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_First Series_
by Ralph Waldo Emerson



There is no great and no small
To the Soul that maketh all:
And where it cometh, all things are;
And it cometh everywhere.

I am owner of the sphere,
Of the seven stars and the solar year,
Of Caesar's hand, and Plato's brain,
Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakspeare's strain.

ESSAY I _History_

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is
an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once
admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole
estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt,
he may feel; what at any time has be-fallen any man, he can
understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all
that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.

Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is
illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by
nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the
human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty,
every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate
events. But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts
of 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 whole encyclopaedia of facts. The
creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece,
Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man.
Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are
merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world.

This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. The
Sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of history is in one
man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. There is
a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time.
As the air I breathe is drawn from the great repositories of nature,
as the light on my book is yielded by a star a hundred millions of
miles distant, as the poise of my body depends on the equilibrium of
centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the hours should be instructed
by the ages, and the ages explained by the hours. Of the universal
mind each individual man is one more incarnation. All its properties
consist in him. Each new fact in his private experience flashes a
light on what great bodies of men have done, and the crises of his
life refer to national crises. Every revolution was first a thought
in one man's mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man,
it is the key to that era. Every reform was once a private opinion,
and when it shall be a private opinion again, it will solve the
problem of the age. The fact narrated must correspond to something
in me to be credible or intelligible. We as we read must become
Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner, must
fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we
shall learn nothing rightly. What befell Asdrubal or Caesar Borgia
is as much an illustration of the mind's powers and depravations as
what has befallen us. Each new law and political movement has
meaning for you. Stand before each of its tablets and say, `Under
this mask did my Proteus nature hide itself.' This remedies the
defect of our too great nearness to ourselves. This throws our
actions into perspective: and as crabs, goats, scorpions, the
balance, and the waterpot lose their meanness when hung as signs in
the zodiac, so I can see my own vices without heat in the distant
persons of Solomon, Alcibiades, and Catiline.

It is the universal nature which gives worth to particular men
and things. Human life as containing this is mysterious and
inviolable, and we hedge it round with penalties and laws. All laws
derive hence their ultimate reason; all express more or less
distinctly some command of this supreme, illimitable essence.
Property also holds of the soul, covers great spiritual facts, and
instinctively we at first hold to it with swords and laws, and wide
and complex combinations. The obscure consciousness of this fact is
the light of all our day, the claim of claims; the plea for
education, for justice, for charity, the foundation of friendship and
love, and of the heroism and grandeur which belong to acts of
self-reliance. It is remarkable that involuntarily we always read as
superior beings. Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not
in their stateliest pictures -- in the sacerdotal, the imperial
palaces, in the triumphs of will or of genius -- anywhere lose our
ear, anywhere make us feel that we intrude, that this is for better
men; but rather is it true, that in their grandest strokes we feel
most at home. All that Shakspeare says of the king, yonder slip of a
boy that reads in the corner feels to be true of himself. We
sympathize in the great moments of history, in the great discoveries,
the great resistances, the great prosperities of men; -- because
there law was enacted, the sea was searched, the land was found, or
the blow was struck _for us_, as we ourselves in that place would
have done or applauded.

We have the same interest in condition and character. We honor
the rich, because they have externally the freedom, power, and grace
which we feel to be proper to man, proper to us. So all that is said
of the wise man by Stoic, or oriental or modern essayist, describes
to each reader his own idea, describes his unattained but attainable
self. All literature writes the character of the wise man. Books,
monuments, pictures, conversation, are portraits in which he finds
the lineaments he is forming. The silent and the eloquent praise him
and accost him, and he is stimulated wherever he moves as by personal
allusions. A true aspirant, therefore, never needs look for
allusions personal and laudatory in discourse. He hears the
commendation, not of himself, but more sweet, of that character he
seeks, in every word that is said concerning character, yea, further,
in every fact and circumstance, -- in the running river and the
rustling corn. Praise is looked, homage tendered, love flows from
mute nature, from the mountains and the lights of the firmament.

These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night, let us
use in broad day. The student is to read history actively and not
passively; to esteem his own life the text, and books the commentary.
Thus compelled, the Muse of history will utter oracles, as never to
those who do not respect themselves. I have no expectation that any
man will read history aright, who thinks that what was done in a
remote age, by men whose names have resounded far, has any deeper
sense than what he is doing to-day.

The world exists for the education of each man. There is no
age or state of society or mode of action in history, to which there
is not somewhat corresponding in his life. Every thing tends in a
wonderful manner to abbreviate itself and yield its own virtue to
him. He should see that he can live all history in his own person.
He must sit solidly at home, and not suffer himself to be bullied by
kings or empires, but know that he is greater than all the geography
and all the government of the world; he must transfer the point of
view from which history is commonly read, from Rome and Athens and
London to himself, and not deny his conviction that he is the court,
and if England or Egypt have any thing to say to him, he will try the
case; if not, let them for ever be silent. He must attain and
maintain that lofty sight where facts yield their secret sense, and
poetry and annals are alike. The instinct of the mind, the purpose
of nature, betrays itself in the use we make of the signal narrations
of history. Time dissipates to shining ether the solid angularity of
facts. No anchor, no cable, no fences, avail to keep a fact a fact.
Babylon, Troy, Tyre, Palestine, and even early Rome, are passing
already into fiction. The Garden of Eden, the sun standing still in
Gibeon, is poetry thenceforward to all nations. Who cares what the
fact was, when we have made a constellation of it to hang in heaven
an immortal sign? London and Paris and New York must go the same
way. "What is History," said Napoleon, "but a fable agreed upon?"
This life of ours is stuck round with Egypt, Greece, Gaul, England,
War, Colonization, Church, Court, and Commerce, as with so many
flowers and wild ornaments grave and gay. I will not make more
account of them. I believe in Eternity. I can find Greece, Asia,
Italy, Spain, and the Islands, -- the genius and creative principle
of each and of all eras in my own mind.

We are always coming up with the emphatic facts of history in
our private experience, and verifying them here. All history becomes
subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only
biography. Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself, -- must
go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not
live, it will not know. What the former age has epitomized into a
formula or rule for manipular convenience, it will lose all the good
of verifying for itself, by means of the wall of that rule.
Somewhere, sometime, it will demand and find compensation for that
loss by doing the work itself. Ferguson discovered many things in
astronomy which had long been known. The better for him.

History must be this or it is nothing. Every law which the
state enacts indicates a fact in human nature; that is all. We must
in ourselves see the necessary reason of every fact, -- see how it
could and must be. So stand before every public and private work;
before an oration of Burke, before a victory of Napoleon, before a
martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, of Sidney, of Marmaduke Robinson,
before a French Reign of Terror, and a Salem hanging of witches,
before a fanatic Revival, and the Animal Magnetism in Paris, or in
Providence. We assume that we under like influence should be alike
affected, and should achieve the like; and we aim to master
intellectually the steps, and reach the same height or the same
degradation, that our fellow, our proxy, has done.

All inquiry into antiquity, -- all curiosity respecting the
Pyramids, the excavated cities, Stonehenge, the Ohio Circles, Mexico,
Memphis, -- is the desire to do away this wild, savage, and
preposterous There or Then, and introduce in its place the Here and
the Now. Belzoni digs and measures in the mummy-pits and pyramids of
Thebes, until he can see the end of the difference between the
monstrous work and himself. When he has satisfied himself, in
general and in detail, that it was made by such a person as he, so
armed and so motived, and to ends to which he himself should also
have worked, the problem is solved; his thought lives along the whole
line of temples and sphinxes and catacombs, passes through them all
with satisfaction, and they live again to the mind, or are _now_.

A Gothic cathedral affirms that it was done by us, and not done
by us. Surely it was by man, but we find it not in our man. But we
apply ourselves to the history of its production. We put ourselves
into the place and state of the builder. We remember the
forest-dwellers, the first temples, the adherence to the first type,
and the decoration of it as the wealth of the nation increased; the
value which is given to wood by carving led to the carving over the
whole mountain of stone of a cathedral. When we have gone through
this process, and added thereto the Catholic Church, its cross, its
music, its processions, its Saints' days and image-worship, we have,
as it were, been the man that made the minster; we have seen how it
could and must be. We have the sufficient reason.

The difference between men is in their principle of
association. Some men classify objects by color and size and other
accidents of appearance; others by intrinsic likeness, or by the
relation of cause and effect. The progress of the intellect is to
the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To
the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly
and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.
For the eye is fastened on the life, and slights the circumstance.
Every chemical substance, every plant, every animal in its growth,
teaches the unity of cause, the variety of appearance.

Upborne and surrounded as we are by this all-creating nature,
soft and fluid as a cloud or the air, why should we be such hard
pedants, and magnify a few forms? Why should we make account of
time, or of magnitude, or of figure? The soul knows them not, and
genius, obeying its law, knows how to play with them as a young child
plays with graybeards and in churches. Genius studies the causal
thought, and, far back in the womb of things, sees the rays parting
from one orb, that diverge ere they fall by infinite diameters.
Genius watches the monad through all his masks as he performs the
metempsychosis of nature. Genius detects through the fly, through
the caterpillar, through the grub, through the egg, the constant
individual; through countless individuals, the fixed species; through
many species, the genus; through all genera, the steadfast type;
through all the kingdoms of organized life, the eternal unity.
Nature is a mutable cloud, which is always and never the same. She
casts the same thought into troops of forms, as a poet makes twenty
fables with one moral. Through the bruteness and toughness of
matter, a subtle spirit bends all things to its own will. The
adamant streams into soft but precise form before it, and, whilst I
look at it, its outline and texture are changed again. Nothing is so
fleeting as form; yet never does it quite deny itself. In man we
still trace the remains or hints of all that we esteem badges of
servitude in the lower races; yet in him they enhance his nobleness
and grace; as Io, in Aeschylus, transformed to a cow, offends the
imagination; but how changed, when as Isis in Egypt she meets
Osiris-Jove, a beautiful woman, with nothing of the metamorphosis
left but the lunar horns as the splendid ornament of her brows!

The identity of history is equally intrinsic, the diversity
equally obvious. There is at the surface infinite variety of things;
at the centre there is simplicity of cause. How many are the acts of
one man in which we recognize the same character! Observe the
sources of our information in respect to the Greek genius. We have
the _civil history_ of that people, as Herodotus, Thucydides,
Xenophon, and Plutarch have given it; a very sufficient account of
what manner of persons they were, and what they did. We have the
same national mind expressed for us again in their _literature_, in
epic and lyric poems, drama, and philosophy; a very complete form.
Then we have it once more in their _architecture_, a beauty as of
temperance itself, limited to the straight line and the square, -- a
builded geometry. Then we have it once again in _sculpture_, the
"tongue on the balance of expression," a multitude of forms in the
utmost freedom of action, and never transgressing the ideal serenity;
like votaries performing some religious dance before the gods, and,
though in convulsive pain or mortal combat, never daring to break the
figure and decorum of their dance. Thus, of the genius of one
remarkable people, we have a fourfold representation: and to the
senses what more unlike than an ode of Pindar, a marble centaur, the
peristyle of the Parthenon, and the last actions of Phocion?

Every one must have observed faces and forms which, without any
resembling feature, make a like impression on the beholder. A
particular picture or copy of verses, if it do not awaken the same
train of images, will yet superinduce the same sentiment as some wild
mountain walk, although the resemblance is nowise obvious to the
senses, but is occult and out of the reach of the understanding.
Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws.
She hums the old well-known air through innumerable variations.

Nature is full of a sublime family likeness throughout her
works; and delights in startling us with resemblances in the most
unexpected quarters. I have seen the head of an old sachem of the
forest, which at once reminded the eye of a bald mountain summit, and
the furrows of the brow suggested the strata of the rock. There are
men whose manners have the same essential splendor as the simple and
awful sculpture on the friezes of the Parthenon, and the remains of
the earliest Greek art. And there are compositions of the same
strain to be found in the books of all ages. What is Guido's
Rospigliosi Aurora but a morning thought, as the horses in it are
only a morning cloud. If any one will but take pains to observe the
variety of actions to which he is equally inclined in certain moods
of mind, and those to which he is averse, he will see how deep is the
chain of affinity.

A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some
sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying the outlines of its
form merely, -- but, by watching for a time his motions and plays,
the painter enters into his nature, and can then draw him at will in
every attitude. So Roos "entered into the inmost nature of a sheep."
I knew a draughtsman employed in a public survey, who found that he
could not sketch the rocks until their geological structure was first
explained to him. In a certain state of thought is the common origin
of very diverse works. It is the spirit and not the fact that is
identical. By a deeper apprehension, and not primarily by a painful
acquisition of many manual skills, the artist attains the power of
awakening other souls to a given activity.

It has been said, that "common souls pay with what they do;
nobler souls with that which they are." And why? Because a profound
nature awakens in us by its actions and words, by its very looks and
manners, the same power and beauty that a gallery of sculpture, or of
pictures, addresses.

Civil and natural history, the history of art and of
literature, must be explained from individual history, or must remain
words. There is nothing but is related to us, nothing that does not
interest us, -- kingdom, college, tree, horse, or iron shoe, the
roots of all things are in man. Santa Croce and the Dome of St.
Peter's are lame copies after a divine model. Strasburg Cathedral is
a material counterpart of the soul of Erwin of Steinbach. The true
poem is the poet's mind; the true ship is the ship-builder. In the
man, could we lay him open, we should see the reason for the last
flourish and tendril of his work; as every spine and tint in the
sea-shell preexist in the secreting organs of the fish. The whole of
heraldry and of chivalry is in courtesy. A man of fine manners shall
pronounce your name with all the ornament that titles of nobility
could ever add.

The trivial experience of every day is always verifying some
old prediction to us, and converting into things the words and signs
which we had heard and seen without heed. A lady, with whom I was
riding in the forest, said to me, that the woods always seemed to her
_to wait_, as if the genii who inhabit them suspended their deeds
until the wayfarer has passed onward: a thought which poetry has
celebrated in the dance of the fairies, which breaks off on the
approach of human feet. The man who has seen the rising moon break
out of the clouds at midnight has been present like an archangel at
the creation of light and of the world. I remember one summer day,
in the fields, my companion pointed out to me a broad cloud, which
might extend a quarter of a mile parallel to the horizon, quite
accurately in the form of a cherub as painted over churches, -- a
round block in the centre, which it was easy to animate with eyes and
mouth, supported on either side by wide-stretched symmetrical wings.
What appears once in the atmosphere may appear often, and it was
undoubtedly the archetype of that familiar ornament. I have seen in
the sky a chain of summer lightning which at once showed to me that
the Greeks drew from nature when they painted the thunderbolt in the
hand of Jove. I have seen a snow-drift along the sides of the stone
wall which obviously gave the idea of the common architectural scroll
to abut a tower.

By surrounding ourselves with the original circumstances, we
invent anew the orders and the ornaments of architecture, as we see
how each people merely decorated its primitive abodes. The Doric
temple preserves the semblance of the wooden cabin in which the
Dorian dwelt. The Chinese pagoda is plainly a Tartar tent. The
Indian and Egyptian temples still betray the mounds and subterranean
houses of their forefathers. "The custom of making houses and tombs
in the living rock," says Heeren, in his Researches on the
Ethiopians, "determined very naturally the principal character of the
Nubian Egyptian architecture to the colossal form which it assumed.
In these caverns, already prepared by nature, the eye was accustomed
to dwell on huge shapes and masses, so that, when art came to the
assistance of nature, it could not move on a small scale without
degrading itself. What would statues of the usual size, or neat
porches and wings, have been, associated with those gigantic halls
before which only Colossi could sit as watchmen, or lean on the
pillars of the interior?"

The Gothic church plainly originated in a rude adaptation of
the forest trees with all their boughs to a festal or solemn arcade,
as the bands about the cleft pillars still indicate the green withes
that tied them. No one can walk in a road cut through pine woods,
without being struck with the architectural appearance of the grove,
especially in winter, when the bareness of all other trees shows the
low arch of the Saxons. In the woods in a winter afternoon one will
see as readily the origin of the stained glass window, with which the
Gothic cathedrals are adorned, in the colors of the western sky seen
through the bare and crossing branches of the forest. Nor can any
lover of nature enter the old piles of Oxford and the English
cathedrals, without feeling that the forest overpowered the mind of
the builder, and that his chisel, his saw, and plane still reproduced
its ferns, its spikes of flowers, its locust, elm, oak, pine, fir,
and spruce.

The Gothic cathedral is a blossoming in stone subdued by the
insatiable demand of harmony in man. The mountain of granite blooms
into an eternal flower, with the lightness and delicate finish, as
well as the aerial proportions and perspective, of vegetable beauty.

In like manner, all public facts are to be individualized, all
private facts are to be generalized. Then at once History becomes
fluid and true, and Biography deep and sublime. As the Persian
imitated in the slender shafts and capitals of his architecture the
stem and flower of the lotus and palm, so the Persian court in its
magnificent era never gave over the nomadism of its barbarous tribes,
but travelled from Ecbatana, where the spring was spent, to Susa in
summer, and to Babylon for the winter.

In the early history of Asia and Africa, Nomadism and
Agriculture are the two antagonist facts. The geography of Asia and
of Africa necessitated a nomadic life. But the nomads were the
terror of all those whom the soil, or the advantages of a market, had
induced to build towns. Agriculture, therefore, was a religious
injunction, because of the perils of the state from nomadism. And in
these late and civil countries of England and America, these
propensities still fight out the old battle in the nation and in the
individual. The nomads of Africa were constrained to wander by the
attacks of the gad-fly, which drives the cattle mad, and so compels
the tribe to emigrate in the rainy season, and to drive off the
cattle to the higher sandy regions. The nomads of Asia follow the
pasturage from month to month. In America and Europe, the nomadism
is of trade and curiosity; a progress, certainly, from the gad-fly of
Astaboras to the Anglo and Italo-mania of Boston Bay. Sacred cities,
to which a periodical religious pilgrimage was enjoined, or stringent
laws and customs, tending to invigorate the national bond, were the
check on the old rovers; and the cumulative values of long residence
are the restraints on the itineracy of the present day. The
antagonism of the two tendencies is not less active in individuals,
as the love of adventure or the love of repose happens to
predominate. A man of rude health and flowing spirits has the
faculty of rapid domestication, lives in his wagon, and roams through
all latitudes as easily as a Calmuc. At sea, or in the forest, or in
the snow, he sleeps as warm, dines with as good appetite, and
associates as happily, as beside his own chimneys. Or perhaps his
facility is deeper seated, in the increased range of his faculties of
observation, which yield him points of interest wherever fresh
objects meet his eyes. The pastoral nations were needy and hungry to
desperation; and this intellectual nomadism, in its excess, bankrupts
the mind, through the dissipation of power on a miscellany of
objects. The home-keeping wit, on the other hand, is that continence
or content which finds all the elements of life in its own soil; and
which has its own perils of monotony and deterioration, if not
stimulated by foreign infusions.

Every thing the individual sees without him corresponds to his
states of mind, and every thing is in turn intelligible to him, as
his onward thinking leads him into the truth to which that fact or
series belongs.

The primeval world, -- the Fore-World, as the Germans say, -- I
can dive to it in myself as well as grope for it with researching
fingers in catacombs, libraries, and the broken reliefs and torsos of
ruined villas.

What is the foundation of that interest all men feel in Greek
history, letters, art, and poetry, in all its periods, from the
Heroic or Homeric age down to the domestic life of the Athenians and
Spartans, four or five centuries later? What but this, that every
man passes personally through a Grecian period. The Grecian state is
the era of the bodily nature, the perfection of the senses, -- of the
spiritual nature unfolded in strict unity with the body. In it
existed those human forms which supplied the sculptor with his models
of Hercules, Ph;oebus, and Jove; not like the forms abounding in the
streets of modern cities, wherein the face is a confused blur of
features, but composed of incorrupt, sharply defined, and symmetrical
features, whose eye-sockets are so formed that it would be impossible
for such eyes to squint, and take furtive glances on this side and on
that, but they must turn the whole head. The manners of that period
are plain and fierce. The reverence exhibited is for personal
qualities, courage, address, self-command, justice, strength,
swiftness, a loud voice, a broad chest. Luxury and elegance are not
known. A sparse population and want make every man his own valet,
cook, butcher, and soldier, and the habit of supplying his own needs
educates the body to wonderful performances. Such are the Agamemnon
and Diomed of Homer, and not far different is the picture Xenophon
gives of himself and his compatriots in the Retreat of the Ten
Thousand. "After the army had crossed the river Teleboas in Armenia,
there fell much snow, and the troops lay miserably on the ground
covered with it. But Xenophon arose naked, and, taking an axe, began
to split wood; whereupon others rose and did the like." Throughout
his army exists a boundless liberty of speech. They quarrel for
plunder, they wrangle with the generals on each new order, and
Xenophon is as sharp-tongued as any, and sharper-tongued than most,
and so gives as good as he gets. Who does not see that this is a
gang of great boys, with such a code of honor and such lax discipline
as great boys have?

The costly charm of the ancient tragedy, and indeed of all the
old literature, is, that the persons speak simply, -- speak as
persons who have great good sense without knowing it, before yet the
reflective habit has become the predominant habit of the mind. Our
admiration of the antique is not admiration of the old, but of the
natural. The Greeks are not reflective, but perfect in their senses
and in their health, with the finest physical organization in the
world. Adults acted with the simplicity and grace of children. They
made vases, tragedies, and statues, such as healthy senses
should,---- that is, in good taste. Such things have continued to be
made in all ages, and are now, wherever a healthy physique exists;
but, as a class, from their superior organization, they have
surpassed all. They combine the energy of manhood with the engaging
unconsciousness of childhood. The attraction of these manners is
that they belong to man, and are known to every man in virtue of his
being once a child; besides that there are always individuals who
retain these characteristics. A person of childlike genius and
inborn energy is still a Greek, and revives our love of the Muse of
Hellas. I admire the love of nature in the Philoctetes. In reading
those fine apostrophes to sleep, to the stars, rocks, mountains, and
waves, I feel time passing away as an ebbing sea. I feel the
eternity of man, the identity of his thought. The Greek had, it
seems, the same fellow-beings as I. The sun and moon, water and
fire, met his heart precisely as they meet mine. Then the vaunted
distinction between Greek and English, between Classic and Romantic
schools, seems superficial and pedantic. When a thought of Plato
becomes a thought to me, -- when a truth that fired the soul of
Pindar fires mine, time is no more. When I feel that we two meet in
a perception, that our two souls are tinged with the same hue, and
do, as it were, run into one, why should I measure degrees of
latitude, why should I count Egyptian years?

The student interprets the age of chivalry by his own age of
chivalry, and the days of maritime adventure and circumnavigation by
quite parallel miniature experiences of his own. To the sacred
history of the world, he has the same key. When the voice of a
prophet out of the deeps of antiquity merely echoes to him a
sentiment of his infancy, a prayer of his youth, he then pierces to
the truth through all the confusion of tradition and the caricature
of institutions.

Rare, extravagant spirits come by us at intervals, who disclose
to us new facts in nature. I see that men of God have, from time to
time, walked among men and made their commission felt in the heart
and soul of the commonest hearer. Hence, evidently, the tripod, the
priest, the priestess inspired by the divine afflatus.

Jesus astonishes and overpowers sensual people. They cannot
unite him to history, or reconcile him with themselves. As they come
to revere their intuitions and aspire to live holily, their own piety
explains every fact, every word.

How easily these old worships of Moses, of Zoroaster, of Menu,
of Socrates, domesticate themselves in the mind. I cannot find any
antiquity in them. They are mine as much as theirs.

I have seen the first monks and anchorets without crossing seas
or centuries. More than once some individual has appeared to me with
such negligence of labor and such commanding contemplation, a haughty
beneficiary, begging in the name of God, as made good to the
nineteenth century Simeon the Stylite, the Thebais, and the first

The priestcraft of the East and West, of the Magian, Brahmin,
Druid, and Inca, is expounded in the individual's private life. The
cramping influence of a hard formalist on a young child in repressing
his spirits and courage, paralyzing the understanding, and that
without producing indignation, but only fear and obedience, and even
much sympathy with the tyranny, -- is a familiar fact explained to
the child when he becomes a man, only by seeing that the oppressor of
his youth is himself a child tyrannized over by those names and words
and forms, of whose influence he was merely the organ to the youth.
The fact teaches him how Belus was worshipped, and how the Pyramids
were built, better than the discovery by Champollion of the names of
all the workmen and the cost of every tile. He finds Assyria and the
Mounds of Cholula at his door, and himself has laid the courses.

Again, in that protest which each considerate person makes
against the superstition of his times, he repeats step for step the
part of old reformers, and in the search after truth finds like them
new perils to virtue. He learns again what moral vigor is needed to
supply the girdle of a superstition. A great licentiousness treads
on the heels of a reformation. How many times in the history of the
world has the Luther of the day had to lament the decay of piety in
his own household! "Doctor," said his wife to Martin Luther, one
day, "how is it that, whilst subject to papacy, we prayed so often
and with such fervor, whilst now we pray with the utmost coldness and
very seldom?"

The advancing man discovers how deep a property he has in
literature, -- in all fable as well as in all history. He finds that
the poet was no odd fellow who described strange and impossible
situations, but that universal man wrote by his pen a confession true
for one and true for all. His own secret biography he finds in lines
wonderfully intelligible to him, dotted down before he was born. One
after another he comes up in his private adventures with every fable
of Aesop, of Homer, of Hafiz, of Ariosto, of Chaucer, of Scott, and
verifies them with his own head and hands.

The beautiful fables of the Greeks, being proper creations of
the imagination and not of the fancy, are universal verities. What a
range of meanings and what perpetual pertinence has the story of
Prometheus! Beside its primary value as the first chapter of the
history of Europe, (the mythology thinly veiling authentic facts, the
invention of the mechanic arts, and the migration of colonies,) it
gives the history of religion with some closeness to the faith of
later ages. Prometheus is the Jesus of the old mythology. He is the
friend of man; stands between the unjust "justice" of the Eternal
Father and the race of mortals, and readily suffers all things on
their account. But where it departs from the Calvinistic
Christianity, and exhibits him as the defier of Jove, it represents a
state of mind which readily appears wherever the doctrine of Theism
is taught in a crude, objective form, and which seems the
self-defence of man against this untruth, namely, a discontent with
the believed fact that a God exists, and a feeling that the
obligation of reverence is onerous. It would steal, if it could, the
fire of the Creator, and live apart from him, and independent of him.
The Prometheus Vinctus is the romance of skepticism. Not less true
to all time are the details of that stately apologue. Apollo kept
the flocks of Admetus, said the poets. When the gods come among men,
they are not known. Jesus was not; Socrates and Shakspeare were not.
Antaeus was suffocated by the gripe of Hercules, but every time he
touched his mother earth, his strength was renewed. Man is the
broken giant, and, in all his weakness, both his body and his mind
are invigorated by habits of conversation with nature. The power of
music, the power of poetry to unfix, and, as it were, clap wings to
solid nature, interprets the riddle of Orpheus. The philosophical
perception of identity through endless mutations of form makes him
know the Proteus. What else am I who laughed or wept yesterday, who
slept last night like a corpse, and this morning stood and ran? And
what see I on any side but the transmigrations of Proteus? I can
symbolize my thought by using the name of any creature, of any fact,
because every creature is man agent or patient. Tantalus is but a
name for you and me. Tantalus means the impossibility of drinking
the waters of thought which are always gleaming and waving within
sight of the soul. The transmigration of souls is no fable. I would
it were; but men and women are only half human. Every animal of the
barn-yard, the field, and the forest, of the earth and of the waters
that are under the earth, has contrived to get a footing and to leave
the print of its features and form in some one or other of these
upright, heaven-facing speakers. Ah! brother, stop the ebb of thy
soul, -- ebbing downward into the forms into whose habits thou hast
now for many years slid. As near and proper to us is also that old
fable of the Sphinx, who was said to sit in the road-side and put
riddles to every passenger. If the man could not answer, she
swallowed him alive. If he could solve the riddle, the Sphinx was
slain. What is our life but an endless flight of winged facts or
events! In splendid variety these changes come, all putting
questions to the human spirit. Those men who cannot answer by a
superior wisdom these facts or questions of time, serve them. Facts
encumber them, tyrannize over them, and make the men of routine the
men of _sense_, in whom a literal obedience to facts has extinguished
every spark of that light by which man is truly man. But if the man
is true to his better instincts or sentiments, and refuses the
dominion of facts, as one that comes of a higher race, remains fast
by the soul and sees the principle, then the facts fall aptly and
supple into their places; they know their master, and the meanest of
them glorifies him.

See in Goethe's Helena the same desire that every word should
be a thing. These figures, he would say, these Chirons, Griffins,
Phorkyas, Helen, and Leda, are somewhat, and do exert a specific
influence on the mind. So far then are they eternal entities, as
real to-day as in the first Olympiad. Much revolving them, he writes
out freely his humor, and gives them body tohis own imagination. And
although that poem be as vague and fantastic as a dream, yet is it
much more attractive than the more regular dramatic pieces of the
same author, for the reason that it operates a wonderful relief to
the mind from the routine of customary images, -- awakens the
reader's invention and fancy by the wild freedom of the design, and
by the unceasing succession of brisk shocks of surprise.

