are very natural. I remember the thought which oc-
flowers of these wood-gods. They are a relief from litera- curred to me when some ingenious and spiritual foreign-
ture,—these fresh draughts from the sources of thought ers came to America, was, Have you been victimized in
and sentiment; as we read, in an age of polish and criti- being brought hither?—or, prior to that, answer me this,
cism, the first lines of written prose and verse of a na- ‘Are you victimizable?’
tion. How captivating is their devotion to their favorite As I have said, Nature keeps these sovereignties in her
books, whether Aeschylus, Dante, Shakspeare, or Scott, own hands, and however pertly our sermons and disci-
as feeling that they have a stake in that book; who touches plines would divide some share of credit, and teach that
that, touches them;—and especially the total solitude of the laws fashion the citizen, she goes her own gait and
the critic, the Patmos of thought from which he writes, in puts the wisest in the wrong. She makes very light of
unconsciousness of any eyes that shall ever read this gospels and prophets, as one who has a great many more
writing. Could they dream on still, as angels, and not to produce and no excess of time to spare on any one.
wake to comparisons, and to be flattered! Yet some na- There is a class of men, individuals of which appear at
tures are too good to be spoiled by praise, and wherever long intervals, so eminently endowed with insight and
the vein of thought reaches down into the profound, there virtue that they have been unanimously saluted as di-
is no danger from vanity. Solemn friends will warn them vine, and who seem to be an accumulation of that power
of the danger of the head’s being turned by the flourish we consider. Divine persons are character born, or, to
of trumpets, but they can afford to smile. I remember the borrow a phrase from Napoleon, they are victory orga-
indignation of an eloquent Methodist at the kind admo- nized. They are usually received with ill-will, because they

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are new and because they set a bound to the exaggera- action of the patriarchs. We require that a man should be
tion that has been made of the personality of the last so large and columnar in the landscape, that it should
divine person. Nature never rhymes her children, nor makes deserve to be recorded that he arose, and girded up his
two men alike. When we see a great man we fancy a loins, and departed to such a place. The most credible
resemblance to some historical person, and predict the pictures are those of majestic men who prevailed at their
sequel of his character and fortune; a result which he is entrance, and convinced the senses; as happened to the
sure to disappoint. None will ever solve the problem of eastern magian who was sent to test the merits of Zertusht
his character according to our prejudice, but only in his or Zoroaster. When the Yunani sage arrived at Balkh, the
own high unprecedented way. Character wants room; must Persians tell us, Gushtasp appointed a day on which the
not be crowded on by persons nor be judged from glimpses Mobeds of every country should assemble, and a golden
got in the press of affairs or on few occasions. It needs chair was placed for the Yunani sage. Then the beloved
perspective, as a great building. It may not, probably of Yezdam, the prophet Zertusht, advanced into the midst
does not, form relations rapidly; and we should not re- of the assembly. The Yunani sage, on seeing that chief,
quire rash explanation, either on the popular ethics, or said, “This form and this gait cannot lie, and nothing but
on our own, of its action. truth can proceed from them.” Plato said it was impos-
I look on Sculpture as history. I do not think the Apollo sible not to believe in the children of the gods, “though
and the Jove impossible in flesh and blood. Every trait they should speak without probable or necessary argu-
which the artist recorded in stone he had seen in life, ments.” I should think myself very unhappy in my associ-
and better than his copy. We have seen many counter- ates if I could not credit the best things in history. “John
feits, but we are born believers in great men. How easily Bradshaw,” says Milton, “appears like a consul, from whom
we read in old books, when men were few, of the smallest the fasces are not to depart with the year; so that not on

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the tribunal only, but throughout his life, you would re- there are persons he cannot choose but remember, who
gard him as sitting in judgment upon kings.” I find it gave a transcendent expansion to his thought, and kindled
more credible, since it is anterior information, that one another life in his bosom.
man should know heaven, as the Chinese say, than that What is so excellent as strict relations of amity, when
so many men should know the world. “The virtuous prince they spring from this deep root? The sufficient reply to
confronts the gods, without any misgiving. He waits a the skeptic who doubts the power and the furniture of
hundred ages till a sage comes, and does not doubt. He man, is in that possibility of joyful intercourse with per-
who confronts the gods, without any misgiving, knows sons, which makes the faith and practice of all reason-
heaven; he who waits a hundred ages until a sage comes, able men. I know nothing which life has to offer so sat-
without doubting, knows men. Hence the virtuous prince isfying as the profound good understanding which can
moves, and for ages shows empire the way.” But there is subsist after much exchange of good offices, between
no need to seek remote examples. He is a dull observer two virtuous men, each of whom is sure of himself and
whose experience has not taught him the reality and force sure of his friend. It is a happiness which postpones all
of magic, as well as of chemistry. The coldest precisian other gratifications, and makes politics, and commerce,
cannot go abroad without encountering inexplicable in- and churches, cheap. For when men shall meet as they
fluences. One man fastens an eye on him and the graves ought, each a benefactor, a shower of stars, clothed with
of the memory render up their dead; the secrets that make thoughts, with deeds, with accomplishments, it should
him wretched either to keep or to betray must be be the festival of nature which all things announce. Of
yielded;—another, and he cannot speak, and the bones such friendship, love in the sexes is the first symbol, as
of his body seem to lose their cartilages; the entrance of all other things are symbols of love. Those relations to
a friend adds grace, boldness, and eloquence to him; and the best men, which, at one time, we reckoned the ro-

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mances of youth, become, in the progress of the charac- Shall each by each be most enjoyed.
ter, the most solid enjoyment.
If it were possible to live in right relations with men!— Their relation is not made, but allowed. The gods must
if we could abstain from asking anything of them, from seat themselves without seneschal in our Olympus, and
asking their praise, or help, or pity, and content us with as they can instal themselves by seniority divine. Society
compelling them through the virtue of the eldest laws! is spoiled if pains are taken, if the associates are brought
Could we not deal with a few persons,—with one per- a mile to meet. And if it be not society, it is a mischie-
son,—after the unwritten statutes, and make an experi- vous, low, degrading jangle, though made up of the best.
ment of their efficacy? Could we not pay our friend the All the greatness of each is kept back and every foible in
compliment of truth, of silence, of forbearing? Need we painful activity, as if the Olympians should meet to ex-
be so eager to seek him? If we are related, we shall meet. change snuff-boxes.
It was a tradition of the ancient world that no metamor- Life goes headlong. We chase some flying scheme, or we
phosis could hide a god from a god; and there is a Greek are hunted by some fear or command behind us. But if sud-
verse which runs,— denly we encounter a friend, we pause; our heat and hurry
look foolish enough; now pause, now possession is required,
“The Gods are to each other not unknown.” and the power to swell the moment from the resources of
the heart. The moment is all, in all noble relations.
Friends also follow the laws of divine necessity; they A divine person is the prophecy of the mind; a friend is
gravitate to each other, and cannot otherwise:— the hope of the heart. Our beatitude waits for the
fulfilment of these two in one. The ages are opening this
When each the other shall avoid, moral force. All force is the shadow or symbol of that.

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Poetry is joyful and strong as it draws its inspiration a force of character which will convert judge, jury, sol-
thence. Men write their names on the world as they are dier, and king; which will rule animal and mineral vir-
filled with this. History has been mean; our nations have tues, and blend with the courses of sap, of rivers, of
been mobs; we have never seen a man: that divine form winds, of stars, and of moral agents.
we do not yet know, but only the dream and prophecy of If we cannot attain at a bound to these grandeurs, at
such: we do not know the majestic manners which belong least let us do them homage. In society, high advantages
to him, which appease and exalt the beholder. We shall are set down to the possessor as disadvantages. It re-
one day see that the most private is the most public quires the more wariness in our private estimates. I do
energy, that quality atones for quantity, and grandeur of not forgive in my friends the failure to know a fine char-
character acts in the dark, and succors them who never acter and to entertain it with thankful hospitality. When
saw it. What greatness has yet appeared is beginnings at last that which we have always longed for is arrived
and encouragements to us in this direction. The history and shines on us with glad rays out of that far celestial
of those gods and saints which the world has written and land, then to be coarse, then to be critical and treat such
then worshipped, are documents of character. The ages a visitant with the jabber and suspicion of the streets,
have exulted in the manners of a youth who owed noth- argues a vulgarity that seems to shut the doors of heaven.
ing to fortune, and who was hanged at the Tyburn of his This is confusion, this the right insanity, when the soul
nation, who, by the pure quality of his nature, shed an no longer knows its own, nor where its allegiance, its
epic splendor around the facts of his death which has religion, are due. Is there any religion but this, to know
transfigured every particular into an universal symbol for that wherever in the wide desert of being the holy senti-
the eyes of mankind. This great defeat is hitherto our ment we cherish has opened into a flower, it blooms for
highest fact. But the mind requires a victory to the senses; me? if none sees it, I see it; I am aware, if I alone, of the

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greatness of the fact. Whilst it blooms, I will keep sab- MANNERS
bath or holy time, and suspend my gloom and my folly
and jokes. Nature is indulged by the presence of this guest. “How near to good is what is fair!
There are many eyes that can detect and honor the pru- Which we no sooner see,
dent and household virtues; there are many that can dis- But with the lines and outward air
cern Genius on his starry track, though the mob is inca- Our senses taken be.
pable; but when that love which is all-suffering, all-ab-
staining, all-aspiring, which has vowed to itself that it Again yourselves compose,
will be a wretch and also a fool in this world sooner than And now put all the aptness on
soil its white hands by any compliances, comes into our Of Figure, that Proportion
streets and houses,—only the pure and aspiring can know Or Color can disclose;
its face, and the only compliment they can pay it is to That if those silent arts were lost,
own it. Design and Picture, they might boast
From you a newer ground,
Instructed by the heightening sense
Of dignity and reverence
In their true motions found.”
Ben Jonson

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XVI. MANNERS by their neighbors to the shrieking of bats and to the
whistling of birds. Again, the Bornoos have no proper

H
alf the world, it is said, knows not how the other names; individuals are called after their height, thick-
half live. Our Exploring Expedition saw the Feejee ness, or other accidental quality, and have nicknames
islanders getting their dinner off human bones; merely. But the salt, the dates, the ivory, and the gold,
and they are said to eat their own wives and children. for which these horrible regions are visited, find their
The husbandry of the modern inhabitants of Gournou (west way into countries where the purchaser and consumer
of old Thebes) is philosophical to a fault. To set up their can hardly be ranked in one race with these cannibals
housekeeping nothing is requisite but two or three earthen and man-stealers; countries where man serves himself
pots, a stone to grind meal, and a mat which is the bed. with metals, wood, stone, glass, gum, cotton, silk, and
The house, namely a tomb, is ready without rent or taxes. wool; honors himself with architecture; writes laws, and
No rain can pass through the roof, and there is no door, contrives to execute his will through the hands of many
for there is no want of one, as there is nothing to lose. If nations; and, especially, establishes a select society, run-
the house do not please them, they walk out and enter ning through all the countries of intelligent men, a self-
another, as there are several hundreds at their command. constituted aristocracy, or fraternity of the best, which,
“It is somewhat singular,” adds Belzoni, to whom we owe without written law or exact usage of any kind, perpetu-
this account, “to talk of happiness among people who ates itself, colonizes every new-planted island and adopts
live in sepulchres, among the corpses and rags of an an- and makes its own whatever personal beauty or extraor-
cient nation which they know nothing of.” In the deserts dinary native endowment anywhere appears.
of Borgoo the rock-Tibboos still dwell in caves, like cliff- What fact more conspicuous in modern history than the
swallows, and the language of these negroes is compared creation of the gentleman? Chivalry is that, and loyalty

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is that, and, in English literature, half the drama, and all who have most vigor, who take the lead in the world of
the novels, from Sir Philip Sidney to Sir Walter Scott, this hour, and though far from pure, far from constituting
paint this figure. The word gentleman, which, like the the gladdest and highest tone of human feeling, is as
word Christian, must hereafter characterize the present good as the whole society permits it to be. It is made of
and the few preceding centuries by the importance at- the spirit, more than of the talent of men, and is a com-
tached to it, is a homage to personal and incommuni- pound result into which every great force enters as an
cable properties. Frivolous and fantastic additions have ingredient, namely virtue, wit, beauty, wealth, and power.
got associated with the name, but the steady interest of There is something equivocal in all the words in use to
mankind in it must be attributed to the valuable proper- express the excellence of manners and social cultivation,
ties which it designates. An element which unites all the because the quantities are fluxional, and the last effect
most forcible persons of every country; makes them in- is assumed by the senses as the cause. The word gentle-
telligible and agreeable to each other, and is somewhat man has not any correlative abstract to express the qual-
so precise that it is at once felt if an individual lack the ity. Gentility is mean, and gentilesse is obsolete. But we
masonic sign,—cannot be any casual product, but must must keep alive in the vernacular the distinction between
be an average result of the character and faculties uni- fashion, a word of narrow and often sinister meaning,
versally found in men. It seems a certain permanent av- and the heroic character which the gentleman imports.
erage; as the atmosphere is a permanent composition, The usual words, however, must be respected; they will
whilst so many gases are combined only to be be found to contain the root of the matter. The point of
decompounded. Comme il faut, is the Frenchman’s de- distinction in all this class of names, as courtesy, chiv-
scription of good Society: as we must be. It is a sponta- alry, fashion, and the like, is that the flower and fruit,
neous fruit of talents and feelings of precisely that class not the grain of the tree, are contemplated. It is beauty

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Emerson
which is the aim this time, and not worth. The result is sonal force appears readily enough in these new arenas.
now in question, although our words intimate well enough Power first, or no leading class. In politics and in trade,
the popular feeling that the appearance supposes a sub- bruisers and pirates are of better promise than talkers
stance. The gentleman is a man of truth, lord of his own and clerks. God knows that all sorts of gentlemen knock
actions, and expressing that lordship in his behavior, not at the door; but whenever used in strictness and with
in any manner dependent and servile, either on persons, any emphasis, the name will be found to point at original
or opinions, or possessions. Beyond this fact of truth and energy. It describes a man standing in his own right and
real force, the word denotes good-nature or benevolence: working after untaught methods. In a good lord there
manhood first, and then gentleness. The popular notion must first be a good animal, at least to the extent of
certainly adds a condition of ease and fortune; but that yielding the incomparable advantage of animal spirits.
is a natural result of personal force and love, that they The ruling class must have more, but they must have
should possess and dispense the goods of the world. In these, giving in every company the sense of power, which
times of violence, every eminent person must fall in with makes things easy to be done which daunt the wise. The
many opportunities to approve his stoutness and worth; society of the energetic class, in their friendly and fes-
therefore every man’s name that emerged at all from the tive meetings, is full of courage and of attempts which
mass in the feudal ages, rattles in our ear like a flourish intimidate the pale scholar. The courage which girls ex-
of trumpets. But personal force never goes out of fash- hibit is like a battle of Lundy’s Lane, or a sea-fight. The
ion. That is still paramount to-day, and in the moving intellect relies on memory to make some supplies to face
crowd of good society the men of valor and reality are these extemporaneous squadrons. But memory is a base
known and rise to their natural place. The competition is mendicant with basket and badge, in the presence of these
transferred from war to politics and trade, but the per- sudden masters. The rulers of society must be up to the

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Essays
work of the world, and equal to their versatile office: A plentiful fortune is reckoned necessary, in the popu-
men of the right Caesarian pattern, who have great range lar judgment, to the completion of this man of the world;
of affinity. I am far from believing the timid maxim of and it is a material deputy which walks through the dance
Lord Falkland (“that for ceremony there must go two to which the first has led. Money is not essential, but this
it; since a bold fellow will go through the cunningest wide affinity is, which transcends the habits of clique
forms”), and am of opinion that the gentleman is the and caste and makes itself felt by men of all classes. If
bold fellow whose forms are not to be broken through; the aristocrat is only valid in fashionable circles and not
and only that plenteous nature is rightful master which with truckmen, he will never be a leader in fashion; and
is the complement of whatever person it converses with. if the man of the people cannot speak on equal terms
My gentleman gives the law where he is; he will outpray with the gentleman, so that the gentleman shall perceive
saints in chapel, outgeneral veterans in the field, and that he is already really of his own order, he is not to be
outshine all courtesy in the hall. He is good company for feared. Diogenes, Socrates, and Epaminondas, are gentle-
pirates and good with academicians; so that it is useless men of the best blood who have chosen the condition of
to fortify yourself against him; he has the private en- poverty when that of wealth was equally open to them. I
trance to all minds, and I could as easily exclude myself, use these old names, but the men I speak of are my con-
as him. The famous gentlemen of Asia and Europe have temporaries. Fortune will not supply to every generation
been of this strong type; Saladin, Sapor, the Cid, Julius one of these well-appointed knights, but every collection
Caesar, Scipio, Alexander, Pericles, and the lordliest per- of men furnishes some example of the class; and the poli-
sonages. They sat very carelessly in their chairs, and were tics of this country, and the trade of every town, are
too excellent themselves, to value any condition at a controlled by these hardy and irresponsible doers, who
high rate. have invention to take the lead, and a broad sympathy

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Emerson
which puts them in fellowship with crowds, and makes soon become fixed, and a fine sense of propriety is culti-
their action popular. vated with the more heed that it becomes a badge of
The manners of this class are observed and caught with social and civil distinctions. Thus grows up Fashion, an
devotion by men of taste. The association of these mas- equivocal semblance, the most puissant, the most fan-
ters with each other and with men intelligent of their tastic and frivolous, the most feared and followed, and
merits, is mutually agreeable and stimulating. The good which morals and violence assault in vain.
forms, the happiest expressions of each, are repeated and There exists a strict relation between the class of power
adopted. By swift consent everything superfluous is and the exclusive and polished circles. The last are al-
dropped, everything graceful is renewed. Fine manners ways filled or filling from the first. The strong men usu-
show themselves formidable to the uncultivated man. They ally give some allowance even to the petulances of fash-
are a subtler science of defence to parry and intimidate; ion, for that affinity they find in it. Napoleon, child of
but once matched by the skill of the other party, they the revolution, destroyer of the old noblesse, never ceased
drop the point of the sword, —points and fences disap- to court the Faubourg St. Germain; doubtless with the
pear, and the youth finds himself in a more transparent feeling that fashion is a homage to men of his stamp.
atmosphere, wherein life is a less troublesome game, and Fashion, though in a strange way, represents all manly
not a misunderstanding rises between the players. Man- virtue. It is virtue gone to seed: it is a kind of posthu-
ners aim to facilitate life, to get rid of impediments and mous honor. It does not often caress the great, but the
bring the man pure to energize. They aid our dealing and children of the great: it is a hall of the Past. It usually
conversation as a railway aids travelling, by getting rid sets its face against the great of this hour. Great men are
of all avoidable obstructions of the road and leaving noth- not commonly in its halls; they are absent in the field:
ing to be conquered but pure space. These forms very they are working, not triumphing. Fashion is made up of

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their children; of those who through the value and virtue Aristocracy and fashion are certain inevitable results.
of somebody, have acquired lustre to their name, marks These mutual selections are indestructible. If they pro-
of distinction, means of cultivation and generosity, and, voke anger in the least favored class, and the excluded
in their physical organization a certain health and excel- majority revenge themselves on the excluding minority
lence which secures to them, if not the highest power to by the strong hand and kill them, at once a new class
work, yet high power to enjoy. The class of power, the finds itself at the top, as certainly as cream rises in a
working heroes, the Cortez, the Nelson, the Napoleon, bowl of milk: and if the people should destroy class after
see that this is the festivity and permanent celebration class, until two men only were left, one of these would
of such as they; that fashion is funded talent; is Mexico, be the leader and would be involuntarily served and cop-
Marengo, and Trafalgar beaten out thin; that the brilliant ied by the other. You may keep this minority out of sight
names of fashion run back to just such busy names as and out of mind, but it is tenacious of life, and is one of
their own, fifty or sixty years ago. They are the sowers, the estates of the realm. I am the more struck with this
their sons shall be the reapers, and their sons, in the tenacity, when I see its work. It respects the administra-
ordinary course of things, must yield the possession of tion of such unimportant matters, that we should not
the harvest to new competitors with keener eyes and look for any durability in its rule. We sometimes meet
stronger frames. The city is recruited from the country. In men under some strong moral influence, as a patriotic, a
the year 1805, it is said, every legitimate monarch in literary, a religious movement, and feel that the moral
Europe was imbecile. The city would have died out, rot- sentiment rules man and nature. We think all other dis-
ted, and exploded, long ago, but that it was reinforced tinctions and ties will be slight and fugitive, this of caste
from the fields. It is only country which came to town or fashion for example; yet come from year to year and
day before yesterday that is city and court today. see how permanent that is, in this Boston or New York

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Emerson
life of man, where too it has not the least countenance other. The chiefs of savage tribes have distinguished them-
from the law of the land. Not in Egypt or in India a selves in London and Paris, by the purity of their tournure.
firmer or more impassable line. Here are associations To say what good of fashion we can, it rests on reality,
whose ties go over and under and through it, a meeting and hates nothing so much as pretenders; to exclude and
of merchants, a military corps, a college class, a fire- mystify pretenders and send them into everlasting ‘Cov-
club, a professional association, a political, a religious entry,’ is its delight. We contemn in turn every other gift
convention;—the persons seem to draw inseparably near; of men of the world; but the habit even in little and the
yet, that assembly once dispersed, its members will not least matters of not appealing to any but our own sense
in the year meet again. Each returns to his degree in the of propriety, constitutes the foundation of all chivalry.
scale of good society, porcelain remains porcelain, and There is almost no kind of self-reliance, so it be sane and
earthen earthen. The objects of fashion may be frivolous, proportioned, which fashion does not occasionally adopt
or fashion may be objectless, but the nature of this union and give it the freedom of its saloons. A sainted soul is
and selection can be neither frivolous nor accidental. Each always elegant, and, if it will, passes unchallenged into
man’s rank in that perfect graduation depends on some the most guarded ring. But so will Jock the teamster pass,
symmetry in his structure or some agreement in his struc- in some crisis that brings him thither, and find favor, as
ture to the symmetry of society. Its doors unbar instanta- long as his head is not giddy with the new circumstance,
neously to a natural claim of their own kind. A natural and the iron shoes do not wish to dance in waltzes and
gentleman finds his way in, and will keep the oldest pa- cotillons. For there is nothing settled in manners, but
trician out who has lost his intrinsic rank. Fashion under- the laws of behavior yield to the energy of the individual.
stands itself; good-breeding and personal superiority of The maiden at her first ball, the country-man at a city
whatever country readily fraternize with those of every dinner, believes that there is a ritual according to which

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every act and compliment must be performed, or the fail- but atmospherically. He should preserve in a new com-
ing party must be cast out of this presence. Later they pany the same attitude of mind and reality of relation
learn that good sense and character make their own forms which his daily associates draw him to, else he is shorn
every moment, and speak or abstain, take wine or refuse of his best beams, and will be an orphan in the merriest
it, stay or go, sit in a chair or sprawl with children on the club. “If you could see Vich Ian Vohr with his tail on!—”
floor, or stand on their head, or what else soever, in a But Vich Ian Vohr must always carry his belongings in
new and aboriginal way; and that strong will is always in some fashion, if not added as honor, then severed as
fashion, let who will be unfashionable. All that fashion disgrace.
demands is composure and self-content. A circle of men There will always be in society certain persons who are
perfectly well-bred would be a company of sensible per- mercuries of its approbation, and whose glance will at
sons in which every man’s native manners and character any time determine for the curious their standing in the
appeared. If the fashionist have not this quality, he is world. These are the chamberlains of the lesser gods.
nothing. We are such lovers of self-reliance that we ex- Accept their coldness as an omen of grace with the loftier
cuse in a man many sins if he will show us a complete deities, and allow them all their privilege. They are clear
satisfaction in his position, which asks no leave to be, of in their office, nor could they be thus formidable without
mine, or any man’s good opinion. But any deference to their own merits. But do not measure the importance of
some eminent man or woman of the world, forfeits all this class by their pretension, or imagine that a fop can
privilege of nobility. He is an underling: I have nothing be the dispenser of honor and shame. They pass also at
to do with him; I will speak with his master. A man should their just rate; for how can they otherwise, in circles
not go where he cannot carry his whole sphere or society which exist as a sort of herald’s office for the sifting of
with him,—not bodily, the whole circle of his friends, character?

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As the first thing man requires of man is reality, so that of his house. No house, though it were the Tuileries or
appears in all the forms of society. We pointedly, and by the Escurial, is good for anything without a master. And
name, introduce the parties to each other. Know you be- yet we are not often gratified by this hospitality. Every
fore all heaven and earth, that this is Andrew, and this is body we know surrounds himself with a fine house, fine
Gregory,—they look each other in the eye; they grasp books, conservatory, gardens, equipage and all manner
each other’s hand, to identify and signalize each other. of toys, as screens to interpose between himself and his
It is a great satisfaction. A gentleman never dodges; his guest. Does it not seem as if man was of a very sly, elu-
eyes look straight forward, and he assures the other party, sive nature, and dreaded nothing so much as a full
first of all, that he has been met. For what is it that we rencontre front to front with his fellow? It were unmerci-
seek, in so many visits and hospitalities? Is it your drap- ful, I know, quite to abolish the use of these screens,
eries, pictures, and decorations? Or do we not insatiably which are of eminent convenience, whether the guest is
ask, Was a man in the house? I may easily go into a great too great or too little. We call together many friends who
household where there is much substance, excellent pro- keep each other in play, or by luxuries and ornaments we
vision for comfort, luxury, and taste, and yet not encoun- amuse the young people, and guard our retirement. Or if
ter there any Amphitryon who shall subordinate these perchance a searching realist comes to our gate, before
appendages. I may go into a cottage, and find a farmer whose eye we have no care to stand, then again we run
who feels that he is the man I have come to see, and to our curtain, and hide ourselves as Adam at the voice
fronts me accordingly. It was therefore a very natural of the Lord God in the garden. Cardinal Caprara, the Pope’s
point of old feudal etiquette that a gentleman who re- legate at Paris, defended himself from the glances of Na-
ceived a visit, though it were of his sovereign, should poleon by an immense pair of green spectacles. Napo-
not leave his roof, but should wait his arrival at the door leon remarked them, and speedily managed to rally them

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off: and yet Napoleon, in his turn, was not great enough sign to the house, as was the custom of gentlemen.
with eight hundred thousand troops at his back, to face a The complement of this graceful self-respect, and that
pair of freeborn eyes, but fenced himself with etiquette of all the points of good breeding I most require and
and within triple barriers of reserve; and, as all the world insist upon, is deference. I like that every chair should
knows from Madame de Stael, was wont, when he found be a throne, and hold a king. I prefer a tendency to state-
himself observed, to discharge his face of all expression. liness to an excess of fellowship. Let the incommuni-
But emperors and rich men are by no means the most cable objects of nature and the metaphysical isolation of
skilful masters of good manners. No rentroll nor army-list man teach us independence. Let us not be too much ac-
can dignify skulking and dissimulation; and the first point quainted. I would have a man enter his house through a
of courtesy must always be truth, as really all the forms hall filled with heroic and sacred sculptures, that he might
of good-breeding point that way. not want the hint of tranquillity and self-poise. We should
I have just been reading, in Mr. Hazlitt’s translation, meet each morning as from foreign countries, and, spend-
Montaigne’s account of his journey into Italy, and am ing the day together, should depart at night, as into for-
struck with nothing more agreeably than the self-respect- eign countries. In all things I would have the island of a
ing fashions of the time. His arrival in each place, the man inviolate. Let us sit apart as the gods, talking from
arrival of a gentleman of France, is an event of some peak to peak all round Olympus. No degree of affection
consequence. Wherever he goes he pays a visit to what- need invade this religion. This is myrrh and rosemary to
ever prince or gentleman of note resides upon his road, keep the other sweet. Lovers Should guard their strange-
as a duty to himself and to civilization. When he leaves ness. If they forgive too much, all slides into confusion
any house in which he has lodged for a few weeks, he and meanness. It is easy to push this deference to a
causes his arms to be painted and hung up as a perpetual Chinese etiquette; but coolness and absence of heat and

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Emerson
haste indicate fine qualities. A gentleman makes no noise; tions. Men are too coarsely made for the delicacy of beau-
a lady is serene. Proportionate is our disgust at those tiful carriage and customs. It is not quite sufficient to
invaders who fill a studious house with blast and run- good-breeding, a union of kindness and independence.
ning, to secure some paltry convenience. Not less I dis- We imperatively require a perception of, and a homage to
like a low sympathy of each with his neighbor’s needs. beauty in our companions. Other virtues are in request in
Must we have a good understanding with one another’s the field and workyard, but a certain degree of taste is
palates? as foolish people who have lived long together not to be spared in those we sit with. I could better eat
know when each wants salt or sugar. I pray my compan- with one who did not respect the truth or the laws than
ion, if he wishes for bread, to ask me for bread, and if he with a sloven and unpresentable person. Moral qualities
wishes for sassafras or arsenic, to ask me for them, and rule the world, but at short distances the senses are des-
not to hold out his plate as if I knew already. Every natu- potic. The same discrimination of fit and fair runs out, if
ral function can be dignified by deliberation and privacy. with less rigor, into all parts of life. The average spirit of
Let us leave hurry to slaves. The compliments and cer- the energetic class is good sense, acting under certain
emonies of our breeding should signify, however remotely, limitations and to certain ends. It entertains every natu-
the recollection of the grandeur of our destiny. ral gift. Social in its nature, it respects everything which
The flower of courtesy does not very well bide han- tends to unite men. It delights in measure. The love of
dling, but if we dare to open another leaf and explore beauty is mainly the love of measure or proportion. The
what parts go to its conformation, we shall find also an person who screams, or uses the superlative degree, or
intellectual quality. To the leaders of men, the brain as converses with heat, puts whole drawing-rooms to flight.
well as the flesh and the heart must furnish a proportion. If you wish to be loved, love measure. You must have
Defect in manners is usually the defect of fine percep- genius or a prodigious usefulness if you will hide the

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want of measure. This perception comes in to polish and too punctual and too precise. He must leave the omni-
perfect the parts of the social instrument. Society will science of business at the door, when he comes into the
pardon much to genius and special gifts, but, being in its palace of beauty. Society loves creole natures, and sleepy
nature a convention, it loves what is conventional, or languishing manners, so that they cover sense, grace and
what belongs to coming together. That makes the good good-will: the air of drowsy strength, which disarms criti-
and bad of manners, namely what helps or hinders fel- cism; perhaps because such a person seems to reserve
lowship. For fashion is not good sense absolute, but rela- himself for the best of the game, and not spend himself
tive; not good sense private, but good sense entertain- on surfaces; an ignoring eye, which does not see the
ing company. It hates corners and sharp points of char- annoyances, shifts, and inconveniences that cloud the
acter, hates quarrelsome, egotistical, solitary, and gloomy brow and smother the voice of the sensitive.
people; hates whatever can interfere with total blending Therefore besides personal force and so much percep-
of parties; whilst it values all peculiarities as in the high- tion as constitutes unerring taste, society demands in its
est degree refreshing, which can consist with good fel- patrician class another element already intimated, which
lowship. And besides the general infusion of wit to it significantly terms good-nature,—expressing all de-
heighten civility, the direct splendor of intellectual power grees of generosity, from the lowest willingness and fac-
is ever welcome in fine society as the costliest addition ulty to oblige, up to the heights of magnanimity and
to its rule and its credit. love. Insight we must have, or we shall run against one
The dry light must shine in to adorn our festival, but it another and miss the way to our food; but intellect is
must be tempered and shaded, or that will also offend. selfish and barren. The secret of success in society is a
Accuracy is essential to beauty, and quick perceptions to certain heartiness and sympathy. A man who is not happy
politeness, but not too quick perceptions. One may be in the company cannot find any word in his memory that

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will fit the occasion. All his information is a little imper- demanded payment: —”No,” said Fox, “I owe this money
tinent. A man who is happy there, finds in every turn of to Sheridan; it is a debt of honor; if an accident should
the conversation equally lucky occasions for the intro- happen to me, he has nothing to show.” “Then,” said the
duction of that which he has to say. The favorites of creditor, “I change my debt into a debt of honor,” and
society, and what it calls whole souls, are able men and tore the note in pieces. Fox thanked the man for his con-
of more spirit than wit, who have no uncomfortable ego- fidence and paid him, saying, “his debt was of older stand-
tism, but who exactly fill the hour and the company; ing, and Sheridan must wait.” Lover of liberty, friend of
contented and contenting, at a marriage or a funeral, a the Hindoo, friend of the African slave, he possessed a
ball or a jury, a water-party or a shooting-match. En- great personal popularity; and Napoleon said of him on
gland, which is rich in gentlemen, furnished, in the be- the occasion of his visit to Paris, in 1805, “Mr. Fox will
ginning of the present century, a good model of that always hold the first place in an assembly at the Tuileries.”
genius which the world loves, in Mr. Fox, who added to We may easily seem ridiculous in our eulogy of cour-
his great abilities the most social disposition and real tesy, whenever we insist on benevolence as its founda-
love of men. Parliamentary history has few better pas- tion. The painted phantasm Fashion rises to cast a spe-
sages than the debate in which Burke and Fox separated cies of derision on what we say. But I will neither be
in the House of Commons; when Fox urged on his old driven from some allowance to Fashion as a symbolic in-
friend the claims of old friendship with such tenderness stitution, nor from the belief that love is the basis of
that the house was moved to tears. Another anecdote is courtesy. We must obtain that, if we can; but by all means
so close to my matter, that I must hazard the story. A we must affirm this. Life owes much of its spirit to these
tradesman who had long dunned him for a note of three sharp contrasts. Fashion, which affects to be honor, is
hundred guineas, found him one day counting gold, and often, in all men’s experience, only a ballroom-code. Yet

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so long as it is the highest circle in the imagination of Cape Turnagain; and Captain Symmes, from the interior
the best heads on the planet, there is something neces- of the earth; and Monsieur Jovaire, who came down this
sary and excellent in it; for it is not to be supposed that morning in a balloon; Mr. Hobnail, the reformer; and Rev-
men have agreed to be the dupes of anything preposter- erend Jul Bat, who has converted the whole torrid zone
ous; and the respect which these mysteries inspire in the in his Sunday school; and Signor Torre del Greco, who
most rude and sylvan characters, and the curiosity with extinguished Vesuvius by pouring into it the Bay of Naples;
which details of high life are read, betray the universal- Spahi, the Persian ambassador; and Tul Wil Shan, the
ity of the love of cultivated manners. I know that a comic exiled nabob of Nepaul, whose saddle is the new moon.—
disparity would be felt, if we should enter the acknowl- But these are monsters of one day, and to-morrow will be
edged ‘first circles’ and apply these terrific standards of dismissed to their holes and dens; for in these rooms
justice, beauty, and benefit to the individuals actually every chair is waited for. The artist, the scholar, and, in
found there. Monarchs and heroes, sages and lovers, these general, the clerisy, wins their way up into these places
gallants are not. Fashion has many classes and many and get represented here, somewhat on this footing of
rules of probation and admission, and not the best alone. conquest. Another mode is to pass through all the de-
There is not only the right of conquest, which genius grees, spending a year and a day in St. Michael’s Square,
pretends,—the individual demonstrating his natural ar- being steeped in Cologne water, and perfumed, and dined,
istocracy best of the best; —but less claims will pass for and introduced, and properly grounded in all the biogra-
the time; for Fashion loves lions, and points like Circe to phy and politics and anecdotes of the boudoirs.
her horned company. This gentleman is this afternoon Yet these fineries may have grace and wit. Let there be
arrived from Denmark; and that is my Lord Ride, who grotesque sculpture about the gates and offices of temples.
came yesterday from Bagdat; here is Captain Friese, from Let the creed and commandments even have the saucy