The universal nature, too strong for the petty nature of the
bard, sits on his neck and writes through his hand; so that when he
seems to vent a mere caprice and wild romance, the issue is an exact
allegory. Hence Plato said that "poets utter great and wise things
which they do not themselves understand." All the fictions of the
Middle Age explain themselves as a masked or frolic expression of
that which in grave earnest the mind of that period toiled to
achieve. Magic, and all that is ascribed to it, is a deep
presentiment of the powers of science. The shoes of swiftness, the
sword of sharpness, the power of subduing the elements, of using the
secret virtues of minerals, of understanding the voices of birds, are
the obscure efforts of the mind in a right direction. The
preternatural prowess of the hero, the gift of perpetual youth, and
the like, 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 bloom
on the head of her who is faithful, and fade on the brow of the
inconstant. In the story of the Boy and the Mantle, even a mature
reader may be surprised with a glow of virtuous pleasure at the
triumph of the gentle Genelas; and, indeed, all the postulates of
elfin annals, -- that the fairies do not like to be named; that their
gifts are capricious and not to be trusted; that who seeks a treasure
must not speak; and the like, -- I find true in Concord, however they
might be in Cornwall or Bretagne.

Is it otherwise in the newest romance? I read the Bride of
Lammermoor. Sir William Ashton is a mask for a vulgar temptation,
Ravenswood Castle a fine name for proud poverty, and the foreign
mission of state only a Bunyan disguise for honest industry. We may
all shoot a wild bull that would toss the good and beautiful, by
fighting down the unjust and sensual. Lucy Ashton is another name
for fidelity, which is always beautiful and always liable to calamity
in this world.

But along with the civil and metaphysical history of man,
another history goes daily forward, -- that of the external world, --
in which he is not less strictly implicated. He is the compend of
time; he is also the correlative of nature. His power consists in
the multitude of his affinities, in the fact that his life is
intertwined with the whole chain of organic and inorganic being. In
old Rome the public roads beginning at the Forum proceeded north,
south, east, west, to the centre of every province of the empire,
making each market-town of Persia, Spain, and Britain pervious to the
soldiers of the capital: so out of the human heart go, as it were,
highways to the heart of every object in nature, to reduce it under
the dominion of man. A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of
roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world. His faculties refer
to natures out of him, and predict the world he is to inhabit, as the
fins of the fish foreshow that water exists, or the wings of an eagle
in the egg presuppose air. He cannot live without a world. Put
Napoleon in an island prison, let his faculties find no men to act
on, no Alps to climb, no stake to play for, and he would beat the air
and appear stupid. Transport him to large countries, dense
population, complex interests, and antagonist power, and you shall
see that the man Napoleon, bounded, that is, by such a profile and
outline, is not the virtual Napoleon. This is but Talbot's shadow;

"His substance is not here:
For what you see is but the smallest part
And least proportion of humanity;
But were the whole frame here,
It is of such a spacious, lofty pitch,
Your roof were not sufficient to contain it."
_Henry VI._

Columbus needs a planet to shape his course upon. Newton and
Laplace need myriads of ages and thick-strewn celestial areas. One
may say a gravitating solar system is already prophesied in the
nature of Newton's mind. Not less does the brain of Davy or of
Gay-Lussac, from childhood exploring the affinities and repulsions of
particles, anticipate the laws of organization. Does not the eye of
the human embryo predict the light? the ear of Handel predict the
witchcraft of harmonic sound? Do not the constructive fingers of
Watt, Fulton, Whittemore, Arkwright, predict the fusible, hard, and
temperable texture of metals, the properties of stone, water, and
wood? Do not the lovely attributes of the maiden child predict the
refinements and decorations of civil society? Here also we are
reminded of the action of man on man. A mind might ponder its
thought for ages, and not gain so much self-knowledge as the passion
of love shall teach it in a day. Who knows himself before he has
been thrilled with indignation at an outrage, or has heard an
eloquent tongue, or has shared the throb of thousands in a national
exultation or alarm? No man can antedate his experience, or guess
what faculty or feeling a new object shall unlock, any more than he
can draw to-day the face of a person whom he shall see to-morrow for
the first time.

I will not now go behind the general statement to explore the
reason of this correspondency. Let it suffice that in the light of
these two facts, namely, that the mind is One, and that nature is its
correlative, history is to be read and written.

Thus in all ways does the soul concentrate and reproduce its
treasures for each pupil. He, too, shall pass through the whole
cycle of experience. He shall collect into a focus the rays of
nature. History no longer shall be a dull book. It shall walk
incarnate in every just and wise man. You shall not tell me by
languages and titles a catalogue of the volumes you have read. You
shall make me feel what periods you have lived. A man shall be the
Temple of Fame. He shall walk, as the poets have described that
goddess, in a robe painted all over with wonderful events and
experiences; -- his own form and features by their exalted
intelligence shall be that variegated vest. I shall find in him the
Foreworld; in his childhood the Age of Gold; the Apples of Knowledge;
the Argonautic Expedition; the calling of Abraham; the building of
the Temple; the Advent of Christ; Dark Ages; the Revival of Letters;
the Reformation; the discovery of new lands; the opening of new
sciences, and new regions in man. He shall be the priest of Pan, and
bring with him into humble cottages the blessing of the morning stars
and all the recorded benefits of heaven and earth.

Is there somewhat overweening in this claim? Then I reject all
I have written, for what is the use of pretending to know what we
know not? But it is the fault of our rhetoric that we cannot
strongly state one fact without seeming to belie some other. I hold
our actual knowledge very cheap. Hear the rats in the wall, see the
lizard on the fence, the fungus under foot, the lichen on the log.
What do I know sympathetically, morally, of either of these worlds of
life? As old as the Caucasian man, -- perhaps older, -- these
creatures have kept their counsel beside him, and there is no record
of any word or sign that has passed from one to the other. What
connection do the books show between the fifty or sixty chemical
elements, and the historical eras? Nay, what does history yet record
of the metaphysical annals of man? What light does it shed on those
mysteries which we hide under the names Death and Immortality? Yet
every history should be written 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 neighbouring systems of being? Nay, what food or experience or
succour 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 in on us at unawares, but the path of science
and of letters is not the way into nature. The idiot, the Indian,
the child, and unschooled farmer's boy, stand nearer to the light by
which nature is to be read, than the dissector or the antiquary.


"Ne te quaesiveris extra."

"Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."
_Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's_
_Honest Man's Fortune_

Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.

ESSAY II _Self-Reliance_

I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter
which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an
admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The
sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may
contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true
for you in your private heart is true for all men, -- that is genius.
Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense;
for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,---- and our first
thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.
Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we
ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books
and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man
should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes
across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of
bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought,
because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own
rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated
majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us
than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with
good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is
on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly
good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and
we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the
conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he
must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though
the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can
come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground
which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new
in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor
does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one
character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none.
This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.
The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify
of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are
ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be
safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be
faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by
cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into
his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise,
shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver.
In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no
invention, no hope.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society
of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have
always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of
their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy
was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating
in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the
highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and
invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a
revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the
Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face
and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and
rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has
computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose, these have
not. Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and
when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms
to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or
five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed
youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and
charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put
by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth has no force,
because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room his
voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to
speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he will know how
to make us seniors very unnecessary.

The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would
disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is
the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what
the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out
from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and
sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as
good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers
himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an
independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court
you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his
consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he
is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of
hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is
no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality!
Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again
from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted
innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all
passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary,
would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow
faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere
is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.
Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the
better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the
liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is
conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities
and creators, but names and customs.

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

Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than
the rule. There is the man _and_ his virtues. Men do what is called
a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they
would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade.
Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in
the world, -- as invalids and the insane pay a high board. Their
virtues are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My
life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it
should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it
should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet,
and not to need diet and bleeding. I ask primary evidence that you
are a man, and refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. I
know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or forbear
those actions which are reckoned excellent. I cannot consent to pay
for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my
gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or
the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people
think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual
life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and
meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who
think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is
easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in
solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the
midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of

The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to
you is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs
the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church,
contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either
for the government or against it, spread your table like base
housekeepers, -- under all these screens I have difficulty to detect
the precise man you are. And, of course, so much force is withdrawn
from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do
your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider
what a blindman's-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your
sect, I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for his
text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his
church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new
and spontaneous word? Do I not know that, with all this ostentation
of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such
thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but
at one side, -- the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish
minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are
the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their eyes with
one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of
these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false
in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all
particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not
the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they
say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right.
Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the
party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and
figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression.
There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail
to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean "the foolish face
of praise," the forced smile which we put on in company where we do
not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest
us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low
usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with
the most disagreeable sensation.

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.
And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The
by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the
friend's parlour. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and
resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad
countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet
faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows
and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more
formidable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy
enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the
cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are
timid as being very vulnerable themselves. But when to their
feminine rage the indignation of the people is added, when the
ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force
that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs
the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle
of no concernment.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our
consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes
of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past
acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.

But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag
about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you
have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should
contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom
never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure
memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed
present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics you have
denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the
soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe
God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in
the hand of the harlot, and flee.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored
by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a
great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself
with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words,
and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though
it contradict every thing you said to-day. -- `Ah, so you shall be
sure to be misunderstood.' -- Is it so bad, then, to be
misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and
Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every
pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be

I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of
his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities
of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere.
Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. A character is like an
acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; -- read it forward, backward, or
across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing, contrite
wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest
thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it will
be found symmetrical, though I mean it not, and see it not. My book
should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects. The
swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he
carries in his bill into my web also. We pass for what we are.
Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate
their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that
virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so
they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the
actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These
varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height
of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best
ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a
sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average
tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain
your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act
singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now.
Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to
do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to
defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn
appearances, and you always may. The force of character is
cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into
this. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the
field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train
of great days and victories behind. They shed an united light on the
advancing actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels.
That is it which throws thunder into Chatham's voice, and dignity
into Washington's port, and America into Adams's eye. Honor is
venerable to us because it is no ephemeris. It is always ancient
virtue. We worship it to-day because it is not of to-day. We love
it and pay it homage, because it is not a trap for our love and
homage, but is self-dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old
immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person.

I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and
consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward.
Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the
Spartan fife. Let us never bow and apologize more. A great man is
coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him; I wish that
he should wish to please me. I will stand here for humanity, and
though I would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us affront
and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the
times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the
fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great
responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a
true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of
things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you, and all men,
and all events. Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of
somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds
you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man
must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent.
Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite
spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; -- and
posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man
Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is
born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he
is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is
the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the Hermit
Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of
Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called "the height of
Rome"; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography
of a few stout and earnest persons.

Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet.
Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a
charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists
for him. But the man in the street, finding no worth in himself
which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a
marble god, feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a
statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air, much like
a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, `Who are you, Sir?' Yet
they all are his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his
faculties that they will come out and take possession. The picture
waits for my verdict: it is not to command me, but I am to settle its
claims to praise. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up
dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke's house, washed and
dressed and laid in the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with
all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been
insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well
the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then
wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince.

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, our
imagination plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate,
are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small
house and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to
both; the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to
Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous;
did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends on your private
act to-day, as followed their public and renowned steps. When
private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be
transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.

The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so
magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal
symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful
loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king, the noble,
or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make
his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs, pay for benefits
not with money but with honor, and represent the law in his person,
was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their
consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every

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

The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure,
that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when
God speaketh he should communicate, not one thing, but all things;
should fill the world with his voice; should scatter forth light,
nature, time, souls, from the centre of the present thought; and new
date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple, and
receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, -- means, teachers,
texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into
the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it, --
one as much as another. All things are dissolved to their centre by
their cause, and, in the universal miracle, petty and particular
miracles disappear. If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of
God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old
mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him
not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and
completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has
cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The
centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the
soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye
makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is
night; and history is an impertinence and an injury, if it be any
thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares
not say `I think,' `I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is
ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses
under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones;
they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no
time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every
moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life
acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root
there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature,
in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not
live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or,
heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee
the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with
nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects
dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I
know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set
so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like
children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors,
and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they
chance to see, -- painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke;
afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who
uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let
the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when
occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy
for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak.
When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of
its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his
voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of
the corn.

And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains
unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off
remembering of the intuition. That thought, by what I can now
nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you
have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you
shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the
face of man; you shall not hear any name;---- the way, the thought,
the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude example
and experience. You take the way from man, not to man. All persons
that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are
alike beneath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour
of vision, there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor
properly joy. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and
eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right,
and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces
of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea, -- long intervals of
time, years, centuries, -- are of no account. This which I think and
feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances, as it
does underlie my present, and what is called life, and what is called

Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the
instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past
to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an
aim. This one fact the world hates, that the soul _becomes_; for
that for ever degrades the past, turns all riches to poverty, all
reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves
Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of
self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power
not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way
of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and
is. Who has more obedience than I masters me, though he should not
raise his finger. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of
spirits. We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We
do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of
men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must
overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who
are not.

This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as
on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE.
Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it
constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into
all lower forms. All things real are so by so much virtue as they
contain. Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, eloquence,
personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect as examples of
its presence and impure action. I see the same law working in nature
for conservation and growth. Power is in nature the essential
measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms
which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet,
its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the
strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are
demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying

Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home with
the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and
books and institutions, by a simple declaration of the divine fact.
Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here
within. Let our simplicity judge them, and our docility to our own
law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native

But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is
his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication
with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of
the urns of other men. We must go alone. I like the silent church
before the service begins, better than any preaching. How far off,
how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a
precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit. Why should we assume
the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they
sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men
have my blood, and I have all men's. Not for that will I adopt their
petulance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it. But
your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must
be elevation. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to
importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child,
sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door,
and say, -- `Come out unto us.' But keep thy state; come not into
their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a
weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act. "What
we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the

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

The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is
a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold
sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But
the law of consciousness abides. There are two confessionals, in one
or the other of which we must be shriven. You may fulfil your round
of duties by clearing yourself in the _direct_, or in the _reflex_
way. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father,
mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these
can upbraid you. But I may also neglect this reflex standard, and
absolve me to myself. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle.
It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties.
But if I can discharge its debts, it enables me to dispense with the
popular code. If any one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep
its commandment one day.

And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off
the common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for
a taskmaster. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight,
that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to himself,
that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to

If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by
distinction _society_, he will see the need of these ethics. The
sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we are become
timorous, desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of
fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields
no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall
renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are
insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of
all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and
night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our
occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but
society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the
rugged battle of fate, where strength is born.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose
all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is _ruined_. If
the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not
installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or
suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself
that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest
of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn
tries all the professions, who _teams it_, _farms it_, _peddles_,
keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a
township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat,
falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks
abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not `studying a
profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already.
He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the
resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can
and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new
powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed
healing to the nations, that he should be ashamed of our compassion,
and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the
books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no
more, but thank and revere him, -- and that teacher shall restore the
life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history.

It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a
revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their
religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of
living; their association; in their property; in their speculative

1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which they
call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly. Prayer looks
abroad and asks for some foreign addition to come through some
foreign virtue, and loses itself in endless mazes of natural and
supernatural, and mediatorial and miraculous. Prayer that craves a
particular commodity, -- any thing less than all good, -- is vicious.
Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest
point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul.
It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a
means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes
dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the
man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in
all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed
it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are
true prayers heard throughout nature, though for cheap ends.
Caratach, in Fletcher's Bonduca, when admonished to inquire the mind
of the god Audate, replies, --

"His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours;
Our valors are our best gods."

Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is
the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret
calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your
own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired. Our sympathy
is just as base. We come to them who weep foolishly, and sit down
and cry for company, instead of imparting to them truth and health in
rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication with
their own reason. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands.
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him
all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown,
all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces
him, because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically
caress and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned our
disapprobation. The gods love him because men hated him. "To the
persevering mortal," said Zoroaster, "the blessed Immortals are

As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds
a disease of the intellect. They say with those foolish Israelites,
`Let not God speak to us, lest we die. Speak thou, speak any man
with us, and we will obey.' Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God
in my brother, because he has shut his own temple doors, and recites
fables merely of his brother's, or his brother's brother's God.
Every new mind is a new classification. If it prove a mind of
uncommon activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier, a Hutton, a
Bentham, a Fourier, it imposes its classification on other men, and
lo! a new system. In proportion to the depth of the thought, and so
to the number of the objects it touches and brings within reach of
the pupil, is his complacency. But chiefly is this apparent in
creeds and churches, which are also classifications of some powerful
mind acting on the elemental thought of duty, and man's relation to
the Highest. Such is Calvinism, Quakerism, Swedenborgism. The pupil
takes the same delight in subordinating every thing to the new
terminology, as a girl who has just learned botany in seeing a new
earth and new seasons thereby. It will happen for a time, that the
pupil will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his
master's mind. But in all unbalanced minds, the classification is
idolized, passes for the end, and not for a speedily exhaustible
means, so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the
remote horizon with the walls of the universe; the luminaries of
heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master built. They cannot
imagine how you aliens have any right to see, -- how you can see; `It
must be somehow that you stole the light from us.' They do not yet
perceive, that light, unsystematic, indomitable, will break into any
cabin, even into theirs. Let them chirp awhile and call it their
own. If they are honest and do well, presently their neat new
pinfold will be too strait and low, will crack, will lean, will rot
and vanish, and the immortal light, all young and joyful,
million-orbed, million-colored, will beam over the universe as on the
first morning.

2. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of
Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its
fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England,
Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast
where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel
that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays
at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call
him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and
shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he
goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men
like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the
globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that
the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of
finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused,
or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from
himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in
Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they.
He carries ruins to ruins.

Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover
to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at
Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack
my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up
in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self,
unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and
the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions,
but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.

3. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper
unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. The intellect
is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our
minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate;
and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are
built with foreign taste; our shelves are garnished with foreign
ornaments; our opinions, our tastes, our faculties, lean, and follow
the Past and the Distant. The soul created the arts wherever they
have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his
model. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be
done and the conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the
Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought,
and quaint expression are as near to us as to any, and if the
American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be
done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the
day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government,
he will create a house in which all these will find themselves
fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also.

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can
present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's
cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an
extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none
but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can,
till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could
have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have
instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great
man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he
could not borrow. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of
Shakspeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too
much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance
brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel
of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from
all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with
thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear
what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same
pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one
nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy
heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.

4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does
our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement
of society, and no man improves.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it
gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous,
it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific;
but this change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given,
something is taken. Society acquires new arts, and loses old
instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing,
thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of exchange in
his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a
spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under!
But compare the health of the two men, and you shall see that the
white man has lost his aboriginal strength. If the traveller tell us
truly, strike the savage with a broad axe, and in a day or two the
flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch,
and the same blow shall send the white to his grave.

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of
his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of
muscle. He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to
tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and
so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the
street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not
observe; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright
calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His note-books
impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the
insurance-office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a
question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not
lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in
establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every Stoic
was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?

There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the
standard of height or bulk. No greater men are now than ever were.
A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the
first and of the last ages; nor can all the science, art, religion,
and philosophy of the nineteenth century avail to educate greater men
than Plutarch's heroes, three or four and twenty centuries ago. Not
in time is the race progressive. Phocion, Socrates, Anaxagoras,
Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who is really
of their class will not be called by their name, but will be his own
man, and, in his turn, the founder of a sect. The arts and
inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate
men. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good.
Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats, as to
astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resources
of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more
splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. Columbus
found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the
periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were
introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The
great genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements
of the art of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon
conquered Europe by the bivouac, which consisted of falling back on
naked valor, and disencumbering it of all aids. The Emperor held it
impossible to make a perfect army, says Las Casas, "without
abolishing our arms, magazines, commissaries, and carriages, until,
in imitation of the Roman custom, the soldier should receive his
supply of corn, grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread

Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of
which it is composed does not. The same particle does not rise from
the valley to the ridge. Its unity is only phenomenal. The persons
who make up a nation to-day, next year die, and their experience with

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

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her,
and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as
unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the
chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast
chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from
her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of
your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other
favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are
preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace
but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of


The wings of Time are black and white,
Pied with morning and with night.
Mountain tall and ocean deep
Trembling balance duly keep.
In changing moon, in tidal wave,
Glows the feud of Want and Have.
Gauge of more and less through space
Electric star and pencil plays.
The lonely Earth amid the balls
That hurry through the eternal halls,
A makeweight flying to the void,
Supplemental asteroid,
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.
Fear not, then, thou child infirm,
There's no god dare wrong a worm.
Laurel crowns cleave to deserts,
And power to him who power exerts;
Hast not thy share? On winged feet,
Lo! it rushes thee to meet;
And all that Nature made thy own,
Floating in air or pent in stone,
Will rive the hills and swim the sea,
And, like thy shadow, follow thee.

ESSAY III _Compensation_

Ever since I was a boy, I have wished to write a discourse on
Compensation: for it seemed to me when very young, that on this
subject life was ahead of theology, and the people knew more than the
preachers taught. The documents, too, from which the doctrine is to
be drawn, charmed my fancy by their endless variety, and lay always
before me, even in sleep; for they are the tools in our hands, the
bread in our basket, the transactions of the street, the farm, and
the dwelling-house, greetings, relations, debts and credits, the
influence of character, the nature and endowment of all men. It
seemed to me, also, that in it might be shown men a ray of divinity,
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, conversing 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 is
sometimes revealed to us, it would be a star in many dark hours and
crooked passages in our journey that would not suffer us to lose our

I was lately confirmed in these desires by hearing a sermon at
church. The preacher, a man esteemed for his orthodoxy, unfolded in
the ordinary manner the doctrine of the Last Judgment. He assumed,
that judgment is not executed in this world; that the wicked are
successful; that the good are miserable; and then urged from reason
and from Scripture a compensation to be made to both parties in the
next life. No offence appeared to be taken by the congregation at
this doctrine. As far as I could observe, when the meeting broke up,
they separated without remark on the sermon.

Yet what was the import of this teaching? What did the
preacher mean by saying that the good are miserable in the present
life? Was it that houses and lands, offices, wine, horses, dress,
luxury, are had by unprincipled men, whilst the saints are poor and
despised; and that a compensation is to be made to these last
hereafter, by giving them the like gratifications another day, --
bank-stock and doubloons, venison and champagne? This must be the
compensation intended; for what else? Is it that they are to have
leave to pray and praise? to love and serve men? Why, that they can
do now. The legitimate inference the disciple would draw was, -- `We
are to have _such_ a good time as the sinners have now'; -- or, to
push it to its extreme import, -- `You sin now; we shall sin by and
by; we would sin now, if we could; not being successful, we expect
our revenge to-morrow.'

The fallacy lay in the immense concession, that the bad are
successful; that justice is not done now. The blindness of the
preacher consisted in deferring to the base estimate of the market of
what constitutes a manly success, instead of confronting and
convicting the world from the truth; announcing the presence of the
soul; the omnipotence of the will: and so establishing the standard
of good and ill, of success and falsehood.

I find a similar base tone in the popular religious works of
the day, and the same doctrines assumed by the literary men when
occasionally they treat the related topics. I think that our popular
theology has gained in decorum, and not in principle, over the
superstitions it has displaced. But men are better than this
theology. Their daily life gives it the lie. Every ingenuous and
aspiring soul leaves the doctrine behind him in his own experience;
and all men feel sometimes the falsehood which they cannot
demonstrate. For men are wiser than they know. That which they hear
in schools and pulpits without after-thought, if said in
conversation, would probably be questioned in silence. If a man
dogmatize in a mixed company on Providence and the divine laws, he is
answered by a silence which conveys well enough to an observer the
dissatisfaction of the hearer, but his incapacity to make his own

I shall attempt in this and the following chapter to record
some facts that indicate the path of the law of Compensation; happy
beyond my expectation, if I shall truly draw the smallest arc of this

POLARITY, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of
nature; in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow
of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of
plants and animals; in the equation of quantity and quality in the
fluids of the animal body; in the systole and diastole of the heart;
in the undulations of fluids, and of sound; in the centrifugal and
centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical
affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of a needle; the opposite
magnetism takes place at the other end. If the south attracts, the
north repels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable
dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests
another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; odd,
even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest;
yea, nay.

Whilst the world is thus dual, so is every one of its parts.
The entire system of things gets represented in every particle.
There is somewhat that resembles the ebb and flow of the sea, day and
night, man and woman, in a single needle of the pine, in a kernel of
corn, in each individual of every animal tribe. The reaction, so
grand in the elements, is repeated within these small boundaries.
For example, in the animal kingdom the physiologist has observed that
no creatures are favorites, but a certain compensation balances every
gift and every defect. A surplusage given to one part is paid out of
a reduction from another part of the same creature. If the head and
neck are enlarged, the trunk and extremities are cut short.

The theory of the mechanic forces is another example. What we
gain in power is lost in time; and the converse. The periodic or
compensating errors of the planets is another instance. The
influences of climate and soil in political history are another. The
cold climate invigorates. The barren soil does not breed fevers,
crocodiles, tigers, or scorpions.

The same dualism underlies the nature and condition of man.
Every excess causes a defect; every defect an excess. Every sweet
hath its sour; every evil its good. Every faculty which is a
receiver of pleasure has an equal penalty put on its abuse. It is to
answer for its moderation with its life. For every grain of wit
there is a grain of folly. For every thing you have missed, you have
gained something else; and for every thing you gain, you lose
something. If riches increase, they are increased that use them. If
the gatherer gathers too much, nature takes out of the man what she
puts into his chest; swells the estate, but kills the owner. Nature
hates monopolies and exceptions. The waves of the sea do not more
speedily seek a level from their loftiest tossing, than the varieties
of condition tend to equalize themselves. There is always some
levelling circumstance that puts down the overbearing, the strong,
the rich, the fortunate, substantially on the same ground with all
others. Is a man too strong and fierce for society, and by temper
and position a bad citizen, -- a morose ruffian, with a dash of the
pirate in him;---- nature sends him a troop of pretty sons and
daughters, who are getting along in the dame's classes at the village
school, and love and fear for them smooths his grim scowl to
courtesy. Thus she contrives to intenerate the granite and felspar,
takes the boar out and puts the lamb in, and keeps her balance true.

The farmer imagines power and place are fine things. But the
President has paid dear for his White House. It has commonly cost
him all his peace, and the best of his manly attributes. To preserve
for a short time so conspicuous an appearance before the world, he is
content to eat dust before the real masters who stand erect behind
the throne. Or, do men desire the more substantial and permanent
grandeur of genius? Neither has this an immunity. He who by force
of will or of thought is great, and overlooks thousands, has the
charges of that eminence. With every influx of light comes new
danger. Has he light? he must bear witness to the light, and always
outrun that sympathy which gives him such keen satisfaction, by his
fidelity to new revelations of the incessant soul. He must hate
father and mother, wife and child. Has he all that the world loves
and admires and covets? -- he must cast behind him their admiration,
and afflict them by faithfulness to his truth, and become a byword
and a hissing.

This law writes the laws of cities and nations. It is in vain
to build or plot or combine against it. Things refuse to be
mismanaged long. _Res nolunt diu male administrari_. Though no
checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist, and will appear. If
the government is cruel, the governor's life is not safe. If you tax
too high, the revenue will yield nothing. If you make the criminal
code sanguinary, juries will not convict. If the law is too mild,
private vengeance comes in. If the government is a terrific
democracy, the pressure is resisted by an overcharge of energy in the
citizen, and life glows with a fiercer flame. The true life and
satisfactions of man seem to elude the utmost rigors or felicities of
condition, and to establish themselves with great indifferency under
all varieties of circumstances. Under all governments the influence
of character remains the same, -- in Turkey and in New England about
alike. Under the primeval despots of Egypt, history honestly
confesses that man must have been as free as culture could make him.

These appearances indicate the fact that the universe is
represented in every one of its particles. Every thing in nature
contains all the powers of nature. Every thing is made of one hidden
stuff; as the naturalist sees one type under every metamorphosis, and
regards a horse as a running man, a fish as a swimming man, a bird as
a flying man, a tree as a rooted man. Each new form repeats not only
the main character of the type, but part for part all the details,
all the aims, furtherances, hindrances, energies, and whole system of
every other. Every occupation, trade, art, transaction, is a compend
of the world, and a correlative of every other. Each one is an
entire emblem of human life; of its good and ill, its trials, its
enemies, its course and its end. And each one must somehow
accommodate the whole man, and recite all his destiny.

The world globes itself in a drop of dew. The microscope
cannot find the animalcule which is less perfect for being little.
Eyes, ears, taste, smell, motion, resistance, appetite, and organs of
reproduction that take hold on eternity, -- all find room to consist
in the small creature. So do we put our life into every act. The
true doctrine of omnipresence is, that God reappears with all his
parts in every moss and cobweb. The value of the universe contrives
to throw itself into every point. If the good is there, so is the
evil; if the affinity, so the repulsion; if the force, so the

Thus is the universe alive. All things are moral. That soul,
which within us is a sentiment, outside of us is a law. We feel its
inspiration; out there in history we can see its fatal strength. "It
is in the world, and the world was made by it." Justice is not
postponed. A perfect equity adjusts its balance in all parts of
life. {Oi chusoi Dios aei enpiptousi}, -- The dice of God are always
loaded. The world looks like a multiplication-table, or a
mathematical equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself.
Take what figure you will, its exact value, nor more nor less, still
returns to you. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every
virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty.
What we call retribution is the universal necessity by which the
whole appears wherever a part appears. If you see smoke, there must
be fire. If you see a hand or a limb, you know that the trunk to
which it belongs is there behind.

Every act rewards itself, or, in other words, integrates
itself, in a twofold manner; first, in the thing, or in real nature;
and secondly, in the circumstance, or in apparent nature. Men call
the circumstance the retribution. The causal retribution is in the
thing, and is seen by the soul. The retribution in the circumstance
is seen by the understanding; it is inseparable from the thing, but
is often spread over a long time, and so does not become distinct
until after many years. The specific stripes may follow late after
the offence, but they follow because they accompany it. Crime and
punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that
unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed
it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be
severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end
preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.

Whilst thus the world will be whole, and refuses to be
disparted, we seek to act partially, to sunder, to appropriate; for
example, -- to gratify the senses, we sever the pleasure of the
senses from the needs of the character. The ingenuity of man has
always been dedicated to the solution of one problem, -- how to
detach the sensual sweet, the sensual strong, the sensual bright,
&c., from the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair; that is,
again, to contrive to cut clean off this upper surface so thin as to
leave it bottomless; to get a _one end_, without an _other end_. The
soul says, Eat; the body would feast. The soul says, The man and
woman shall be one flesh and one soul; the body would join the flesh
only. The soul says, Have dominion over all things to the ends of
virtue; the body would have the power over things to its own ends.

The soul strives amain to live and work through all things. It
would be the only fact. All things shall be added unto it power,
pleasure, knowledge, beauty. The particular man aims to be somebody;
to set up for himself; to truck and higgle for a private good; and,
in particulars, to ride, that he may ride; to dress, that he may be
dressed; to eat, that he may eat; and to govern, that he may be seen.
Men seek to be great; they would have offices, wealth, power, and
fame. They think that to be great is to possess one side of nature,
-- the sweet, without the other side, -- the bitter.

This dividing and detaching is steadily counteracted. Up to
this day, it must be owned, no projector has had the smallest
success. The parted water reunites behind our hand. Pleasure is
taken out of pleasant things, profit out of profitable things, power
out of strong things, as soon as we seek to separate them from the
whole. We can no more halve things and get the sensual good, by
itself, than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or a
light without a shadow. "Drive out nature with a fork, she comes
running back."

Life invests itself with inevitable conditions, which the
unwise seek to dodge, which one and another brags that he does not
know; that they do not touch him; -- but the brag is on his lips, the
conditions are in his soul. If he escapes them in one part, they
attack him in another more vital part. If he has escaped them in
form, and in the appearance, it is because he has resisted his life,
and fled from himself, and the retribution is so much death. So
signal is the failure of all attempts to make this separation of the
good from the tax, that the experiment would not be tried, -- since
to try it is to be mad, -- but for the circumstance, that when the
disease began in the will, of rebellion and separation, the intellect
is at once infected, so that the man ceases to see God whole in each
object, but is able to see the sensual allurement of an object, and
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 he would have,
from that which he would not have. "How secret art thou who dwellest
in the highest heavens in silence, O thou only great God, sprinkling
with an unwearied Providence certain penal blindnesses upon such as
have unbridled desires!"

The human soul is true to these facts in the painting of fable,
of history, of law, of proverbs, of conversation. It finds a tongue
in literature unawares. Thus the Greeks called Jupiter, Supreme
Mind; but having traditionally ascribed to him many base actions,
they involuntarily made amends to reason, by tying up the hands of so
bad a god. He is made as helpless as a king of England. Prometheus
knows one secret which Jove must bargain for; Minerva, another. He
cannot get his own thunders; Minerva keeps the key of them.

"Of all the gods, I only know the keys
That ope the solid doors within whose vaults
His thunders sleep."

A plain confession of the in-working of the All, and of its
moral aim. The Indian mythology ends in the same ethics; and it
would seem impossible for any fable to be invented and get any
currency which was not moral. Aurora forgot to ask youth for her
lover, and though Tithonus is immortal, he is old. Achilles is not
quite invulnerable; the sacred waters did not wash the heel by which
Thetis held him. Siegfried, in the Nibelungen, is not quite
immortal, for a leaf fell on his back whilst he was bathing in the
dragon's blood, and that spot which it covered is mortal. And so it
must be. There is a crack in every thing God has made. It would
seem, there is always this vindictive circumstance stealing in at
unawares, even into the wild poesy in which the human fancy attempted
to make bold holiday, and to shake itself free of the old laws, --
this back-stroke, this kick of the gun, certifying that the law is
fatal; that in nature nothing can be given, all things are sold.

This is that ancient doctrine of Nemesis, who keeps watch in
the universe, and lets no offence go unchastised. The Furies, they
said, are attendants on justice, and if the sun in heaven should
transgress his path, they would punish him. The poets related that
stone walls, and iron swords, and leathern thongs had an occult
sympathy with the wrongs of their owners; that the belt which Ajax
gave Hector dragged the Trojan hero over the field at the wheels of
the car of Achilles, and the sword which Hector gave Ajax was that on
whose point Ajax fell. They recorded, that when the Thasians erected
a statue to Theagenes, a victor in the games, one of his rivals went
to it by night, and endeavoured to throw it down by repeated blows,
until at last he moved it from its pedestal, and was crushed to death
beneath its fall.

This voice of fable has in it somewhat divine. It came from
thought above the will of the writer. That is the best part of each
writer, which has nothing private in it; that which he does not know;
that which flowed out of his constitution, and not from his too
active invention; that which in the study of a single artist you
might not easily find, but in the study of many, you would abstract
as the spirit of them all. Phidias it is not, but the work of man in
that early Hellenic world, that I would know. The name and
circumstance of Phidias, however convenient for history, embarrass
when we come to the highest criticism. We are to see that which man
was tending to do in a given period, and was hindered, or, if you
will, modified in doing, by the interfering volitions of Phidias, of
Dante, of Shakspeare, the organ whereby man at the moment wrought.

Still more striking is the expression of this fact in the
proverbs of all nations, which are always the literature of reason,
or the statements of an absolute truth, without qualification.
Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of
the intuitions. That which the droning world, chained to
appearances, will not allow the realist to say in his own words, it
will suffer him to say in proverbs without contradiction. And this
law of laws which the pulpit, the senate, and the college deny, is
hourly preached in all markets and workshops by flights of proverbs,
whose teaching is as true and as omnipresent as that of birds and

All things are double, one against another. -- Tit for tat; an
eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; blood for blood; measure for
measure; love for love. -- Give and it shall be given you. -- He
that watereth shall be watered himself. -- What will you have? quoth
God; pay for it and take it. -- Nothing venture, nothing have. --
Thou shalt be paid exactly for what thou hast done, no more, no less.
-- Who doth not work shall not eat. -- Harm watch, harm catch. --
Curses always recoil on the head of him who imprecates them. -- If
you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens
itself around your own. -- Bad counsel confounds the adviser. --
The Devil is an ass.

It is thus written, because it is thus in life. Our action is
overmastered and characterized above our will by the law of nature.
We aim at a petty end quite aside from the public good, but our act
arranges itself by irresistible magnetism in a line with the poles of
the world.

A man cannot speak but he judges himself. With his will, or
against his will, he draws his portrait to the eye of his companions
by every word. Every opinion reacts on him who utters it. It is a
thread-ball thrown at a mark, but the other end remains in the
thrower's bag. Or, rather, it is a harpoon hurled at the whale,
unwinding, as it flies, a coil of cord in the boat, and if the
harpoon is not good, or not well thrown, it will go nigh to cut the
steersman in twain, or to sink the boat.

You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. "No man had ever
a point of pride that was not injurious to him," said Burke. The
exclusive in fashionable life does not see that he excludes himself
from enjoyment, in the attempt to appropriate it. The exclusionist
in religion does not see that he shuts the door of heaven on himself,
in striving to shut out others. Treat men as pawns and ninepins, and
you shall suffer as well as they. If you leave out their heart, you
shall lose your own. The senses would make things of all persons; of
women, of children, of the poor. The vulgar proverb, "I will get it
from his purse or get it from his skin," is sound philosophy.

All infractions of love and equity in our social relations are
speedily punished. They are punished by fear. Whilst I stand in
simple relations to my fellow-man, I have no displeasure in meeting
him. We meet as water meets water, or as two currents of air mix,
with perfect diffusion and interpenetration of nature. But as soon
as there is any departure from simplicity, and attempt at halfness,
or good for me that is not good for him, my neighbour feels the
wrong; he shrinks from me as far as I have shrunk from him; his eyes
no longer seek mine; there is war between us; there is hate in him
and fear in me.

All the old abuses in society, universal and particular, all
unjust accumulations of property and power, are avenged in the same
manner. Fear is an instructer of great sagacity, and the herald of
all revolutions. One thing he teaches, that there is rottenness
where he appears. He is a carrion crow, and though you see not well
what he hovers for, there is death somewhere. Our property is timid,
our laws are timid, our cultivated classes are timid. Fear for ages
has boded and mowed and gibbered over government and property. That
obscene bird is not there for nothing. He indicates great wrongs
which must be revised.

Of the like nature is that expectation of change which
instantly follows the suspension of our voluntary activity. The
terror of cloudless noon, the emerald of Polycrates, the awe of
prosperity, the instinct which leads every generous soul to impose on
itself tasks of a noble asceticism and vicarious virtue, are the
tremblings of the balance of justice through the heart and mind of

Experienced men of the world know very well that it is best to
pay scot and lot as they go along, and that a man often pays dear for
a small frugality. The borrower runs in his own debt. Has a man
gained any thing who has received a hundred favors and rendered none?
Has he gained by borrowing, through indolence or cunning, his
neighbour's wares, or horses, or money? There arises on the deed the
instant acknowledgment of benefit on the one part, and of debt on the
other; that is, of superiority and inferiority. The transaction
remains in the memory of himself and his neighbour; and every new
transaction alters, according to its nature, their relation to each
other. He may soon come to see that he had better have broken his
own bones than to have ridden in his neighbour's coach, and that "the
highest price he can pay for a thing is to ask for it."

A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of life, and
know that it is the part of prudence to face every claimant, and pay
every just demand on your time, your talents, or your heart. Always
pay; for, first or last, you must pay your entire debt. Persons and
events may stand for a time between you and justice, but it is only a
postponement. You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise,
you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more. Benefit
is the end of nature. But for every benefit which you receive, a tax
is levied. He is great who confers the most benefits. He is base --
and that is the one base thing in the universe -- to receive favors
and render none. In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to
those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we
receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent
for cent, to somebody. Beware of too much good staying in your hand.
It will fast corrupt and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some

Labor is watched over by the same pitiless laws. Cheapest, say
the prudent, is the dearest labor. What we buy in a broom, a mat, a
wagon, a knife, is some application of good sense to a common want.
It is best to pay in your land a skilful gardener, or to buy good
sense applied to gardening; in your sailor, good sense applied to
navigation; in the house, good sense applied to cooking, sewing,
serving; in your agent, good sense applied to accounts and affairs.
So do you multiply your presence, or spread yourself throughout your
estate. But because of the dual constitution of things, in labor as
in life there can be no cheating. The thief steals from himself.
The swindler swindles himself. For the real price of labor is
knowledge and virtue, whereof wealth and credit are signs. These
signs, like paper money, may be counterfeited or stolen, but that
which they represent, namely, knowledge and virtue, cannot be
counterfeited or stolen. These ends of labor cannot be answered but
by real exertions of the mind, and in obedience to pure motives. The
cheat, the defaulter, the gambler, cannot extort the knowledge of
material and moral nature which his honest care and pains yield to
the operative. The law of nature is, Do the thing, and you shall
have the power: but they who do not the thing have not the power.

Human labor, through all its forms, from the sharpening of a
stake to the construction of a city or an epic, is one immense
illustration of the perfect compensation of the universe. The
absolute balance of Give and Take, the doctrine that every thing has
its price, -- and if that price is not paid, not that thing but
something else is obtained, and that it is impossible to get any
thing without its price, -- is not less sublime in the columns of a
leger than in the budgets of states, in the laws of light and
darkness, in all the action and reaction of nature. I cannot doubt
that the high laws which each man sees implicated in those processes
with which he is conversant, the stern ethics which sparkle on his
chisel-edge, which are measured out by his plumb and foot-rule, which
stand as manifest in the footing of the shop-bill as in the history
of a state, -- do recommend to him his trade, and though seldom
named, exalt his business to his imagination.

The league between virtue and nature engages all things to
assume a hostile front to vice. The beautiful laws and substances of
the world persecute and whip the traitor. He finds that things are
arranged for truth and benefit, but there is no den in the wide world
to hide a rogue. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass.
Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground,
such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and
squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot
wipe out the foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to
leave no inlet or clew. Some damning circumstance always transpires.
The laws and substances of nature -- water, snow, wind, gravitation
-- become penalties to the thief.

On the other hand, the law holds with equal sureness for all
right action. Love, and you shall be loved. All love is
mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an algebraic
equation. The good man has absolute good, which like fire turns
every thing to its own nature, so that you cannot do him any harm;
but as the royal armies sent against Napoleon, when he approached,
cast down their colors and from enemies became friends, so disasters
of all kinds, as sickness, offence, poverty, prove benefactors: --

"Winds blow and waters roll
Strength to the brave, and power and deity,
Yet in themselves are nothing."

The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. As no man
had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man
had ever a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him. The
stag in the fable admired his horns and blamed his feet, but when the
hunter came, his feet saved him, and afterwards, caught in the
thicket, his horns destroyed him. Every man in his lifetime needs to
thank his faults. As no man thoroughly understands a truth until he
has contended against it, so no man has a thorough acquaintance with
the hindrances or talents of men, until he has suffered from the one,
and seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the same. Has
he a defect of temper that unfits him to live in society? Thereby he
is driven to entertain himself alone, and acquire habits of
self-help; and thus, like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with

Our strength grows out of our weakness. The indignation which
arms itself with secret forces does not awaken until we are pricked
and stung and sorely assailed. A great man is always willing to be
little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to
sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to
learn something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has
gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of
conceit; has got moderation and real skill. The wise man throws
himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than
it is theirs to find his weak point. The wound cicatrizes and falls
off from him like a dead skin, and when they would triumph, lo! he
has passed on invulnerable. Blame is safer than praise. I hate to
be defended in a newspaper. As long as all that is said is said
against me, I feel a certain assurance of success. But as soon as
honeyed words of praise are spoken for me, I feel as one that lies
unprotected before his enemies. In general, every evil to which we
do not succumb is a benefactor. As the Sandwich Islander believes
that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into
himself, so we gain the strength of the temptation we resist.

The same guards which protect us from disaster, defect, and
enmity, defend us, if we will, from selfishness and fraud. Bolts and
bars are not the best of our institutions, nor is shrewdness in trade
a mark of wisdom. Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish
superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a
man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and
not to be at the same time. There is a third silent party to all our
bargains. The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty
of the fulfilment of every contract, so that honest service cannot
come to loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more.
Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the
payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on
compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.

The history of persecution is a history of endeavours to cheat
nature, to make water run up hill, to twist a rope of sand. It makes
no difference whether the actors be many or one, a tyrant or a mob.
A mob is a society of bodies voluntarily bereaving themselves of
reason, and traversing its work. The mob is man voluntarily
descending to the nature of the beast. Its fit hour of activity is
night. Its actions are insane like its whole constitution. It
persecutes a principle; it would whip a right; it would tar and
feather justice, by inflicting fire and outrage upon the houses and
persons of those who have these. It resembles the prank of boys, who
run with fire-engines to put out the ruddy aurora streaming to the
stars. The inviolate spirit turns their spite against the
wrongdoers. The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every lash inflicted
is a tongue of fame; every prison, a more illustrious abode; every
burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or
expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.
Hours of sanity and consideration are always arriving to communities,
as to individuals, when the truth is seen, and the martyrs are

Thus do all things preach the indifferency of circumstances.
The man is all. Every thing has two sides, a good and an evil.
Every advantage has its tax. I learn to be content. But the
doctrine of compensation is not the doctrine of indifferency. The
thoughtless say, on hearing these representations, -- What boots it
to do well? there is one event to good and evil; if I gain any good,
I must pay for it; if I lose any good, I gain some other; all actions
are indifferent.

There is a deeper fact in the soul than compensation, to wit,
its own nature. The soul is not a compensation, but a life. The
soul _is_. Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters
ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real
Being. Essence, or God, is not a relation, or a part, but the whole.
Being is the vast affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and
swallowing up all relations, parts, and times within itself. Nature,
truth, virtue, are the influx from thence. Vice is the absence or
departure of the same. Nothing, Falsehood, may indeed stand as the
great Night or shade, on which, as a background, the living universe
paints itself forth; but no fact is begotten by it; it cannot work;
for it is not. It cannot work any good; it cannot work any harm. It
is harm inasmuch as it is worse not to be than to be.

We feel defrauded of the retribution due to evil acts, because
the criminal adheres to his vice and contumacy, and does not come to
a crisis or judgment anywhere in visible nature. There is no
stunning confutation of his nonsense before men and angels. Has he
therefore outwitted the law? Inasmuch as he carries the malignity
and the lie with him, he so far deceases from nature. In some manner
there will be a demonstration of the wrong to the understanding also;
but should we not see it, this deadly deduction makes square the
eternal account.

Neither can it be said, on the other hand, that the gain of
rectitude must be bought by any loss. There is no penalty to virtue;
no penalty to wisdom; they are proper additions of being. In a
virtuous action, I properly _am_; in a virtuous act, I add to the
world; I plant into deserts conquered from Chaos and Nothing, and see
the darkness receding on the limits of the horizon. There can be no
excess to love; none to knowledge; none to beauty, when these
attributes are considered in the purest sense. The soul refuses
limits, and always affirms an Optimism, never a Pessimism.

His life is a progress, and not a station. His instinct is
trust. Our instinct uses "more" and "less" in application to man, of
the _presence of the soul_, and not of its absence; the brave man is
greater than the coward; the true, the benevolent, the wise, is more
a man, and not less, than the fool and knave. There is no tax on the
good of virtue; for that is the incoming of God himself, or absolute
existence, without any comparative. Material good has its tax, and
if it came without desert or sweat, has no root in me, and the next
wind will blow it away. But all the good of nature is the soul's,
and may be had, if paid for in nature's lawful coin, that is, by
labor which the heart and the head allow. I no longer wish to meet a
good I do not earn, for example, to find a pot of buried gold,
knowing that it brings with it new burdens. I do not wish more
external goods, -- neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor
persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain. But there is no
tax on the knowledge that the compensation exists, and that it is not
desirable to dig up treasure. Herein I rejoice with a serene eternal
peace. I contract the boundaries of possible mischief. I learn the
wisdom of St. Bernard, -- "Nothing can work me damage except myself;
the harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never am a real
sufferer but by my own fault."

In the nature of the soul is the compensation for the
inequalities of condition. The radical tragedy of nature seems to be
the distinction of More and Less. How can Less not feel the pain;
how not feel indignation or malevolence towards More? Look at those
who have less faculty, and one feels sad, and knows not well what to
make of it. He almost shuns their eye; he fears they will upbraid
God. What should they do? It seems a great injustice. But see the
facts nearly, and these mountainous inequalities vanish. Love
reduces them, as the sun melts the iceberg in the sea. The heart and
soul of all men being one, this bitterness of _His_ and _Mine_
ceases. His is mine. I am my brother, and my brother is me. If I
feel overshadowed and outdone by great neighbours, I can yet love; I
can still receive; and he that loveth maketh his own the grandeur he
loves. Thereby I make the discovery that my brother is my guardian,
acting for me with the friendliest designs, and the estate I so
admired and envied is my own. It is the nature of the soul to
appropriate all things. Jesus and Shakspeare are fragments of the
soul, and by love I conquer and incorporate them in my own conscious
domain. His virtue, -- is not that mine? His wit, -- if it cannot
be made mine, it is not wit.

Such, also, is the natural history of calamity. The changes
which break up at short intervals the prosperity of men are
advertisements of a nature whose law is growth. Every soul is by
this intrinsic necessity quitting its whole system of things, its
friends, and home, and laws, and faith, as the shell-fish crawls out
of its beautiful but stony case, because it no longer admits of its
growth, and slowly forms a new house. In proportion to the vigor of
the individual, these revolutions are frequent, until in some happier
mind they are incessant, and all worldly relations hang very loosely
about him, becoming, as it were, a transparent fluid membrane through
which the living form is seen, and not, as in most men, an indurated
heterogeneous fabric of many dates, and of no settled character in
which the man is imprisoned. Then there can be enlargement, and the
man of to-day scarcely recognizes the man of yesterday. And such
should be the outward biography of man in time, a putting off of dead
circumstances day by day, as he renews his raiment day by day. But
to us, in our lapsed estate, resting, not advancing, resisting, not
cooperating with the divine expansion, this growth comes by shocks.

We cannot part with our friends. We cannot let our angels go.
We do not see that they only go out, that archangels may come in. We
are idolaters of the old. We do not believe in the riches of the
soul, in its proper eternity and omnipresence. We do not believe
there is any force in to-day to rival or recreate that beautiful
yesterday. We linger in the ruins of the old tent, where once we had
bread and shelter and organs, nor believe that the spirit can feed,
cover, and nerve us again. We cannot again find aught so dear, so
sweet, so graceful. But we sit and weep in vain. The voice of the
Almighty saith, `Up and onward for evermore!' We cannot stay amid the
ruins. Neither will we rely on the new; and so we walk ever with
reverted eyes, like those monsters who look backwards.

And yet the compensations of calamity are made apparent 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 but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide
or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life,
terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be
closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of
living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the
growth of character. It permits or constrains the formation of new
acquaintances, and the reception of new influences that prove of the
first importance to the next years; and the man or woman who would
have remained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for its roots and
too much sunshine for its head, by the falling of the walls and the
neglect of the gardener, is made the banian of the forest, yielding
shade and fruit to wide neighbourhoods of men.


The living Heaven thy prayers respect,
House at once and architect,
Quarrying man's rejected hours,
Builds therewith eternal towers;
Sole and self-commanded works,
Fears not undermining days,
Grows by decays,
And, by the famous might that lurks
In reaction and recoil,
Makes flame to freeze, and ice to boil;
Forging, through swart arms of Offence,
The silver seat of Innocence.

ESSAY IV _Spiritual Laws_

When the act of reflection takes place in the mind, when we
look at ourselves in the light of thought, we discover that our life
is embosomed in beauty. Behind us, as we go, all things assume
pleasing forms, as clouds do far off. Not only things familiar and
stale, but even the tragic and terrible, are comely, as they take
their place in the pictures of memory. The river-bank, the weed at
the water-side, the old house, the foolish person, -- however
neglected in the passing, -- have a grace in the past. Even the
corpse that has lain in the chambers has added a solemn ornament to
the house. 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 particular; 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
exaggeration in the most patient and sorely ridden hack that ever was
driven. For it is only the finite that has wrought and suffered; the
infinite lies stretched in smiling repose.

The intellectual life may be kept clean and healthful, if man
will live the life of nature, and not import into his mind
difficulties which are none of his. No man need be perplexed in his
speculations. Let him do and say what strictly belongs to him, and,
though very ignorant of books, his nature shall not yield him any
intellectual obstructions and doubts. Our young people are diseased
with the theological problems of original sin, origin of evil,
predestination, and the like. These never presented a practical
difficulty to any man, -- never darkened across any man's road, who
did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the soul's mumps,
and measles, and whooping-coughs, and those who have not caught them
cannot describe their health or prescribe the cure. A simple mind
will not know these enemies. It is quite another thing that he
should be able to give account of his faith, and expound to another
the theory of his self-union and freedom. This requires rare gifts.
Yet, without this self-knowledge, there may be a sylvan strength and
integrity in that which he is. "A few strong instincts and a few
plain rules" suffice us.

My will never gave the images in my mind the rank they now
take. The regular course of studies, the years of academical and
professional education, have not yielded me better facts than some
idle books under the bench at the Latin School. What we do not call
education is more precious than that which we call so. We form no
guess, at the time of receiving a thought, of its comparative value.
And education often wastes its effort in attempts to thwart and balk
this natural magnetism, which is sure to select what belongs to it.

In like manner, our moral nature is vitiated by any
interference of our will. People represent virtue as a struggle, and
take to themselves great airs upon their attainments, and the
question is everywhere vexed, when a noble nature is commended,
whether the man is not better who strives with temptation. But there
is no merit in the matter. Either God is there, or he is not there.
We love characters in proportion as they are impulsive and
spontaneous. The less a man thinks or knows about his virtues, the
better we like him. Timoleon's victories are the best victories;
which ran and flowed like Homer's verses, Plutarch said. When we see
a soul whose acts are all regal, graceful, and pleasant as roses, we
must thank God that such things can be and are, and not turn sourly
on the angel, and say, `Crump is a better man with his grunting
resistance to all his native devils.'

Not less conspicuous is the preponderance of nature over will
in all practical life. There is less intention in history than we
ascribe to it. We impute deep-laid, far-sighted plans to Caesar and
Napoleon; but the best of their power was in nature, not in them.
Men of an extraordinary success, in their honest moments, have always
sung, `Not unto us, not unto us.' According to the faith of their
times, they have built altars to Fortune, or to Destiny, or to St.
Julian. Their success lay in their parallelism to the course of
thought, which found in them an unobstructed channel; and the wonders
of which they were the visible conductors seemed to the eye their
deed. Did the wires generate the galvanism? It is even true that
there was less in them on which they could reflect, than in another;
as the virtue of a pipe is to be smooth and hollow. That which
externally seemed will and immovableness was willingness and
self-annihilation. Could Shakspeare give a theory of Shakspeare?
Could ever a man of prodigious mathematical genius convey to others
any insight into his methods? If he could communicate that secret,
it would instantly lose its exaggerated value, blending with the
daylight and the vital energy the power to stand and to go.

The lesson is forcibly taught by these observations, that our
life might be much easier and simpler than we make it; that the world
might be a happier place than it is; that there is no need of
struggles, convulsions, and despairs, of the wringing of the hands
and the gnashing of the teeth; that we miscreate our own evils. We
interfere with the optimism of nature; for, whenever we get this
vantage-ground of the past, or of a wiser mind in the present, we are
able to discern that we are begirt with laws which execute

The face of external nature teaches the same lesson. Nature
will not have us fret and fume. She does not like our benevolence or
our learning much better than she likes our frauds and wars. When we
come out of the caucus, or the bank, or the Abolition-convention, or
the Temperance-meeting, or the Transcendental club, into the fields
and woods, she says to us, `So hot? my little Sir.'

We are full of mechanical actions. We must needs intermeddle,
and have things in our own way, until the sacrifices and virtues of
society are odious. Love should make joy; but our benevolence is
unhappy. Our Sunday-schools, and churches, and pauper-societies are
yokes to the neck. We pain ourselves to please nobody. There are
natural ways of arriving at the same ends at which these aim, but do
not arrive. Why should all virtue work in one and the same way? Why
should all give dollars? It is very inconvenient to us country folk,
and we do not think any good will come of it. We have not dollars;
merchants have; let them give them. Farmers will give corn; poets
will sing; women will sew; laborers will lend a hand; the children
will bring flowers. And why drag this dead weight of a Sunday-school
over the whole Christendom? It is natural and beautiful that
childhood should inquire, and maturity should teach; but it is time
enough to answer questions when they are asked. Do not shut up the
young people against their will in a pew, and force the children to
ask them questions for an hour against their will.

If we look wider, things are all alike; laws, and letters, and
creeds, and modes of living, seem a travestie of truth. Our society
is encumbered by ponderous machinery, which resembles the endless
aqueducts which the Romans built over hill and dale, and which are
superseded by the discovery of the law that water rises to the level
of its source. It is a Chinese wall which any nimble Tartar can leap
over. It is a standing army, not so good as a peace. It is a
graduated, titled, richly appointed empire, quite superfluous when
town-meetings are found to answer just as well.

Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short
ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls. When the fruit is
despatched, the leaf falls. The circuit of the waters is mere
falling. The walking of man and all animals is a falling forward.
All our manual labor and works of strength, as prying, splitting,
digging, rowing, and so forth, are done by dint of continual falling,
and the globe, earth, moon, comet, sun, star, fall for ever and ever.

The simplicity of the universe is very different from the
simplicity of a machine. He who sees moral nature out and out, and
thoroughly knows how knowledge is acquired and character formed, is a
pedant. The simplicity of nature is not that which may easily be
read, but is inexhaustible. The last analysis can no wise be made.
We judge of a man's wisdom by his hope, knowing that the perception
of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth. The wild
fertility of nature is felt in comparing our rigid names and
reputations with our fluid consciousness. We pass in the world for
sects and schools, for erudition and piety, and we are all the time
jejune babes. One sees very well how Pyrrhonism grew up. Every man
sees that he is that middle point, whereof every thing may be
affirmed and denied with equal reason. He is old, he is young, he is
very wise, he is altogether ignorant. He hears and feels what you
say of the seraphim, and of the tin-pedler. There is no permanent
wise man, except in the figment of the Stoics. We side with the
hero, as we read or paint, against the coward and the robber; but we
have been ourselves that coward and robber, and shall be again, not
in the low circumstance, but in comparison with the grandeurs
possible to the soul.