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Emerson
homage of parody. The forms of politeness universally some absurd inventor of charities; some guide and com-
express benevolence in superlative degrees. What if they forter of runaway slaves; some friend of Poland; some
are in the mouths of selfish men, and used as means of Philhellene; some fanatic who plants shade-trees for the
selfishness? What if the false gentleman almost bows the second and third generation, and orchards when he is
true out Of the world? What if the false gentleman con- grown old; some well-concealed piety; some just man
trives so to address his companion as civilly to exclude happy in an ill fame; some youth ashamed of the favors
all others from his discourse, and also to make them feel of fortune and impatiently casting them on other shoul-
excluded? Real service will not lose its nobleness. All gen- ders. And these are the centres of society, on which it
erosity is not merely French and sentimental; nor is it to returns for fresh impulses. These are the creators of Fash-
be concealed that living blood and a passion of kindness ion, which is an attempt to organize beauty of behavior.
does at last distinguish God’s gentleman from Fashion’s. The beautiful and the generous are, in the theory, the
The epitaph of Sir Jenkin Grout is not wholly unintelli- doctors and apostles of this church: Scipio, and the Cid,
gible to the present age: “Here lies Sir Jenkin Grout, who and Sir Philip Sidney, and Washington, and every pure
loved his friend and persuaded his enemy: what his mouth and valiant heart who worshipped Beauty by word and by
ate, his hand paid for: what his servants robbed, he re- deed. The persons who constitute the natural aristocracy
stored: if a woman gave him pleasure, he supported her are not found in the actual aristocracy, or only on its
in pain: he never forgot his children; and whoso touched edge; as the chemical energy of the spectrum is found to
his finger, drew after it his whole body.” Even the line of be greatest just outside of the spectrum. Yet that is the
heroes is not utterly extinct. There is still ever some ad- infirmity of the seneschals, who do not know their sover-
mirable person in plain clothes, standing on the wharf, eign when he appears. The theory of society supposes
who jumps in to rescue a drowning man; there is still the existence and sovereignty of these. It divines afar off

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their coming. It says with the elder gods,— the individuals who compose the purest circles of aris-
tocracy in Europe, the guarded blood of centuries, should
“As Heaven and Earth are fairer far pass in review, in such manner as that we could at leisure
Than Chaos and blank Darkness, though once chiefs; and critically inspect their behavior, we might find no
And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth, gentleman and no lady; for although excellent specimens
In form and shape compact and beautiful; of courtesy and high-breeding would gratify us in the
So, on our heels a fresh perfection treads; assemblage, in the particulars we should detect offence.
A power, more strong in beauty, born of us, Because elegance comes of no breeding, but of birth.
And fated to excel us, as we pass There must be romance of character, or the most fastidi-
In glory that old Darkness: ous exclusion of impertinencies will not avail. It must be
— for, ’tis the eternal law, genius which takes that direction: it must be not courte-
That first in beauty shall be first in might.” ous, but courtesy. High behavior is as rare in fiction as it
is in fact. Scott is praised for the fidelity with which he
Therefore, within the ethnical circle of good society painted the demeanor and conversation of the superior
there is a narrower and higher circle, concentration of its classes. Certainly, kings and queens, nobles and great
light, and flower of courtesy, to which there is always a ladies, had some right to complain of the absurdity that
tacit appeal of pride and reference, as to its inner and had been put in their mouths before the days of Waverley;
imperial court; the parliament of love and chivalry. And but neither does Scott’s dialogue bear criticism. His lords
this is constituted of those persons in whom heroic dis- brave each other in smart epigramatic speeches, but the
positions are native; with the love of beauty, the delight dialogue is in costume, and does not please on the sec-
in society, and the power to embellish the passing day. If ond reading: it is not warm with life. In Shakspeare alone

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the speakers do not strut and bridle, the dialogue is eas- quette, with happy, spirited bearing, good-natured and
ily great, and he adds to so many titles that of being the free as Robin Hood; yet with the port of an emperor, if
best-bred man in England and in Christendom. Once or need be,—calm, serious, and fit to stand the gaze of
twice in a lifetime we are permitted to enjoy the charm millions.
of noble manners, in the presence of a man or woman The open air and the fields, the street and public cham-
who have no bar in their nature, but whose character bers are the places where Man executes his will; let him
emanates freely in their word and gesture. A beautiful yield or divide the sceptre at the door of the house.
form is better than a beautiful face; a beautiful behavior Woman, with her instinct of behavior, instantly detects
is better than a beautiful form: it gives a higher pleasure in man a love of trifles, any coldness or imbecility, or, in
than statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts. short, any want of that large, flowing, and magnanimous
A man is but a little thing in the midst of the objects of deportment which is indispensable as an exterior in the
nature, yet, by the moral quality radiating from his coun- hall. Our American institutions have been friendly to her,
tenance he may abolish all considerations of magnitude, and at this moment I esteem it a chief felicity of this
and in his manners equal the majesty of the world. I have country, that it excels in women. A certain awkward con-
seen an individual whose manners, though wholly within sciousness of inferiority in the men may give rise to the
the conventions of elegant society, were never learned new chivalry in behalf of Woman’s Rights. Certainly let
there, but were original and commanding and held out her be as much better placed in the laws and in social
protection and prosperity; one who did not need the aid forms as the most zealous reformer can ask, but I confide
of a court-suit, but carried the holiday in his eye; who so entirely in her inspiring and musical nature, that I
exhilarated the fancy by flinging wide the doors of new believe only herself can show us how she shall be served.
modes of existence; who shook off the captivity of eti- The wonderful generosity of her sentiments raises her at

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times into heroical and godlike regions, and verifies the reconcile all heterogeneous persons into one society: like
pictures of Minerva, Juno, or Polymnia; and by the firm- air or water, an element of such a great range of affini-
ness with which she treads her upward path, she con- ties that it combines readily with a thousand substances.
vinces the coarsest calculators that another road exists Where she is present all others will be more than they are
than that which their feet know. But besides those who wont. She was a unit and whole, so that whatsoever she
make good in our imagination the place of muses and of did, became her. She had too much sympathy and desire
Delphic Sibyls, are there not women who fill our vase to please, than that you could say her manners were
with wine and roses to the brim, so that the wine runs marked with dignity, yet no princess could surpass her
over and fills the house with perfume; who inspire us clear and erect demeanor on each occasion. She did not
with courtesy; who unloose our tongues and we speak; study the Persian grammar, nor the books of the seven
who anoint our eyes and we see? We say things we never poets, but all the poems of the seven seemed to be writ-
thought to have said; for once, our walls of habitual re- ten upon her. For though the bias of her nature was not
serve vanished and left us at large; we were children play- to thought, but to sympathy, yet was she so perfect in
ing with children in a wide field of flowers. Steep us, we her own nature as to meet intellectual persons by the
cried, in these influences, for days, for weeks, and we fulness of her heart, warming them by her sentiments;
shall be sunny poets and will write out in many-colored believing, as she did, that by dealing nobly with all, all
words the romance that you are. Was it Hafiz or Firdousi would show themselves noble.
that said of his Persian Lilla, She was an elemental force, I know that this Byzantine pile of chivalry or Fashion,
and astonished me by her amount of life, when I saw her which seems so fair and picturesque to those who look at
day after day radiating, every instant, redundant joy and the contemporary facts for science or for entertainment,
grace on all around her. She was a solvent powerful to is not equally pleasant to all spectators. The constitu-

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tion of our society makes it a giant’s castle to the ambi- tain of honor, creator of titles and dignities, namely the
tious youth who have not found their names enrolled in heart of love. This is the royal blood, this the fire, which,
its Golden Book, and whom it has excluded from its cov- in all countries and contingencies, will work after its kind
eted honors and privileges. They have yet to learn that and conquer and expand all that approaches it. This gives
its seeming grandeur is shadowy and relative: it is great by new meanings to every fact. This impoverishes the rich,
their allowance; its proudest gates will fly open at the suffering no grandeur but its own. What is rich? Are you
approach of their courage and virtue. For the present dis- rich enough to help anybody? to succor the unfashion-
tress, however, of those who are predisposed to suffer from able and the eccentric? rich enough to make the Cana-
the tyrannies of this caprice, there are easy remedies. To dian in his wagon, the itinerant with his consul’s paper
remove your residence a couple of miles, or at most four, which commends him “To the charitable,” the swarthy
will commonly relieve the most extreme susceptibility. For Italian with his few broken words of English, the lame
the advantages which fashion values are plants which thrive pauper hunted by overseers from town to town, even the
in very confined localities, in a few streets namely. Out of poor insane or besotted wreck of man or woman, feel the
this precinct they go for nothing; are of no use in the noble exception of your presence and your house from
farm, in the forest, in the market, in war, in the nuptial the general bleakness and stoniness; to make such feel
society, in the literary or scientific circle, at sea, in friend- that they were greeted with a voice which made them
ship, in the heaven of thought or virtue. both remember and hope? What is vulgar but to refuse
But we have lingered long enough in these painted the claim on acute and conclusive reasons? What is gentle,
courts. The worth of the thing signified must vindicate but to allow it, and give their heart and yours one holi-
our taste for the emblem. Everything that is called fash- day from the national caution? Without the rich heart,
ion and courtesy humbles itself before the cause and foun- wealth is an ugly beggar. The king of Schiraz could not

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afford to be so bountiful as the poor Osman who dwelt at they were all rogues and vixens, who went from bad to
his gate. Osman had a humanity so broad and deep that worse, as fast as the days succeeded each other. Minerva
although his speech was so bold and free with the Koran said she hoped not; they were only ridiculous little crea-
as to disgust all the dervishes, yet was there never a poor tures, with this odd circumstance, that they had a blur,
outcast, eccentric, or insane man, some fool who had cut or indeterminate aspect, seen far or seen near; if you
off his beard, or who had been mutilated under a vow, or called them bad, they would appear so; if you called them
had a pet madness in his brain, but fled at once to him; good, they would appear so; and there was no one person
that great heart lay there so sunny and hospitable in the or action among them, which would not puzzle her owl,
centre of the country, that it seemed as if the instinct of much more all Olympus, to know whether it was funda-
all sufferers drew them to his side. And the madness which mentally bad or good.’
he harbored he did not share. Is not this to be rich? this
only to be rightly rich?
But I shall hear without pain that I play the courtier
very ill, and talk of that which I do not well understand.
It is easy to see, that what is called by distinction soci-
ety and fashion has good laws as well as bad, has much
that is necessary, and much that is absurd. Too good for
banning, and too bad for blessing, it reminds us of a
tradition of the pagan mythology, in any attempt to settle
its character. ‘I overheard Jove, one day,’ said Silenus,
‘talking of destroying the earth; he said it had failed;

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GIFTS flowers, because they are a proud assertion that a ray of
beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. These gay
Gifts of one who loved me,— natures contrast with the somewhat stern countenance
’T was high time they came; of ordinary nature: they are like music heard out of a
When he ceased to love me, work-house. Nature does not cocker us; we are children,
Time they stopped for shame. not pets; she is not fond; everything is dealt to us with-
out fear or favor, after severe universal laws. Yet these
XVII. GIFTS delicate flowers look like the frolic and interference of
love and beauty. Men use to tell us that we love flattery

I
t is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy; even though we are not deceived by it, because it shows
that the world owes the world more than the world that we are of importance enough to be courted. Some-
can pay, and ought to go into chancery and be sold. thing like that pleasure, the flowers give us: what am I
I do not think this general insolvency, which involves in to whom these sweet hints are addressed? Fruits are ac-
some sort all the population, to be the reason of the ceptable gifts, because they are the flower of commodi-
difficulty experienced at Christmas and New Year and other ties, and admit of fantastic values being attached to them.
times, in bestowing gifts; since it is always so pleasant If a man should send to me to come a hundred miles to
to be generous, though very vexatious to pay debts. But visit him and should set before me a basket of fine sum-
the impediment lies in the choosing. If at any time it mer-fruit, I should think there was some proportion be-
comes into my head that a present is due from me to tween the labor and the reward.
somebody, I am puzzled what to give, until the opportu- For common gifts, necessity makes pertinences and
nity is gone. Flowers and fruits are always fit presents; beauty every day, and one is glad when an imperative

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leaves him no option; since if the man at the door have coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a hand-
no shoes, you have not to consider whether you could kerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for
procure him a paint-box. And as it is always pleasing to it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a
see a man eat bread, or drink water, in the house or out man’s biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man’s
of doors, so it is always a great satisfaction to supply wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold lifeless
these first wants. Necessity does everything well. In our business when you go to the shops to buy me something
condition of universal dependence it seems heroic to let which does not represent your life and talent, but a
the petitioner be the judge of his necessity, and to give goldsmith’s. This is fit for kings, and rich men who repre-
all that is asked, though at great inconvenience. If it be sent kings, and a false state of property, to make pre-
a fantastic desire, it is better to leave to others the office sents of gold and silver stuffs, as a kind of symbolical
of punishing him. I can think of many parts I should sin-offering, or payment of black-mail.
prefer playing to that of the Furies. Next to things of The law of benefits is a difficult channel, which re-
necessity, the rule for a gift, which one of my friends quires careful sailing, or rude boats. It is not the office of
prescribed, is that we might convey to some person that a man to receive gifts. How dare you give them? We wish
which properly belonged to his character, and was easily to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The
associated with him in thought. But our tokens of com- hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten. We
pliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings can receive anything from love, for that is a way of re-
and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. ceiving it from ourselves; but not from any one who as-
The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for sumes to bestow. We sometimes hate the meat which we
me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, eat, because there seems something of degrading depen-
his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, dence in living by it:—

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Emerson
give me this pot of oil or this flagon of wine when all
“Brother, if Jove to thee a present make, your oil and wine is mine, which belief of mine this gift
Take heed that from his hands thou nothing take.” seems to deny? Hence the fitness of beautiful, not useful
things, for gifts. This giving is flat usurpation, and there-
We ask the whole. Nothing less will content us. We ar- fore when the beneficiary is ungrateful, as all beneficia-
raign society if it do not give us, besides earth and fire ries hate all Timons, not at all considering the value of
and water, opportunity, love, reverence, and objects of the gift but looking back to the greater store it was taken
veneration. from,—I rather sympathize with the beneficiary than with
He is a good man who can receive a gift well. We are the anger of my lord Timon. For the expectation of grati-
either glad or sorry at a gift, and both emotions are un- tude is mean, and is continually punished by the total
becoming. Some violence I think is done, some degrada- insensibility of the obliged person. It is a great happi-
tion borne, when I rejoice or grieve at a gift. I am sorry ness to get off without injury and heart-burning from
when my independence is invaded, or when a gift comes one who has had the ill-luck to be served by you. It is a
from such as do not know my spirit, and so the act is not very onerous business, this of being served, and the debtor
supported; and if the gift pleases me overmuch, then I naturally wishes to give you a slap. A golden text for
should be ashamed that the donor should read my heart, these gentlemen is that which I so admire in the Bud-
and see that I love his commodity, and not him. The gift, dhist, who never thanks, and who says, “Do not flatter
to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, your benefactors.”
correspondent to my flowing unto him. When the waters The reason of these discords I conceive to be that there
are at level, then my goods pass to him, and his to me. is no commensurability between a man and any gift. You
All his are mine, all mine his. I say to him, How can you cannot give anything to a magnanimous person. After

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you have served him he at once puts you in debt by his them. This is prerogative, and not to be limited by our
magnanimity. The service a man renders his friend is trivial municipal rules. For the rest, I like to see that we cannot
and selfish compared with the service he knows his friend be bought and sold. The best of hospitality and of gen-
stood in readiness to yield him, alike before he had be- erosity is also not in the will, but in fate. I find that I am
gun to serve his friend, and now also. Compared with not much to you; you do not need me; you do not feel
that good-will I bear my friend, the benefit it is in my me; then am I thrust out of doors, though you proffer me
power to render him seems small. Besides, our action on house and lands. No services are of any value, but only
each other, good as well as evil, is so incidental and at likeness. When I have attempted to join myself to others
random that we can seldom hear the acknowledgments of by services, it proved an intellectual trick,—no more. They
any person who would thank us for a benefit, without eat your service like apples, and leave you out. But love
some shame and humiliation. We can rarely strike a di- them, and they feel you and delight in you all the time.
rect stroke, but must be content with an oblique one; we
seldom have the satisfaction of yielding a direct benefit
which is directly received. But rectitude scatters favors
on every side without knowing it, and receives with won-
der the thanks of all people.
I fear to breathe any treason against the majesty of
love, which is the genius and god of gifts, and to whom
we must not affect to prescribe. Let him give kingdoms
or flower-leaves indifferently. There are persons from whom
we always expect fairy-tokens; let us not cease to expect

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Emerson
NATURE the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours
of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives
The rounded world is fair to see, sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground
Nine times folded in mystery: seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These halcy-
Though baffled seers cannot impart ons may be looked for with a little more assurance in
The secret of its laboring heart, that pure October weather which we distinguish by the
Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast, name of the Indian summer. The day, immeasurably long,
And all is clear from east to west. sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. To have
Spirit that lurks each form within lived through all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough.
Beckons to spirit of its kin; The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates
Self-kindled every atom glows, of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to
And hints the future which it owes. leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and fool-
ish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the
XVIII. NATURE first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity
which shames our religions, and reality which discredits

T
here are days which occur in this climate, at al- our heroes. Here we find Nature to be the circumstance
most any season of the year, wherein the world which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a
reaches its perfection; when the air, the heavenly god all men that come to her. We have crept out of our
bodies and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would close and crowded houses into the night and morning,
indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their
of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of bosom. How willingly we would escape the barriers which

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render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophis- to our eyes and hands and feet. It is firm water; it is cold
tication and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance flame; what health, what affinity! Ever an old friend,
us. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual ever like a dear friend and brother when we chat affect-
morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently edly with strangers, comes in this honest face, and takes
reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of a grave liberty with us, and shames us out of our non-
pines, hemlocks, and oaks almost gleam like iron on the sense. Cities give not the human senses room enough.
excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade We go out daily and nightly to feed the eyes on the hori-
us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. zon, and require so much scope, just as we need water for
Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on our bath. There are all degrees of natural influence, from
the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might these quarantine powers of nature, up to her dearest and
walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by gravest ministrations to the imagination and the soul.
new pictures and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, There is the bucket of cold water from the spring, the
until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded wood-fire to which the chilled traveller rushes for safety,—
out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of and there is the sublime moral of autumn and of noon.
the present, and we were led in triumph by nature. We nestle in nature, and draw our living as parasites from
These enchantments are medicinal, they sober and heal her roots and grains, and we receive glances from the
us. These are plain pleasures, kindly and native to us. We heavenly bodies, which call us to solitude and foretell
come to our own, and make friends with matter, which the remotest future. The blue zenith is the point in which
the ambitious chatter of the schools would persuade us romance and reality meet. I think if we should be rapt
to despise. We never can part with it; the mind loves its away into all that we dream of heaven, and should con-
old home: as water to our thirst, so is the rock, the ground, verse with Gabriel and Uriel, the upper sky would be all

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that would remain of our furniture. this incredible beauty; we dip our hands in this painted
It seems as if the day was not wholly profane in which element; our eyes are bathed in these lights and forms. A
we have given heed to some natural object. The fall of holiday, a villeggiatura, a royal revel, the proudest, most
snowflakes in a still air, preserving to each crystal its heart-rejoicing festival that valor and beauty, power and
perfect form; the blowing of sleet over a wide sheet of taste, ever decked and enjoyed, establishes itself on the
water, and over plains; the waving ryefield; the mimic instant. These sunset clouds, these delicately emerging
waving of acres of houstonia, whose innumerable florets stars, with their private and ineffable glances, signify it
whiten and ripple before the eye; the reflections of trees and proffer it. I am taught the poorness of our invention,
and flowers in glassy lakes; the musical steaming odor- the ugliness of towns and palaces. Art and luxury have
ous south wind, which converts all trees to windharps; early learned that they must work as enhancement and
the crackling and spurting of hemlock in the flames, or of sequel to this original beauty. I am overinstructed for my
pine logs, which yield glory to the walls and faces in the return. Henceforth I shall be hard to please. I cannot go
sittingroom,—these are the music and pictures of the back to toys. I am grown expensive and sophisticated. I
most ancient religion. My house stands in low land, with can no longer live without elegance, but a countryman
limited outlook, and on the skirt of the village. But I go shall be my master of revels. He who knows the most; he
with my friend to the shore of our little river, and with who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground,
one stroke of the paddle I leave the village politics and the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at
personalities, yes, and the world of villages and person- these enchantments,—is the rich and royal man. Only as
alities behind, and pass into a delicate realm of sunset far as the masters of the world have called in nature to
and moonlight, too bright almost for spotted man to en- their aid, can they reach the height of magnificence. This
ter without novitiate and probation. We penetrate bodily is the meaning of their hanging-gardens, villas, garden-

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houses, islands, parks and preserves, to back their faulty for example, which converts the mountains into an Aeolian
personality with these strong accessories. I do not won- harp,—and this supernatural tiralira restores to him the
der that the landed interest should be invincible in the Dorian mythology, Apollo, Diana, and all divine hunters
State with these dangerous auxiliaries. These bribe and and huntresses. Can a musical note be so lofty, so haugh-
invite; not kings, not palaces, not men, not women, but tily beautiful! To the poor young poet, thus fabulous is
these tender and poetic stars, eloquent of secret prom- his picture of society; he is loyal; he respects the rich;
ises. We heard what the rich man said, we knew of his they are rich for the sake of his imagination; how poor
villa, his grove, his wine and his company, but the provo- his fancy would be, if they were not rich! That they have
cation and point of the invitation came out of these be- some high-fenced grove which they call a park; that they
guiling stars. In their soft glances I see what men strove live in larger and better-garnished saloons than he has
to realize in some Versailles, or Paphos, or Ctesiphon. visited, and go in coaches, keeping only the society of
Indeed, it is the magical lights of the horizon and the the elegant, to watering-places and to distant cities,—
blue sky for the background which save all our works of these make the groundwork from which he has delineated
art, which were otherwise bawbles. When the rich tax the estates of romance, compared with which their actual
poor with servility and obsequiousness, they should con- possessions are shanties and paddocks. The muse herself
sider the effect of men reputed to be the possessors of betrays her son, and enhances the gifts of wealth and
nature, on imaginative minds. Ah! if the rich were rich as well-born beauty by a radiation out of the air, and clouds,
the poor fancy riches! A boy hears a military band play and forests that skirt the road,—a certain haughty favor,
on the field at night, and he has kings and queens and as if from patrician genii to patricians, a kind of aristoc-
famous chivalry palpably before him. He hears the ech- racy in nature, a prince of the power of the air.
oes of a horn in a hill country, in the Notch Mountains, The moral sensibility which makes Edens and Tempes so

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easily, may not be always found, but the material land- what is called “the subject of religion.” A susceptible
scape is never far off. We can find these enchantments person does not like to indulge his tastes in this kind
without visiting the Como Lake, or the Madeira Islands. without the apology of some trivial necessity: he goes to
We exaggerate the praises of local scenery. In every land- see a wood-lot, or to look at the crops, or to fetch a plant
scape the point of astonishment is the meeting of the or a mineral from a remote locality, or he carries a fowl-
sky and the earth, and that is seen from the first hillock ing-piece or a fishing-rod. I suppose this shame must
as well as from the top of the Alleghanies. The stars at have a good reason. A dilettantism in nature is barren
night stoop down over the brownest, homeliest common and unworthy. The fop of fields is no better than his
with all the spiritual magnificence which they shed on brother of Broadway. Men are naturally hunters and in-
the Campagna, or on the marble deserts of Egypt. The quisitive of wood-craft, and I suppose that such a gazet-
uprolled clouds and the colors of morning and evening teer as wood-cutters and Indians should furnish facts for,
will transfigure maples and alders. The difference between would take place in the most sumptuous drawing-rooms
landscape and landscape is small, but there is great dif- of all the “Wreaths” and “Flora’s chaplets” of the
ference in the beholders. There is nothing so wonderful bookshops; yet ordinarily, whether we are too clumsy for
in any particular landscape as the necessity of being beau- so subtle a topic, or from whatever cause, as soon as men
tiful under which every landscape lies. Nature cannot be begin to write on nature, they fall into euphuism. Frivol-
surprised in undress. Beauty breaks in everywhere. ity is a most unfit tribute to Pan, who ought to be repre-
But it is very easy to outrun the sympathy of readers on sented in the mythology as the most continent of gods. I
this topic, which schoolmen called natura naturata, or would not be frivolous before the admirable reserve and
nature passive. One can hardly speak directly of it with- prudence of time, yet I cannot renounce the right of re-
out excess. It is as easy to broach in mixed companies turning often to this old topic. The multitude of false

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churches accredits the true religion. Literature, poetry, dulness and selfishness we are looking up to nature, but
science are the homage of man to this unfathomed se- when we are convalescent, nature will look up to us. We
cret, concerning which no sane man can affect an indif- see the foaming brook with compunction: if our own life
ference or incuriosity. Nature is loved by what is best in flowed with the right energy, we should shame the brook.
us. It is loved as the city of God, although, or rather The stream of zeal sparkles with real fire, and not with
because there is no citizen. The sunset is unlike anything reflex rays of sun and moon. Nature may be as selfishly
that is underneath it: it wants men. And the beauty of studied as trade. Astronomy to the selfish becomes as-
nature must always seem unreal and mocking, until the trology; psychology, mesmerism (with intent to show
landscape has human figures that are as good as itself. If where our spoons are gone); and anatomy and physiol-
there were good men, there would never be this rapture ogy become phrenology and palmistry.
in nature. If the king is in the palace, nobody looks at But taking timely warning, and leaving many things
the walls. It is when he is gone, and the house is filled unsaid on this topic, let us not longer omit our homage
with grooms and gazers, that we turn from the people to to the Efficient Nature, natura naturans, the quick cause
find relief in the majestic men that are suggested by the before which all forms flee as the driven snows; itself
pictures and the architecture. The critics who complain secret, its works driven before it in flocks and multitudes,
of the sickly separation of the beauty of nature from the (as the ancient represented nature by Proteus, a shep-
thing to be done, must consider that our hunting of the herd,) and in undescribable variety. It publishes itself in
picturesque is inseparable from our protest against false creatures, reaching from particles and spiculae through
society. Man is fallen; nature is erect, and serves as a transformation on transformation to the highest symme-
differential thermometer, detecting the presence or ab- tries, arriving at consummate results without a shock or
sence of the divine sentiment in man. By fault of our a leap. A little heat, that is a little motion, is all that

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differences the bald, dazzling white and deadly cold poles code of her laws may be written on the thumbnail, or the
of the earth from the prolific tropical climates. All changes signet of a ring. The whirling bubble on the surface of a
pass without violence, by reason of the two cardinal con- brook admits us to the secret of the mechanics of the sky.
ditions of boundless space and boundless time. Geology Every shell on the beach is a key to it. A little water made
has initiated us into the secularity of nature, and taught to rotate in a cup explains the formation of the simpler
us to disuse our dame-school measures, and exchange shells; the addition of matter from year to year, arrives at
our Mosaic and Ptolemaic schemes for her large style. We last at the most complex forms; and yet so poor is nature
knew nothing rightly, for want of perspective. Now we with all her craft, that from the beginning to the end of
learn what patient periods must round themselves before the universe she has but one stuff, — but one stuff with
the rock is formed; then before the rock is broken, and its two ends, to serve up all her dream-like variety. Com-
the first lichen race has disintegrated the thinnest exter- pound it how she will, star, sand, fire, water, tree, man, it
nal plate into soil, and opened the door for the remote is still one stuff, and betrays the same properties.
Flora, Fauna, Ceres, and Pomona to come in. How far off Nature is always consistent, though she feigns to con-
yet is the trilobite! how far the quadruped! how incon- travene her own laws. She keeps her laws, and seems to
ceivably remote is man! All duly arrive, and then race transcend them. She arms and equips an animal to find
after race of men. It is a long way from granite to the its place and living in the earth, and at the same time
oyster; farther yet to Plato and the preaching of the im- she arms and equips another animal to destroy it. Space
mortality of the soul. Yet all must come, as surely as the exists to divide creatures; but by clothing the sides of a
first atom has two sides. bird with a few feathers she gives him a petty omnipres-
Motion or change and identity or rest are the first and ence. The direction is forever onward, but the artist still
second secrets of nature:—Motion and Rest. The whole goes back for materials and begins again with the first

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elements on the most advanced stage: otherwise all goes identity makes us all one, and reduces to nothing great
to ruin. If we look at her work, we seem to catch a glance intervals on our customary scale. We talk of deviations
of a system in transition. Plants are the young of the from natural life, as if artificial life were not also natural.
world, vessels of health and vigor; but they grope ever The smoothest curled courtier in the boudoirs of a palace
upward towards consciousness; the trees are imperfect has an animal nature, rude and aboriginal as a white
men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in bear, omnipotent to its own ends, and is directly related,
the ground. The animal is the novice and probationer of a there amid essences and billetsdoux, to Himmaleh moun-
more advanced order. The men, though young, having tain-chains and the axis of the globe. If we consider how
tasted the first drop from the cup of thought, are already much we are nature’s, we need not be superstitious about
dissipated: the maples and ferns are still uncorrupt; yet towns, as if that terrific or benefic force did not find us
no doubt when they come to consciousness they too will there also, and fashion cities. Nature, who made the ma-
curse and swear. Flowers so strictly belong to youth that son, made the house. We may easily hear too much of
we adult men soon come to feel that their beautiful gen- rural influences. The cool disengaged air of natural ob-
erations concern not us: we have had our day; now let jects makes them enviable to us, chafed and irritable
the children have theirs. The flowers jilt us, and we are creatures with red faces, and we think we shall be as
old bachelors with our ridiculous tenderness. grand as they if we camp out and eat roots; but let us be
Things are so strictly related, that according to the skill men instead of woodchucks and the oak and the elm shall
of the eye, from any one object the parts and properties gladly serve us, though we sit in chairs of ivory on car-
of any other may be predicted. If we had eyes to see it, a pets of silk.
bit of stone from the city wall would certify us of the This guiding identity runs through all the surprises and
necessity that man must exist, as readily as the city. That contrasts of the piece, and characterizes every law. Man

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carries the world in his head, the whole astronomy and grew.’—’A very unreasonable postulate,’ said the meta-
chemistry suspended in a thought. Because the history physicians, ‘and a plain begging of the question. Could
of nature is charactered in his brain, therefore is he the you not prevail to know the genesis of projection, as well
prophet and discoverer of her secrets. Every known fact as the continuation of it?’ Nature, meanwhile, had not
in natural science was divined by the presentiment of waited for the discussion, but, right or wrong, bestowed
somebody, before it was actually verified. A man does the impulse, and the balls rolled. It was no great affair, a
not tie his shoe without recognizing laws which bind the mere push, but the astronomers were right in making
farthest regions of nature: moon, plant, gas, crystal, are much of it, for there is no end to the consequences of the
concrete geometry and numbers. Common sense knows act. That famous aboriginal push propagates itself through
its own, and recognizes the fact at first sight in chemical all the balls of the system, and through every atom of
experiment. The common sense of Franklin, Dalton, Davy every ball; through all the races of creatures, and through
and Black, is the same common sense which made the the history and performances of every individual. Exag-
arrangements which now it discovers. geration is in the course of things. Nature sends no crea-
If the identity expresses organized rest, the counter ture, no man into the world without adding a small ex-
action runs also into organization. The astronomers said, cess of his proper quality. Given the planet, it is still
‘Give us matter and a little motion and we will construct necessary to add the impulse; so to every creature nature
the universe. It is not enough that we should have mat- added a little violence of direction in its proper path, a
ter, we must also have a single impulse, one shove to shove to put it on its way; in every instance a slight
launch the mass and generate the harmony of the cen- generosity, a drop too much. Without electricity the air
trifugal and centripetal forces. Once heave the ball from would rot, and without this violence of direction which
the hand, and we can show how all this mighty order men and women have, without a spice of bigot and fa-

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natic, no excitement, no efficiency. We aim above the the bodily frame by all these attitudes and exertions,—
mark to hit the mark. Every act hath some falsehood of an end of the first importance, which could not be trusted
exaggeration in it. And when now and then comes along to any care less perfect than her own. This glitter, this
some sad, sharp-eyed man, who sees how paltry a game opaline lustre plays round the top of every toy to his eye
is played, and refuses to play, but blabs the secret;—how to insure his fidelity, and he is deceived to his good. We
then? Is the bird flown? O no, the wary Nature sends a are made alive and kept alive by the same arts. Let the
new troop of fairer forms, of lordlier youths, with a little stoics say what they please, we do not eat for the good
more excess of direction to hold them fast to their sev- of living, but because the meat is savory and the appe-
eral aim; makes them a little wrongheaded in that direc- tite is keen. The vegetable life does not content itself
tion in which they are rightest, and on goes the game with casting from the flower or the tree a single seed,
again with new whirl, for a generation or two more. The but it fills the air and earth with a prodigality of seeds,
child with his sweet pranks, the fool of his senses, com- that, if thousands perish, thousands may plant them-
manded by every sight and sound, without any power to selves; that hundreds may come up, that tens may live to
compare and rank his sensations, abandoned to a whistle maturity; that at least one may replace the parent. All
or a painted chip, to a lead dragoon or a gingerbread- things betray the same calculated profusion. The excess
dog, individualizing everything, generalizing nothing, of fear with which the animal frame is hedged round,
delighted with every new thing, lies down at night over- shrinking from cold, starting at sight of a snake, or at a
powered by the fatigue which this day of continual pretty sudden noise, protects us, through a multitude of ground-
madness has incurred. But Nature has answered her pur- less alarms, from some one real danger at last. The lover
pose with the curly, dimpled lunatic. She has tasked ev- seeks in marriage his private felicity and perfection, with
ery faculty, and has secured the symmetrical growth of no prospective end; and nature hides in his happiness

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her own end, namely, progeny, or the perpetuity of the cred. However this may discredit such persons with the
race. judicious, it helps them with the people, as it gives heat,
But the craft with which the world is made, runs also pungency, and publicity to their words. A similar experi-
into the mind and character of men. No man is quite ence is not infrequent in private life. Each young and
sane; each has a vein of folly in his composition, a slight ardent person writes a diary, in which, when the hours of
determination of blood to the head, to make sure of hold- prayer and penitence arrive, he inscribes his soul. The
ing him hard to some one point which nature had taken pages thus written are to him burning and fragrant; he
to heart. Great causes are never tried on their merits; but reads them on his knees by midnight and by the morning
the cause is reduced to particulars to suit the size of the star; he wets them with his tears; they are sacred; too
partisans, and the contention is ever hottest on minor good for the world, and hardly yet to be shown to the
matters. Not less remarkable is the overfaith of each man dearest friend. This is the man-child that is born to the
in the importance of what he has to do or say. The poet, soul, and her life still circulates in the babe. The umbili-
the prophet, has a higher value for what he utters than cal cord has not yet been cut. After some time has elapsed,
any hearer, and therefore it gets spoken. The strong, self- he begins to wish to admit his friend to this hallowed
complacent Luther declares with an emphasis not to be experience, and with hesitation, yet with firmness, ex-
mistaken, that “God himself cannot do without wise men.” poses the pages to his eye. Will they not burn his eyes?
Jacob Behmen and George Fox betray their egotism in The friend coldly turns them over, and passes from the
the pertinacity of their controversial tracts, and James writing to conversation, with easy transition, which strikes
Naylor once suffered himself to be worshipped as the the other party with astonishment and vexation. He can-
Christ. Each prophet comes presently to identify himself not suspect the writing itself. Days and nights of fervid
with his thought, and to esteem his hat and shoes sa- life, of communion with angels of darkness and of light

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have engraved their shadowy characters on that tear- nowhere; keeps no faith with us. All promise outruns the
stained book. He suspects the intelligence or the heart of performance. We live in a system of approximations. Ev-
his friend. Is there then no friend? He cannot yet credit ery end is prospective of some other end, which is also
that one may have impressive experience and yet may temporary; a round and final success nowhere. We are
not know how to put his private fact into literature; and encamped in nature, not domesticated. Hunger and thirst
perhaps the discovery that wisdom has other tongues lead us on to eat and to drink; but bread and wine, mix
and ministers than we, that though we should hold our and cook them how you will, leave us hungry and thirsty,
peace the truth would not the less be spoken, might check after the stomach is full. It is the same with all our arts
injuriously the flames of our zeal. A man can only speak and performances. Our music, our poetry, our language
so long as he does not feel his speech to be partial and itself are not satisfactions, but suggestions. The hunger
inadequate. It is partial, but he does not see it to be so for wealth, which reduces the planet to a garden, fools
whilst he utters it. As soon as he is released from the the eager pursuer. What is the end sought? Plainly to
instinctive and particular and sees its partiality, he shuts secure the ends of good sense and beauty, from the in-
his mouth in disgust. For no man can write anything who trusion of deformity or vulgarity of any kind. But what an
does not think that what he writes is for the time the operose method! What a train of means to secure a little
history of the world; or do anything well who does not conversation! This palace of brick and stone, these ser-
esteem his work to be of importance. My work may be of vants, this kitchen, these stables, horses and equipage,
none, but I must not think it of none, or I shall not do it this bank-stock and file of mortgages; trade to all the
with impunity. world, country-house and cottage by the waterside, all
In like manner, there is throughout nature something for a little conversation, high, clear, and spiritual! Could
mocking, something that leads us on and on, but arrives it not be had as well by beggars on the highway? No, all