A little consideration of what takes place around us every day
would show us, that a higher law than that of our will regulates
events; that our painful labors are unnecessary, and fruitless; that
only in our easy, simple, spontaneous action are we strong, and by
contenting ourselves with obedience we become divine. Belief and
love, -- a believing love will relieve us of a vast load of care. O
my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the centre of nature,
and over the will of every man, so that none of us can wrong the
universe. It has so infused its strong enchantment into nature, that
we prosper when we accept its advice, and when we struggle to wound
its creatures, our hands are glued to our sides, or they beat our own
breasts. The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need
only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening
we shall hear the right word. Why need you choose so painfully your
place, and occupation, and associates, and modes of action, and of
entertainment? Certainly there is a possible right for you that
precludes the need of balance and wilful election. For you there is
a reality, a fit place and congenial duties. Place yourself in the
middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it
floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a
perfect contentment. Then you put all gainsayers in the wrong. Then
you are the world, the measure of right, of truth, of beauty. If we
will not be mar-plots with our miserable interferences, the work, the
society, letters, arts, science, religion of men would go on far
better than now, and the heaven predicted from the beginning of the
world, and still predicted from the bottom of the heart, would
organize itself, as do now the rose, and the air, and the sun.

I say, _do not choose_; but that is a figure of speech by which
I would distinguish what is commonly called _choice_ among men, and
which is a partial act, the choice of the hands, of the eyes, of the
appetites, and not a whole act of the man. But that which I call
right or goodness is the choice of my constitution; and that which I
call heaven, and inwardly aspire after, is the state or circumstance
desirable to my constitution; and the action which I in all my years
tend to do, is the work for my faculties. We must hold a man
amenable to reason for the choice of his daily craft or profession.
It is not an excuse any longer for his deeds, that they are the
custom of his trade. What business has he with an evil trade? Has
he not a _calling_ in his character.

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There
is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties
silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship
in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on
that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over
a deepening channel into an infinite sea. This talent and this call
depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul
incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy
to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He
has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the
more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other.
His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of
the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has
this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any
other call. The pretence that he has another call, a summons by name
and personal election and outward "signs that mark him extraordinary,
and not in the roll of common men," is fanaticism, and betrays
obtuseness to perceive that there is one mind in all the individuals,
and no respect of persons therein.

By doing his work, he makes the need felt which he can supply,
and creates the taste by which he is enjoyed. By doing his own work,
he unfolds himself. It is the vice of our public speaking that it
has not abandonment. Somewhere, not only every orator but every man
should let out all the length of all the reins; should find or make a
frank and hearty expression of what force and meaning is in him. The
common experience is, that the man fits himself as well as he can to
the customary details of that work or trade he falls into, and tends
it as a dog turns a spit. Then is he a part of the machine he moves;
the man is lost. Until he can manage to communicate himself to
others in his full stature and proportion, he does not yet find his
vocation. He must find in that an outlet for his character, so that
he may justify his work to their eyes. If the labor is mean, let him
by his thinking and character make it liberal. Whatever he knows and
thinks, whatever in his apprehension is worth doing, that let him
communicate, or men will never know and honor him aright. Foolish,
whenever you take the meanness and formality of that thing you do,
instead of converting it into the obedient spiracle of your character
and aims.

We like only such actions as have already long had the praise
of men, and do not perceive that any thing man can do may be divinely
done. We think greatness entailed or organized in some places or
duties, in certain offices or occasions, and do not see that Paganini
can extract rapture from a catgut, and Eulenstein from a jews-harp,
and a nimble-fingered lad out of shreds of paper with his scissors,
and Landseer out of swine, and the hero out of the pitiful habitation
and company in which he was hidden. What we call obscure condition
or vulgar society is that condition and society whose poetry is not
yet written, but which you shall presently make as enviable and
renowned as any. In our estimates, let us take a lesson from kings.
The parts of hospitality, the connection of families, the
impressiveness of death, and a thousand other things, royalty makes
its own estimate of, and a royal mind will. To make habitually a new
estimate, -- that is elevation.

What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with hope or
fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no good as solid, but
that which is in his nature, and which must grow out of him as long
as he exists. The goods of fortune may come and go like summer
leaves; let him scatter them on every wind as the momentary signs of
his infinite productiveness.

He may have his own. A man's genius, the quality that
differences him from every other, the susceptibility to one class of
influences, the selection of what is fit for him, the rejection of
what is unfit, determines for him the character of the universe. A
man is a method, a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle,
gathering his like to him, wherever he goes. He takes only his own
out of the multiplicity that sweeps and circles round him. He is
like one of those booms which are set out from the shore on rivers to
catch drift-wood, or like the loadstone amongst splinters of steel.
Those facts, words, persons, which dwell in his memory without his
being able to say why, remain, because they have a relation to him
not less real for being as yet unapprehended. They are symbols of
value to him, as they can interpret parts of his consciousness which
he would vainly seek words for in the conventional images of books
and other minds. What attracts my attention shall have it, as I will
go to the man who knocks at my door, whilst a thousand persons, as
worthy, go by it, to whom I give no regard. It is enough that these
particulars speak to me. A few anecdotes, a few traits of character,
manners, face, a few incidents, have an emphasis in your memory out
of all proportion to their apparent significance, if you measure them
by the ordinary standards. They relate to your gift. Let them have
their weight, and do not reject them, and cast about for illustration
and facts more usual in literature. What your heart thinks great is
great. The soul's emphasis is always right.

Over all things that are agreeable to his nature and genius,
the man has the highest right. Everywhere he may take what belongs
to his spiritual estate, nor can he take any thing else, though all
doors were open, nor can all the force of men hinder him from taking
so much. It is vain to attempt to keep a secret from one who has a
right to know it. It will tell itself. That mood into which a
friend can bring us is his dominion over us. To the thoughts of that
state of mind he has a right. All the secrets of that state of mind
he can compel. This is a law which statesmen use in practice. All
the terrors of the French Republic, which held Austria in awe, were
unable to command her diplomacy. But Napoleon sent to Vienna M. de
Narbonne, one of the old noblesse, with the morals, manners, and name
of that interest, saying, that it was indispensable to send to the
old aristocracy of Europe men of the same connection, which, in fact,
constitutes a sort of free-masonry. M. de Narbonne, in less than a
fortnight, penetrated all the secrets of the imperial cabinet.

Nothing seems so easy as to speak and to be understood. Yet a
man may come to find _that_ the strongest of defences and of ties, --
that he has been understood; and he who has received an opinion may
come to find it the most inconvenient of bonds.

If a teacher have any opinion which he wishes to conceal, his
pupils will become as fully indoctrinated into that as into any which
he publishes. If you pour water into a vessel twisted into coils and
angles, it is vain to say, I will pour it only into this or that; --
it will find its level in all. Men feel and act the consequences of
your doctrine, without being able to show how they follow. Show us
an arc of the curve, and a good mathematician will find out the whole
figure. We are always reasoning from the seen to the unseen. Hence
the perfect intelligence that subsists between wise men of remote
ages. A man cannot bury his meanings so deep in his book, but time
and like-minded men will find them. Plato had a secret doctrine, had
he? What secret can he conceal from the eyes of Bacon? of Montaigne?
of Kant? Therefore, Aristotle said of his works, "They are published
and not published."

No man can learn what he has not preparation for learning,
however near to his eyes is the object. A chemist may tell his most
precious secrets to a carpenter, and he shall be never the wiser, --
the secrets he would not utter to a chemist for an estate. God
screens us evermore from premature ideas. Our eyes are holden that
we cannot see things that stare us in the face, until the hour
arrives when the mind is ripened; then we behold them, and the time
when we saw them not is like a dream.

Not in nature but in man is all the beauty and worth he sees.
The world is very empty, and is indebted to this gilding, exalting
soul for all its pride. "Earth fills her lap with splendors" _not
her own_. The vale of Tempe, Tivoli, and Rome are earth and water,
rocks and sky. There are as good earth and water in a thousand
places, yet how unaffecting!

People are not the better for the sun and moon, the horizon and
the trees; as it is not observed that the keepers of Roman galleries,
or the valets of painters, have any elevation of thought, or that
librarians are wiser men than others. There are graces in the
demeanour of a polished and noble person, which are lost upon the eye
of a churl. These are like the stars whose light has not yet reached

He may see what he maketh. Our dreams are the sequel of our
waking knowledge. The visions of the night bear some proportion to
the visions of the day. Hideous dreams are exaggerations of the sins
of the day. We see our evil affections embodied in bad
physiognomies. On the Alps, the traveller sometimes beholds his own
shadow magnified to a giant, so that every gesture of his hand is
terrific. "My children," said an old man to his boys scared by a
figure in the dark entry, "my children, you will never see any thing
worse than yourselves." As in dreams, so in the scarcely less fluid
events of the world, every man sees himself in colossal, without
knowing that it is himself. The good, compared to the evil which he
sees, is as his own good to his own evil. Every quality of his mind
is magnified in some one acquaintance, and every emotion of his heart
in some one. He is like a quincunx of trees, which counts five,
east, west, north, or south; or, an initial, medial, and terminal
acrostic. And why not? He cleaves to one person, and avoids
another, according to their likeness or unlikeness to himself, truly
seeking himself in his associates, and moreover in his trade, and
habits, and gestures, and meats, and drinks; and comes at last to be
faithfully represented by every view you take of his circumstances.

He may read what he writes. What can we see or acquire, but
what we are? You have observed a skilful man reading Virgil. Well,
that author is a thousand books to a thousand persons. Take the book
into your two hands, and read your eyes out; you will never find what
I find. If any ingenious reader would have a monopoly of the wisdom
or delight he gets, he is as secure now the book is Englished, as if
it were imprisoned in the Pelews' tongue. It is with a good book as
it is with good company. Introduce a base person among gentlemen; it
is all to no purpose; he is not their fellow. Every society protects
itself. The company is perfectly safe, and he is not one of them,
though his body is in the room.

What avails it to fight with the eternal laws of mind, which
adjust the relation of all persons to each other, by the mathematical
measure of their havings and beings? Gertrude is enamoured of Guy;
how high, how aristocratic, how Roman his mien and manners! to live
with him were life indeed, and no purchase is too great; and heaven
and earth are moved to that end. Well, Gertrude has Guy; but what
now avails how high, how aristocratic, how Roman his mien and
manners, if his heart and aims are in the senate, in the theatre, and
in the billiard-room, and she has no aims, no conversation, that can
enchant her graceful lord?

He shall have his own society. We can love nothing but nature.
The most wonderful talents, the most meritorious exertions, really
avail very little with us; but nearness or likeness of nature, -- how
beautiful is the ease of its victory! Persons approach us famous for
their beauty, for their accomplishments, worthy of all wonder for
their charms and gifts; they dedicate their whole skill to the hour
and the company, with very imperfect result. To be sure, it would be
ungrateful in us not to praise them loudly. Then, when all is done,
a person of related mind, a brother or sister by nature, comes to us
so softly and easily, so nearly and intimately, as if it were the
blood in our proper veins, that we feel as if some one was gone,
instead of another having come; we are utterly relieved and
refreshed; it is a sort of joyful solitude. We foolishly think in
our days of sin, that we must court friends by compliance to the
customs of society, to its dress, its breeding, and its estimates.
But only that soul can be my friend which I encounter on the line of
my own march, that soul to which I do not decline, and which does not
decline to me, but, native of the same celestial latitude, repeats in
its own all my experience. The scholar forgets himself, and apes the
customs and costumes of the man of the world, to deserve the smile of
beauty, and follows some giddy girl, not yet taught by religious
passion to know the noble woman with all that is serene, oracular,
and beautiful in her soul. Let him be great, and love shall follow
him. Nothing is more deeply punished than the neglect of the
affinities by which alone society should be formed, and the insane
levity of choosing associates by others' eyes.

He may set his own rate. It is a maxim worthy of all
acceptation, that a man may have that allowance he takes. Take the
place and attitude which belong to you, and all men acquiesce. The
world must be just. It leaves every man, with profound unconcern, to
set his own rate. Hero or driveller, it meddles not in the matter.
It will certainly accept your own measure of your doing and being,
whether you sneak about and deny your own name, or whether you see
your work produced to the concave sphere of the heavens, one with the
revolution of the stars.

The same reality pervades all teaching. The man may teach by
doing, and not otherwise. If he can communicate himself, he can
teach, but not by words. He teaches who gives, and he learns who
receives. There is no teaching until the pupil is brought into the
same state or principle in which you are; a transfusion takes place;
he is you, and you are he; then is a teaching; and by no unfriendly
chance or bad company can he ever quite lose the benefit. But your
propositions run out of one ear as they ran in at the other. We see
it advertised that Mr. Grand will deliver an oration on the Fourth of
July, and Mr. Hand before the Mechanics' Association, and we do not
go thither, because we know that these gentlemen will not communicate
their own character and experience to the company. If we had reason
to expect such a confidence, we should go through all inconvenience
and opposition. The sick would be carried in litters. But a public
oration is an escapade, a non-committal, an apology, a gag, and not a
communication, not a speech, not a man.

A like Nemesis presides over all intellectual works. We have
yet to learn, that the thing uttered in words is not therefore
affirmed. It must affirm itself, or no forms of logic or of oath can
give it evidence. The sentence must also contain its own apology for
being spoken.

The effect of any writing on the public mind is mathematically
measurable by its depth of thought. How much water does it draw? If
it awaken you to think, if it lift you from your feet with the great
voice of eloquence, then the effect is to be wide, slow, permanent,
over the minds of men; if the pages instruct you not, they will die
like flies in the hour. The way to speak and write what shall not go
out of fashion is, to speak and write sincerely. The argument which
has not power to reach my own practice, I may well doubt, will fail
to reach yours. But take Sidney's maxim: -- "Look in thy heart, and
write." He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public. That
statement only is fit to be made public, which you have come at in
attempting to satisfy your own curiosity. The writer who takes his
subject from his ear, and not from his heart, should know that he has
lost as much as he seems to have gained, and when the empty book has
gathered all its praise, and half the people say, `What poetry! what
genius!' it still needs fuel to make fire. That only profits which
is profitable. Life alone can impart life; and though we should
burst, we can only be valued as we make ourselves valuable. There is
no luck in literary reputation. They who make up the final verdict
upon every book are not the partial and noisy readers of the hour
when it appears; but a court as of angels, a public not to be bribed,
not to be entreated, and not to be overawed, decides upon every man's
title to fame. Only those books come down which deserve to last.
Gilt edges, vellum, and morocco, and presentation-copies to all the
libraries, will not preserve a book in circulation beyond its
intrinsic date. It must go with all Walpole's Noble and Royal
Authors to its fate. Blackmore, Kotzebue, or Pollok may endure for a
night, but Moses and Homer stand for ever. There are not in the
world at any one time more than a dozen persons who read and
understand Plato: -- never enough to pay for an edition of his works;
yet to every generation these come duly down, for the sake of those
few persons, as if God brought them in his hand. "No book," said
Bentley, "was ever written down by any but itself." The permanence of
all books is fixed by no effort friendly or hostile, but by their own
specific gravity, or the intrinsic importance of their contents to
the constant mind of man. "Do not trouble yourself too much about
the light on your statue," said Michel Angelo to the young sculptor;
"the light of the public square will test its value."

In like manner the effect of every action is measured by the
depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds. The great man knew
not that he was great. It took a century or two for that fact to
appear. What he did, he did because he must; it was the most natural
thing in the world, and grew out of the circumstances of the moment.
But now, every thing he did, even to the lifting of his finger or the
eating of bread, looks large, all-related, and is called an

These are the demonstrations in a few particulars of the genius
of nature; they show the direction of the stream. But the stream is
blood; every drop is alive. Truth has not single victories; all
things are its organs, -- not only dust and stones, but errors and
lies. The laws of disease, physicians say, are as beautiful as the
laws of health. Our philosophy is affirmative, and readily accepts
the testimony of negative facts, as every shadow points to the sun.
By a divine necessity, every fact in nature is constrained to offer
its testimony.

Human character evermore publishes itself. The most fugitive
deed and word, the mere air of doing a thing, the intimated purpose,
expresses character. If you act, you show character; if you sit
still, if you sleep, you show it. You think, because you have spoken
nothing when others spoke, and have given no opinion on the times, on
the church, on slavery, on marriage, on socialism, on secret
societies, on the college, on parties and persons, that your verdict
is still expected with curiosity as a reserved wisdom. Far
otherwise; your silence answers very loud. You have no oracle to
utter, and your fellow-men have learned that you cannot help them;
for, oracles speak. Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth
her voice?

Dreadful limits are set in nature to the powers of
dissimulation. Truth tyrannizes over the unwilling members of the
body. Faces never lie, it is said. No man need be deceived, who
will study the changes of expression. When a man speaks the truth in
the spirit of truth, his eye is as clear as the heavens. When he has
base ends, and speaks falsely, the eye is muddy and sometimes

I have heard an experienced counsellor say, that he never
feared the effect upon a jury of a lawyer who does not believe in his
heart that his client ought to have a verdict. If he does not
believe it, his unbelief will appear to the jury, despite all his
protestations, and will become their unbelief. This is that law
whereby a work of art, of whatever kind, sets us in the same state of
mind wherein the artist was when he made it. That which we do not
believe, we cannot adequately say, though we may repeat the words
never so often. It was this conviction which Swedenborg expressed,
when he described a group of persons in the spiritual world
endeavouring in vain to articulate a proposition which they did not
believe; but they could not, though they twisted and folded their
lips even to indignation.

A man passes for that he is worth. Very idle is all curiosity
concerning other people's estimate of us, and all fear of remaining
unknown is not less so. If a man know that he can do any thing, --
that he can do it better than any one else, -- he has a pledge of the
acknowledgment of that fact by all persons. The world is full of
judgment-days, and into every assembly that a man enters, in every
action he attempts, he is gauged and stamped. In every troop of boys
that whoop and run in each yard and square, a new-comer is as well
and accurately weighed in the course of a few days, and stamped with
his right number, as if he had undergone a formal trial of his
strength, speed, and temper. A stranger comes from a distant school,
with better dress, with trinkets in his pockets, with airs and
pretensions: an older boy says to himself, `It 's of no use; we shall
find him out to-morrow.' `What has he done?' is the divine question
which searches men, and transpierces every false reputation. A fop
may sit in any chair of the world, nor be distinguished for his hour
from Homer and Washington; but there need never be any doubt
concerning the respective ability of human beings. Pretension may
sit still, but cannot act. Pretension never feigned an act of real
greatness. Pretension never wrote an Iliad, nor drove back Xerxes,
nor christianized the world, nor abolished slavery.

As much virtue as there is, so much appears; as much goodness
as there is, so much reverence it commands. All the devils respect
virtue. The high, the generous, the self-devoted sect will always
instruct and command mankind. Never was a sincere word utterly lost.
Never a magnanimity fell to the ground, but there is some heart to
greet and accept it unexpectedly. A man passes for that he is worth.
What he is engraves itself on his face, on his form, on his fortunes,
in letters of light. Concealment avails him nothing; boasting
nothing. There is confession in the glances of our eyes; in our
smiles; in salutations; and the grasp of hands. His sin bedaubs him,
mars all his good impression. Men know not why they do not trust
him; but they do not trust him. His vice glasses his eye, cuts lines
of mean expression in his cheek, pinches the nose, sets the mark of
the beast on the back of the head, and writes O fool! fool! on the
forehead of a king.

If you would not be known to do any thing, never do it. A man
may play the fool in the drifts of a desert, but every grain of sand
shall seem to see. He may be a solitary eater, but he cannot keep
his foolish counsel. A broken complexion, a swinish look, ungenerous
acts, and the want of due knowledge, -- all blab. Can a cook, a
Chiffinch, an Iachimo be mistaken for Zeno or Paul? Confucius
exclaimed, -- "How can a man be concealed! How can a man be

On the other hand, the hero fears not, that, if he withhold the
avowal of a just and brave act, it will go unwitnessed and unloved.
One knows it, -- himself, -- and is pledged by it to sweetness of
peace, and to nobleness of aim, which will prove in the end a better
proclamation of it than the relating of the incident. Virtue is the
adherence in action to the nature of things, and the nature of things
makes it prevalent. It consists in a perpetual substitution of being
for seeming, and with sublime propriety God is described as saying, I

The lesson which these observations convey is, Be, and not
seem. Let us acquiesce. Let us take our bloated nothingness out of
the path of the divine circuits. Let us unlearn our wisdom of the
world. Let us lie low in the Lord's power, and learn that truth
alone makes rich and great.

If you visit your friend, why need you apologize for not having
visited him, and waste his time and deface your own act? Visit him
now. Let him feel that the highest love has come to see him, in
thee, its lowest organ. Or why need you torment yourself and friend
by secret self-reproaches that you have not assisted him or
complimented him with gifts and salutations heretofore? Be a gift
and a benediction. Shine with real light, and not with the borrowed
reflection of gifts. Common men are apologies for men; they bow the
head, excuse themselves with prolix reasons, and accumulate
appearances, because the substance is not.

We are full of these superstitions of sense, the worship of
magnitude. We call the poet inactive, because he is not a president,
a merchant, or a porter. We adore an institution, and do not see
that it is founded on a thought which we have. But real action is in
silent moments. The epochs of our life are not in the visible facts
of our choice of a calling, our marriage, our acquisition of an
office, and the like, but in a silent thought by the way-side as we
walk; in a thought which revises our entire manner of life, and says,
-- `Thus hast thou done, but it were better thus.' And all our after
years, like menials, serve and wait on this, and, according to their
ability, execute its will. This revisal or correction is a constant
force, which, as a tendency, reaches through our lifetime. The
object of the man, the aim of these moments, is to make daylight
shine through him, to suffer the law to traverse his whole being
without obstruction, so that, on what point soever of his doing your
eye falls, it shall report truly of his character, whether it be his
diet, his house, his religious forms, his society, his mirth, his
vote, his opposition. Now he is not homogeneous, but heterogeneous,
and the ray does not traverse; there are no thorough lights: but the
eye of the beholder is puzzled, detecting many unlike tendencies, and
a life not yet at one.

Why should we make it a point with our false modesty to
disparage that man we are, and that form of being assigned to us? A
good man is contented. I love and honor Epaminondas, but I do not
wish to be Epaminondas. I hold it more just to love the world of
this hour, than the world of his hour. Nor can you, if I am true,
excite me to the least uneasiness by saying, `He acted, and thou
sittest still.' I see action to be good, when the need is, and
sitting still to be also good. Epaminondas, if he was the man I take
him for, would have sat still with joy and peace, if his lot had been
mine. Heaven is large, and affords space for all modes of love and
fortitude. Why should we be busybodies and superserviceable? Action
and inaction are alike to the true. One piece of the tree is cut for
a weathercock, and one for the sleeper of a bridge; the virtue of the
wood is apparent in both.

I desire not to disgrace the soul. The fact that I am here
certainly shows me that the soul had need of an organ here. Shall I
not assume the post? Shall I skulk and dodge and duck with my
unseasonable apologies and vain modesty, and imagine my being here
impertinent? less pertinent than Epaminondas or Homer being there?
and that the soul did not know its own needs? Besides, without any
reasoning on the matter, I have no discontent. The good soul
nourishes me, and unlocks new magazines of power and enjoyment to me
every day. I will not meanly decline the immensity of good, because
I have heard that it has come to others in another shape.

Besides, why should we be cowed by the name of Action? 'T is a
trick of the senses, -- no more. We know that the ancestor of every
action is a thought. The poor mind does not seem to itself to be any
thing, unless it have an outside badge, -- some Gentoo diet, or
Quaker coat, or Calvinistic prayer-meeting, or philanthropic society,
or a great donation, or a high office, or, any how, some wild
contrasting action to testify that it is somewhat. The rich mind
lies in the sun and sleeps, and is Nature. To think is to act.

Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so. All
action is of an infinite elasticity, and the least admits of being
inflated with the celestial air until it eclipses the sun and moon.
Let us seek _one_ peace by fidelity. Let me heed my duties. Why
need I go gadding into the scenes and philosophy of Greek and Italian
history, before I have justified myself to my benefactors? How dare
I read Washington's campaigns, when I have not answered the letters
of my own correspondents? Is not that a just objection to much of
our reading? It is a pusillanimous desertion of our work to gaze
after our neighbours. It is peeping. Byron says of Jack Bunting, --

"He knew not what to say, and so he swore."

I may say it of our preposterous use of books, -- He knew not
what to do, and so _he read_. I can think of nothing to fill my time
with, and I find the Life of Brant. It is a very extravagant
compliment to pay to Brant, or to General Schuyler, or to General
Washington. My time should be as good as their time, -- my facts, my
net of relations, as good as theirs, or either of theirs. Rather let
me do my work so well that other idlers, if they choose, may compare
my texture with the texture of these and find it identical with the

This over-estimate of the possibilities of Paul and Pericles,
this under-estimate of our own, comes from a neglect of the fact of
an identical nature. Bonaparte knew but one merit, and rewarded in
one and the same way the good soldier, the good astronomer, the good
poet, the good player. The poet uses the names of Caesar, of
Tamerlane, of Bonduca, of Belisarius; the painter uses the
conventional story of the Virgin Mary, of Paul, of Peter. He does
not, therefore, defer to the nature of these accidental men, of these
stock heroes. If the poet write a true drama, then he is Caesar, and
not the player of Caesar; then the selfsame strain of thought,
emotion as pure, wit as subtle, motions as swift, mounting,
extravagant, and a heart as great, self-sufficing, dauntless, which
on the waves of its love and hope can uplift all that is reckoned
solid and precious in the world, -- palaces, gardens, money, navies,
kingdoms, -- marking its own incomparable worth by the slight it
casts on these gauds of men, -- 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 places and persons. Let the great soul incarnated in some
woman's form, poor and sad and single, in some Dolly or Joan, go out
to service, and sweep chambers and scour floors, and its effulgent
daybeams cannot be muffled or hid, but to sweep and scour will
instantly appear supreme and beautiful actions, the top and radiance
of human life, and all people will get mops and brooms; until, lo!
suddenly the great soul has enshrined itself in some other form, and
done some other deed, and that is now the flower and head of all
living nature.

We are the photometers, we the irritable goldleaf and tinfoil
that measure the accumulations of the subtle element. We know the
authentic effects of the true fire through every one of its million


"I was as a gem concealed;
Me my burning ray revealed."

ESSAY V _Love_

Every promise of the soul has innumerable fulfilments; each
ofnt. Nature, uncontainable, flowing, forelooking, in the first
sentiment of kindness anticipates already a benevolence which shall
lose all particular regards in its general light. The introduction
to this felicity is in a private and tender relation of one to one,
which is the enchantment of human life; which, like a certain divine
rage and enthusiasm, seizes on man at one period, and works a
revolution 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 heroic and sacred attributes, establishes
marriage, and gives permanence to human society.

The natural association of the sentiment of love with the
heyday of the blood seems to require, that in order to portray it in
vivid tints, which every youth and maid should confess to be true to
their throbbing experience, one must not be too old. The delicious
fancies of youth reject the least savour of a mature philosophy, as
chilling with age and pedantry their purple bloom. And, therefore, I
know I incur the imputation of unnecessary hardness and stoicism from
those who compose the Court and Parliament of Love. But from these
formidable censors I shall appeal to my seniors. For it is to be
considered that this passion of which we speak, though it begin with
the young, yet forsakes not the old, or rather suffers no one who is
truly its servant to grow old, but makes the aged participators of
it, not less than the tender maiden, though in a different and nobler
sort. For it is a fire that, kindling its first embers in the narrow
nook of a private bosom, caught from a wandering spark out of another
private heart, glows and enlarges until it warms and beams upon
multitudes of men and women, upon the universal heart of all, and so
lights up the whole world and all nature with its generous flames.
It matters not, therefore, whether we attempt to describe the passion
at twenty, at thirty, or at eighty years. He who paints it at the
first period will lose some of its later, he who paints it at the
last, some of its earlier traits. Only it is to be hoped that, by
patience and the Muses' aid, we may attain to that inward view of the
law, which shall describe a truth ever young and beautiful, so
central that it shall commend itself to the eye, at whatever angle

And the first condition is, that we must leave a too close and
lingering adherence to facts, and study the sentiment as it appeared
in hope and not in history. For each man sees his own life defaced
and disfigured, as the life of man is not, to his imagination. Each
man sees over his own experience a certain stain of error, whilst
that of other men looks fair and ideal. Let any man go back to those
delicious relations which make the beauty of his life, which have
given him sincerest instruction and nourishment, he will shrink and
moan. Alas! I know not why, but infinite compunctions embitter in
mature life the remembrances of budding joy, and cover every beloved
name. Every thing is beautiful seen from the point of the intellect,
or as truth. But all is sour, if seen as experience. Details are
melancholy; the plan is seemly and noble. In the actual world -- the
painful kingdom of time and place -- dwell care, and canker, and
fear. With thought, with the ideal, is immortal hilarity, the rose
of joy. Round it all the Muses sing. But grief cleaves to names,
and persons, and the partial interests of to-day and yesterday.