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these things came from successive efforts of these beg- interrupted the conversation of a company to make his
gars to remove friction from the wheels of life, and give speech, and now has forgotten what he went to say. The
opportunity. Conversation, character, were the avowed appearance strikes the eye everywhere of an aimless soci-
ends; wealth was good as it appeased the animal cravings, ety, of aimless nations. Were the ends of nature so great
cured the smoky chimney, silenced the creaking door, and cogent as to exact this immense sacrifice of men?
brought friends together in a warm and quiet room, and Quite analogous to the deceits in life, there is, as might
kept the children and the dinner-table in a different apart- be expected, a similar effect on the eye from the face of
ment. Thought, virtue, beauty, were the ends; but it was external nature. There is in woods and waters a certain
known that men of thought and virtue sometimes had the enticement and flattery, together with a failure to yield a
headache, or wet feet, or could lose good time whilst the present satisfaction. This disappointment is felt in every
room was getting warm in winter days. Unluckily, in the landscape. I have seen the softness and beauty of the
exertions necessary to remove these inconveniences, the summer clouds floating feathery overhead, enjoying, as
main attention has been diverted to this object; the old it seemed, their height and privilege of motion, whilst
aims have been lost sight of, and to remove friction has yet they appeared not so much the drapery of this place
come to be the end. That is the ridicule of rich men, and and hour, as forelooking to some pavilions and gardens
Boston, London, Vienna, and now the governments gener- of festivity beyond. It is an odd jealousy, but the poet
ally of the world are cities and governments of the rich; finds himself not near enough to his object. The pine-
and the masses are not men, but poor men, that is, men tree, the river, the bank of flowers before him, does not
who would be rich; this is the ridicule of the class, that seem to be nature. Nature is still elsewhere. This or this
they arrive with pains and sweat and fury nowhere; when is but outskirt and far-off reflection and echo of the tri-
all is done, it is for nothing. They are like one who has umph that has passed by and is now at its glancing splen-

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dor and heyday, perchance in the neighboring fields, or, use that is made of us? Are we tickled trout, and fools of
if you stand in the field, then in the adjacent woods. The nature? One look at the face of heaven and earth lays all
present object shall give you this sense of stillness that petulance at rest, and soothes us to wiser convictions. To
follows a pageant which has just gone by. What splendid the intelligent, nature converts itself into a vast prom-
distance, what recesses of ineffable pomp and loveliness ise, and will not be rashly explained. Her secret is untold.
in the sunset! But who can go where they are, or lay his Many and many an Oedipus arrives; he has the whole
hand or plant his foot thereon? Off they fall from the mystery teeming in his brain. Alas! the same sorcery has
round world forever and ever. It is the same among the spoiled his skill; no syllable can he shape on his lips. Her
men and women as among the silent trees; always a re- mighty orbit vaults like the fresh rainbow into the deep,
ferred existence, an absence, never a presence and satis- but no archangel’s wing was yet strong enough to follow
faction. Is it that beauty can never be grasped? in per- it and report of the return of the curve. But it also ap-
sons and in landscape is equally inaccessible? The ac- pears that our actions are seconded and disposed to
cepted and betrothed lover has lost the wildest charm of greater conclusions than we designed. We are escorted
his maiden in her acceptance of him. She was heaven on every hand through life by spiritual agents, and a
whilst he pursued her as a star: she cannot be heaven if beneficent purpose lies in wait for us. We cannot bandy
she stoops to such a one as he. words with Nature, or deal with her as we deal with per-
What shall we say of this omnipresent appearance of sons. If we measure our individual forces against hers we
that first projectile impulse, of this flattery and balking may easily feel as if we were the sport of an insuperable
of so many well-meaning creatures? Must we not suppose destiny. But if, instead of identifying ourselves with the
somewhere in the universe a slight treachery and deri- work, we feel that the soul of the workman streams
sion? Are we not engaged to a serious resentment of this through us, we shall find the peace of the morning dwell-

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ing first in our hearts, and the fathomless powers of gravity your fowl is roasting for dinner; it is a symbol of our
and chemistry, and, over them, of life, preexisting within modern aims and endeavors, of our condensation and
us in their highest form. acceleration of objects;—but nothing is gained; nature
The uneasiness which the thought of our helplessness cannot be cheated; man’s life is but seventy salads long,
in the chain of causes occasions us, results from looking grow they swift or grow they slow. In these checks and
too much at one condition of nature, namely, Motion. impossibilities however we find our advantage, not less
But the drag is never taken from the wheel. Wherever the than in the impulses. Let the victory fall where it will, we
impulse exceeds, the Rest or Identity insinuates its com- are on that side. And the knowledge that we traverse the
pensation. All over the wide fields of earth grows the whole scale of being, from the centre to the poles of
prunella or self-heal. After every foolish day we sleep off nature, and have some stake in every possibility, lends
the fumes and furies of its hours; and though we are that sublime lustre to death, which philosophy and reli-
always engaged with particulars, and often enslaved to gion have too outwardly and literally striven to express
them, we bring with us to every experiment the innate in the popular doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
universal laws. These, while they exist in the mind as The reality is more excellent than the report. Here is no
ideas, stand around us in nature forever embodied, a ruin, no discontinuity, no spent ball. The divine circula-
present sanity to expose and cure the insanity of men. tions never rest nor linger. Nature is the incarnation of a
Our servitude to particulars betrays into a hundred fool- thought, and turns to a thought again, as ice becomes
ish expectations. We anticipate a new era from the in- water and gas. The world is mind precipitated, and the
vention of a locomotive, or a balloon; the new engine volatile essence is forever escaping again into the state
brings with it the old checks. They say that by electro- of free thought. Hence the virtue and pungency of the
magnetism your salad shall be grown from the seed whilst influence on the mind of natural objects, whether inor-

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ganic or organized. Man imprisoned, man crystallized, POLITICS
man vegetative, speaks to man impersonated. That power
which does not respect quantity, which makes the whole Gold and iron are good
and the particle its equal channel, delegates its smile to To buy iron and gold;
the morning, and distils its essence into every drop of All earth’s fleece and food
rain. Every moment instructs, and every object: for wis- For their like are sold.
dom is infused into every form. It has been poured into Boded Merlin wise,
us as blood; it convulsed us as pain; it slid into us as Proved Napoleon great,—
pleasure; it enveloped us in dull, melancholy days, or in Nor kind nor coinage buys
days of cheerful labor; we did not guess its essence until Aught above its rate.
after a long time. Fear, Craft, and Avarice
Cannot rear a State.
Out of dust to build
What is more than dust,—
Walls Amphion piled
Phoebus stablish must.
When the Muses nine
With the Virtues meet,
Find to their design
An Atlantic seat,
By green orchard boughs

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Fended from the heat, But the old statesman knows that society is fluid; there
Where the statesman ploughs are no such roots and centres, but any particle may sud-
Furrow for the wheat; denly become the centre of the movement and compel
When the Church is social worth, the system to gyrate round it; as every man of strong
When the state-house is the hearth, will, like Pisistratus, or Cromwell, does for a time, and
Then the perfect State is come, every man of truth, like Plato or Paul, does forever. But
The republican at home. politics rest on necessary foundations, and cannot be
treated with levity. Republics abound in young civilians,
XIX. POLITICS who believe that the laws make the city, that grave modi-
fications of the policy and modes of living and employ-

I
n dealing with the State we ought to remember that ments of the population, that commerce, education, and
its institution are not aboriginal, though they ex- religion, may be voted in or out; and that any measure,
isted before we were born; that they are not supe- though it were absurd, may be imposed on a people if
rior to the citizen; that every one of them was once the only you can get sufficient voices to make it a law. But
act of a single man; every law and usage was a man’s the wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand
expedient to meet a particular case; that they all are which perishes in the twisting; that the State must fol-
imitable, all alterable; we may make as good, we may low and not lead the character and progress of the citi-
make better. Society is an illusion to the young citizen. zen; the strongest usurper is quickly got rid of; and they
It lies before him in rigid repose, with certain names, only who build on Ideas, build for eternity; and that the
men and institutions rooted like oak-trees to the centre, form of government which prevails is the expression of
round which all arrange themselves the best they can. what cultivation exists in the population which permits

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it. The law is only a memorandum. We are superstitious, history of the State sketches in coarse outline the progress
and esteem the statute somewhat: so much life as it has of thought, and follows at a distance the delicacy of cul-
in the character of living men is its force. The statute ture and of aspiration.
stands there to say, Yesterday we agreed so and so, but The theory of politics which has possessed the mind of
how feel ye this article to-day? Our statute is a currency men, and which they have expressed the best they could
which we stamp with our own portrait: it soon becomes in their laws and in their revolutions, considers persons
unrecognizable, and in process of time will return to the and property as the two objects for whose protection
mint. Nature is not democratic, nor limited-monarchical, government exists. Of persons, all have equal rights, in
but despotic, and will not be fooled or abated of any jot virtue of being identical in nature. This interest of course
of her authority by the pertest of her sons; and as fast as with its whole power demands a democracy. Whilst the
the public mind is opened to more intelligence, the code rights of all as persons are equal, in virtue of their access
is seen to be brute and stammering. It speaks not articu- to reason, their rights in property are very unequal. One
lately, and must be made to. Meantime the education of man owns his clothes, and another owns a county. This
the general mind never stops. The reveries of the true accident, depending primarily on the skill and virtue of
and simple are prophetic. What the tender poetic youth the parties, of which there is every degree, and second-
dreams, and prays, and paints to-day, but shuns the ridi- arily on patrimony, falls unequally, and its rights of course
cule of saying aloud, shall presently be the resolutions of are unequal. Personal rights, universally the same, de-
public bodies; then shall be carried as grievance and bill mand a government framed on the ratio of the census;
of rights through conflict and war, and then shall be tri- property demands a government framed on the ratio of
umphant law and establishment for a hundred years, un- owners and of owning. Laban, who has flocks and herds,
til it gives place in turn to new prayers and pictures. The wishes them looked after by an officer on the frontiers,

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Emerson
lest the Midianites shall drive them off; and pays a tax to ship which will be valid in each man’s view according to
that end. Jacob has no flocks or herds and no fear of the the estimate which he sets on the public tranquillity.
Midianites, and pays no tax to the officer. It seemed fit It was not however found easy to embody the readily
that Laban and Jacob should have equal rights to elect admitted principle that property should make law for prop-
the officer who is to defend their persons, but that Laban erty, and persons for persons; since persons and property
and not Jacob should elect the officer who is to guard mixed themselves in every transaction. At last it seemed
the sheep and cattle. And if question arise whether addi- settled that the rightful distinction was that the propri-
tional officers or watch-towers should be provided, must etors should have more elective franchise than non-pro-
not Laban and Isaac, and those who must sell part of prietors, on the Spartan principle of “calling that which
their herds to buy protection for the rest, judge better of is just, equal; not that which is equal, just.”
this, and with more right, than Jacob, who, because he is That principle no longer looks so self-evident as it ap-
a youth and a traveller, eats their bread and not his own? peared in former times, partly, because doubts have arisen
In the earliest society the proprietors made their own whether too much weight had not been allowed in the
wealth, and so long as it comes to the owners in the laws to property, and such a structure given to our us-
direct way, no other opinion would arise in any equitable ages as allowed the rich to encroach on the poor, and to
community than that property should make the law for keep them poor; but mainly because there is an instinc-
property, and persons the law for persons. tive sense, however obscure and yet inarticulate, that
But property passes through donation or inheritance to the whole constitution of property, on its present ten-
those who do not create it. Gift, in one case, makes it as ures, is injurious, and its influence on persons deterio-
really the new owner’s, as labor made it the first owner’s: rating and degrading; that truly the only interest for the
in the other case, of patrimony, the law makes an owner- consideration of the State is persons; that property will

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Essays
always follow persons; that the highest end of govern- and will have their just sway. They exert their power, as
ment is the culture of men; and if men can be educated, steadily as matter its attraction. Cover up a pound of
the institutions will share their improvement and the moral earth never so cunningly, divide and subdivide it; melt it
sentiment will write the law of the land. to liquid, convert it to gas; it will always weigh a pound;
If it be not easy to settle the equity of this question, it will always attract and resist other matter by the full
the peril is less when we take note of our natural de- virtue of one pound weight:—and the attributes of a
fences. We are kept by better guards than the vigilance person, his wit and his moral energy, will exercise, under
of such magistrates as we commonly elect. Society al- any law or extinguishing tyranny, their proper force,—if
ways consists in greatest part of young and foolish per- not overtly, then covertly; if not for the law, then against
sons. The old, who have seen through the hypocrisy of it; if not wholesomely, then poisonously; with right, or
courts and statesmen, die and leave no wisdom to their by might.
sons. They believe their own newspaper, as their fathers The boundaries of personal influence it is impossible to
did at their age. With such an ignorant and deceivable fix, as persons are organs of moral or supernatural force.
majority, States would soon run to ruin, but that there Under the dominion of an idea which possesses the minds
are limitations beyond which the folly and ambition of of multitudes, as civil freedom, or the religious senti-
governors cannot go. Things have their laws, as well as ment, the powers of persons are no longer subjects of
men; and things refuse to be trifled with. Property will calculation. A nation of men unanimously bent on free-
be protected. Corn will not grow unless it is planted and dom or conquest can easily confound the arithmetic of
manured; but the farmer will not plant or hoe it unless statists, and achieve extravagant actions, out of all pro-
the chances are a hundred to one that he will cut and portion to their means; as the Greeks, the Saracens, the
harvest it. Under any forms, persons and property must Swiss, the Americans, and the French have done.

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Emerson
In like manner to every particle of property belongs its trate, determines the form and methods of governing,
own attraction. A cent is the representative of a certain which are proper to each nation and to its habit of
quantity of corn or other commodity. Its value is in the thought, and nowise transferable to other states of soci-
necessities of the animal man. It is so much warmth, so ety. In this country we are very vain of our political insti-
much bread, so much water, so much land. The law may tutions, which are singular in this, that they sprung, within
do what it will with the owner of property; its just power the memory of living men, from the character and condi-
will still attach to the cent. The law may in a mad freak tion of the people, which they still express with suffi-
say that all shall have power except the owners of prop- cient fidelity,—and we ostentatiously prefer them to any
erty; they shall have no vote. Nevertheless, by a higher other in history. They are not better, but only fitter for
law, the property will, year after year, write every statute us. We may be wise in asserting the advantage in modern
that respects property. The non-proprietor will be the scribe times of the democratic form, but to other states of soci-
of the proprietor. What the owners wish to do, the whole ety, in which religion consecrated the monarchical, that
power of property will do, either through the law or else in and not this was expedient. Democracy is better for us,
defiance of it. Of course I speak of all the property, not because the religious sentiment of the present time ac-
merely of the great estates. When the rich are outvoted, as cords better with it. Born democrats, we are nowise quali-
frequently happens, it is the joint treasury of the poor fied to judge of monarchy, which, to our fathers living in
which exceeds their accumulations. Every man owns some- the monarchical idea, was also relatively right. But our
thing, if it is only a cow, or a wheel-barrow, or his arms, institutions, though in coincidence with the spirit of the
and so has that property to dispose of. age, have not any exemption from the practical defects
The same necessity which secures the rights of person which have discredited other forms. Every actual State is
and property against the malignity or folly of the magis- corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well. What

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Essays
satire on government can equal the severity of censure their leaders. They reap the rewards of the docility and
conveyed in the word politic, which now for ages has zeal of the masses which they direct. Ordinarily our par-
signified cunning, intimating that the State is a trick? ties are parties of circumstance, and not of principle; as
The same benign necessity and the same practical abuse the planting interest in conflict with the commercial; the
appear in the parties, into which each State divides it- party of capitalists and that of operatives; parties which
self, of opponents and defenders of the administration of are identical in their moral character, and which can eas-
the government. Parties are also founded on instincts, ily change ground with each other in the support of many
and have better guides to their own humble aims than of their measures. Parties of principle, as, religious sects,
the sagacity of their leaders. They have nothing per- or the party of free-trade, of universal suffrage, of aboli-
verse in their origin, but rudely mark some real and last- tion of slavery, of abolition of capital punishment,—de-
ing relation. We might as wisely reprove the east wind or generate into personalities, or would inspire enthusiasm.
the frost, as a political party, whose members, for the The vice of our leading parties in this country (which
most part, could give no account of their position, but may be cited as a fair specimen of these societies of
stand for the defence of those interests in which they opinion) is that they do not plant themselves on the
find themselves. Our quarrel with them begins when they deep and necessary grounds to which they are respec-
quit this deep natural ground at the bidding of some tively entitled, but lash themselves to fury in the carry-
leader, and obeying personal considerations, throw them- ing of some local and momentary measure, nowise useful
selves into the maintenance and defence of points now- to the commonwealth. Of the two great parties which at
ise belonging to their system. A party is perpetually cor- this hour almost share the nation between them, I should
rupted by personality. Whilst we absolve the association say that one has the best cause, and the other contains
from dishonesty, we cannot extend the same charity to the best men. The philosopher, the poet, or the religious

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Emerson
man will of course wish to cast his vote with the demo- to expect in science, art, or humanity, at all commensu-
crat, for free-trade, for wide suffrage, for the abolition of rate with the resources of the nation.
legal cruelties in the penal code, and for facilitating in I do not for these defects despair of our republic. We
every manner the access of the young and the poor to are not at the mercy of any waves of chance. In the strife
the sources of wealth and power. But he can rarely ac- of ferocious parties, human nature always finds itself cher-
cept the persons whom the so-called popular party pro- ished; as the children of the convicts at Botany Bay are
pose to him as representatives of these liberalities. They found to have as healthy a moral sentiment as other chil-
have not at heart the ends which give to the name of dren. Citizens of feudal states are alarmed at our demo-
democracy what hope and virtue are in it. The spirit of cratic institutions lapsing into anarchy, and the older and
our American radicalism is destructive and aimless: it is more cautious among ourselves are learning from Euro-
not loving; it has no ulterior and divine ends, but is de- peans to look with some terror at our turbulent freedom.
structive only out of hatred and selfishness. On the other It is said that in our license of construing the Constitu-
side, the conservative party, composed of the most mod- tion, and in the despotism of public opinion, we have no
erate, able, and cultivated part of the population, is timid, anchor; and one foreign observer thinks he has found the
and merely defensive of property. It vindicates no right, safeguard in the sanctity of Marriage among us; and an-
it aspires to no real good, it brands no crime, it proposes other thinks he has found it in our Calvinism. Fisher Ames
no generous policy; it does not build, nor write, nor cher- expressed the popular security more wisely, when he com-
ish the arts, nor foster religion, nor establish schools, pared a monarchy and a republic, saying that a monarchy
nor encourage science, nor emancipate the slave, nor is a merchantman, which sails well, but will sometimes
befriend the poor, or the Indian, or the immigrant. From strike on a rock and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is
neither party, when in power, has the world any benefit a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are