The strong bent of nature is seen in the proportion which this
topic of personal relations usurps in the conversation of society.
What do we wish to know of any worthy person so much, as how he has
sped in the history of this sentiment? What books in the circulating
libraries circulate? How we glow over these novels of passion, when
the story is told with any spark of truth and nature! And what
fastens attention, in the intercourse of life, like any passage
betraying affection between two parties? Perhaps we never saw them
before, and never shall meet them again. But we see them exchange a
glance, or betray a deep emotion, and we are no longer strangers. We
understand them, and take the warmest interest in the development of
the romance. All mankind love a lover. The earliest demonstrations
of complacency and kindness are nature's most winning pictures. It
is the dawn of civility and grace in the coarse and rustic. The rude
village boy teases the girls about the school-house door; -- but
to-day he comes running into the entry, and meets one fair child
disposing her satchel; he holds her books to help her, and instantly
it seems to him as if she removed herself from him infinitely, and
was a sacred precinct. Among the throng of girls he runs rudely
enough, but one alone distances him; and these two little neighbours,
that were so close just now, have learned to respect each other's
personality. Or who can avert his eyes from the engaging,
half-artful, half-artless ways of school-girls who go into the
country shops to buy a skein of silk or a sheet of paper, and talk
half an hour about nothing with the broad-faced, good-natured
shop-boy. In the village they are on a perfect equality, which love
delights in, and without any coquetry the happy, affectionate nature
of woman flows out in this pretty gossip. The girls may have little
beauty, yet plainly do they establish between them and the good boy
the most agreeable, confiding relations, what with their fun and
their earnest, about Edgar, and Jonas, and Almira, and who was
invited to the party, and who danced at the dancing-school, and when
the singing-school would begin, and other nothings concerning which
the parties cooed. By and by that boy wants a wife, and very truly
and heartily will he know where to find a sincere and sweet mate,
without any risk such as Milton deplores as incident to scholars and
great men.

I have been told, that in some public discourses of mine my
reverence for the intellect has made me unjustly cold to the personal
relations. But now I almost shrink at the remembrance of such
disparaging words. For persons are love's world, and the coldest
philosopher cannot recount the debt of the young soul wandering here
in nature to the power of love, without being tempted to unsay, as
treasonable to nature, aught derogatory to the social instincts.
For, though the celestial rapture falling out of heaven seizes only
upon those of tender age, and although a beauty overpowering all
analysis or comparison, and putting us quite beside ourselves, we can
seldom see after thirty years, yet the remembrance of these visions
outlasts all other remembrances, and is a wreath of flowers on the
oldest brows. But here is a strange fact; it may seem to many men,
in revising their experience, that they have no fairer page in their
life's book than the delicious memory of some passages wherein
affection contrived to give a witchcraft surpassing the deep
attraction of its own truth to a parcel of accidental and trivial
circumstances. In looking backward, they may find that several
things which were not the charm have more reality to this groping
memory than the charm itself which embalmed them. But be our
experience in particulars what it may, no man ever forgot the
visitations of that power to his heart and brain, which created all
things new; which was the dawn in him of music, poetry, and art;
which made the face of nature radiant with purple light, the morning
and the night varied enchantments; when a single tone of one voice
could make the heart bound, and the most trivial circumstance
associated with one form is put in the amber of memory; when he
became all eye when one was present, and all memory when one was
gone; when the youth becomes a watcher of windows, and studious of a
glove, a veil, a ribbon, or the wheels of a carriage; when no place
is too solitary, and none too silent, for him who has richer company
and sweeter conversation in his new thoughts, than any old friends,
though best and purest, can give him; for the figures, the motions,
the words of the beloved object are not like other images written in
water, but, as Plutarch said, "enamelled in fire," and make the study
of midnight.

"Thou art not gone being gone, where'er thou art,
Thou leav'st in him thy watchful eyes, in him thy loving

In the noon and the afternoon of life we still throb at the
recollection of days when happiness was not happy enough, but must be
drugged with the relish of pain and fear; for he touched the secret
of the matter, who said of love, --

"All other pleasures are not worth its pains";

and when the day was not long enough, but the night, too, must
be consumed in keen recollections; when the head boiled all night on
the pillow with the generous deed it resolved on; when the moonlight
was a pleasing fever, and the stars were letters, and the flowers
ciphers, and the air was coined into song; when all business seemed
an impertinence, and all the men and women running to and fro in the
streets, mere pictures.

The passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all
things alive and significant. Nature grows conscious. Every bird on
the boughs of the tree sings now to his heart and soul. The notes
are almost articulate. The clouds have faces as he looks on them.
The trees of the forest, the waving grass, and the peeping flowers
have grown intelligent; and he almost fears to trust them with the
secret which they seem to invite. Yet nature soothes and
sympathizes. In the green solitude he finds a dearer home than with

"Fountain-heads and pathless groves,
Places which pale passion loves,
Moonlight walks, when all the fowls
Are safely housed, save bats and owls,
A midnight bell, a passing groan, --
These are the sounds we feed upon."

Behold there in the wood the fine madman! He is a palace of
sweet sounds and sights; he dilates; he is twice a man; he walks with
arms akimbo; he soliloquizes; he accosts the grass and the trees; he
feels the blood of the violet, the clover, and the lily in his veins;
and he talks with the brook that wets his foot.

The heats that have opened his perceptions of natural beauty
have made him love music and verse. It is a fact often observed,
that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion,
who cannot write well under any other circumstances.

The like force has the passion over all his nature. It expands
the sentiment; it makes the clown gentle, and gives the coward heart.
Into the most pitiful and abject it will infuse a heart and courage
to defy the world, so only it have the countenance of the beloved
object. In giving him to another, it still more gives him to
himself. He is a new man, with new perceptions, new and keener
purposes, and a religious solemnity of character and aims. He does
not longer appertain to his family and society; _he_ is somewhat;
_he_ is a person; _he_ is a soul.

And here let us examine a little nearer the nature of that
influence which is thus potent over the human youth. Beauty, whose
revelation to man we now celebrate, welcome as the sun wherever it
pleases to shine, which pleases everybody with it and with
themselves, seems sufficient to itself. The lover cannot paint his
maiden to his fancy poor and solitary. Like a tree in flower, so
much soft, budding, informing love-liness is society for itself, and
she teaches his eye why Beauty was pictured with Loves and Graces
attending her steps. Her existence makes the world rich. Though she
extrudes all other persons from his attention as cheap and unworthy,
she indemnifies him by carrying out her own being into somewhat
impersonal, large, mundane, so that the maiden stands to him for a
representative of all select things and virtues. For that reason,
the lover never sees personal resemblances in his mistress to her
kindred or to others. His friends find in her a likeness to her
mother, or her sisters, or to persons not of her blood. The lover
sees no resemblance except to summer evenings and diamond mornings,
to rainbows and the song of birds.

The ancients called beauty the flowering of virtue. Who can
analyze the nameless charm which glances from one and another face
and form? We are touched with emotions of tenderness and
complacency, but we cannot find whereat this dainty emotion, this
wandering gleam, points. It is destroyed for the imagination by any
attempt to refer it to organization. Nor does it point to any
relations of friendship or love known and described in society, but,
as it seems to me, to a quite other and unattainable sphere, to
relations of transcendent delicacy and sweetness, to what roses and
violets hint and fore-show. We cannot approach beauty. Its nature
is like opaline doves'-neck lustres, hovering and evanescent. Herein
it resembles the most excellent things, which all have this rainbow
character, defying all attempts at appropriation and use. What else
did Jean Paul Richter signify, when he said to music, "Away! away!
thou speakest to me of things which in all my endless life I have not
found, and shall not find." The same fluency may be observed in every
work of the plastic arts. The statue is then beautiful when it
begins to be incomprehensible, when it is passing out of criticism,
and can no longer be defined by compass and measuring-wand, but
demands an active imagination to go with it, and to say what it is in
the act of doing. The god or hero of the sculptor is always
represented in a transition _from_ that which is representable to the
senses, _to_ that which is not. Then first it ceases to be a stone.
The same remark holds of painting. And of poetry, the success is not
attained when it lulls and satisfies, but when it astonishes and
fires us with new endeavours after the unattainable. Concerning it,
Landor inquires "whether it is not to be referred to some purer state
of sensation and existence."

In like manner, personal beauty is then first charming and
itself, when it dissatisfies us with any end; when it becomes a story
without an end; when it suggests gleams and visions, and not earthly
satisfactions; when it makes the beholder feel his unworthiness; when
he cannot feel his right to it, though he were Caesar; he cannot feel
more right to it than to the firmament and the splendors of a sunset.

Hence arose the saying, "If I love you, what is that to you?"
We say so, because we feel that what we love is not in your will, but
above it. It is not you, but your radiance. It is that which you
know not in yourself, and can never know.

This agrees well with that high philosophy of Beauty which the
ancient writers delighted in; for they said that the soul of man,
embodied here on earth, went roaming up and down in quest of that
other world of its own, out of which it came into this, but was soon
stupefied by the light of the natural sun, and unable to see any
other objects than those of this world, which are but shadows of real
things. Therefore, the Deity sends the glory of youth before the
soul, that it may avail itself of beautiful bodies as aids to its
recollection of the celestial good and fair; and the man beholding
such a person in the female sex runs to her, and finds the highest
joy in contemplating the form, movement, and intelligence of this
person, because it suggests to him the presence of that which indeed
is within the beauty, and the cause of the beauty.

If, however, from too much conversing with material objects,
the soul was gross, and misplaced its satisfaction in the body, it
reaped nothing but sorrow; body being unable to fulfil the promise
which beauty holds out; but if, accepting the hint of these visions
and suggestions which beauty makes to his mind, the soul passes
through the body, and falls to admire strokes of character, and the
lovers contemplate one another in their discourses and their actions,
then they pass to the true palace of beauty, more and more inflame
their love of it, and by this love extinguishing the base affection,
as the sun puts out the fire by shining on the hearth, they become
pure and hallowed. By conversation with that which is in itself
excellent, magnanimous, lowly, and just, the lover comes to a warmer
love of these nobilities, and a quicker apprehension of them. Then
he passes from loving them in one to loving them in all, and so is
the one beautiful soul only the door through which he enters to the
society of all true and pure souls. In the particular society of his
mate, he attains a clearer sight of any spot, any taint, which her
beauty has contracted from this world, and is able to point it out,
and this with mutual joy that they are now able, without offence, to
indicate blemishes and hindrances in each other, and give to each all
help and comfort in curing the same. And, beholding in many souls
the traits of the divine beauty, and separating in each soul that
which is divine from the taint which it has contracted in the world,
the lover ascends to the highest beauty, to the love and knowledge of
the Divinity, by steps on this ladder of created souls.

Somewhat like this have the truly wise told us of love in all
ages. The doctrine is not old, nor is it new. If Plato, Plutarch,
and Apuleius taught it, so have Petrarch, Angelo, and Milton. It
awaits a truer unfolding in opposition and rebuke to that
subterranean prudence which presides at marriages with words that
take hold of the upper world, whilst one eye is prowling in the
cellar, so that its gravest discourse has a savor of hams and
powdering-tubs. Worst, when this sensualism intrudes into the
education of young women, and withers the hope and affection of human
nature, by teaching that marriage signifies nothing but a housewife's
thrift, and that woman's life has no other aim.

But this dream of love, though beautiful, is only one scene in
our play. In the procession of the soul from within outward, it
enlarges its circles ever, like the pebble thrown into the pond, or
the light proceeding from an orb. The rays of the soul alight first
on things nearest, on every utensil and toy, on nurses and domestics,
on the house, and yard, and passengers, on the circle of household
acquaintance, on politics, and geography, and history. But things
are ever grouping themselves according to higher or more interior
laws. Neighbourhood, size, numbers, habits, persons, lose by degrees
their power over us. Cause and effect, real affinities, the longing
for harmony between the soul and the circumstance, the progressive,
idealizing instinct, predominate later, and the step backward from
the higher to the lower relations is impossible. Thus even love,
which is the deification of persons, must become more impersonal
every day. Of this at first it gives no hint. Little think the
youth and maiden who are glancing at each other across crowded rooms,
with eyes so full of mutual intelligence, of the precious fruit long
hereafter to proceed from this new, quite external stimulus. The
work of vegetation begins first in the irritability of the bark and
leaf-buds. From exchanging glances, they advance to acts of
courtesy, of gallantry, then to fiery passion, to plighting troth,
and marriage. Passion beholds its object as a perfect unit. The
soul is wholly embodied, and the body is wholly ensouled.

"Her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,
That one might almost say her body thought."

Romeo, if dead, should be cut up into little stars to make
the heavens fine. Life, with this pair, has no other aim, asks no
more, than Juliet, -- than Romeo. Night, day, studies, talents,
kingdoms, religion, are all contained in this form full of soul, in
this soul which is all form. The lovers delight in endearments, in
avowals of love, in comparisons of their regards. When alone, they
solace themselves with the remembered image of the other. Does that
other see the same star, the same melting cloud, read the same book,
feel the same emotion, that now delight me? They try and weigh their
affection, and, adding up costly advantages, friends, opportunities,
properties, exult in discovering that willingly, joyfully, they would
give all as a ransom for the beautiful, the beloved head, not one
hair of which shall be harmed. But the lot of humanity is on these
children. Danger, sorrow, and pain arrive to them, as to all. Love
prays. It makes covenants with Eternal Power in behalf of this dear
mate. The union which is thus effected, and which adds a new value
to every atom in nature, for it transmutes every thread throughout
the whole web of relation into a golden ray, and bathes the soul in a
new and sweeter element, is yet a temporary state. Not always can
flowers, pearls, poetry, protestations, nor even home in another
heart, content the awful soul that dwells in clay. It arouses itself
at last from these endearments, as toys, and puts on the harness, and
aspires to vast and universal aims. The soul which is in the soul of
each, craving a perfect beatitude, detects incongruities, defects,
and disproportion in the behaviour of the other. Hence arise
surprise, expostulation, and pain. Yet that which drew them to each
other was signs of loveliness, signs of virtue; and these virtues are
there, however eclipsed. They appear and reappear, and continue to
attract; but the regard changes, quits the sign, and attaches to the
substance. This repairs the wounded affection. Meantime, as life
wears on, it proves a game of permutation and combination of all
possible positions of the parties, to employ all the resources of
each, and acquaint each with the strength and weakness of the other.
For it is the nature and end of this relation, that they should
represent the human race to each other. All that is in the world,
which is or ought to be known, is cunningly wrought into the texture
of man, of woman.

"The person love does to us fit,
Like manna, has the taste of all in it."

The world rolls; the circumstances vary every hour. The angels
that inhabit this temple of the body appear at the windows, and the
gnomes and vices also. By all the virtues they are united. If there
be virtue, all the vices are known as such; they confess and flee.
Their once flaming regard is sobered by time in either breast, and,
losing in violence what it gains in extent, it becomes a thorough
good understanding. They resign each other, without complaint, to
the good offices which man and woman are severally appointed to
discharge in time, and exchange the passion which once could not lose
sight of its object, for a cheerful, disengaged furtherance, whether
present or absent, of each other's designs. At last they discover
that all which at first drew them together,---- those once sacred
features, that magical play of charms, -- was deciduous, had a
prospective end, like the scaffolding by which the house was built;
and the purification of the intellect and the heart, from year to
year, is the real marriage, foreseen and prepared from the first, and
wholly above their consciousness. Looking at these aims with which
two persons, a man and a woman, so variously and correlatively
gifted, are shut up in one house to spend in the nuptial society
forty or fifty years, I do not wonder at the emphasis with which the
heart prophesies this crisis from early infancy, at the profuse
beauty with which the instincts deck the nuptial bower, and nature,
and intellect, and art emulate each other in the gifts and the melody
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 affections
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 persons. 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 as clouds,
must lose their finite character and blend with God, to attain their
own perfection. But we need not fear that we can lose any thing by
the progress of the soul. The soul may be trusted to the end. That
which is so beautiful and attractive as these relations must be
succeeded and supplanted only by what is more beautiful, and so on
for ever.


A ruddy drop of manly blood
The surging sea outweighs,
The world uncertain comes and goes,
The lover rooted stays.
I fancied he was fled,
And, after many a year,
Glowed unexhausted kindliness
Like daily sunrise there.
My careful heart was free again, --
O friend, my bosom said,
Through thee alone the sky is arched,
Through thee the rose is red,
All things through thee take nobler form,
And look beyond the earth,
And is the mill-round of our fate
A sun-path in thy worth.
Me too thy nobleness has taught
To master my despair;
The fountains of my hidden life
Are through thy friendship fair.

ESSAY VI _Friendship_

We have a great selfishness that chills like east winds the
world, the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like
a fine ether. How many persons we meet in houses, whom we scarcely
speak to, whom yet we honor, and who honor us! How many we see in
the street, or sit with in church, whom, though silently, we warmly
rejoice to be with! Read the language of these wandering eye-beams.
The heart knoweth.

The effect of the indulgence of this human affection is a
certain cordial exhilaration. In poetry, and in common speech, the
emotions of benevolence and complacency which are felt towards others
are likened to the material effects of fire; so swift, or much more
swift, more active, more cheering, are these fine inward
irradiations. From the highest degree of passionate love, to the
lowest degree of good-will, they make the sweetness of life.

Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection.
The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do
not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it is
necessary to write a letter to a friend, -- and, forthwith, troops of
gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.
See, in any house where virtue and self-respect abide, the
palpitation which the approach of a stranger causes. A commended
stranger is expected and announced, and an uneasiness betwixt
pleasure and pain invades all the hearts of a household. His arrival
almost brings fear to the good hearts that would welcome him. The
house is dusted, all things fly into their places, the old coat is
exchanged for the new, and they must get up a dinner if they can. Of
a commended stranger, only the good report is told by others, only
the good and new is heard by us. He stands to us for humanity. He
is what we wish. Having imagined and invested him, we ask how we
should stand related in conversation and action with such a man, and
are uneasy with fear. The same idea exalts conversation with him.
We talk better than we are wont. We have the nimblest fancy, a
richer memory, and our dumb devil has taken leave for the time. For
long hours we can continue a series of sincere, graceful, rich
communications, drawn from the oldest, secretest experience, so that
they who sit by, of our own kinsfolk and acquaintance, shall feel a
lively surprise at our unusual powers. But as soon as the stranger
begins to intrude his partialities, his definitions, his defects,
into the conversation, it is all over. He has heard the first, the
last and best he will ever hear from us. He is no stranger now.
Vulgarity, ignorance, misapprehension are old acquaintances. Now,
when he comes, he may get the order, the dress, and the dinner, --
but the throbbing of the heart, and the communications of the soul,
no more.

What is so pleasant as these jets of affection which make a
young world for me again? What so delicious as a just and firm
encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling? How beautiful, on
their approach to this beating heart, the steps and forms of the
gifted and the true! The moment we indulge our affections, the earth
is metamorphosed; there is no winter, and no night; all tragedies,
all ennuis, vanish, -- all duties even; nothing fills the proceeding
eternity but the forms all radiant of beloved persons. Let the soul
be assured that somewhere in the universe it should rejoin its
friend, and it would be content and cheerful alone for a thousand

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends,
the old and the new. Shall I not call God the Beautiful, who daily
showeth himself so to me in his gifts? I chide society, I embrace
solitude, and yet I am not so ungrateful as not to see the wise, the
lovely, and the noble-minded, as from time to time they pass my gate.
Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine, -- a possession for
all time. Nor is nature so poor but she gives me this joy several
times, and thus we weave social threads of our own, a new web of
relations; and, as many thoughts in succession substantiate
themselves, we shall by and by stand in a new world of our own
creation, and no longer strangers and pilgrims in a traditionary
globe. My friends have come to me unsought. The great God gave them
to me. By oldest right, by the divine affinity of virtue with
itself, I find them, or rather not I, but the Deity in me and in them
derides and cancels the thick walls of individual character,
relation, age, sex, circumstance, at which he usually connives, and
now makes many one. High thanks I owe you, excellent lovers, who
carry out the world for me to new and noble depths, and enlarge the
meaning of all my thoughts. These are new poetry of the first Bard,
-- poetry without stop, -- hymn, ode, and epic, poetry still flowing,
Apollo and the Muses chanting still. Will these, too, separate
themselves from me again, or some of them? I know not, but I fear it
not; for my relation to them is so pure, that we hold by simple
affinity, and the Genius of my life being thus social, the same
affinity will exert its energy on whomsoever is as noble as these men
and women, wherever I may be.

I confess to an extreme tenderness of nature on this point. It
is almost dangerous to me to "crush the sweet poison of misused wine"
of the affections. A new person is to me a great event, and hinders
me from sleep. I have often had fine fancies about persons which
have given me delicious hours; but the joy ends in the day; it yields
no fruit. Thought is not born of it; my action is very little
modified. I must feel pride in my friend's accomplishments as if
they were mine, -- and a property in his virtues. I feel as warmly
when he is praised, as the lover when he hears applause of his
engaged maiden. We over-estimate the conscience of our friend. His
goodness seems better than our goodness, his nature finer, his
temptations less. Every thing that is his, -- his name, his form,
his dress, books, and instruments, -- fancy enhances. Our own
thought sounds new and larger from his mouth.

Yet the systole and diastole of the heart are not without their
analogy in the ebb and flow of love. Friendship, like the
immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. The lover,
beholding his maiden, half knows that she is not verily that which he
worships; and in the golden hour of friendship, we are surprised with
shades of suspicion and unbelief. We doubt that we bestow on our
hero the virtues in which he shines, and afterwards worship the form
to which we have ascribed this divine inhabitation. In strictness,
the soul does not respect men as it respects itself. In strict
science all persons underlie the same condition of an infinite
remoteness. Shall we fear to cool our love by mining for the
metaphysical foundation of this Elysian temple? Shall I not be as
real as the things I see? If I am, I shall not fear to know them for
what they are. Their essence is not less beautiful than their
appearance, though it needs finer organs for its apprehension. The
root of the plant is not unsightly to science, though for chaplets
and festoons we cut the stem short. And I must hazard the production
of the bald fact amidst these pleasing reveries, though it should
prove an Egyptian skull at our banquet. A man who stands united with
his thought conceives magnificently of himself. He is conscious of a
universal success, even though bought by uniform particular failures.
No advantages, no powers, no gold or force, can be any match for him.
I cannot choose but rely on my own poverty more than on your wealth.
I cannot make your consciousness tantamount to mine. Only the star
dazzles; the planet has a faint, moon-like ray. I hear what you say
of the admirable parts and tried temper of the party you praise, but
I see well that for all his purple cloaks I shall not like him,
unless he is at last a poor Greek like me. I cannot deny it, O
friend, that the vast shadow of the Phenomenal includes thee also in
its pied and painted immensity, -- thee, also, compared with whom all
else is shadow. Thou art not Being, as Truth is, as Justice is, --
thou art not my soul, but a picture and effigy of that. Thou hast
come to me lately, and already thou art seizing thy hat and cloak.
Is it not that the soul puts forth friends as the tree puts forth
leaves, and presently, by the germination of new buds, extrudes the
old leaf? The law of nature is alternation for evermore. Each
electrical state superinduces the opposite. The soul environs itself
with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or
solitude; and it goes alone for a season, that it may exalt its
conversation or society. This method betrays itself along the whole
history of our personal relations. The instinct of affection revives
the hope of union with our mates, and the returning sense of
insulation recalls us from the chase. Thus every man passes his life
in the search after friendship, and if he should record his true
sentiment, he might write a letter like this to each new candidate
for his love.

If I was sure of thee, sure of thy capacity, sure to match my
mood with thine, I should never think again of trifles in relation to
thy comings and goings. I am not very wise; my moods are quite
attainable; and I respect thy genius; it is to me as yet unfathomed;
yet dare I not presume in thee a perfect intelligence of me, and so
thou art to me a delicious torment. Thine ever, or never.

Yet these uneasy pleasures and fine pains are for curiosity,
and not for life. They are not to be indulged. This is to weave
cobweb, and not cloth. Our friendships hurry to short and poor
conclusions, because we have made them a texture of wine and dreams,
instead of the tough fibre of the human heart. The laws of
friendship are austere and eternal, of one web with the laws of
nature and of morals. But we have aimed at a swift and petty
benefit, to suck a sudden sweetness. We snatch at the slowest fruit
in the whole garden of God, which many summers and many winters must
ripen. We seek our friend not sacredly, but with an adulterate
passion which would appropriate him to ourselves. In vain. We are
armed all over with subtle antagonisms, which, as soon as we meet,
begin to play, and translate all poetry into stale prose. Almost all
people descend to meet. All association must be a compromise, and,
what is worst, the very flower and aroma of the flower of each of the
beautiful natures disappears as they approach each other. What a
perpetual disappointment is actual society, even of the virtuous and
gifted! After interviews have been compassed with long foresight, we
must be tormented presently by baffled blows, by sudden, unseasonable
apathies, by epilepsies of wit and of animal spirits, in the heyday
of friendship and thought. Our faculties do not play us true, and
both parties are relieved by solitude.

I ought to be equal to every relation. It makes no difference
how many friends I have, and what content I can find in conversing
with each, if there be one to whom I am not equal. If I have shrunk
unequal from one contest, the joy I find in all the rest becomes mean
and cowardly. I should hate myself, if then I made my other friends
my asylum.

"The valiant warrior famoused for fight,
After a hundred victories, once foiled,
Is from the book of honor razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled."

Our impatience is thus sharply rebuked. Bashfulness and apathy
are a tough husk, in which a delicate organization is protected from
premature ripening. It would be lost if it knew itself before any of
the best souls were yet ripe enough to know and own it. Respect the
_naturlangsamkeit_ which hardens the ruby in a million years, and
works in duration, in which Alps and Andes come and go as rainbows.
The good spirit of our life has no heaven which is the price of
rashness. Love, which is the essence of God, is not for levity, but
for the total worth of man. Let us not have this childish luxury in
our regards, but the austerest worth; let us approach our friend with
an audacious trust in the truth of his heart, in the breadth,
impossible to be overturned, of his foundations.

The attractions of this subject are not to be resisted, and I
leave, for the time, all account of subordinate social benefit, to
speak of that select and sacred relation which is a kind of absolute,
and which even leaves the language of love suspicious and common, so
much is this purer, and nothing is so much divine.

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest
courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or
frostwork, but the solidest thing we know. For now, after so many
ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not
one step has man taken toward the solution of the problem of his
destiny. In one condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of
men. But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from
this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself, whereof all
nature and all thought is but the husk and shell. Happy is the house
that shelters a friend! It might well be built, like a festal bower
or arch, to entertain him a single day. Happier, if he know the
solemnity of that relation, and honor its law! He who offers himself
a candidate for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to the
great games, where the first-born of the world are the competitors.
He proposes himself for contests where Time, Want, Danger, are in the
lists, and he alone is victor who has truth enough in his
constitution to preserve the delicacy of his beauty from the wear and
tear of all these. The gifts of fortune may be present or absent,
but all the speed in that contest depends on intrinsic nobleness, and
the contempt of trifles. There are two elements that go to the
composition of friendship, each so sovereign that I can detect no
superiority in either, no reason why either should be first named.
One is Truth. A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.
Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence
of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost
garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men
never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and
wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another. Sincerity is
the luxury allowed, like diadems and authority, only to the highest
rank, _that_ being permitted to speak truth, as having none above it
to court or conform unto. Every man alone is sincere. At the
entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the
approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements,
by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.
I knew a man, who, under a certain religious frenzy, cast off this
drapery, and, omitting all compliment and commonplace, spoke to the
conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great
insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all men agreed he
was mad. But persisting, as indeed he could not help doing, for some
time in this course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every
man of his acquaintance into true relations with him. No man would
think of speaking falsely with him, or of putting him off with any
chat of markets or reading-rooms. But every man was constrained by
so much sincerity to the like plaindealing, and what love of nature,
what poetry, what symbol of truth he had, he did certainly show him.
But to most of us society shows not its face and eye, but its side
and its back. To stand in true relations with men in a false age is
worth a fit of insanity, is it not? We can seldom go erect. Almost
every man we meet requires some civility, -- requires to be humored;
he has some fame, some talent, some whim of religion or philanthropy
in his head that is not to be questioned, and which spoils all
conversation with him. But a friend is a sane man who exercises not
my ingenuity, but me. My friend gives me entertainment without
requiring any stipulation on my part. A friend, therefore, is a sort
of paradox in nature. I who alone am, I who see nothing in nature
whose existence I can affirm with equal evidence to my own, behold
now the semblance of my being, in all its height, variety, and
curiosity, reiterated in a foreign form; so that a friend may well be
reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

The other element of friendship is tenderness. We are holden
to men by every sort of tie, by blood, by pride, by fear, by hope, by
lucre, by lust, by hate, by admiration, by every circumstance and
badge and trifle, but we can scarce believe that so much character
can subsist in another as to draw us by love. Can another be so
blessed, and we so pure, that we can offer him tenderness? When a
man becomes dear to me, I have touched the goal of fortune. I find
very little written directly to the heart of this matter in books.
And yet I have one text which I cannot choose but remember. My
author says, -- "I offer myself faintly and bluntly to those whose I
effectually am, and tender myself least to him to whom I am the most
devoted." I wish that friendship should have feet, as well as eyes
and eloquence. It must plant itself on the ground, before it vaults
over the moon. I wish it to be a little of a citizen, before it is
quite a cherub. We chide the citizen because he makes love a
commodity. It is an exchange of gifts, of useful loans; it is good
neighbourhood; it watches with the sick; it holds the pall at the
funeral; and quite loses sight of the delicacies and nobility of the
relation. But though we cannot find the god under this disguise of a
sutler, yet, on the other hand, we cannot forgive the poet if he
spins his thread too fine, and does not substantiate his romance by
the municipal virtues of justice, punctuality, fidelity, and pity. I
hate the prostitution of the name of friendship to signify modish and
worldly alliances. I much prefer the company of ploughboys and
tin-peddlers, to the silken and perfumed amity which celebrates its
days of encounter by a frivolous display, by rides in a curricle, and
dinners at the best taverns. The end of friendship is a commerce the
most strict and homely that can be joined; more strict than any of
which we have experience. It is for aid and comfort through all the
relations and passages of life and death. It is fit for serene days,
and graceful gifts, and country rambles, but also for rough roads and
hard fare, shipwreck, poverty, and persecution. It keeps company
with the sallies of the wit and the trances of religion. We are to
dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man's life, and
embellish it by courage, wisdom, and unity. It should never fall
into something usual and settled, but should be alert and inventive,
and add rhyme and reason to what was drudgery.