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Essays
always in water. No forms can have any dangerous impor- one is seen to be reason for another, and for every other.
tance whilst we are befriended by the laws of things. It There is a middle measure which satisfies all parties, be
makes no difference how many tons weight of atmosphere they never so many or so resolute for their own. Every
presses on our heads, so long as the same pressure re- man finds a sanction for his simplest claims and deeds in
sists it within the lungs. Augment the mass a thousand decisions of his own mind, which he calls Truth and Holi-
fold, it cannot begin to crush us, as long as reaction is ness. In these decisions all the citizens find a perfect
equal to action. The fact of two poles, of two forces, agreement, and only in these; not in what is good to eat,
centripetal and centrifugal, is universal, and each force good to wear, good use of time, or what amount of land
by its own activity develops the other. Wild liberty de- or of public aid, each is entitled to claim. This truth and
velops iron conscience. Want of liberty, by strengthening justice men presently endeavor to make application of to
law and decorum, stupefies conscience. ‘Lynch-law’ pre- the measuring of land, the apportionment of service, the
vails only where there is greater hardihood and self- protection of life and property. Their first endeavors, no
subsistency in the leaders. A mob cannot be a perma- doubt, are very awkward. Yet absolute right is the first
nency; everybody’s interest requires that it should not governor; or, every government is an impure theocracy.
exist, and only justice satisfies all. The idea after which each community is aiming to make
We must trust infinitely to the beneficent necessity and mend its law, is the will of the wise man. The wise
which shines through all laws. Human nature expresses man it cannot find in nature, and it makes awkward but
itself in them as characteristically as in statues, or songs, earnest efforts to secure his government by contrivance;
or railroads; and an abstract of the codes of nations would as by causing the entire people to give their voices on
be a transcript of the common conscience. Governments every measure; or by a double choice to get the represen-
have their origin in the moral identity of men. Reason for tation of the whole; or, by a selection of the best citi-

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Emerson
zens; or to secure the advantages of efficiency and inter- thing in numbers, as in a pair, only not quite so intelli-
nal peace by confiding the government to one, who may gible. I can see well enough a great difference between
himself select his agents. All forms of government sym- my setting myself down to a self-control, and my going
bolize an immortal government, common to all dynasties to make somebody else act after my views; but when a
and independent of numbers, perfect where two men ex- quarter of the human race assume to tell me what I must
ist, perfect where there is only one man. do, I may be too much disturbed by the circumstances to
Every man’s nature is a sufficient advertisement to him see so clearly the absurdity of their command. Therefore
of the character of his fellows. My right and my wrong is all public ends look vague and quixotic beside private
their right and their wrong. Whilst I do what is fit for me, ones. For any laws but those which men make for them-
and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall selves, are laughable. If I put myself in the place of my
often agree in our means, and work together for a time to child, and we stand in one thought and see that things
one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself are thus or thus, that perception is law for him and me.
not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him We are both there, both act. But if, without carrying him
also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations into the thought, I look over into his plot, and, guessing
to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than how it is with him, ordain this or that, he will never obey
he that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, me. This is the history of governments,—one man does
but it is a lie, and hurts like a lie both him and me. Love something which is to bind another. A man who cannot
and nature cannot maintain the assumption; it must be be acquainted with me, taxes me; looking from afar at me
executed by a practical lie, namely by force. This under- ordains that a part of my labor shall go to this or that
taking for another is the blunder which stands in colossal whimsical end,—not as I, but as he happens to fancy.
ugliness in the governments of the world. It is the same Behold the consequence. Of all debts men are least will-

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Essays
ing to pay the taxes. What a satire is this on govern- statute book, for he has the lawgiver; no money, for he is
ment! Everywhere they think they get their money’s worth, value; no road, for he is at home where he is; no experi-
except for these. ence, for the life of the creator shoots through him, and
Hence the less government we have the better,—the looks from his eyes. He has no personal friends, for he
fewer laws, and the less confided power. The antidote to who has the spell to draw the prayer and piety of all men
this abuse of formal Government is the influence of pri- unto him needs not husband and educate a few to share
vate character, the growth of the Individual; the appear- with him a select and poetic life. His relation to men is
ance of the principal to supersede the proxy; the appear- angelic; his memory is myrrh to them; his presence, frank-
ance of the wise man; of whom the existing government incense and flowers.
is, it must be owned, but a shabby imitation. That which We think our civilization near its meridian, but we are
all things tend to educe; which freedom, cultivation, in- yet only at the cock-crowing and the morning star. In
tercourse, revolutions, go to form and deliver, is charac- our barbarous society the influence of character is in its
ter; that is the end of Nature, to reach unto this corona- infancy. As a political power, as the rightful lord who is
tion of her king. To educate the wise man the State ex- to tumble all rulers from their chairs, its presence is hardly
ists, and with the appearance of the wise man the State yet suspected. Malthus and Ricardo quite omit it; the
expires. The appearance of character makes the State un- Annual Register is silent; in the Conversations’ Lexicon it
necessary. The wise man is the State. He needs no army, is not set down; the President’s Message, the Queen’s
fort, or navy, —he loves men too well; no bribe, or feast, Speech, have not mentioned it; and yet it is never noth-
or palace, to draw friends to him; no vantage ground, no ing. Every thought which genius and piety throw into the
favorable circumstance. He needs no library, for he has world, alters the world. The gladiators in the lists of power
not done thinking; no church, for he is a prophet; no feel, through all their frocks of force and simulation, the

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Emerson
presence of worth. I think the very strife of trade and ity meet in society with a kind of tacit appeal. Each seems
ambition are confession of this divinity; and successes in to say, ‘I am not all here.’ Senators and presidents have
those fields are the poor amends, the fig-leaf with which climbed so high with pain enough, not because they think
the shamed soul attempts to hide its nakedness. I find the place specially agreeable, but as an apology for real
the like unwilling homage in all quarters. It is because worth, and to vindicate their manhood in our eyes. This
we know how much is due from us that we are impatient conspicuous chair is their compensation to themselves
to show some petty talent as a substitute for worth. We for being of a poor, cold, hard nature. They must do what
are haunted by a conscience of this right to grandeur of they can. Like one class of forest animals, they have noth-
character, and are false to it. But each of us has some ing but a prehensile tail; climb they must, or crawl. If a
talent, can do somewhat useful, or graceful, or formi- man found himself so rich-natured that he could enter
dable, or amusing, or lucrative. That we do, as an apol- into strict relations with the best persons and make life
ogy to others and to ourselves for not reaching the mark serene around him by the dignity and sweetness of his
of a good and equal life. But it does not satisfy us, whilst behavior, could he afford to circumvent the favor of the
we thrust it on the notice of our companions. It may caucus and the press, and covet relations so hollow and
throw dust in their eyes, but does not smooth our own pompous as those of a politician? Surely nobody would
brow, or give us the tranquillity of the strong when we be a charlatan who could afford to be sincere.
walk abroad. We do penance as we go. Our talent is a sort The tendencies of the times favor the idea of self-gov-
of expiation, and we are constrained to reflect on our ernment, and leave the individual, for all code, to the
splendid moment with a certain humiliation, as some- rewards and penalties of his own constitution; which work
what too fine, and not as one act of many acts, a fair with more energy than we believe whilst we depend on
expression of our permanent energy. Most persons of abil- artificial restraints. The movement in this direction has

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Essays
been very marked in modern history. Much has been to our will, it stands thus; there will always be a govern-
blind and discreditable, but the nature of the revolution ment of force where men are selfish; and when they are
is not affected by the vices of the revolters; for this is a pure enough to abjure the code of force they will be wise
purely moral force. It was never adopted by any party in enough to see how these public ends of the post-office,
history, neither can be. It separates the individual from of the highway, of commerce and the exchange of prop-
all party, and unites him at the same time to the race. It erty, of museums and libraries, of institutions of art and
promises a recognition of higher rights than those of science can be answered.
personal freedom, or the security of property. A man has We live in a very low state of the world, and pay unwill-
a right to be employed, to be trusted, to be loved, to be ing tribute to governments founded on force. There is
revered. The power of love, as the basis of a State, has not, among the most religious and instructed men of the
never been tried. We must not imagine that all things are most religious and civil nations, a reliance on the moral
lapsing into confusion if every tender protestant be not sentiment and a sufficient belief in the unity of things,
compelled to bear his part in certain social conventions; to persuade them that society can be maintained with-
nor doubt that roads can be built, letters carried, and the out artificial restraints, as well as the solar system; or
fruit of labor secured, when the government of force is at that the private citizen might be reasonable and a good
an end. Are our methods now so excellent that all com- neighbor, without the hint of a jail or a confiscation.
petition is hopeless? could not a nation of friends even What is strange too, there never was in any man suffi-
devise better ways? On the other hand, let not the most cient faith in the power of rectitude to inspire him with
conservative and timid fear anything from a premature the broad design of renovating the State on the principle
surrender of the bayonet and the system of force. For, of right and love. All those who have pretended this de-
according to the order of nature, which is quite superior sign have been partial reformers, and have admitted in

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Emerson
some manner the supremacy of the bad State. I do not NOMINALIST AND REALIST
call to mind a single human being who has steadily de-
nied the authority of the laws, on the simple ground of In countless upward-striving waves
his own moral nature. Such designs, full of genius and The moon-drawn tide-wave strives:
full of fate as they are, are not entertained except avow- In thousand far-transplanted grafts
edly as air-pictures. If the individual who exhibits them The parent fruit survives;
dare to think them practicable, he disgusts scholars and So, in the new-born millions,
churchmen; and men of talent and women of superior The perfect Adam lives.
sentiments cannot hide their contempt. Not the less does Not less are summer-mornings dear
nature continue to fill the heart of youth with sugges- To every child they wake,
tions of this enthusiasm, and there are now men,—if And each with novel life his sphere
indeed I can speak in the plural number,—more exactly, Fills for his proper sake.
I will say, I have just been conversing with one man, to
whom no weight of adverse experience will make it for a XX. NONIMALIST AND REALIST
moment appear impossible that thousands of human be-

I
ings might exercise towards each other the grandest and cannot often enough say that a man is only a rela-
simplest sentiments, as well as a knot of friends, or a tive and representative nature. Each is a hint of the
pair of lovers. truth, but far enough from being that truth which
yet he quite newly and inevitably suggests to us. If I
seek it in him I shall not find it. Could any man conduct
into me the pure stream of that which he pretends to be!

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Long afterwards I find that quality elsewhere which he imperfectly; no one of them hears much that another
promised me. The genius of the Platonists is intoxicating says, such is the preoccupation of mind of each; and the
to the student, yet how few particulars of it can I detach audience, who have only to hear and not to speak, judge
from all their books. The man momentarily stands for the very wisely and superiorly how wrongheaded and unskilful
thought, but will not bear examination; and a society of is each of the debaters to his own affair. Great men or
men will cursorily represent well enough a certain quality men of great gifts you shall easily find, but symmetrical
and culture, for example, chivalry or beauty of manners; men never. When I meet a pure intellectual force or a
but separate them and there is no gentleman and no lady generosity of affection, I believe here then is man; and
in the group. The least hint sets us on the pursuit of a am presently mortified by the discovery that this indi-
character which no man realizes. We have such exorbi- vidual is no more available to his own or to the general
tant eyes that on seeing the smallest arc we complete ends than his companions; because the power which drew
the curve, and when the curtain is lifted from the dia- my respect is not supported by the total symphony of his
gram which it seemed to veil, we are vexed to find that talents. All persons exist to society by some shining trait
no more was drawn than just that fragment of an arc of beauty or utility which they have. We borrow the pro-
which we first beheld. We are greatly too liberal in our portions of the man from that one fine feature, and fin-
construction of each other’s faculty and promise. Exactly ish the portrait symmetrically; which is false, for the rest
what the parties have already done they shall do again; of his body is small or deformed. I observe a person who
but that which we inferred from their nature and incep- makes a good public appearance, and conclude thence
tion, they will not do. That is in nature, but not in them. the perfection of his private character, on which this is
That happens in the world, which we often witness in a based; but he has no private character. He is a graceful
public debate. Each of the speakers expresses himself cloak or lay-figure for holidays. All our poets, heroes, and

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saints, fail utterly in some one or in many parts to satisfy Our native love of reality joins with this experience to
our idea, fail to draw our spontaneous interest, and so teach us a little reserve, and to dissuade a too sudden
leave us without any hope of realization but in our own surrender to the brilliant qualities of persons. Young people
future. Our exaggeration of all fine characters arises from admire talents or particular excellences; as we grow older
the fact that we identify each in turn with the soul. But we value total powers and effects, as the impression, the
there are no such men as we fable; no Jesus, nor Pericles, quality, the spirit of men and things. The genius is all.
nor Caesar, nor Angelo, nor Washington, such as we have The man,—it is his system: we do not try a solitary word
made. We consecrate a great deal of nonsense because it or act, but his habit. The acts which you praise, I praise
was allowed by great men. There is none without his foible. not, since they are departures from his faith, and are
I verily believe if an angel should come to chant the mere compliances. The magnetism which arranges tribes
chorus of the moral law, he would eat too much ginger- and races in one polarity is alone to be respected; the
bread, or take liberties with private letters, or do some men are steel-filings. Yet we unjustly select a particle,
precious atrocity. It is bad enough that our geniuses can- and say, ‘O steel-filing number one! what heart-drawings
not do anything useful, but it is worse that no man is fit I feel to thee! what prodigious virtues are these of thine!
for society who has fine traits. He is admired at a dis- how constitutional to thee, and incommunicable.’ Whilst
tance, but he cannot come near without appearing a we speak the loadstone is withdrawn; down falls our fil-
cripple. The men of fine parts protect themselves by soli- ing in a heap with the rest, and we continue our mum-
tude, or by courtesy, or by satire, or by an acid worldly mery to the wretched shaving. Let us go for universals;
manner, each concealing as he best can his incapacity for the magnetism, not for the needles. Human life and
for useful association, but they want either love or self- its persons are poor empirical pretensions. A personal
reliance. influence is an ignis fatuus. If they say it is great, it is

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great; if they say it is small, it is small; you see it, and if I should go to the island to seek it. In the parliament,
you see it not, by turns; it borrows all its size from the in the play-house, at dinner-tables, I might see a great
momentary estimation of the speakers: the Will-of-the- number of rich, ignorant, book-read, conventional, proud
wisp vanishes if you go too near, vanishes if you go too men,—many old women,—and not anywhere the English-
far, and only blazes at one angle. Who can tell if Wash- man who made the good speeches, combined the accu-
ington be a great man or no? Who can tell if Franklin be? rate engines, and did the bold and nervous deeds. It is
Yes, or any but the twelve, or six, or three great gods of even worse in America, where, from the intellectual quick-
fame? And they too loom and fade before the eternal. ness of the race, the genius of the country is more splen-
We are amphibious creatures, weaponed for two ele- did in its promise and more slight in its performance.
ments, having two sets of faculties, the particular and Webster cannot do the work of Webster. We conceive dis-
the catholic. We adjust our instrument for general obser- tinctly enough the French, the Spanish, the German ge-
vation, and sweep the heavens as easily as we pick out a nius, and it is not the less real that perhaps we should
single figure in the terrestrial landscape. We are practi- not meet in either of those nations a single individual
cally skilful in detecting elements for which we have no who corresponded with the type. We infer the spirit of
place in our theory, and no name. Thus we are very sen- the nation in great measure from the language, which is
sible of an atmospheric influence in men and in bodies of a sort of monument to which each forcible individual in a
men, not accounted for in an arithmetical addition of all course of many hundred years has contributed a stone.
their measurable properties. There is a genius of a na- And, universally, a good example of this social force is
tion, which is not to be found in the numerical citizens, the veracity of language, which cannot be debauched. In
but which characterizes the society. England, strong, any controversy concerning morals, an appeal may be
punctual, practical, well-spoken England I should not find made with safety to the sentiments which the language

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of the people expresses. Proverbs, words, and grammar- of nations are largely detailed, and the completeness of
inflections convey the public sense with more purity and the municipal system is considered! Nothing is left out.
precision than the wisest individual. If you go into the markets and the custom-houses, the
In the famous dispute with the Nominalists, the Real- insurers’ and notaries’ offices, the offices of sealers of
ists had a good deal of reason. General ideas are essences. weights and measures, of inspection of provisions,—it
They are our gods: they round and ennoble the most par- will appear as if one man had made it all. Wherever you
tial and sordid way of living. Our proclivity to details go, a wit like your own has been before you, and has
cannot quite degrade our life and divest it of poetry. The realized its thought. The Eleusinian mysteries, the Egyp-
day-laborer is reckoned as standing at the foot of the tian architecture, the Indian astronomy, the Greek sculp-
social scale, yet he is saturated with the laws of the world. ture, show that there always were seeing and knowing
His measures are the hours; morning and night, solstice men in the planet. The world is full of masonic ties, of
and equinox, geometry, astronomy and all the lovely ac- guilds, of secret and public legions of honor; that of schol-
cidents of nature play through his mind. Money, which ars, for example; and that of gentlemen, fraternizing with
represents the prose of life, and which is hardly spoken the upper class of every country and every culture.
of in parlors without an apology, is, in its effects and I am very much struck in literature by the appearance
laws, as beautiful as roses. Property keeps the accounts that one person wrote all the books; as if the editor of a
of the world, and is always moral. The property will be journal planted his body of reporters in different parts of
found where the labor, the wisdom, and the virtue have the field of action, and relieved some by others from
been in nations, in classes, and (the whole life-time con- time to time; but there is such equality and identity both
sidered, with the compensations) in the individual also. of judgment and point of view in the narrative that it is
How wise the world appears, when the laws and usages plainly the work of one all-seeing, all-hearing gentle-

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man. I looked into Pope’s Odyssey yesterday: it is as cor- ing, through so many hoarse, wooden, and imperfect per-
rect and elegant after our canon of to-day as if it were sons, to produce beautiful voices, fluid and soul-guided
newly written. The modernness of all good books seems men and women. The genius of nature was paramount at
to give me an existence as wide as man. What is well the oratorio.
done I feel as if I did; what is ill done I reck not of. This preference of the genius to the parts is the secret
Shakspeare’s passages of passion (for example, in Lear of that deification of art, which is found in all superior
and Hamlet) are in the very dialect of the present year. I minds. Art, in the artist, is proportion, or a habitual re-
am faithful again to the whole over the members in my spect to the whole by an eye loving beauty in details.
use of books. I find the most pleasure in reading a book And the wonder and charm of it is the sanity in insanity
in a manner least flattering to the author. I read Proclus, which it denotes. Proportion is almost impossible to hu-
and sometimes Plato, as I might read a dictionary, for a man beings. There is no one who does not exaggerate. In
mechanical help to the fancy and the imagination. I read conversation, men are encumbered with personality, and
for the lustres, as if one should use a fine picture in a talk too much. In modern sculpture, picture, and poetry,
chromatic experiment, for its rich colors. ’Tis not Proclus, the beauty is miscellaneous; the artist works here and
but a piece of nature and fate that I explore. It is a there and at all points, adding and adding, instead of
greater joy to see the author’s author, than himself. A unfolding the unit of his thought. Beautiful details we
higher pleasure of the same kind I found lately at a con- must have, or no artist; but they must be means and
cert, where I went to hear Handel’s Messiah. As the mas- never other. The eye must not lose sight for a moment of
ter overpowered the littleness and incapableness of the the purpose. Lively boys write to their ear and eye, and
performers and made them conductors of his electricity, the cool reader finds nothing but sweet jingles in it. When
so it was easy to observe what efforts nature was mak- they grow older, they respect the argument.