Friendship may be said to require natures so rare and costly,
each so well tempered and so happily adapted, and withal so
circumstanced, (for even in that particular, a poet says, love
demands that the parties be altogether paired,) that its satisfaction
can very seldom be assured. It cannot subsist in its perfection, say
some of those who are learned in this warm lore of the heart, betwixt
more than two. I am not quite so strict in my terms, perhaps because
I have never known so high a fellowship as others. I please my
imagination more with a circle of godlike men and women variously
related to each other, and between whom subsists a lofty
intelligence. But I find this law of _one to one_ peremptory for
conversation, which is the practice and consummation of friendship.
Do not mix waters too much. The best mix as ill as good and bad.
You shall have very useful and cheering discourse at several times
with two several men, but let all three of you come together, and you
shall not have one new and hearty word. Two may talk and one may
hear, but three cannot take part in a conversation of the most
sincere and searching sort. In good company there is never such
discourse between two, across the table, as takes place when you
leave them alone. In good company, the individuals merge their
egotism into a social soul exactly co-extensive with the several
consciousnesses there present. No partialities of friend to friend,
no fondnesses of brother to sister, of wife to husband, are there
pertinent, but quite otherwise. Only he may then speak who can sail
on the common thought of the party, and not poorly limited to his
own. Now this convention, which good sense demands, destroys the
high freedom of great conversation, which requires an absolute
running of two souls into one.

No two men but, being left alone with each other, enter into
simpler relations. Yet it is affinity that determines _which_ two
shall converse. Unrelated men give little joy to each other; will
never suspect the latent powers of each. We talk sometimes of a
great talent for conversation, as if it were a permanent property in
some individuals. Conversation is an evanescent relation, -- no
more. A man is reputed to have thought and eloquence; he cannot, for
all that, say a word to his cousin or his uncle. They accuse his
silence with as much reason as they would blame the insignificance of
a dial in the shade. In the sun it will mark the hour. Among those
who enjoy his thought, he will regain his tongue.

Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and
unlikeness, that piques each with the presence of power and of
consent in the other party. Let me be alone to the end of the world,
rather than that my friend should overstep, by a word or a look, his
real sympathy. I am equally balked by antagonism and by compliance.
Let him not cease an instant to be himself. The only joy I have in
his being mine, is that the _not mine_ is _mine_. I hate, where I
looked for a manly furtherance, or at least a manly resistance, to
find a mush of concession. Better be a nettle in the side of your
friend than his echo. The condition which high friendship demands is
ability to do without it. That high office requires great and
sublime parts. There must be very two, before there can be very one.
Let it be an alliance of two large, formidable natures, mutually
beheld, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep identity
which beneath these disparities unites them.

He only is fit for this society who is magnanimous; who is sure
that greatness and goodness are always economy; who is not swift to
intermeddle with his fortunes. Let him not intermeddle with this.
Leave to the diamond its ages to grow, nor expect to accelerate the
births of the eternal. Friendship demands a religious treatment. We
talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected.
Reverence is a great part of it. Treat your friend as a spectacle.
Of course he has merits that are not yours, and that you cannot
honor, if you must needs hold him close to your person. Stand aside;
give those merits room; let them mount and expand. Are you the
friend of your friend's buttons, or of his thought? To a great heart
he will still be a stranger in a thousand particulars, that he may
come near in the holiest ground. Leave it to girls and boys to
regard a friend as property, and to suck a short and all-confounding
pleasure, instead of the noblest benefit.

Let us buy our entrance to this guild by a long probation. Why
should we desecrate noble and beautiful souls by intruding on them?
Why insist on rash personal relations with your friend? Why go to
his house, or know his mother and brother and sisters? Why be
visited by him at your own? Are these things material to our
covenant? Leave this touching and clawing. Let him be to me a
spirit. A message, a thought, a sincerity, a glance from him, I
want, but not news, nor pottage. I can get politics, and chat, and
neighbourly conveniences from cheaper companions. Should not the
society of my friend be to me poetic, pure, universal, and great as
nature itself? Ought I to feel that our tie is profane in comparison
with yonder bar of cloud that sleeps on the horizon, or that clump of
waving grass that divides the brook? Let us not vilify, but raise it
to that standard. That great, defying eye, that scornful beauty of
his mien and action, do not pique yourself on reducing, but rather
fortify and enhance. Worship his superiorities; wish him not less by
a thought, but hoard and tell them all. Guard him as thy
counterpart. Let him be to thee for ever a sort of beautiful enemy,
untamable, devoutly revered, and not a trivial conveniency to be soon
outgrown and cast aside. The hues of the opal, the light of the
diamond, are not to be seen, if the eye is too near. To my friend I
write a letter, and from him I receive a letter. That seems to you a
little. It suffices me. It is a spiritual gift worthy of him to
give, and of me to receive. It profanes nobody. In these warm lines
the heart will trust itself, as it will not to the tongue, and pour
out the prophecy of a godlier existence than all the annals of
heroism have yet made good.

Respect so far the holy laws of this fellowship as not to
prejudice its perfect flower by your impatience for its opening. We
must be our own before we can be another's. There is at least this
satisfaction in crime, according to the Latin proverb; -- you can
speak to your accomplice on even terms. _Crimen quos inquinat,
aequat_. To those whom we admire and love, at first we cannot. Yet
the least defect of self-possession vitiates, in my judgment, the
entire relation. There can never be deep peace between two spirits,
never mutual respect, until, in their dialogue, each stands for the
whole world.

What is so great as friendship, let us carry with what grandeur
of spirit we can. Let us be silent, -- so we may hear the whisper of
the gods. Let us not interfere. Who set you to cast about what you
should say to the select souls, or how to say any thing to such? No
matter how ingenious, no matter how graceful and bland. There are
innumerable degrees of folly and wisdom, and for you to say aught is
to be frivolous. Wait, and thy heart shall speak. Wait until the
necessary and everlasting overpowers you, until day and night avail
themselves of your lips. The only reward of virtue is virtue; the
only way to have a friend is to be one. You shall not come nearer a
man by getting into his house. If unlike, his soul only flees the
faster from you, and you shall never catch a true glance of his eye.
We see the noble afar off, and they repel us; why should we intrude?
Late, -- very late, -- we perceive that no arrangements, no
introductions, no consuetudes or habits of society, would be of any
avail to establish us in such relations with them as we desire, --
but solely the uprise of nature in us to the same degree it is in
them; then shall we meet as water with water; and if we should not
meet them then, we shall not want them, for we are already they. In
the last analysis, love is only the reflection of a man's own
worthiness from other men. Men have sometimes exchanged names with
their friends, as if they would signify that in their friend each
loved his own soul.

The higher the style we demand of friendship, of course the
less easy to establish it with flesh and blood. We walk alone in the
world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables. But a
sublime hope cheers ever the faithful heart, that elsewhere, in other
regions of the universal power, souls are now acting, enduring, and
daring, which can love us, and which we can love. We may
congratulate ourselves that the period of nonage, of follies, of
blunders, and of shame, is passed in solitude, and when we are
finished men, we shall grasp heroic hands in heroic hands. Only be
admonished by what you already see, not to strike leagues of
friendship with cheap persons, where no friendship can be. Our
impatience betrays us into rash and foolish alliances which no God
attends. By persisting in your path, though you forfeit the little
you gain the great. You demonstrate yourself, so as to put yourself
out of the reach of false relations, and you draw to you the
first-born of the world, -- those rare pilgrims whereof only one or
two wander in nature at once, and before whom the vulgar great show
as spectres and shadows merely.

It is foolish to be afraid of making our ties too spiritual, as
if so we could lose any genuine love. Whatever correction of our
popular views we make from insight, nature will be sure to bear us
out in, and though it seem to rob us of some joy, will repay us with
a greater. Let us feel, if we will, the absolute insulation of man.
We are sure that we have all in us. We go to Europe, or we pursue
persons, or we read books, in the instinctive faith that these will
call it out and reveal us to ourselves. Beggars all. The persons
are such as we; the Europe an old faded garment of dead persons; the
books their ghosts. Let us drop this idolatry. Let us give over
this mendicancy. Let us even bid our dearest friends farewell, and
defy them, saying, `Who are you? Unhand me: I will be dependent no
more.' Ah! seest thou not, O brother, that thus we part only to meet
again on a higher platform, and only be more each other's, because we
are more our own? A friend is Janus-faced: he looks to the past and
the future. He is the child of all my foregoing hours, the prophet
of those to come, and the harbinger of a greater friend.

I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have
them where I can find them, but I seldom use them. We must have
society on our own terms, and admit or exclude it on the slightest
cause. I cannot afford to speak much with my friend. If he is
great, he makes me so great that I cannot descend to converse. In
the great days, presentiments hover before me in the firmament. I
ought then to dedicate myself to them. I go in that I may seize
them, I go out that I may seize them. I fear only that I may lose
them receding into the sky in which now they are only a patch of
brighter light. Then, though I prize my friends, I cannot afford to
talk with them and study their visions, lest I lose my own. It would
indeed give me a certain household joy to quit this lofty seeking,
this spiritual astronomy, or search of stars, and come down to warm
sympathies with you; but then I know well I shall mourn always the
vanishing of my mighty gods. It is true, next week I shall have
languid moods, when I can well afford to occupy myself with foreign
objects; then I shall regret the lost literature of your mind, and
wish you were by my side again. But if you come, perhaps you will
fill my mind only with new visions, not with yourself but with your
lustres, and I shall not be able any more than now to converse with
you. So I will owe to my friends this evanescent intercourse. I
will receive from them, not what they have, but what they are. They
shall give me that which properly they cannot give, but which
emanates from them. But they shall not hold me by any relations less
subtile and pure. We will meet as though we met not, and part as
though we parted not.

It has seemed to me lately more possible than I knew, to carry
a friendship greatly, on one side, without due correspondence on the
other. Why should I cumber myself with regrets that the receiver is
not capacious? It never troubles the sun that some of his rays fall
wide and vain into ungrateful space, and only a small part on the
reflecting planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold
companion. If he is unequal, he will presently pass away; but thou
art enlarged by thy own shining, and, no longer a mate for frogs and
worms, dost soar and burn with the gods of the empyrean. It is
thought a disgrace to love unrequited. But the great will see that
true love cannot be unrequited. True love transcends the unworthy
object, and dwells and broods on the eternal, and when the poor
interposed mask crumbles, it is not sad, but feels rid of so much
earth, and feels its independency the surer. Yet these things may
hardly be said without a sort of treachery to the relation. The
essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust.
It must not surmise or provide for infirmity. It treats its object
as a god, that it may deify both.


Theme no poet gladly sung,
Fair to old and foul to young,
Scorn not thou the love of parts,
And the articles of arts.
Grandeur of the perfect sphere
Thanks the atoms that cohere.

ESSAY VII _Prudence_

What right have I to write ont of the negative sort? My
prudence consists in avoiding and going without, not in the inventing
of means and methods, not in adroit steering, not in gentle
repairing. I have no skill to make money spend well, no genius in my
economy, and whoever sees my garden discovers that I must have some
other garden. Yet I love facts, and hate lubricity, and people
without perception. Then I have the same title to write on prudence,
that I have to write on poetry or holiness. We write from aspiration
and antagonism, as well as from experience. We paint those qualities
which we do not possess. The poet admires the man of energy and
tactics; the merchant breeds his son for the church or the bar: and
where a man is not vain and egotistic, you shall find what he has not
by his praise. Moreover, it would be hardly honest in me not to
balance these fine lyric words of Love and Friendship with words of
coarser sound, and, whilst my debt to my senses is real and constant,
not to own it in passing.

Prudence is the virtue of the senses. It is the science of
appearances. It is the outmost action of the inward life. It is God
taking thought for oxen. It moves matter after the laws of matter.
It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical
conditions, and health of mind by the laws of the intellect.

The world of the senses is a world of shows; it does not exist
for itself, but has a symbolic character; and a true prudence or law
of shows recognizes the copresence of other laws, and knows that its
own office is subaltern; knows that it is surface and not centre
where it works. Prudence is false when detached. It is legitimate
when it is the Natural History of the soul incarnate; when it unfolds
the beauty of laws within the narrow scope of the senses.

There are all degrees of proficiency in knowledge of the world.
It is sufficient, to our present purpose, to indicate three. One
class live to the utility of the symbol; esteeming health and wealth
a final good. Another class live above this mark to the beauty of
the symbol; as the poet, and artist, and the naturalist, and man of
science. A third class live above the beauty of the symbol to the
beauty of the thing signified; these are wise men. The first class
have common sense; the second, taste; and the third, spiritual
perception. Once in a long time, a man traverses the whole scale,
and sees and enjoys the symbol solidly; then also has a clear eye for
its beauty, and, lastly, whilst he pitches his tent on this sacred
volcanic isle of nature, does not offer to build houses and barns
thereon, reverencing the splendor of the God which he sees bursting
through each chink and cranny.

The world is filled with the proverbs and acts and winkings of
a base prudence, which is a devotion to matter, as if we possessed no
other faculties than the palate, the nose, the touch, the eye and
ear; a prudence which adores the Rule of Three, which never
subscribes, which never gives, which seldom lends, and asks but one
question of any project, -- Will it bake bread? This is a disease
like a thickening of the skin until the vital organs are destroyed.
But culture, revealing the high origin of the apparent world, and
aiming at the perfection of the man as the end, degrades every thing
else, as health and bodily life, into means. It sees prudence not to
be a several faculty, but a name for wisdom and virtue conversing
with the body and its wants. Cultivated men always feel and speak
so, as if a great fortune, the achievement of a civil or social
measure, great personal influence, a graceful and commanding address,
had their value as proofs of the energy of the spirit. If a man lose
his balance, and immerse himself in any trades or pleasures for their
own sake, he may be a good wheel or pin, but he is not a cultivated

The spurious prudence, making the senses final, is the god of
sots and cowards, and is the subject of all comedy. It is nature's
joke, and therefore literature's. The true prudence limits this
sensualism by admitting the knowledge of an internal and real world.
This recognition once made, -- the order of the world and the
distribution of affairs and times being studied with the
co-perception of their subordinate place, will reward any degree of
attention. For our existence, thus apparently attached in nature to
the sun and the returning moon and the periods which they mark, -- so
susceptible to climate and to country, so alive to social good and
evil, so fond of splendor, and so tender to hunger and cold and debt,
-- reads all its primary lessons out of these books.

Prudence does not go behind nature, and ask whence it is. It
takes the laws of the world, whereby man's being is conditioned, as
they are, and keeps these laws, that it may enjoy their proper good.
It respects space and time, climate, want, sleep, the law of
polarity, growth, and death. There revolve to give bound and period
to his being, on all sides, the sun and moon, the great formalists in
the sky: here lies stubborn matter, and will not swerve from its
chemical routine. Here is a planted globe, pierced and belted with
natural laws, and fenced and distributed externally with civil
partitions and properties which impose new restraints on the young

We eat of the bread which grows in the field. We live by the
air which blows around us, and we are poisoned by the air that is too
cold or too hot, too dry or too wet. Time, which shows so vacant,
indivisible, and divine in its coming, is slit and peddled into
trifles and tatters. A door is to be painted, a lock to be repaired.
I want wood, or oil, or meal, or salt; the house smokes, or I have a
headache; then the tax; and an affair to be transacted with a man
without heart or brains; and the stinging recollection of an
injurious or very awkward word, -- these eat up the hours. Do what
we can, summer will have its flies: if we walk in the woods, we must
feed mosquitos: if we go a-fishing, we must expect a wet coat. Then
climate is a great impediment to idle persons: we often resolve to
give up the care of the weather, but still we regard the clouds and
the rain.

We are instructed by these petty experiences which usurp the
hours and years. The hard soil and four months of snow make the
inhabitant of the northern temperate zone wiser and abler than his
fellow who enjoys the fixed smile of the tropics. The islander may
ramble all day at will. At night, he may sleep on a mat under the
moon, and wherever a wild date-tree grows, nature has, without a
prayer even, spread a table for his morning meal. The northerner is
perforce a householder. He must brew, bake, salt, and preserve his
food, and pile wood and coal. But as it happens that not one stroke
can labor lay to, without some new acquaintance with nature; and as
nature is inexhaustibly significant, the inhabitants of these
climates have always excelled the southerner in force. Such is the
value of these matters, that a man who knows other things can never
know too much of these. Let him have accurate perceptions. Let him,
if he have hands, handle; if eyes, measure and discriminate; let him
accept and hive every fact of chemistry, natural history, and
economics; the more he has, the less is he willing to spare any one.
Time is always bringing the occasions that disclose their value.
Some wisdom comes out of every natural and innocent action. The
domestic man, who loves no music so well as his kitchen clock, and
the airs which the logs sing to him as they burn on the hearth, has
solaces which others never dream of. The application of means to
ends insures victory and the songs of victory, not less in a farm or
a shop than in the tactics of party or of war. The good husband
finds method as efficient in the packing of fire-wood in a shed, or
in the harvesting of fruits in the cellar, as in Peninsular campaigns
or the files of the Department of State. In the rainy day, he builds
a work-bench, or gets his tool-box set in the corner of the
barn-chamber, and stored with nails, gimlet, pincers, screwdriver,
and chisel. Herein he tastes an old joy of youth and childhood, the
cat-like love of garrets, presses, and corn-chambers, and of the
conveniences of long housekeeping. His garden or his poultry-yard
tells him many pleasant anecdotes. One might find argument for
optimism in the abundant flow of this saccharine element of pleasure
in every suburb and extremity of the good world. Let a man keep the
law, -- any law, -- and his way will be strown with satisfactions.
There is more difference in the quality of our pleasures than in the

On the other hand, nature punishes any neglect of prudence. If
you think the senses final, obey their law. If you believe in the
soul, do not clutch at sensual sweetness before it is ripe on the
slow tree of cause and effect. It is vinegar to the eyes, to deal
with men of loose and imperfect perception. Dr. Johnson is reported
to have said, -- "If the child says he looked out of this window,
when he looked out of that, -- whip him." Our American character is
marked by a more than average delight in accurate perception, which
is shown by the currency of the byword, "No mistake." But the
discomfort of unpunctuality, of confusion of thought about facts, of
inattention to the wants of to-morrow, is of no nation. The
beautiful laws of time and space, once dislocated by our inaptitude,
are holes and dens. If the hive be disturbed by rash and stupid
hands, instead of honey, it will yield us bees. Our words and
actions to be fair must be timely. A gay and pleasant sound is the
whetting of the scythe in the mornings of June; yet what is more
lonesome and sad than the sound of a whetstone or mower's rifle, when
it is too late in the season to make hay? Scatter-brained and
"afternoon men" spoil much more than their own affair, in spoiling
the temper of those who deal with them. I have seen a criticism on
some paintings, of which I am reminded when I see the shiftless and
unhappy men who are not true to their senses. The last Grand Duke of
Weimar, a man of superior understanding, said: -- "I have sometimes
remarked in the presence of great works of art, and just now
especially, in Dresden, how much a certain property contributes to
the effect which gives life to the figures, and to the life an
irresistible truth. This property is the hitting, in all the figures
we draw, the right centre of gravity. I mean, the placing the
figures firm upon their feet, making the hands grasp, and fastening
the eyes on the spot where they should look. Even lifeless figures,
as vessels and stools, -- let them be drawn ever so correctly, --
lose all effect so soon as they lack the resting upon their centre of
gravity, and have a certain swimming and oscillating appearance. The
Raphael, in the Dresden gallery, (the only greatly affecting picture
which I have seen,) is the quietest and most passionless piece you
can imagine; a couple of saints who worship the Virgin and Child.
Nevertheless, it awakens a deeper impression than the contortions of
ten crucified martyrs. For, beside all the resistless beauty of
form, it possesses in the highest degree the property of the
perpendicularity of all the figures." This perpendicularity we demand
of all the figures in this picture of life. Let them stand on their
feet, and not float and swing. Let us know where to find them. Let
them discriminate between what they remember and what they dreamed,
call a spade a spade, give us facts, and honor their own senses with

But what man shall dare tax another with imprudence? Who is
prudent? The men we call greatest are least in this kingdom. There
is a certain fatal dislocation in our relation to nature, distorting
our modes of living, and making every law our enemy, which seems at
last to have aroused all the wit and virtue in the world to ponder
the question of Reform. We must call the highest prudence to
counsel, and ask why health and beauty and genius should now be the
exception, rather than the rule, of human nature? We do not know the
properties of plants and animals and the laws of nature through our
sympathy with the same; but this remains the dream of poets. Poetry
and prudence should be coincident. Poets should be lawgivers; that
is, the boldest lyric inspiration should not chide and insult, but
should announce and lead, the civil code, and the day's work. But
now the two things seem irreconcilably parted. We have violated law
upon law, until we stand amidst ruins, and when by chance we espy a
coincidence between reason and the phenomena, we are surprised.
Beauty should be the dowry of every man and woman, as invariably as
sensation; but it is rare. Health or sound organization should be
universal. Genius should be the child of genius, and every child
should be inspired; but now it is not to be predicted of any child,
and nowhere is it pure. We call partial half-lights, by courtesy,
genius; talent which converts itself to money; talent which glitters
to-day, that it may dine and sleep well to-morrow; and society is
officered by _men of parts_, as they are properly called, and not by
divine men. These use their gifts to refine luxury, not to abolish
it. Genius is always ascetic; and piety and love. Appetite shows to
the finer souls as a disease, and they find beauty in rites and
bounds that resist it.

We have found out fine names to cover our sensuality withal,
but no gifts can raise intemperance. The man of talent affects to
call his transgressions of the laws of the senses trivial, and to
count them nothing considered with his devotion to his art. His art
never taught him lewdness, nor the love of wine, nor the wish to reap
where he had not sowed. His art is less for every deduction from his
holiness, and less for every defect of common sense. On him who
scorned the world, as he said, the scorned world wreaks its revenge.
He that despiseth small things will perish by little and little.
Goethe's Tasso is very likely to be a pretty fair historical
portrait, and that is true tragedy. It does not seem to me so
genuine grief when some tyrannous Richard the Third oppresses and
slays a score of innocent persons, as when Antonio and Tasso, both
apparently right, wrong each other. One living after the maxims of
this world, and consistent and true to them, the other fired with all
divine sentiments, yet grasping also at the pleasures of sense,
without submitting to their law. That is a grief we all feel, a knot
we cannot untie. Tasso's is no infrequent case in modern biography.
A man of genius, of an ardent temperament, reckless of physical laws,
self-indulgent, becomes presently unfortunate, querulous, a
"discomfortable cousin," a thorn to himself and to others.

The scholar shames us by his bifold life. Whilst something
higher than prudence is active, he is admirable; when common sense is
wanted, he is an encumbrance. Yesterday, Caesar was not so great;
to-day, the felon at the gallows' foot is not more miserable.
Yesterday, radiant with the light of an ideal world, in which he
lives, the first of men; and now oppressed by wants and by sickness,
for which he must thank himself. He resembles the pitiful
drivellers, whom travellers describe as frequenting the bazaars of
Constantinople, who skulk about all day, yellow, emaciated, ragged,
sneaking; and at evening, when the bazaars are open, slink to the
opium-shop, swallow their morsel, and become tranquil and glorified
seers. And who has not seen the tragedy of imprudent genius,
struggling for years with paltry pecuniary difficulties, at last
sinking, chilled, exhausted, and fruitless, like a giant slaughtered
by pins?

Is it not better that a man should accept the first pains and
mortifications of this sort, which nature is not slack in sending
him, as hints that he must expect no other good than the just fruit
of his own labor and self-denial? Health, bread, climate, social
position, have their importance, and he will give them their due.
Let him esteem Nature a perpetual counsellor, and her perfections the
exact measure of our deviations. Let him make the night night, and
the day day. Let him control the habit of expense. Let him see that
as much wisdom may be expended on a private economy as on an empire,
and as much wisdom may be drawn from it. The laws of the world are
written out for him on every piece of money in his hand. There is
nothing he will not be the better for knowing, were it only the
wisdom of Poor Richard; or the State-Street prudence of buying by the
acre to sell by the foot; or the thrift of the agriculturist, to
stick a tree between whiles, because it will grow whilst he sleeps;
or the prudence which consists in husbanding little strokes of the
tool, little portions of time, particles of stock, and small gains.
The eye of prudence may never shut. Iron, if kept at the
ironmonger's, will rust; beer, if not brewed in the right state of
the atmosphere, will sour; timber of ships will rot at sea, or, if
laid up high and dry, will strain, warp, and dry-rot; money, if kept
by us, yields no rent, and is liable to loss; if invested, is liable
to depreciation of the particular kind of stock. Strike, says the
smith, the iron is white; keep the rake, says the haymaker, as nigh
the scythe as you can, and the cart as nigh the rake. Our Yankee
trade is reputed to be very much on the extreme of this prudence. It
takes bank-notes, -- good, bad, clean, ragged, -- and saves itself by
the speed with which it passes them off. Iron cannot rust, nor beer
sour, nor timber rot, nor calicoes go out of fashion, nor money
stocks depreciate, in the few swift moments in which the Yankee
suffers any one of them to remain in his possession. In skating over
thin ice, our safety is in our speed.

Let him learn a prudence of a higher strain. Let him learn
that every thing in nature, even motes and feathers, go by law and
not by luck, and that what he sows he reaps. By diligence and
self-command, let him put the bread he eats at his own disposal, that
he may not stand in bitter and false relations to other men; for the
best good of wealth is freedom. Let him practise the minor virtues.
How much of human life is lost in waiting! let him not make his
fellow-creatures wait. How many words and promises are promises of
conversation! let his be words of fate. When he sees a folded and
sealed scrap of paper float round the globe in a pine ship, and come
safe to the eye for which it was written, amidst a swarming
population, let him likewise feel the admonition to integrate his
being across all these distracting forces, and keep a slender human
word among the storms, distances, and accidents that drive us hither
and thither, and, by persistency, make the paltry force of one man
reappear to redeem its pledge, after months and years, in the most
distant climates.

We must not try to write the laws of any one virtue, looking at
that only. Human nature loves no contradictions, but is symmetrical.
The prudence which secures an outward well-being is not to be studied
by one set of men, whilst heroism and holiness are studied by
another, but they are reconcilable. Prudence concerns the present
time, persons, property, and existing forms. But as every fact hath
its roots in the soul, and, if the soul were changed, would cease to
be, or would become some other thing, the proper administration of
outward things will always rest on a just apprehension of their cause
and origin, that is, the good man will be the wise man, and the
single-hearted, the politic man. Every violation of truth is not
only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of
human society. On the most profitable lie, the course of events
presently lays a destructive tax; whilst frankness invites frankness,
puts the parties on a convenient footing, and makes their business a
friendship. Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them
greatly, and they will show themselves great, though they make an
exception in your favor to all their rules of trade.

So, in regard to disagreeable and formidable things, prudence
does not consist in evasion, or in flight, but in courage. He who
wishes to walk in the most peaceful parts of life with any serenity
must screw himself up to resolution. Let him front the object of his
worst apprehension, and his stoutness will commonly make his fear
groundless. The Latin proverb says, that "in battles the eye is
first overcome." Entire self-possession may make a battle very little
more dangerous to life than a match at foils or at football.
Examples are cited by soldiers, of men who have seen the cannon
pointed, and the fire given to it, and who have stepped aside from
the path of the ball. The terrors of the storm are chiefly confined
to the parlour and the cabin. The drover, the sailor, buffets it all
day, and his health renews itself at as vigorous a pulse under the
sleet, as under the sun of June.

In the occurrence of unpleasant things among neighbours, fear
comes readily to heart, and magnifies the consequence of the other
party; but it is a bad counsellor. Every man is actually weak, and
apparently strong. To himself, he seems weak; to others, formidable.
You are afraid of Grim; but Grim also is afraid of you. You are
solicitous of the good-will of the meanest person, uneasy at his
ill-will. But the sturdiest offender of your peace and of the
neighbourhood, if you rip up _his_ claims, is as thin and timid as
any; and the peace of society is often kept, because, as children
say, one is afraid, and the other dares not. Far off, men swell,
bully, and threaten; bring them hand to hand, and they are a feeble

It is a proverb, that `courtesy costs nothing'; but calculation
might come to value love for its profit. Love is fabled to be blind;
but kindness is necessary to perception; love is not a hood, but an
eye-water. If you meet a sectary, or a hostile partisan, never
recognize the dividing lines; but meet on what common ground remains,
-- if only that the sun shines, and the rain rains for both; the area
will widen very fast, and ere you know it the boundary mountains, on
which the eye had fastened, have melted into air. If they set out to
contend, Saint Paul will lie, and Saint John will hate. What low,
poor, paltry, hypocritical people an argument on religion will make
of the pure and chosen souls! They will shuffle, and crow, crook,
and hide, feign to confess here, only that they may brag and conquer
there, and not a thought has enriched either party, and not an
emotion of bravery, modesty, or hope. So neither should you put
yourself in a false position with your contemporaries, by indulging a
vein of hostility and bitterness. Though your views are in straight
antagonism to theirs, assume an identity of sentiment, assume that
you are saying precisely that which all think, and in the flow of wit
and love roll out your paradoxes in solid column, with not the
infirmity of a doubt. So at least shall you get an adequate
deliverance. The natural motions of the soul are so much better than
the voluntary ones, that you will never do yourself justice in
dispute. The thought is not then taken hold of by the right handle,
does not show itself proportioned, and in its true bearings, but
bears extorted, hoarse, and half witness. But assume a consent, and
it shall presently be granted, since, really, and underneath their
external diversities, all men are of one heart and mind.

Wisdom will never let us stand with any man or men on an
unfriendly footing. We refuse sympathy and intimacy with people, as
if we waited for some better sympathy and intimacy to come. But
whence and when? To-morrow will be like to-day. Life wastes itself
whilst we are preparing to live. Our friends and fellow-workers die
off from us. Scarcely can we say, we see new men, new women,
approaching us. We are too old to regard fashion, too old to expect
patronage of any greater or more powerful. Let us suck the sweetness
of those affections and consuetudes that grow near us. These old
shoes are easy to the feet. Undoubtedly, we can easily pick faults
in our company, can easily whisper names prouder, and that tickle the
fancy more. Every man's imagination hath its friends; and life would
be dearer with such companions. But, if you cannot have them on good
mutual terms, you cannot have them. If not the Deity, but our
ambition, hews and shapes the new relations, their virtue escapes, as
strawberries lose their flavor in garden-beds.

Thus truth, frankness, courage, love, humility, and all the
virtues, range themselves on the side of prudence, or the art of
securing a present well-being. I do not know if all matter will be
found to be made of one element, as 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.


"Paradise is under the shadow of swords."

Ruby wine is drunk by knaves,
Sugar spends to fatten slaves,
Rose and vine-leaf deck buffoons;
Thunderclouds are Jove's festoons,
Drooping oft in wreaths of dread
Lightning-knotted round his head;
The hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head-winds right for royal sails.

ESSAY VIII _Heroism_

In the elder English dramaetcher, there is a constant
recognition of gentility, as if a noble behaviour were as easily
marked in the society of their age, as color is in our American
population. When any Rodrigo, Pedro, or Valerio enters, though he be
a stranger, the duke or governor exclaims, This is a gentleman, --
and proffers civilities without end; but all the rest are slag and
refuse. In harmony with this delight in personal advantages, there
is in their plays a certain heroic cast of character and dialogue, --
as in Bonduca, Sophocles, the Mad Lover, the Double Marriage, --
wherein the speaker is so earnest and cordial, and on such deep
grounds of character, that the dialogue, on the slightest additional
incident in the plot, rises naturally into poetry. Among many texts,
take the following. The Roman Martius has conquered Athens, -- all
but the invincible spirits of Sophocles, the duke of Athens, and
Dorigen, his wife. The beauty of the latter inflames Martius, and he
seeks to save her husband; but Sophocles will not ask his life,
although assured that a word will save him, and the execution of both

"_Valerius_. Bid thy wife farewell.

_Soph_. No, I will take no leave. My Dorigen,
Yonder, above, 'bout Ariadne's crown,
My spirit shall hover for thee. Prithee, haste.

_Dor_. Stay, Sophocles, -- with this tie up my sight;
Let not soft nature so transformed be,
And lose her gentler sexed humanity,
To make me see my lord bleed. So, 't is well;
Never one object underneath the sun
Will I behold before my Sophocles:
Farewell; now teach the Romans how to die.

_Mar_. Dost know what 't is to die?

_Soph_. Thou dost not, Martius,
And, therefore, not what 't is to live; to die
Is to begin to live. It is to end |P372|p1
An old, stale, weary work, and to commence
A newer and a better. 'T is to leave
Deceitful knaves for the society
Of gods and goodness. Thou thyself must part
At last from all thy garlands, pleasures, triumphs,
And prove thy fortitude what then 't will do.

_Val_. But art not grieved nor vexed to leave thy life thus?

_Soph_. Why should I grieve or vex for being sent
To them I ever loved best? Now I'll kneel,
But with my back toward thee; 't is the last duty
This trunk can do the gods.

_Mar_. Strike, strike, Valerius,
Or Martius' heart will leap out at his mouth:
This is a man, a woman! Kiss thy lord,
And live with all the freedom you were wont.
O love! thou doubly hast afflicted me
With virtue and with beauty. Treacherous heart,
My hand shall cast thee quick into my urn,
Ere thou transgress this knot of piety.

_Val_. What ails my brother?

_Soph_. Martius, O Martius,
Thou now hast found a way to conquer me.

_Dor_. O star of Rome! what gratitude can speak
Fit words to follow such a deed as this?

_Mar_. This admirable duke, Valerius,
With his disdain of fortune and of death,
Captived himself, has captivated me,
And though my arm hath ta'en his body here,
His soul hath subjugated Martius' soul.
By Romulus, he is all soul, I think;
He hath no flesh, and spirit cannot be gyved;
Then we have vanquished nothing; he is free,
And Martius walks now in captivity."

I do not readily remember any poem, play, sermon, novel, or
oration, that our press vents in the last few years, which goes to
the same tune. We have a great many flutes and flageolets, but not
often the sound of any fife. Yet, Wordsworth's Laodamia, and the ode
of "Dion," and some sonnets, have a certain noble music; and Scott
will sometimes draw a stroke like the protrait of Lord Evandale,
given by Balfour of Burley. Thomas Carlyle, with his natural taste
for what is manly and daring in character, has suffered no heroic
trait in his favorites to drop from his biographical and historical
pictures. Earlier, Robert Burns has given us a song or two. In the
Harleian Miscellanies, there is an account of the battle of Lutzen,
which deserves to be read. And Simon Ockley's History of the
Saracens recounts the prodigies of individual valor with admiration,
all the more evident on the part of the narrator, that he seems to
think that his place in Christian Oxford requires of him some proper
protestations of abhorrence. But, if we explore the literature of
Heroism, we shall quickly come to Plutarch, who is its Doctor and
historian. To him we owe the Brasidas, the Dion, the Epaminondas,
the Scipio of old, and I must think we are more deeply indebted to
him than to all the ancient writers. Each of his "Lives" is a
refutation to the despondency and cowardice of our religious and
political theorists. A wild courage, a Stoicism not of the schools,
but of the blood, shines in every anecdote, and has given that book
its immense fame.

We need books of this tart cathartic virtue, more than books of
political science, or of private economy. Life is a festival only to
the wise. Seen from the nook and chimney-side of prudence, it wears
a ragged and dangerous front. The violations of the laws of nature
by our predecessors and our contemporaries are punished in us also.
The disease and deformity around us certify the infraction of
natural, intellectual, and moral laws, and often violation on
violation to breed such compound misery. A lock-jaw that bends a
man's head back to his heels, hydrophobia, that makes him bark at his
wife and babes, insanity, that makes him eat grass; war, plague,
cholera, famine, indicate a certain ferocity in nature, which, as it
had its inlet by human crime, must have its outlet by human
suffering. Unhappily, no man exists who has not in his own person
become, to some amount, a stockholder in the sin, and so made himself
liable to a share in the expiation.

Our culture, therefore, must not omit the arming of the man.
Let him hear in season, that he is born into the state of war, and
that the commonwealth and his own well-being require that he should
not go dancing in the weeds of peace, but warned, self-collected, and
neither defying nor dreading the thunder, let him take both
reputation and life in his hand, and, with perfect urbanity, dare the
gibbet and the mob by the absolute truth of his speech, and the
rectitude of his behaviour.

Towards all this external evil, the man within the breast
assumes a warlike attitude, and affirms his ability to cope
single-handed with the infinite army of enemies. To this military
attitude of the soul we give the name of Heroism. Its rudest form is
the contempt for safety and ease, which makes the attractiveness of
war. It is a self-trust which slights the restraints of prudence, in
the plenitude of its energy and power to repair the harms it may
suffer. The hero is a mind of such balance that no disturbances can
shake his will, but pleasantly, and, as it were, merrily, he advances
to his own music, alike in frightful alarms and in the tipsy mirth of
universal dissoluteness. There is somewhat not philosophical in
heroism; there is somewhat not holy in it; it seems not to know that
other souls are of one texture with it; it has pride; it is the
extreme of individual nature. Nevertheless, we must profoundly
revere it. There is somewhat in great actions, which does not allow
us to go behind them. Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore
is always right; and although a different breeding, different
religion, and greater intellectual activity would have modified or
even reversed the particular action, yet for the hero that thing he
does is the highest deed, and is not open to the censure of
philosophers or divines. It is the avowal of the unschooled man,
that he finds a quality in him that is negligent of expense, of
health, of life, of danger, of hatred, of reproach, and knows that
his will is higher and more excellent than all actual and all
possible antagonists.

Heroism works in contradiction to the voice of mankind, and in
contradiction, for a time, to the voice of the great and good.
Heroism is an obedience to a secret impulse of an individual's
character. Now to no other man can its wisdom appear as it does to
him, for every man must be supposed to see a little farther on his
own proper path than any one else. Therefore, just and wise men take
umbrage at his act, until after some little time be past: then they
see it to be in unison with their acts. All prudent men see that the
action is clean contrary to a sensual prosperity; for every heroic
act measures itself by its contempt of some external good. But it
finds its own success at last, and then the prudent also extol.

Self-trust is the essence of heroism. It is the state of the
soul at war, and its ultimate objects are the last defiance of
falsehood and wrong, and the power to bear all that can be inflicted
by evil agents. It speaks the truth, and it is just, generous,
hospitable, temperate, scornful of petty calculations, and scornful
of being scorned. It persists; it is of an undaunted boldness, and
of a fortitude not to be wearied out. Its jest is the littleness of
common life. That false prudence which dotes on health and wealth is
the butt and merriment of heroism. Heroism, like Plotinus, is almost
ashamed of its body. What shall it say, then, to the sugar-plums and
cats'-cradles, to the toilet, compliments, quarrels, cards, and
custard, which rack the wit of all society. What joys has kind
nature provided for us dear creatures! There seems to be no interval
between greatness and meanness. When the spirit is not master of the
world, then it is its dupe. Yet the little man takes the great hoax
so innocently, works in it so headlong and believing, is born red,
and dies gray, arranging his toilet, attending on his own health,
laying traps for sweet food and strong wine, setting his heart on a
horse or a rifle, made happy with a little gossip or a little praise,
that the great soul cannot choose but laugh at such earnest nonsense.
"Indeed, these humble considerations make me out of love with
greatness. What a disgrace is it to me to take note how many pairs
of silk stockings thou hast, namely, these and those that were the
peach-colored ones; or to bear the inventory of thy shirts, as one
for superfluity, and one other for use!"

Citizens, thinking after the laws of arithmetic, consider the
inconvenience of receiving strangers at their fireside, reckon
narrowly the loss of time and the unusual display: the soul of a
better quality thrusts back the unseasonable economy into the vaults
of life, and says, I will obey the God, and the sacrifice and the
fire he will provide. Ibn Haukal, the Arabian geographer, describes
a heroic extreme in the hospitality of Sogd, in Bukharia. "When I
was in Sogd, I saw a great building, like a palace, the gates of
which were open and fixed back to the wall with large nails. I asked
the reason, and was told that the house had not been shut, night or
day, for a hundred years. Strangers may present themselves at any
hour, and in whatever number; the master has amply provided for the
reception of the men and their animals, and is never happier than
when they tarry for some time. Nothing of the kind have I seen in
any other country." The magnanimous know very well that they who give
time, or money, or shelter, to the stranger -- so it be done for
love, and not for ostentation -- do, as it were, put God under
obligation to them, so perfect are the compensations of the universe.
In some way the time they seem to lose is redeemed, and the pains
they seem to take remunerate themselves. These men fan the flame of
human love, and raise the standard of civil virtue among mankind.
But hospitality must be for service, and not for show, or it pulls
down the host. The brave soul rates itself too high to value itself
by the splendor of its table and draperies. It gives what it hath,
and all it hath, but its own majesty can lend a better grace to
bannocks and fair water than belong to city feasts.

The temperance of the hero proceeds from the same wish to do no
dishonor to the worthiness he has. But he loves it for its elegancy,
not for its austerity. It seems not worth his while to be solemn,
and denounce with bitterness flesh-eating or wine-drinking, the use
of tobacco, or opium, or tea, or silk, or gold. A great man scarcely
knows how he dines, how he dresses; but without railing or precision,
his living is natural and poetic. John Eliot, the Indian Apostle,
drank water, and said of wine, -- "It is a noble, generous liquor,
and we should be humbly thankful for it, but, as I remember, water
was made before it." Better still is the temperance of King David,
who poured out on the ground unto the Lord the water which three of
his warriors had brought him to drink, at the peril of their lives.

It is told of Brutus, that when he fell on his sword, after the
battle of Philippi, he quoted a line of Euripides, -- "O virtue! I
have followed thee through life, and I find thee at last but a
shade." I doubt not the hero is slandered by this report. The heroic
soul does not sell its justice and its nobleness. It does not ask to
dine nicely, and to sleep warm. The essence of greatness is the
perception that virtue is enough. Poverty is its ornament. It does
not need plenty, and can very well abide its loss.

But that which takes my fancy most, in the heroic class, is the
good-humor and hilarity they exhibit. It is a height to which common
duty can very well attain, to suffer and to dare with solemnity. But
these rare souls set opinion, success, and life, at so cheap a rate,
that they will not soothe their enemies by petitions, or the show of
sorrow, but wear their own habitual greatness. Scipio, charged with
peculation, refuses to do himself so great a disgrace as to wait for
justification, though he had the scroll of his accounts in his hands,
but tears it to pieces before the tribunes. Socrates's condemnation
of himself to be maintained in all honor in the Prytaneum, during his
life, and Sir Thomas More's playfulness at the scaffold, are of the
same strain. In Beaumont and Fletcher's "Sea Voyage," Juletta tells
the stout captain and his company, --

_Jul_. Why, slaves, 't is in our power to hang ye.
_Master_. Very likely,
'T is in our powers, then, to be hanged, and scorn ye."

These replies are sound and whole. Sport is the bloom and glow
of a perfect health. The great will not condescend to take any thing
seriously; all must be as gay as the song of a canary, though it were
the building of cities, or the eradication of old and foolish
churches and nations, which have cumbered the earth long thousands of
years. Simple hearts put all the history and customs of this world
behind them, and play their own game in innocent defiance of the
Blue-Laws of the world; and such would appear, could we see the human
race assembled in vision, like little children frolicking together;
though, to the eyes of mankind at large, they wear a stately and
solemn garb of works and influences.

The interest these fine stories have for us, the power of a
romance over the boy who grasps the forbidden book under his bench at
school, our delight in the hero, is the main fact to our purpose.
All these great and transcendent properties are ours. If we dilate
in beholding the Greek energy, the Roman pride, it is that we are
already domesticating the same sentiment. Let us find room for this
great guest in our small houses. The first step of worthiness will
be to disabuse us of our superstitious associations with places and
times, with number and size. Why should these words, Athenian,
Roman, Asia, and England, so tingle in the ear? Where the heart is,
there the muses, there the gods sojourn, and not in any geography of
fame. Massachusetts, Connecticut River, and Boston Bay, you think
paltry places, and the ear loves names of foreign and classic
topography. But here we are; and, if we will tarry a little, we may
come to learn that here is best. See to it, only, that thyself is
here; -- and art and nature, hope and fate, friends, angels, and the
Supreme Being, shall not be absent from the chamber where thou
sittest. Epaminondas, brave and affectionate, does not seem to us to
need Olympus to die upon, nor the Syrian sunshine. He lies very well
where he is. The Jerseys were handsome ground enough for Washington
to tread, and London streets for the feet of Milton. A great man
makes his climate genial in the imagination of men, and its air the
beloved element of all delicate spirits. That country is the
fairest, which is inhabited by the noblest minds. The pictures which
fill the imagination in reading the actions of Pericles, Xenophon,
Columbus, Bayard, Sidney, Hampden, teach us how needlessly mean our
life is, that we, by the depth of our living, should deck it with
more than regal or national splendor, and act on principles that
should interest man and nature in the length of our days.

We have seen or heard of many extraordinary young men, who
never ripened, or whose performance in actual life was not
extraordinary. When we see their air and mien, when we hear them
speak of society, of books, of religion, we admire their superiority,
they seem to throw contempt on our entire polity and social state;
theirs is the tone of a youthful giant, who is sent to work
revolutions. But they enter an active profession, and the forming
Colossus shrinks to the common size of man. The magic they used was
the ideal tendencies, which always make the Actual ridiculous; but
the tough world had its revenge the moment they put their horses of
the sun to plough in its furrow. They found no example and no
companion, and their heart fainted. What then? The lesson they gave
in their first aspirations is yet true; and a better valor and a
purer truth shall one day organize their belief. Or why should a
woman liken herself to any historical woman, and think, because
Sappho, or Sevigne, or De Stael, or the cloistered souls who have had
genius and cultivation, do not satisfy the imagination and the serene
Themis, none can, -- certainly not she. Why not? She has a new and
unattempted problem to solve, perchance that of the happiest nature
that ever bloomed. Let the maiden, with erect soul, walk serenely on
her way, accept the hint of each new experience, search in turn all
the objects that solicit her eye, that she may learn the power and
the charm of her new-born being, which is the kindling of a new dawn
in the recesses of space. The fair girl, who repels interference by
a decided and proud choice of influences, so careless of pleasing, so
wilful and lofty, inspires every beholder with somewhat of her own
nobleness. The silent heart encourages her; O friend, never strike
sail to a fear! Come into port greatly, or sail with God the seas.
Not in vain you live, for every passing eye is cheered and refined by
the vision.

The characteristic of heroism is its persistency. All men have
wandering impulses, fits, and starts of generosity. But when you
have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to
reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common,
nor the common the heroic. Yet we have the weakness to expect the
sympathy of people in those actions whose excellence is that they
outrun sympathy, and appeal to a tardy justice. If you would serve
your brother, because it is fit for you to serve him, do not take
back your words when you find that prudent people do not commend you.
Adhere to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done
something strange and extravagant, and broken the monotony of a
decorous age. It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a
young person, -- "Always do what you are afraid to do." A simple,
manly character need never make an apology, but should regard its
past action with the calmness of Phocion, when he admitted that the
event of the battle was happy, yet did not regret his dissuasion from
the battle.

There is no weakness or exposure for which we cannot find
consolation in the thought, -- this is a part of my constitution,
part of my relation and office to my fellow-creature. Has nature
covenanted with me that I should never appear to disadvantage, never
make a ridiculous figure? Let us be generous of our dignity, as well
as of our money. Greatness once and for ever has done with opinion.
We tell our charities, not because we wish to be praised for them,
not because we think they have great merit, but for our
justification. It is a capital blunder; as you discover, when
another man recites his charities.

To speak the truth, even with some austerity, to live with some
rigor of temperance, or some extremes of generosity, seems to be an
asceticism which common good-nature would appoint to those who are at
ease and in plenty, in sign that they feel a brotherhood with the
great multitude of suffering men. And not only need we breathe and
exercise the soul by assuming the penalties of abstinence, of debt,
of solitude, of unpopularity, but it behooves the wise man to look
with a bold eye into those rarer dangers which sometimes invade men,
and to familiarize himself with disgusting forms of disease, with
sounds of execration, and the vision of violent death.

Times of heroism are generally times of terror, but the day
never shines in which this element may not work. The circumstances
of man, we say, are historically somewhat better in this country, and
at this hour, than perhaps ever before. More freedom exists for
culture. It will not now run against an axe at the first step out of
the beaten track of opinion. But whoso is heroic will always find
crises to try his edge. Human virtue demands her champions and
martyrs, and the trial of persecution always proceeds. It is but the
other day that the brave Lovejoy gave his breast to the bullets of a
mob, for the rights of free speech and opinion, and died when it was
better not to live.

I see not any road of perfect peace which a man can walk, but
after the counsel of his own bosom. Let him quit too much
association, let him go home much, and stablish himself in those
courses he approves. The unremitting retention of simple and high
sentiments in obscure duties is hardening the character to that
temper which will work with honor, if need be, in the tumult, or on
the scaffold. Whatever outrages have happened to men may befall a
man again; and very easily in a republic, if there appear any signs
of a decay of religion. Coarse slander, fire, tar and feathers, and
the gibbet, the youth may freely bring home to his mind, and with
what sweetness of temper he can, and inquire how fast he can fix his
sense of duty, braving such penalties, whenever it may please the
next newspaper and a sufficient number of his neighbours to pronounce
his opinions incendiary.

It may calm the apprehension of calamity in the most
susceptible heart to see how quick a bound nature has set to the
utmost infliction of malice. We rapidly approach a brink over which
no enemy can follow us.

"Let them rave:
Thou art quiet in thy grave."

In the gloom of our ignorance of what shall be, in the hour
when we are deaf to the higher voices, who does not envy those who
have seen safely to an end their manful endeavour? Who that sees the
meanness of our politics, but inly congratulates Washington that he
is long already wrapped in his shroud, and for ever safe; that he was
laid sweet in his grave, the hope of humanity not yet subjugated in
him? Who does not sometimes envy the good and brave, who are no more
to suffer from the tumults of the natural world, and await with
curious complacency the speedy term of his own conversation with
finite nature? And yet the love that will be annihilated sooner than
treacherous has already made death impossible, and affirms itself no
mortal, but a native of the deeps of absolute and inextinguishable


"But souls that of his own good life partake,
He loves as his own self; dear as his eye
They are to Him: He'll never them forsake:
When they shall die, then God himself shall die:
They live, they live in blest eternity."
_Henry More_

Space is ample, east and west,
But two cannot go abreast,
Cannot travel in it two:
Yonder masterful cuckoo
Crowds every egg out of the nest,
Quick or dead, except its own;
A spell is laid on sod and stone,
Night and Day 've been tampered with,
Every quality and pith
Surcharged and sultry with a power
That works its will on age and hour.

ESSAY IX _The Over-Soul_

There is a difference between one and another hour of life, in
their authority and subsequent effect. Our faith comes in moments;
our vice is habitual. Yet there is a depth in those brief moments
which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other
experiences. For this reason, the argument which is always
forthcoming to silence those who conceive extraordinary hopes of man,
namely, the appeal to experience, is for ever invalid and vain. We
give up the past to the objector, and yet we hope. He must explain
this hope. We grant that human life is mean; but how did we find out
that it was mean? What is the ground of this uneasiness of ours; of
this old discontent? What is the universal sense of want and
ignorance, but the fine inuendo by which the soul makes its enormous
claim? Why do men feel that the natural history of man has never
been written, but he is always leaving behind what you have said of
him, and it becomes old, and books of metaphysics worthless? The
philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and
magazines of the soul. In its experiments there has always remained,
in the last analysis, a residuum it could not resolve. Man is a
stream whose source is hidden. Our being is descending into us from
we know not whence. The most exact calculator has no prescience that
somewhat incalculable may not balk the very next moment. I am
constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher origin for events
than the will I call mine.

As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch that
flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season
its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a
surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look
up, and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien
energy the visions come.

The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present,
and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in
which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere;
that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man's particular being
is contained and made one with all other;that common heart, of which
all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is
submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and
talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to
speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore
tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and
virtue, and power, and beauty. We live in succession, in division,
in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the
whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part
and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep
power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us,
is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of
seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject
and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the
sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these
are the shining parts, is the soul. Only by the vision of that
Wisdom can the horoscope of the ages be read, and by falling back on
our better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy which is
innate in every man, we can know what it saith. Every man's words,
who speaks from that life, must sound vain to those who do not dwell
in the same thought on their own part. I dare not speak for it. My
words do not carry its august sense; they fall short and cold. Only
itself can inspire whom it will, and behold! their speech shall be
lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of the wind. Yet I
desire, even by profane words, if I may not use sacred, to indicate
the heaven of this deity, and to report what hints I have collected
of the transcendent simplicity and energy of the Highest Law.

If we consider what happens in conversation, in reveries, in
remorse, in times of passion, in surprises, in the instructions of
dreams, wherein often we see ourselves in masquerade, -- the droll
disguises only magnifying and enhancing a real element, and forcing
it on our distinct notice, -- we shall catch many hints that will
broaden and lighten into knowledge of the secret of nature. All goes
to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and
exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of
memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and
feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the
will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background
of our being, in which they lie, -- an immensity not possessed and
that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines
through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but
the light is all. A man is the fasade of a temple wherein all wisdom
and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking,
planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself,
but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul,
whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would
make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is
genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it
flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the
intellect begins, when it would be something of itself. The weakness
of the will begins, when the individual would be something of
himself. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the soul
have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey.

Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible.
Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtile. It is
undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains
us. We know that all spiritual being is in man. A wise old proverb
says, "God comes to see us without bell"; that is, as there is no
screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is
there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and
God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We lie open on
one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God.
Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man
ever got above, but they tower over us, and most in the moment when
our interests tempt us to wound them.

The sovereignty of this nature whereof we speak is made known
by its independency of those limitations which circumscribe us on
every hand. The soul circumscribes all things. As I have said, it
contradicts all experience. In like manner it abolishes time and
space. The influence of the senses has, in most men, overpowered the
mind to that degree, that the walls of time and space have come to
look real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity of these
limits is, in the world, the sign of insanity. Yet time and space
are but inverse measures of the force of the soul. The spirit sports
with time, --

"Can crowd eternity into an hour,
Or stretch an hour to eternity."

We are often made to feel that there is another youth and age
than that which is measured from the year of our natural birth. Some
thoughts always find us young, and keep us so. Such a thought is the
love of the universal and eternal beauty. Every man parts from that
contemplation with the feeling that it rather belongs to ages than to
mortal life. The least activity of the intellectual powers redeems
us in a degree from the conditions of time. In sickness, in languor,
give us a strain of poetry, or a profound sentence, and we are
refreshed; or produce a volume of Plato, or Shakspeare, or remind us
of their names, and instantly we come into a feeling of longevity.
See how the deep, divine thought reduces centuries, and millenniums,
and makes itself present through all ages. Is the teaching of Christ
less effective now than it was when first his mouth was opened? The
emphasis of facts and persons in my thought has nothing to do with
time. And so, always, the soul's scale is one; the scale of the
senses and the understanding is another. Before the revelations of
the soul, Time, Space, and Nature shrink away. In common speech, we
refer all things to time, as we habitually refer the immensely
sundered stars to one concave sphere. And so we say that the
Judgment is distant or near, that the Millennium approaches, that a
day of certain political, moral, social reforms is at hand, and the
like, when we mean, that, in the nature of things, one of the facts
we contemplate is external and fugitive, and the other is permanent
and connate with the soul. The things we now esteem fixed shall, one
by one, detach themselves, like ripe fruit, from our experience, and
fall. The wind shall blow them none knows whither. The landscape,
the figures, Boston, London, are facts as fugitive as any institution
past, or any whiff of mist or smoke, and so is society, and so is the
world. The soul looketh steadily forwards, creating a world before
her, leaving worlds behind her. She has no dates, nor rites, nor
persons, nor specialties, nor men. The soul knows only the soul; the
web of events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed.

After its own law and not by arithmetic is the rate of its
progress to be computed. The soul's advances are not made by
gradation, such as can be represented by motion in a straight line;
but rather by ascension of state, such as can be represented by
metamorphosis, -- from the egg to the worm, from the worm to the fly.
The growths of genius are of a certain _total_ character, that does
not advance the elect individual first over John, then Adam, then
Richard, and give to each the pain of discovered inferiority, but by
every throe of growth the man expands there where he works, passing,
at each pulsation, classes, populations, of men. With each divine
impulse the mind rends the thin rinds of the visible and finite, and
comes out into eternity, and inspires and expires its air. It
converses with truths that have always been spoken in the world, and
becomes conscious of a closer sympathy with Zeno and Arrian, than
with persons in the house.

This is the law of moral and of mental gain. The simple rise
as by specific levity, not into a particular virtue, but into the
region of all the virtues. They are in the spirit which contains
them all. The soul requires purity, but purity is not it; requires
justice, but justice is not that; requires beneficence, but is
somewhat better; so that there is a kind of descent and accommodation
felt when we leave speaking of moral nature, to urge a virtue which
it enjoins. To the well-born child, all the virtues are natural, and
not painfully acquired. Speak to his heart, and the man becomes
suddenly virtuous.

Within the same sentiment is the germ of intellectual growth,
which obeys the same law. Those who are capable of humility, of
justice, of love, of aspiration, stand already on a platform that
commands the sciences and arts, speech and poetry, action and grace.
For whoso dwells in this moral beatitude already anticipates those
special powers which men prize so highly. The lover has no talent,
no skill, which passes for quite nothing with his enamoured maiden,
however little she may possess of related faculty; and the heart
which abandons itself to the Supreme Mind finds itself related to all
its works, and will travel a royal road to particular knowledges and
powers. In ascending to this primary and aboriginal sentiment, we
have come from our remote station on the circumference
instantaneously to the centre of the world, where, as in the closet
of God, we see causes, and anticipate the universe, which is but a
slow effect.