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We obey the same intellectual integrity when we study Thus we settle it in our cool libraries, that all the agents
in exceptions the law of the world. Anomalous facts, as with which we deal are subalterns, which we can well
the never quite obsolete rumors of magic and demonol- afford to let pass, and life will be simpler when we live at
ogy, and the new allegations of phrenologists and neu- the centre and flout the surfaces. I wish to speak with all
rologists, are of ideal use. They are good indications. respect of persons, but sometimes I must pinch myself to
Homoeopathy is insignificant as an art of healing, but of keep awake and preserve the due decorum. They melt so
great value as criticism on the hygeia or medical practice fast into each other that they are like grass and trees,
of the time. So with Mesmerism, Swedenborgism, and it needs an effort to treat them as individuals. Though
Fourierism, and the Millennial Church; they are poor pre- the uninspired man certainly finds persons a conveniency
tensions enough, but good criticism on the science, phi- in household matters, the divine man does not respect
losophy, and preaching of the day. For these abnormal them; he sees them as a rack of clouds, or a fleet of
insights of the adepts ought to be normal, and things of ripples which the wind drives over the surface of the water.
course. But this is flat rebellion. Nature will not be Buddhist: she
All things show us that on every side we are very near resents generalizing, and insults the philosopher in ev-
to the best. It seems not worth while to execute with too ery moment with a million of fresh particulars. It is all
much pains some one intellectual, or aesthetical, or civil idle talking: as much as a man is a whole, so is he also a
feat, when presently the dream will scatter, and we shall part; and it were partial not to see it. What you say in
burst into universal power. The reason of idleness and of your pompous distribution only distributes you into your
crime is the deferring of our hopes. Whilst we are waiting class and section. You have not got rid of parts by deny-
we beguile the time with jokes, with sleep, with eating, ing them, but are the more partial. You are one thing,
and with crimes. but Nature is one thing and the other thing, in the same

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moment. She will not remain orbed in a thought, but not be here to write and to read, but should have been
rushes into persons; and when each person, inflamed to burned or frozen long ago. She would never get anything
a fury of personality, would conquer all things to his poor done, if she suffered admirable Crichtons and universal
crotchet, she raises up against him another person, and geniuses. She loves better a wheelwright who dreams all
by many persons incarnates again a sort of whole. She night of wheels, and a groom who is part of his horse; for
will have all. Nick Bottom cannot play all the parts, work she is full of work, and these are her hands. As the frugal
it how he may; there will be somebody else, and the world farmer takes care that his cattle shall eat down the ro-
will be round. Everything must have its flower or effort at wen, and swine shall eat the waste of his house, and
the beautiful, coarser or finer according to its stuff. They poultry shall pick the crumbs,—so our economical mother
relieve and recommend each other, and the sanity of so- dispatches a new genius and habit of mind into every
ciety is a balance of a thousand insanities. She punishes district and condition of existence, plants an eye wher-
abstractionists, and will only forgive an induction which ever a new ray of light can fall, and gathering up into
is rare and casual. We like to come to a height of land and some man every property in the universe, establishes thou-
see the landscape, just as we value a general remark in sandfold occult mutual attractions among her offspring,
conversation. But it is not the intention of Nature that that all this wash and waste of power may be imparted
we should live by general views. We fetch fire and water, and exchanged.
run about all day among the shops and markets, and get Great dangers undoubtedly accrue from this incarna-
our clothes and shoes made and mended, and are the tion and distribution of the godhead, and hence Nature
victims of these details; and once in a fortnight we arrive has her maligners, as if she were Circe; and Alphonso of
perhaps at a rational moment. If we were not thus in- Castille fancied he could have given useful advice. But
fatuated, if we saw the real from hour to hour, we should she does not go unprovided; she has hellebore at the

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bottom of the cup. Solitude would ripen a plentiful crop thing, that there is a perpetual tendency to a set mode.
of despots. The recluse thinks of men as having his man- In every conversation, even the highest, there is a cer-
ner, or as not having his manner; and as having degrees tain trick, which may be soon learned by an acute person
of it, more and less. But when he comes into a public and then that particular style continued indefinitely. Each
assembly he sees that men have very different manners man too is a tyrant in tendency, because he would im-
from his own, and in their way admirable. In his child- pose his idea on others; and their trick is their natural
hood and youth he has had many checks and censures, defence. Jesus would absorb the race; but Tom Paine or
and thinks modestly enough of his own endowment. When the coarsest blasphemer helps humanity by resisting this
afterwards he comes to unfold it in propitious circum- exuberance of power. Hence the immense benefit of party
stance, it seems the only talent; he is delighted with his in politics, as it reveals faults of character in a chief,
success, and accounts himself already the fellow of the which the intellectual force of the persons, with ordinary
great. But he goes into a mob, into a banking house, into opportunity and not hurled into aphelion by hatred, could
a mechanic’s shop, into a mill, into a laboratory, into a not have seen. Since we are all so stupid, what benefit
ship, into a camp, and in each new place he is no better that there should be two stupidities! It is like that brute
than an idiot; other talents take place, and rule the hour. advantage so essential to astronomy, of having the diam-
The rotation which whirls every leaf and pebble to the eter of the earth’s orbit for a base of its triangles. De-
meridian, reaches to every gift of man, and we all take mocracy is morose, and runs to anarchy, but in the State
turns at the top. and in the schools it is indispensable to resist the con-
For Nature, who abhors mannerism, has set her heart solidation of all men into a few men. If John was perfect,
on breaking up all styles and tricks, and it is so much why are you and I alive? As long as any man exists, there
easier to do what one has done before than to do a new is some need of him; let him fight for his own. A new

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poet has appeared; a new character approached us; why To embroil the confusion, and make it impossible to
should we refuse to eat bread until we have found his arrive at any general statement,—when we have insisted
regiment and section in our old army-files? Why not a on the imperfection of individuals, our affections and
new man? Here is a new enterprise of Brook Farm, of our experience urge that every individual is entitled to
Skeneateles, of Northampton: why so impatient to bap- honor, and a very generous treatment is sure to be re-
tize them Essenes, or Port-Royalists, or Shakers, or by paid. A recluse sees only two or three persons, and allows
any known and effete name? Let it be a new way of liv- them all their room; they spread themselves at large. The
ing. Why have only two or three ways of life, and not statesman looks at many, and compares the few habitu-
thousands? Every man is wanted, and no man is wanted ally with others, and these look less. Yet are they not
much. We came this time for condiments, not for corn. entitled to this generosity of reception? and is not mu-
We want the great genius only for joy; for one star more nificence the means of insight? For though gamesters
in our constellation, for one tree more in our grove. But say that the cards beat all the players, though they were
he thinks we wish to belong to him, as he wishes to never so skilful, yet in the contest we are now consider-
occupy us. He greatly mistakes us. I think I have done ing, the players are also the game, and share the power
well if I have acquired a new word from a good author; of the cards. If you criticise a fine genius, the odds are
and my business with him is to find my own, though it that you are out of your reckoning, and instead of the
were only to melt him down into an epithet or an image poet, are censuring your own caricature of him. For there
for daily use:— is somewhat spheral and infinite in every man, especially
in every genius, which, if you can come very near him,
“Into paint will I grind thee, my bride!” sports with all your limitations. For rightly every man is a
channel through which heaven floweth, and whilst I fan-

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cied I was criticising him, I was censuring or rather ter- present well-being, he is concealed, or dies, as we say.
minating my own soul. After taxing Goethe as a courtier, Really, all things and persons are related to us, but ac-
artificial, unbelieving, worldly,—I took up this book of cording to our nature they act on us not at once but in
Helena, and found him an Indian of the wilderness, a succession, and we are made aware of their presence one
piece of pure nature like an apple or an oak, large as at a time. All persons, all things which we have known,
morning or night, and virtuous as a brier-rose. are here present, and many more than we see; the world
But care is taken that the whole tune shall be played. is full. As the ancient said, the world is a plenum or solid;
If we were not kept among surfaces, every thing would and if we saw all things that really surround us we should
be large and universal; now the excluded attributes burst be imprisoned and unable to move. For though nothing is
in on us with the more brightness that they have been impassable to the soul, but all things are pervious to it
excluded. “Your turn now, my turn next,” is the rule of and like highways, yet this is only whilst the soul does
the game. The universality being hindered in its primary not see them. As soon as the soul sees any object, it
form, comes in the secondary form of all sides; the points stops before that object. Therefore, the divine Provi-
come in succession to the meridian, and by the speed of dence which keeps the universe open in every direction
rotation a new whole is formed. Nature keeps herself whole to the soul, conceals all the furniture and all the persons
and her representation complete in the experience of each that do not concern a particular soul, from the senses of
mind. She suffers no seat to be vacant in her college. It that individual. Through solidest eternal things the man
is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do finds his road as if they did not subsist, and does not
not die but only retire a little from sight and afterwards once suspect their being. As soon as he needs a new
return again. Whatever does not concern us is concealed object, suddenly he beholds it, and no longer attempts
from us. As soon as a person is no longer related to our to pass through it, but takes another way. When he has

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exhausted for the time the nourishment to be drawn from art, no speech, or action, or thought, or friend, but the
any one person or thing, that object is withdrawn from best.
his observation, and though still in his immediate neigh- The end and the means, the gamester and the game, —
borhood, he does not suspect its presence. Nothing is life is made up of the intermixture and reaction of these
dead: men feign themselves dead, and endure mock fu- two amicable powers, whose marriage appears before-
nerals and mournful obituaries, and there they stand look- hand monstrous, as each denies and tends to abolish the
ing out of the window, sound and well, in some new and other. We must reconcile the contradictions as we can,
strange disguise. Jesus is not dead; he is very well alive: but their discord and their concord introduce wild absur-
nor John, nor Paul, nor Mahomet, nor Aristotle; at times dities into our thinking and speech. No sentence will
we believe we have seen them all, and could easily tell hold the whole truth, and the only way in which we can
the names under which they go. be just, is by giving ourselves the lie; Speech is better
If we cannot make voluntary and conscious steps in the than silence; silence is better than speech;—All things
admirable science of universals, let us see the parts wisely, are in contact; every atom has a sphere of repulsion;—
and infer the genius of nature from the best particulars Things are, and are not, at the same time;—and the like.
with a becoming charity. What is best in each kind is an All the universe over, there is but one thing, this old
index of what should be the average of that thing. Love Two-Face, creator-creature, mind-matter, right-wrong, of
shows me the opulence of nature, by disclosing to me in which any proposition may be affirmed or denied. Very
my friend a hidden wealth, and I infer an equal depth of fitly therefore I assert that every man is a partialist, that
good in every other direction. It is commonly said by nature secures him as an instrument by self-conceit, pre-
farmers that a good pear or apple costs no more time or venting the tendencies to religion and science; and now
pains to rear than a poor one; so I would have no work of further assert, that, each man’s genius being nearly and

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affectionately explored, he is justified in his individual- chance, a fair girl, a piece of life, gay and happy, and
ity, as his nature is found to be immense; and now I add making the commonest offices beautiful by the energy
that every man is a universalist also, and, as our earth, and heart with which she does them; and seeing this we
whilst it spins on its own axis, spins all the time around admire and love her and them, and say, ‘Lo! a genuine
the sun through the celestial spaces, so the least of its creature of the fair earth, not dissipated or too early
rational children, the most dedicated to his private af- ripened by books, philosophy, religion, society, or care!’
fair, works out, though as it were under a disguise, the insinuating a treachery and contempt for all we had so
universal problem. We fancy men are individuals; so are long loved and wrought in ourselves and others.
pumpkins; but every pumpkin in the field goes through If we could have any security against moods! If the
every point of pumpkin history. The rabid democrat, as profoundest prophet could be holden to his words, and
soon as he is senator and rich man, has ripened beyond the hearer who is ready to sell all and join the crusade
possibility of sincere radicalism, and unless he can resist could have any certificate that tomorrow his prophet shall
the sun, he must be conservative the remainder of his not unsay his testimony! But the Truth sits veiled there
days. Lord Eldon said in his old age that “if he were to on the Bench, and never interposes an adamantine syl-
begin life again, he would be damned but he would be- lable; and the most sincere and revolutionary doctrine,
gin as agitator.” put as if the ark of God were carried forward some fur-
We hide this universality if we can, but it appears at all longs, and planted there for the succor of the world, shall
points. We are as ungrateful as children. There is nothing in a few weeks be coldly set aside by the same speaker,
we cherish and strive to draw to us but in some hour we as morbid; “I thought I was right, but I was not,”—and
turn and rend it. We keep a running fire of sarcasm at the same immeasurable credulity demanded for new au-
ignorance and the life of the senses; then goes by, per- dacities. If we were not of all opinions! if we did not in

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any moment shift the platform on which we stand, and glad of men of every gift and nobility, but would not live
look and speak from another! if there could be any regu- in their arms. Could they but once understand that I loved
lation, any ‘one-hour-rule,’ that a man should never leave to know that they existed, and heartily wished them God-
his point of view without sound of trumpet. I am always speed, yet, out of my poverty of life and thought, had no
insincere, as always knowing there are other moods. word or welcome for them when they came to see me,
How sincere and confidential we can be, saying all that and could well consent to their living in Oregon, for any
lies in the mind, and yet go away feeling that all is yet claim I felt on them,—it would be a great satisfaction.
unsaid, from the incapacity of the parties to know each
other, although they use the same words! My companion
assumes to know my mood and habit of thought, and we
go on from explanation to explanation until all is said
which words can, and we leave matters just as they were
at first, because of that vicious assumption. Is it that
every man believes every other to be an incurable
partialist, and himself a universalist? I talked yesterday
with a pair of philosophers; I endeavored to show my
good men that I love everything by turns and nothing
long; that I loved the centre, but doated on the superfi-
cies; that I loved man, if men seemed to me mice and
rats; that I revered saints, but woke up glad that the old
pagan world stood its ground and died hard; that I was

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NEW ENGLAND REFORMERS been struck with the great activity of thought and ex-
perimenting. His attention must be commanded by the
In the suburb, in the town, signs that the Church, or religious party, is falling from
On the railway, in the square, the Church nominal, and is appearing in temperance and
Came a beam of goodness down non-resistance societies; in movements of abolitionists
Doubling daylight everywhere: and of socialists; and in very significant assemblies called
Peace now each for malice takes, Sabbath and Bible Conventions; composed of ultraists, of
Beauty for his sinful weeks, seekers, of all the soul of the soldiery of dissent, and
For the angel Hope aye makes meeting to call in question the authority of the Sabbath,
Him an angel whom she leads. of the priesthood, and of the Church. In these move-
ments nothing was more remarkable than the discontent
NEW ENGLAND REFORMERS they begot in the movers. The spirit of protest and of
detachment drove the members of these Conventions to
A Lecture Read before the Society in Amory Hall, bear testimony against the Church, and immediately af-
on Sunday, March 3, 1844. terward, to declare their discontent with these Conven-
tions, their independence of their colleagues, and their

W
hoever has had opportunity of acquaintance with impatience of the methods whereby they were working.
society in New England during the last twenty- They defied each other, like a congress of kings, each of
five years, with those middle and with those whom had a realm to rule, and a way of his own that
leading sections that may constitute any just representa- made concert unprofitable. What a fertility of projects
tion of the character and aim of the community, will have for the salvation of the world! One apostle thought all

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men should go to farming, and another that no man should quitos was to be incorporated without delay. With these
buy or sell, that the use of money was the cardinal evil; appeared the adepts of homoeopathy, of hydropathy, of
another that the mischief was in our diet, that we eat mesmerism, of phrenology, and their wonderful theories
and drink damnation. These made unleavened bread, and of the Christian miracles! Others assailed particular voca-
were foes to the death to fermentation. It was in vain tions, as that of the lawyer, that of the merchant, of the
urged by the housewife that God made yeast, as well as manufacturer, of the clergyman, of the scholar. Others
dough, and loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves attacked the institution of marriage as the fountain of
vegetation; that fermentation develops the saccharine social evils. Others devoted themselves to the worrying
element in the grain, and makes it more palatable and of churches and meetings for public worship; and the
more digestible. No; they wish the pure wheat, and will fertile forms of antinomianism among the elder puritans
die but it shall not ferment. Stop, dear nature, these seemed to have their match in the plenty of the new
incessant advances of thine; let us scotch these ever- harvest of reform.
rolling wheels! Others attacked the system of agriculture, With this din of opinion and debate there was a keener
the use of animal manures in farming, and the tyranny of scrutiny of institutions and domestic life than any we
man over brute nature; these abuses polluted his food. had known; there was sincere protesting against existing
The ox must be taken from the plough and the horse from evils, and there were changes of employment dictated by
the cart, the hundred acres of the farm must be spaded, conscience. No doubt there was plentiful vaporing, and
and the man must walk, wherever boats and locomotives cases of backsliding might occur. But in each of these
will not carry him. Even the insect world was to be de- movements emerged a good result, a tendency to the
fended,—that had been too long neglected, and a soci- adoption of simpler methods, and an assertion of the
ety for the protection of ground-worms, slugs, and mos- sufficiency of the private man. Thus it was directly in the

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spirit and genius of the age, what happened in one in- for the last quarter of a century, a gradual withdrawal of
stance when a church censured and threatened to ex- tender consciences from the social organizations. There
communicate one of its members on account of the some- is observable throughout, the contest between mechani-
what hostile part to the church which his conscience led cal and spiritual methods, but with a steady tendency of
him to take in the anti-slavery business; the threatened the thoughtful and virtuous to a deeper belief and reli-
individual immediately excommunicated the church in a ance on spiritual facts.
public and formal process. This has been several times In politics for example it is easy to see the progress of
repeated: it was excellent when it was done the first time, dissent. The country is full of rebellion; the country is
but of course loses all value when it is copied. Every full of kings. Hands off! let there be no control and no
project in the history of reform, no matter how violent interference in the administration of the affairs of this
and surprising, is good when it is the dictate of a man’s kingdom of me. Hence the growth of the doctrine and of
genius and constitution, but very dull and suspicious when the party of Free Trade, and the willingness to try that
adopted from another. It is right and beautiful in any experiment, in the face of what appear incontestable facts.
man to say, ‘I will take this coat, or this book, or this I confess, the motto of the Globe newspaper is so attrac-
measure of corn of yours,’—in whom we see the act to be tive to me that I can seldom find much appetite to read
original, and to flow from the whole spirit and faith of what is below it in its columns: “The world is governed
him; for then that taking will have a giving as free and too much.” So the country is frequently affording solitary
divine; but we are very easily disposed to resist the same examples of resistance to the government, solitary nulli-
generosity of speech when we miss originality and truth fiers, who throw themselves on their reserved rights; nay,
to character in it. who have reserved all their rights; who reply to the as-
There was in all the practical activities of New England sessor and to the clerk of court that they do not know the

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State, and embarrass the courts of law by non-juring and tics which manual labor and the emergencies of poverty
the commander-in-chief of the militia by non-resistance. constitute? I find nothing healthful or exalting in the
The same disposition to scrutiny and dissent appeared smooth conventions of society; I do not like the close air
in civil, festive, neighborly, and domestic society. A rest- of saloons. I begin to suspect myself to be a prisoner,
less, prying, conscientious criticism broke out in unex- though treated with all this courtesy and luxury. I pay a
pected quarters. Who gave me the money with which I destructive tax in my conformity.
bought my coat? Why should professional labor and that The same insatiable criticism may be traced in the ef-
of the counting-house be paid so disproportionately to forts for the reform of Education. The popular education
the labor of the porter and woodsawyer? This whole busi- has been taxed with a want of truth and nature. It was
ness of Trade gives me to pause and think, as it consti- complained that an education to things was not given.
tutes false relations between men; inasmuch as I am prone We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and
to count myself relieved of any responsibility to behave colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years,
well and nobly to that person whom I pay with money; and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of
whereas if I had not that commodity, I should be put on words, and do not know a thing. We cannot use our hands,
my good behavior in all companies, and man would be a or our legs, or our eyes, or our arms. We do not know an
benefactor to man, as being himself his only certificate edible root in the woods, we cannot tell our course by
that he had a right to those aids and services which each the stars, nor the hour of the day by the sun. It is well if
asked of the other. Am I not too protected a person? is we can swim and skate. We are afraid of a horse, of a cow,
there not a wide disparity between the lot of me and the of a dog, of a snake, of a spider. The Roman rule was to
lot of thee, my poor brother, my poor sister? Am I not teach a boy nothing that he could not learn standing.
defrauded of my best culture in the loss of those gymnas- The old English rule was, ‘All summer in the field, and all

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winter in the study.’ And it seems as if a man should learn the manner of men is. But the Good Spirit never cared for
to plant, or to fish, or to hunt, that he might secure his the colleges, and though all men and boys were now drilled
subsistence at all events, and not be painful to his friends in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics, it had quite left these
and fellow-men. The lessons of science should be experi- shells high and dry on the beach, and was now creating
mental also. The sight of the planet through a telescope and feeding other matters at other ends of the world. But
is worth all the course on astronomy; the shock of the in a hundred high schools and colleges this warfare against
electric spark in the elbow, outvalues all the theories; common sense still goes on. Four, or six, or ten years, the
the taste of the nitrous oxide, the firing of an artificial pupil is parsing Greek and Latin, and as soon as he leaves
volcano, are better than volumes of chemistry. the University, as it is ludicrously called, he shuts those
One of the traits of the new spirit is the inquisition it books for the last time. Some thousands of young men
fixed on our scholastic devotion to the dead languages. are graduated at our colleges in this country every year,
The ancient languages, with great beauty of structure, and the persons who, at forty years, still read Greek, can
contain wonderful remains of genius, which draw, and all be counted on your hand. I never met with ten. Four
always will draw, certain likeminded men,—Greek men, or five persons I have seen who read Plato.
and Roman men,—in all countries, to their study; but by But is not this absurd, that the whole liberal talent of
a wonderful drowsiness of usage they had exacted the this country should be directed in its best years on stud-
study of all men. Once (say two centuries ago), Latin and ies which lead to nothing? What was the consequence?
Greek had a strict relation to all the science and culture Some intelligent persons said or thought, ‘Is that Greek
there was in Europe, and the Mathematics had a momen- and Latin some spell to conjure with, and not words of
tary importance at some era of activity in physical sci- reason? If the physician, the lawyer, the divine, never
ence. These things became stereotyped as education, as use it to come at their ends, I need never learn it to

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come at mine. Conjuring is gone out of fashion, and I will hour to the happiest conclusions. I readily concede that
omit this conjugating, and go straight to affairs.’ So they in this, as in every period of intellectual activity, there
jumped the Greek and Latin, and read law, medicine, or has been a noise of denial and protest; much was to be
sermons, without it. To the astonishment of all, the self- resisted, much was to be got rid of by those who were
made men took even ground at once with the oldest of reared in the old, before they could begin to affirm and
the regular graduates, and in a few months the most con- to construct. Many a reformer perishes in his removal of
servative circles of Boston and New York had quite for- rubbish; and that makes the offensiveness of the class.
gotten who of their gownsmen was college-bred, and who They are partial; they are not equal to the work they
was not. pretend. They lose their way; in the assault on the king-
One tendency appears alike in the philosophical specu- dom of darkness they expend all their energy on some
lation and in the rudest democratical movements, through accidental evil, and lose their sanity and power of ben-
all the petulance and all the puerility, the wish, namely, efit. It is of little moment that one or two or twenty
to cast aside the superfluous and arrive at short meth- errors of our social system be corrected, but of much that
ods; urged, as I suppose, by an intuition that the human the man be in his senses.
spirit is equal to all emergencies, alone, and that man is The criticism and attack on institutions, which we have
more often injured than helped by the means he uses. witnessed, has made one thing plain, that society gains
I conceive this gradual casting off of material aids, and nothing whilst a man, not himself renovated, attempts
the indication of growing trust in the private self-sup- to renovate things around him: he has become tediously
plied powers of the individual, to be the affirmative prin- good in some particular but negligent or narrow in the
ciple of the recent philosophy, and that it is feeling its rest; and hypocrisy and vanity are often the disgusting
own profound truth and is reaching forward at this very result.

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It is handsomer to remain in the establishment better see how man can do without it. Now all men are on one
than the establishment, and conduct that in the best side. No man deserves to be heard against property. Only
manner, than to make a sally against evil by some single Love, only an Idea, is against property as we hold it.
improvement, without supporting it by a total regenera- I cannot afford to be irritable and captious, nor to waste
tion. Do not be so vain of your one objection. Do you all my time in attacks. If I should go out of church when-
think there is only one? Alas! my good friend, there is no ever I hear a false sentiment I could never stay there five
part of society or of life better than any other part. All minutes. But why come out? the street is as false as the
our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil church, and when I get to my house, or to my manners,
washes all our institutions alike. Do you complain of our or to my speech, I have not got away from the lie. When
Marriage? Our marriage is no worse than our education, we see an eager assailant of one of these wrongs, a spe-
our diet, our trade, our social customs. Do you complain cial reformer, we feel like asking him, What right have
of the laws of Property? It is a pedantry to give such you, sir, to your one virtue? Is virtue piecemeal? This is a
importance to them. Can we not play the game of life jewel amidst the rags of a beggar.
with these counters, as well as with those? in the insti- In another way the right will be vindicated. In the midst
tution of property, as well as out of it? Let into it the new of abuses, in the heart of cities, in the aisles of false
and renewing principle of love, and property will be uni- churches, alike in one place and in another,—wherever,
versality. No one gives the impression of superiority to namely, a just and heroic soul finds itself, there it will do
the institution, which he must give who will reform it. It what is next at hand, and by the new quality of character
makes no difference what you say, you must make me it shall put forth it shall abrogate that old condition, law
feel that you are aloof from it; by your natural and super- or school in which it stands, before the law of its own
natural advantages do easily see to the end of it,—do mind.

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If partiality was one fault of the movement party, the tioned whether such a community will draw, except in its
other defect was their reliance on Association. Doubts beginnings, the able and the good; whether those who
such as those I have intimated drove many good persons have energy will not prefer their chance of superiority
to agitate the questions of social reform. But the revolt and power in the world, to the humble certainties of the
against the spirit of commerce, the spirit of aristocracy, association; whether such a retreat does not promise to
and the inveterate abuses of cities, did not appear pos- become an asylum to those who have tried and failed,
sible to individuals; and to do battle against numbers rather than a field to the strong; and whether the mem-
they armed themselves with numbers, and against con- bers will not necessarily be fractions of men, because
cert they relied on new concert. each finds that he cannot enter it, without some com-
Following or advancing beyond the ideas of St. Simon, promise. Friendship and association are very fine things,
of Fourier, and of Owen, three communities have already and a grand phalanx of the best of the human race, banded
been formed in Massachusetts on kindred plans, and many for some catholic object; yes, excellent; but remember
more in the country at large. They aim to give every mem- that no society can ever be so large as one man. He, in
ber a share in the manual labor, to give an equal reward his friendship, in his natural and momentary associations,
to labor and to talent, and to unite a liberal culture with doubles or multiplies himself; but in the hour in which he
an education to labor. The scheme offers, by the econo- mortgages himself to two or ten or twenty, he dwarfs
mies of associated labor and expense, to make every mem- himself below the stature of one.
ber rich, on the same amount of property, that, in sepa- But the men of less faith could not thus believe, and to
rate families, would leave every member poor. These new such, concert appears the sole specific of strength. I
associations are composed of men and women of supe- have failed, and you have failed, but perhaps together
rior talents and sentiments; yet it may easily be ques- we shall not fail. Our housekeeping is not satisfactory to

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us, but perhaps a phalanx, a community, might be. Many concert in one. When the individual is not individual, but
of us have differed in opinion, and we could find no man is dual; when his thoughts look one way and his actions
who could make the truth plain, but possibly a college, another; when his faith is traversed by his habits; when
or an ecclesiastical council might. I have not been able his will, enlightened by reason, is warped by his sense;
either to persuade my brother or to prevail on myself, to when with one hand he rows and with the other backs
disuse the traffic or the potation of brandy, but perhaps water, what concert can be?
a pledge of total abstinence might effectually restrain I do not wonder at the interest these projects inspire.
us. The candidate my party votes for is not to be trusted The world is awaking to the idea of union, and these
with a dollar, but he will be honest in the Senate, for we experiments show what it is thinking of. It is and will be
can bring public opinion to bear on him. Thus concert magic. Men will live and communicate, and plough, and
was the specific in all cases. But concert is neither better reap, and govern, as by added ethereal power, when once
nor worse, neither more nor less potent than individual they are united; as in a celebrated experiment, by expira-
force. All the men in the world cannot make a statue walk tion and respiration exactly together, four persons lift a
and speak, cannot make a drop of blood, or a blade of heavy man from the ground by the little finger only, and
grass, any more than one man can. But let there be one without sense of weight. But this union must be inward,
man, let there be truth in two men, in ten men, then is and not one of covenants, and is to be reached by a
concert for the first time possible; because the force which reverse of the methods they use. The union is only per-
moves the world is a new quality, and can never be fur- fect when all the uniters are isolated. It is the union of
nished by adding whatever quantities of a different kind. friends who live in different streets or towns. Each man,
What is the use of the concert of the false and the dis- if he attempts to join himself to others, is on all sides
united? There can be no concert in two, where there is no cramped and diminished of his proportion; and the stricter

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the union the smaller and the more pitiful he is. But organic, and society is a hospital of incurables. A man of
leave him alone, to recognize in every hour and place the good sense but of little faith, whose compassion seemed
secret soul; he will go up and down doing the works of a to lead him to church as often as he went there, said to
true member, and, to the astonishment of all, the work me that “he liked to have concerts, and fairs, and churches,
will be done with concert, though no man spoke. Gov- and other public amusements go on.” I am afraid the
ernment will be adamantine without any governor. The remark is too honest, and comes from the same origin as
union must be ideal in actual individualism. the maxim of the tyrant, “If you would rule the world
I pass to the indication in some particulars of that faith quietly, you must keep it amused.” I notice too that the
in man, which the heart is preaching to us in these days, ground on which eminent public servants urge the claims
and which engages the more regard, from the consider- of popular education is fear; ‘This country is filling up
ation that the speculations of one generation are the with thousands and millions of voters, and you must edu-
history of the next following. cate them to keep them from our throats.’ We do not
In alluding just now to our system of education, I spoke believe that any education, any system of philosophy,
of the deadness of its details. But it is open to graver any influence of genius, will ever give depth of insight to
criticism than the palsy of its members: it is a system of a superficial mind. Having settled ourselves into this in-
despair. The disease with which the human mind now fidelity, our skill is expended to procure alleviations, di-
labors is want of faith. Men do not believe in a power of version, opiates. We adorn the victim with manual skill,
education. We do not think we can speak to divine senti- his tongue with languages, his body with inoffensive and
ments in man, and we do not try. We renounce all high comely manners. So have we cunningly hid the tragedy
aims. We believe that the defects of so many perverse of limitation and inner death we cannot avert. Is it strange
and so many frivolous people who make up society, are that society should be devoured by a secret melancholy

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which breaks through all its smiles and all its gayety and of speech, the power of poetry, of literary art, but it did
games? not bring him to peace or to beneficence.
But even one step farther our infidelity has gone. It When the literary class betray a destitution of faith, it
appears that some doubt is felt by good and wise men is not strange that society should be disheartened and
whether really the happiness and probity of men is in- sensualized by unbelief. What remedy? Life must be lived
creased by the culture of the mind in those disciplines to on a higher plane. We must go up to a higher platform, to
which we give the name of education. Unhappily too the which we are always invited to ascend; there, the whole
doubt comes from scholars, from persons who have tried aspect of things changes. I resist the skepticism of our
these methods. In their experience the scholar was not education and of our educated men. I do not believe that
raised by the sacred thoughts amongst which he dwelt, the differences of opinion and character in men are or-
but used them to selfish ends. He was a profane person, ganic. I do not recognize, beside the class of the good
and became a showman, turning his gifts to a marketable and the wise, a permanent class of skeptics, or a class of
use, and not to his own sustenance and growth. It was conservatives, or of malignants, or of materialists. I do
found that the intellect could be independently developed, not believe in two classes. You remember the story of the
that is, in separation from the man, as any single organ poor woman who importuned King Philip of Macedon to
can be invigorated, and the result was monstrous. A ca- grant her justice, which Philip refused: the woman ex-
nine appetite for knowledge was generated, which must claimed, “I appeal:” the king, astonished, asked to whom
still be fed but was never satisfied, and this knowledge, she appealed: the woman replied, “From Philip drunk to
not being directed on action, never took the character of Philip sober.” The text will suit me very well. I believe
substantial, humane truth, blessing those whom it entered. not in two classes of men, but in man in two moods, in
It gave the scholar certain powers of expression, the power Philip drunk and Philip sober. I think, according to the

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good-hearted word of Plato, “Unwillingly the soul is de- these few strokes, how mean they look, though the praises
prived of truth.” Iron conservative, miser, or thief, no of the world attend them. From the triumphs of his art he
man is but by a supposed necessity which he tolerates by turns with desire to this greater defeat. Let those admire
shortness or torpidity of sight. The soul lets no man go who will. With silent joy he sees himself to be capable of
without some visitations and holydays of a diviner pres- a beauty that eclipses all which his hands have done; all
ence. It would be easy to show, by a narrow scanning of which human hands have ever done.
any man’s biography, that we are not so wedded to our Well, we are all the children of genius, the children of
paltry performances of every kind but that every man has virtue,—and feel their inspirations in our happier hours.
at intervals the grace to scorn his performances, in com- Is not every man sometimes a radical in politics? Men are
paring them with his belief of what he should do; —that conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they
he puts himself on the side of his enemies, listening gladly are most luxurious. They are conservatives after dinner,
to what they say of him, and accusing himself of the or before taking their rest; when they are sick, or aged:
same things. in the morning, or when their intellect or their conscience
What is it men love in Genius, but its infinite hope, has been aroused; when they hear music, or when they
which degrades all it has done? Genius counts all its read poetry, they are radicals. In the circle of the rankest
miracles poor and short. Its own idea it never executed. tories that could be collected in England, Old or New, let
The Iliad, the Hamlet, the Doric column, the Roman arch, a powerful and stimulating intellect, a man of great heart
the Gothic minster, the German anthem, when they are and mind, act on them, and very quickly these frozen
ended, the master casts behind him. How sinks the song conservators will yield to the friendly influence, these
in the waves of melody which the universe pours over his hopeless will begin to hope, these haters will begin to
soul! Before that gracious Infinite out of which he drew love, these immovable statues will begin to spin and re-

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volve. I cannot help recalling the fine anecdote which of, instead of ghosts and phantoms. We are weary of glid-
Warton relates of Bishop Berkeley, when he was prepar- ing ghostlike through the world, which is itself so slight
ing to leave England with his plan of planting the gospel and unreal. We crave a sense of reality, though it come in
among the American savages. “Lord Bathurst told me that strokes of pain. I explain so,—by this manlike love of
the members of the Scriblerus club being met at his house truth,—those excesses and errors into which souls of great
at dinner, they agreed to rally Berkeley, who was also his vigor, but not equal insight, often fall. They feel the pov-
guest, on his scheme at Bermudas. Berkeley, having lis- erty at the bottom of all the seeming affluence of the
tened to the many lively things they had to say, begged world. They know the speed with which they come straight
to be heard in his turn, and displayed his plan with such through the thin masquerade, and conceive a disgust at
an astonishing and animating force of eloquence and the indigence of nature: Rousseau, Mirabeau, Charles Fox,
enthusiasm, that they were str