One mode of the divine teaching is the incarnation of the
spirit in a form, -- in forms, like my own. I live in society; with
persons who answer to thoughts in my own mind, or express a certain
obedience to the great instincts to which I live. I see its presence
to them. I am certified of a common nature; and these other souls,
these separated selves, draw me as nothing else can. They stir in me
the new emotions we call passion; of love, hatred, fear, admiration,
pity; thence comes conversation, competition, persuasion, cities, and
war. Persons are supplementary to the primary teaching of the soul.
In youth we are mad for persons. Childhood and youth see all the
world in them. But the larger experience of man discovers the
identical nature appearing through them all. Persons themselves
acquaint us with the impersonal. In all conversation between two
persons, tacit reference is made, as to a third party, to a common
nature. That third party or common nature is not social; it is
impersonal; is God. And so in groups where debate is earnest, and
especially on high questions, the company become aware that the
thought rises to an equal level in all bosoms, that all have a
spiritual property in what was said, as well as the sayer. They all
become wiser than they were. It arches over them like a temple, this
unity of thought, in which every heart beats with nobler sense of
power and duty, and thinks and acts with unusual solemnity. All are
conscious of attaining to a higher self-possession. It shines for
all. There is a certain wisdom of humanity which is common to the
greatest men with the lowest, and which our ordinary education often
labors to silence and obstruct. The mind is one, and the best minds,
who love truth for its own sake, think much less of property in
truth. They accept it thankfully everywhere, and do not label or
stamp it with any man's name, for it is theirs long beforehand, and
from eternity. The learned and the studious of thought have no
monopoly of wisdom. Their violence of direction in some degree
disqualifies them to think truly. We owe many valuable observations
to people who are not very acute or profound, and who say the thing
without effort, which we want and have long been hunting in vain.
The action of the soul is oftener in that which is felt and left
unsaid, than in that which is said in any conversation. It broods
over every society, and they unconsciously seek for it in each other.
We know better than we do. We do not yet possess ourselves, and we
know at the same time that we are much more. I feel the same truth
how often in my trivial conversation with my neighbours, that
somewhat higher in each of us overlooks this by-play, and Jove nods
to Jove from behind each of us.

Men descend to meet. In their habitual and mean service to the
world, for which they forsake their native nobleness, they resemble
those Arabian sheiks, who dwell in mean houses, and affect an
external poverty, to escape the rapacity of the Pacha, and reserve
all their display of wealth for their interior and guarded

As it is present in all persons, so it is in every period of
life. It is adult already in the infant man. In my dealing with my
child, my Latin and Greek, my accomplishments and my money stead me
nothing; but as much soul as I have avails. If I am wilful, he sets
his will against mine, one for one, and leaves me, if I please, the
degradation of beating him by my superiority of strength. But if I
renounce my will, and act for the soul, setting that up as umpire
between us two, out of his young eyes looks the same soul; he reveres
and loves with me.

The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth. We know truth
when we see it, let skeptic and scoffer say what they choose.
Foolish people ask you, when you have spoken what they do not wish to
hear, `How do you know it is truth, and not an error of your own?' We
know truth when we see it, from opinion, as we know when we are awake
that we are awake. It was a grand sentence of Emanuel Swedenborg,
which would alone indicate the greatness of that man's perception, --
"It is no proof of a man's understanding to be able to confirm
whatever he pleases; but to be able to discern that what is true is
true, and that what is false is false, this is the mark and character
of intelligence." In the book I read, the good thought returns to me,
as every truth will, the image of the whole soul. To the bad thought
which I find in it, the same soul becomes a discerning, separating
sword, and lops it away. We are wiser than we know. If we will not
interfere with our thought, but will act entirely, or see how the
thing stands in God, we know the particular thing, and every thing,
and every man. For the Maker of all things and all persons stands
behind us, and casts his dread omniscience through us over things.

But beyond this recognition of its own in particular passages
of the individual's experience, it also reveals truth. And here we
should seek to reinforce ourselves by its very presence, and to speak
with a worthier, loftier strain of that advent. For the soul's
communication of truth is the highest event in nature, since it then
does not give somewhat from itself, but it gives itself, or passes
into and becomes that man whom it enlightens; or, in proportion to
that truth he receives, it takes him to itself.

We distinguish the announcements of the soul, its
manifestations of its own nature, by the term _Revelation_. These
are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. For this
communication is an influx of the Divine mind into our mind. It is
an ebb of the individual rivulet before the flowing surges of the sea
of life. Every distinct apprehension of this central commandment
agitates men with awe and delight. A thrill passes through all men
at the reception of new truth, or at the performance of a great
action, which comes out of the heart of nature. In these
communications, the power to see is not separated from the will to
do, but the insight proceeds from obedience, and the obedience
proceeds from a joyful perception. Every moment when the individual
feels himself invaded by it is memorable. By the necessity of our
constitution, a certain enthusiasm attends the individual's
consciousness of that divine presence. The character and duration of
this enthusiasm varies with the state of the individual, from an
ecstasy and trance and prophetic inspiration, -- which is its rarer
appearance, -- to the faintest glow of virtuous emotion, in which
form it warms, like our household fires, all the families and
associations of men, and makes society possible. A certain tendency
to insanity has always attended the opening of the religious sense in
men, as if they had been "blasted with excess of light." The trances
of Socrates, the "union" of Plotinus, the vision of Porphyry, the
conversion of Paul, the aurora of Behmen, the convulsions of George
Fox and his Quakers, the illumination of Swedenborg, are of this
kind. What was in the case of these remarkable persons a ravishment
has, in innumerable instances in common life, been exhibited in less
striking manner. Everywhere the history of religion betrays a
tendency to enthusiasm. The rapture of the Moravian and Quietist;
the opening of the internal sense of the Word, in the language of the
New Jerusalem Church; the _revival_ of the Calvinistic churches; the
_experiences_ of the Methodists, are varying forms of that shudder of
awe and delight with which the individual soul always mingles with
the universal soul.

The nature of these revelations is the same; they are
perceptions of the absolute law. They are solutions of the soul's
own questions. They do not answer the questions which the
understanding asks. The soul answers never by words, but by the
thing itself that is inquired after.

Revelation is the disclosure of the soul. The popular notion
of a revelation is, that it is a telling of fortunes. In past
oracles of the soul, the understanding seeks to find answers to
sensual questions, and undertakes to tell from God how long men shall
exist, what their hands shall do, and who shall be their company,
adding names, and dates, and places. But we must pick no locks. We
must check this low curiosity. An answer in words is delusive; it is
really no answer to the questions you ask. Do not require a
description of the countries towards which you sail. The description
does not describe them to you, and to-morrow you arrive there, and
know them by inhabiting them. Men ask concerning the immortality of
the soul, the employments of heaven, the state of the sinner, and so
forth. They even dream that Jesus has left replies to precisely
these interrogatories. Never a moment did that sublime spirit speak
in their _patois_. To truth, justice, love, the attributes of the
soul, the idea of immutableness is essentially associated. Jesus,
living in these moral sentiments, heedless of sensual fortunes,
heeding only the manifestations of these, never made the separation
of the idea of duration from the essence of these attributes, nor
uttered a syllable concerning the duration of the soul. It was left
to his disciples to sever duration from the moral elements, and to
teach the immortality of the soul as a doctrine, and maintain it by
evidences. The moment the doctrine of the immortality is separately
taught, man is already fallen. In the flowing of love, in the
adoration of humility, there is no question of continuance. No
inspired man ever asks this question, or condescends to these
evidences. For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is
shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a
future which would be finite.

These questions which we lust to ask about the future are a
confession of sin. God has no answer for them. No answer in words
can reply to a question of things. It is not in an arbitrary "decree
of God," but in the nature of man, that a veil shuts down on the
facts of to-morrow; for the soul will not have us read any other
cipher than that of cause and effect. By this veil, which curtains
events, it instructs the children of men to live in to-day. The only
mode of obtaining an answer to these questions of the senses is to
forego all low curiosity, and, accepting the tide of being which
floats us into the secret of nature, work and live, work and live,
and all unawares the advancing soul has built and forged for itself a
new condition, and the question and the answer are one.

By the same fire, vital, consecrating, celestial, which burns
until it shall dissolve all things into the waves and surges of an
ocean of light, we see and know each other, and what spirit each is
of. Who can tell the grounds of his knowledge of the character of
the several individuals in his circle of friends? No man. Yet their
acts and words do not disappoint him. In that man, though he knew no
ill of him, he put no trust. In that other, though they had seldom
met, authentic signs had yet passed, to signify that he might be
trusted as one who had an interest in his own character. We know
each other very well, -- which of us has been just to himself, and
whether that which we teach or behold is only an aspiration, or is
our honest effort also.

We are all discerners of spirits. That diagnosis lies aloft in
our life or unconscious power. The intercourse of society, -- its
trade, its religion, its friendships, its quarrels,--- is one wide,
judicial investigation of character. In full court, or in small
committee, or confronted face to face, accuser and accused, men offer
themselves to be judged. Against their will they exhibit those
decisive trifles by which character is read. But who judges? and
what? Not our understanding. We do not read them by learning or
craft. No; the wisdom of the wise man consists herein, that he does
not judge them; he lets them judge themselves, and merely reads and
records their own verdict.

By virtue of this inevitable nature, private will is
overpowered, and, maugre our efforts or our imperfections, your
genius will speak from you, and mine from me. That which we are, we
shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily. Thoughts come into
our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of
our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened.
Character teaches over our head. The infallible index of true
progress is found in the tone the man takes. Neither his age, nor
his breeding, nor company, nor books, nor actions, nor talents, nor
all together, can hinder him from being deferential to a higher
spirit than his own. If he have not found his home in God, his
manners, his forms of speech, the turn of his sentences, the build,
shall I say, of all his opinions, will involuntarily confess it, let
him brave it out how he will. If he have found his centre, the Deity
will shine through him, through all the disguises of ignorance, of
ungenial temperament, of unfavorable circumstance. The tone of
seeking is one, and the tone of having is another.

The great distinction between teachers sacred or literary, --
between poets like Herbert, and poets like Pope, -- between
philosophers like Spinoza, Kant, and Coleridge, and philosophers like
Locke, Paley, Mackintosh, and Stewart, -- between men of the world,
who are reckoned accomplished talkers, and here and there a fervent
mystic, prophesying, half insane under the infinitude of his thought,
-- is, that one class speak _from within_, or from experience, as
parties and possessors of the fact; and the other class, _from
without_, as spectators merely, or perhaps as acquainted with the
fact on the evidence of third persons. It is of no use to preach to
me from without. I can do that too easily myself. Jesus speaks
always from within, and in a degree that transcends all others. In
that is the miracle. I believe beforehand that it ought so to be.
All men stand continually in the expectation of the appearance of
such a teacher. But if a man do not speak from within the veil,
where the word is one with that it tells of, let him lowly confess

The same Omniscience flows into the intellect, and makes what
we call genius. Much of the wisdom of the world is not wisdom, and
the most illuminated class of men are no doubt superior to literary
fame, and are not writers. Among the multitude of scholars and
authors, we feel no hallowing presence; we are sensible of a knack
and skill rather than of inspiration; they have a light, and know not
whence it comes, and call it their own; their talent is some
exaggerated faculty, some overgrown member, so that their strength is
a disease. In these instances the intellectual gifts do not make the
impression of virtue, but almost of vice; and we feel that a man's
talents stand in the way of his advancement in truth. But genius is
religious. It is a larger imbibing of the common heart. It is not
anomalous, but more like, and not less like other men. There is, in
all great poets, a wisdom of humanity which is superior to any
talents they exercise. The author, the wit, the partisan, the fine
gentleman, does not take place of the man. Humanity shines in Homer,
in Chaucer, in Spenser, in Shakspeare, in Milton. They are content
with truth. They use the positive degree. They seem frigid and
phlegmatic to those who have been spiced with the frantic passion and
violent coloring of inferior, but popular writers. For they are
poets by the free course which they allow to the informing soul,
which through their eyes beholds again, and blesses the things which
it hath made. The soul is superior to its knowledge; wiser than any
of its works. The great poet makes us feel our own wealth, and then
we think less of his compositions. His best communication to our
mind is to teach us to despise all he has done. Shakspeare carries
us to such a lofty strain of intelligent activity, as to suggest a
wealth which beggars his own; and we then feel that the splendid
works which he has created, and which in other hours we extol as a
sort of self-existent poetry, take no stronger hold of real nature
than the shadow of a passing traveller on the rock. The inspiration
which uttered itself in Hamlet and Lear could utter things as good
from day to day, for ever. Why, then, should I make account of
Hamlet and Lear, as if we had not the soul from which they fell as
syllables from the tongue?

This energy does not descend into individual life on any other
condition than entire possession. It comes to the lowly and simple;
it comes to whomsoever will put off what is foreign and proud; it
comes as insight; it comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see
those whom it inhabits, we are apprized of new degrees of greatness.
From that inspiration the man comes back with a changed tone. He
does not talk with men with an eye to their opinion. He tries them.
It requires of us to be plain and true. The vain traveller attempts
to embellish his life by quoting my lord, and the prince, and the
countess, who thus said or did to _him._ The ambitious vulgar show
you their spoons, and brooches, and rings, and preserve their cards
and compliments. The more cultivated, in their account of their own
experience, cull out the pleasing, poetic circumstance, -- the visit
to Rome, the man of genius they saw, the brilliant friend they know;
still further on, perhaps, the gorgeous landscape, the mountain
lights, the mountain thoughts, they enjoyed yesterday, -- and so seek
to throw a romantic color over their life. But the soul that ascends
to worship the great God is plain and true; has no rose-color, no
fine friends, no chivalry, no adventures; does not want admiration;
dwells in the hour that now is, in the earnest experience of the
common day, -- by reason of the present moment and the mere trifle
having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the sea of light.

Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and literature
looks like word-catching. The simplest utterances are worthiest to
be written, yet are they so cheap, and so things of course, that, in
the infinite riches of the soul, it is like gathering a few pebbles
off the ground, or bottling a little air in a phial, when the whole
earth and the whole atmosphere are ours. Nothing can pass there, or
make you one of the circle, but the casting aside your trappings, and
dealing man to man in naked truth, plain confession, and omniscient

Souls such as these treat you as gods would; walk as gods in
the earth, accepting without any admiration your wit, your bounty,
your virtue even, -- say rather your act of duty, for your virtue
they own as their proper blood, royal as themselves, and over-royal,
and the father of the gods. But what rebuke their plain fraternal
bearing casts on the mutual flattery with which authors solace each
other and wound themselves! These flatter not. I do not wonder that
these men go to see Cromwell, and Christina, and Charles the Second,
and James the First, and the Grand Turk. For they are, in their own
elevation, the fellows of kings, and must feel the servile tone of
conversation in the world. They must always be a godsend to princes,
for they confront them, a king to a king, without ducking or
concession, and give a high nature the refreshment and satisfaction
of resistance, of plain humanity, of even companionship, and of new
ideas. They leave them wiser and superior men. Souls like these
make us feel that sincerity is more excellent than flattery. Deal so
plainly with man and woman, as to constrain the utmost sincerity, and
destroy all hope of trifling with you. It is the highest compliment
you can pay. Their "highest praising," said Milton, "is not
flattery, and their plainest advice is a kind of praising."

Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul.
The simplest person, who in his integrity worships God, becomes God;
yet for ever and ever the influx of this better and universal self is
new and unsearchable. It inspires awe and astonishment. How dear,
how soothing to man, arises the idea of God, peopling the lonely
place, effacing the scars of our mistakes and disappointments! When
we have broken our god of tradition, and ceased from our god of
rhetoric, then may God fire the heart with his presence. It is the
doubling of the heart itself, nay, the infinite enlargement of the
heart with a power of growth to a new infinity on every side. It
inspires in man an infallible trust. He has not the conviction, but
the sight, that the best is the true, and may in that thought easily
dismiss all particular uncertainties and fears, and adjourn to the
sure revelation of time, the solution of his private riddles. He is
sure that his welfare is dear to the heart of being. In the presence
of law to his mind, he is overflowed with a reliance so universal,
that it sweeps away all cherished hopes and the most stable projects
of mortal condition in its flood. He believes that he cannot escape
from his good. The things that are really for thee gravitate to
thee. You are running to seek your friend. Let your feet run, but
your mind need not. If you do not find him, will you not acquiesce
that it is best you should not find him? for there is a power, which,
as it is in you, is in him also, and could therefore very well bring
you together, if it were for the best. You are preparing with
eagerness to go and render a service to which your talent and your
taste invite you, the love of men and the hope of fame. Has it not
occurred to you, that you have no right to go, unless you are equally
willing to be prevented from going? O, believe, as thou livest, that
every sound that is spoken over the round world, which thou oughtest
to hear, will vibrate on thine ear! Every proverb, every book, every
byword that belongs to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely come
home through open or winding passages. Every friend whom not thy
fantastic will, but the great and tender heart in thee craveth, shall
lock thee in his embrace. And this, because the heart in thee is the
heart of all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there
anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless
circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one
sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one.

Let man, then, learn the revelation of all nature and all
thought to his heart; this, namely; that the Highest dwells with him;
that the sources of nature are in his own mind, if the sentiment of
duty is there. But if he would know what the great God speaketh, he
must `go into his closet and shut the door,' as Jesus said. God will
not make himself manifest to cowards. He must greatly listen to
himself, withdrawing himself from all the accents of other men's
devotion. Even their prayers are hurtful to him, until he have made
his own. Our religion vulgarly stands on numbers of believers.
Whenever the appeal is made -- no matter how indirectly -- to
numbers, proclamation is then and there made, that religion is not.
He that finds God a sweet, enveloping thought to him never counts his
company. When I sit in that presence, who shall dare to come in?
When I rest in perfect humility, when I burn with pure love, what can
Calvin or Swedenborg say?

It makes no difference whether the appeal is to numbers or to
one. The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance
on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the
soul. The position men have given to Jesus, now for many centuries
of history, is a position of authority. It characterizes themselves.
It cannot alter the eternal facts. Great is the soul, and plain. It
is no flatterer, it is no follower; it never appeals from itself. It
believes in itself. Before the immense possibilities of man, all
mere experience, all past biography, however spotless and sainted,
shrinks away. Before that heaven which our presentiments foreshow
us, we cannot easily praise any form of life we have seen or read of.
We not only affirm that we have few great men, but, absolutely
speaking, that we have none; that we have no history, no record of
any character or mode of living, that entirely contents us. The
saints and demigods whom history worships we are constrained to
accept with a grain of allowance. Though in our lonely hours we draw
a new strength out of their memory, yet, pressed on our attention, as
they are by the thoughtless and customary, they fatigue and invade.
The soul gives itself, alone, original, and pure, to the Lonely,
Original, and Pure, who, on that condition, gladly inhabits, leads,
and speaks through it. Then is it glad, young, and nimble. It is
not wise, but it sees through all things. It is not called
religious, but it is innocent. It calls the light its own, and feels
that the grass grows and the stone falls by a law inferior to, and
dependent on, its nature. Behold, it saith, I am born into the
great, the universal mind. I, the imperfect, adore my own Perfect.
I am somehow receptive of the great soul, and thereby I do overlook
the sun and the stars, and feel them to be the fair accidents and
effects which change and pass. More and more the surges of
everlasting nature enter into me, and I become public and human in my
regards and actions. So come I to live in thoughts, and act with
energies, which are immortal. Thus revering the soul, and learning,
as the ancient said, that "its beauty is immense," man will come to
see that the world is the perennial miracle which the soul worketh,
and be less astonished at particular wonders; he will learn that
there is no profane history; that all history is sacred; that the
universe is represented in an atom, in a moment of time. He will
weave no longer a spotted life of shreds and patches, but he will
live with a divine unity. He will cease from what is base and
frivolous in his life, and be content with all places and with any
service he can render. He will calmly front the morrow in the
negligency of that trust which carries God with it, and so hath
already the whole future in the bottom of the heart.


Nature centres into balls,
And her proud ephemerals,
Fast to surface and outside,
Scan the profile of the sphere;
Knew they what that signified,
A new genesis were here.

ESSAY X _Circles_

The 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 described 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 action. Another analogy we shall now trace;
that every action admits of being outdone. Our life is an
apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be
drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning;
that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every
deep a lower deep opens.

This fact, as far as it symbolizes the moral fact of the
Unattainable, the flying Perfect, around which the hands of man can
never meet, at once the inspirer and the condemner of every success,
may conveniently serve us to connect many illustrations of human
power in every department.

There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and
volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our globe seen by
God is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the
fact and holds it fluid. Our culture is the predominance of an idea
which draws after it this train of cities and institutions. Let us
rise into another idea: they will disappear. The Greek sculpture is
all melted away, as if it had been statues of ice; here and there a
solitary figure or fragment remaining, as we see flecks and scraps of
snow left in cold dells and mountain clefts, in June and July. For
the genius that created it creates now somewhat else. The Greek
letters last a little longer, but are already passing under the same
sentence, and tumbling into the inevitable pit which the creation of
new thought opens for all that is old. The new continents are built
out of the ruins of an old planet; the new races fed out of the
decomposition of the foregoing. New arts destroy the old. See the
investment of capital in aqueducts made useless by hydraulics;
fortifications, by gunpowder; roads and canals, by railways; sails,
by steam; steam by electricity.

You admire this tower of granite, weathering the hurts of so
many ages. Yet a little waving hand built this huge wall, and that
which builds is better than that which is built. The hand that built
can topple it down much faster. Better than the hand, and nimbler,
was the invisible thought which wrought through it; and thus ever,
behind the coarse effect, is a fine cause, which, being narrowly
seen, is itself the effect of a finer cause. Every thing looks
permanent until its secret is known. A rich estate appears to women
a firm and lasting fact; to a merchant, one easily created out of any
materials, and easily lost. An orchard, good tillage, good grounds,
seem a fixture, like a gold mine, or a river, to a citizen; but to a
large farmer, not much more fixed than the state of the crop. Nature
looks provokingly stable and secular, but it has a cause like all the
rest; and when once I comprehend that, will these fields stretch so
immovably wide, these leaves hang so individually considerable?
Permanence is a word of degrees. Every thing is medial. Moons are
no more bounds to spiritual power than bat-balls.

The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though
he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which
all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him
a new idea which commands his own. The life of man is a
self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes
on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without
end. The extent to which this generation of circles, wheel without
wheel, will go, depends on the force or truth of the individual soul.
For it is the inert effort of each thought, having formed itself into
a circular wave of circumstance, -- as, for instance, an empire,
rules of an art, a local usage, a religious rite, -- to heap itself
on that ridge, and to solidify and hem in the life. But if the soul
is quick and strong, it bursts over that boundary on all sides, and
expands another orbit on the great deep, which also runs up into a
high wave, with attempt again to stop and to bind. But the heart
refuses to be imprisoned; in its first and narrowest pulses, it
already tends outward with a vast force, and to immense and
innumerable expansions.

Every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series. Every
general law only a particular fact of some more general law presently
to disclose itself. There is no outside, no inclosing wall, no
circumference to us. The man finishes his story, -- how good! how
final! how it puts a new face on all things! He fills the sky. Lo!
on the other side rises also a man, and draws a circle around the
circle we had just pronounced the outline of the sphere. Then
already is our first speaker not man, but only a first speaker. His
only redress is forthwith to draw a circle outside of his antagonist.
And so men do by themselves. The result of to-day, which haunts the
mind and cannot be escaped, will presently be abridged into a word,
and the principle that seemed to explain nature will itself be
included as one example of a bolder generalization. In the thought
of to-morrow there is a power to upheave all thy creed, all the
creeds, all the literatures, of the nations, and marshal thee to a
heaven which no epic dream has yet depicted. Every man is not so
much a workman in the world, as he is a suggestion of that he should
be. Men walk as prophecies of the next age.

Step by step we scale this mysterious ladder: the steps are
actions; the new prospect is power. Every several result is
threatened and judged by that which follows. Every one seems to be
contradicted by the new; it is only limited by the new. The new
statement is always hated by the old, and, to those dwelling in the
old, comes like an abyss of skepticism. But the eye soon gets wonted
to it, for the eye and it are effects of one cause; then its
innocency and benefit appear, and presently, all its energy spent, it
pales and dwindles before the revelation of the new hour.

Fear not the new generalization. Does the fact look crass and
material, threatening to degrade thy theory of spirit? Resist it
not; it goes to refine and raise thy theory of matter just as much.

There are no fixtures to men, if we appeal to consciousness.
Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood; and if there
is any truth in him, if he rests at last on the divine soul, I see
not how it can be otherwise. The last chamber, the last closet, he
must feel, was never opened; there is always a residuum unknown,
unanalyzable. That is, every man believes that he has a greater

Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of
thoughts, and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should
not have the same thought, the same power of expression, to-morrow.
What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the
world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in
which now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall
wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this
infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow!
I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.

The continual effort to raise himself above himself, to work a
pitch above his last height, betrays itself in a man's relations. We
thirst for approbation, yet cannot forgive the approver. The sweet
of nature is love; yet, if I have a friend, I am tormented by my
imperfections. The love of me accuses the other party. If he were
high enough to slight me, then could I love him, and rise by my
affection to new heights. A man's growth is seen in the successive
choirs of his friends. For every friend whom he loses for truth, he
gains a better. I thought, as I walked in the woods and mused on my
friends, why should I play with them this game of idolatry? I know
and see too well, when not voluntarily blind, the speedy limits of
persons called high and worthy. Rich, noble, and great they are by
the liberality of our speech, but truth is sad. O blessed Spirit,
whom I forsake for these, they are not thou! Every personal
consideration that we allow costs us heavenly state. We sell the
thrones of angels for a short and turbulent pleasure.

How often must we learn this lesson? Men cease to interest us
when we find their limitations. The only sin is limitation. As soon
as you once come up with a man's limitations, it is all over with
him. Has he talents? has he enterprise? has he knowledge? it boots
not. Infinitely alluring and attractive was he to you yesterday, a
great hope, a sea to swim in; now, you have found his shores, found
it a pond, and you care not if you never see it again.

Each new step we take in thought reconciles twenty seemingly
discordant facts, as expressions of one law. Aristotle and Plato are
reckoned the respective heads of two schools. A wise man will see
that Aristotle Platonizes. By going one step farther back in
thought, discordant opinions are reconciled, by being seen to be two
extremes of one principle, and we can never go so far back as to
preclude a still higher vision.

Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.
Then all things are at risk. It is as when a conflagration has
broken out in a great city, and no man knows what is safe, or where
it will end. There is not a piece of science, but its flank may be
turned to-morrow; there is not any literary reputation, not the
so-called eternal names of fame, that may not be revised and
condemned. The very hopes of man, the thoughts of his heart, the
religion of nations, the manners and morals of mankind, are all at
the mercy of a new generalization. Generalization is always a new
influx of the divinity into the mind. Hence the thrill that attends

Valor consists in the power of self-recovery, so that a man
cannot have his flank turned, cannot be out-generalled, but put him
where you will, he stands. This can only be by his preferring truth
to his past apprehension of truth; and his alert acceptance of it,
from whatever quarter; the intrepid conviction that his laws, his
relations to society, his Christianity, his world, may at any time be
superseded and decease.

There are degrees in idealism. We learn first to play with it
academically, as the magnet was once a toy. Then we see in the
heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in
gleams and fragments. Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand,
and we see that it must be true. It now shows itself ethical and
practical. We learn that God IS that he is in me; and that all
things are shadows of him. The idealism of Berkeley is only a crude
statement of the idealism of Jesus, and that again is a crude
statement of the fact, that all nature is the rapid efflux of
goodness executing and organizing itself. Much more obviously is
history and the state of the world at any one time directly dependent
on the intellectual classification then existing in the minds of men.
The things which are dear to men at this hour are so on account of
the ideas which have emerged on their mental horizon, and which cause
the present order of things as a tree bears its apples. A new degree
of culture would instantly revolutionize the entire system of human

Conversation is a game of circles. In conversation we pluck up
the _termini_ which bound the common of silence on every side. The
parties are not to be judged by the spirit they partake and even
express under this Pentecost. To-morrow they will have receded from
this high-water mark. To-morrow you shall find them stooping under
the old pack-saddles. Yet let us enjoy the cloven flame whilst it
glows on our walls. When each new speaker strikes a new light,
emancipates us from the oppression of the last speaker, to oppress us
with the greatness and exclusiveness of his own thought, then yields
us to another redeemer, we seem to recover our rights, to become men.
O, what truths profound and executable only in ages and orbs are
supposed in the announcement of every truth! In common hours,
society sits cold and statuesque. We all stand waiting, empty, --
knowing, possibly, that we can be full, surrounded by mighty symbols
which are not symbols to us, but prose and trivial toys. Then cometh
the god, and converts the statues into fiery men, and by a flash of
his eye burns up the veil which shrouded all things, and the meaning
of the very furniture, of cup and saucer, of chair and clock and
tester, is manifest. The facts which loomed so large in the fogs of
yesterday, -- property, climate, breeding, personal beauty, and the
like, have strangely changed their proportions. All that we reckoned
settled shakes and rattles; and literatures, cities, climates,
religions, leave their foundations, and dance before our eyes. And
yet here again see the swift circumspection! Good as is discourse,
silence is better, and shames it. The length of the discourse
indicates the distance of thought betwixt the speaker and the hearer.
If they were at a perfect understanding in any part, no words would
be necessary thereon. If at one in all parts, no words would be

Literature is a point outside of our hodiernal circle, through
which a new one may be described. The use of literature is to afford
us a platform whence we may command a view of our present life, a
purchase by which we may move it. We fill ourselves with ancient
learning, install ourselves the best we can in Greek, in Punic, in
Roman houses, only that we may wiselier see French, English, and
American houses and modes of living. In like manner, we see
literature best from the midst of wild nature, or from the din of
affairs, or from a high religion. The field cannot be well seen from
within the field. The astronomer must have his diameter of the
earth's orbit as a base to find the parallax of any star.

Therefore we value the poet. All the argument and all the
wisdom is not in the encyclopaedia, or the treatise on metaphysics,
or the Body of Divinity, but in the sonnet or the play. In my daily
work I incline to repeat my old steps, and do not believe in remedial
force, in the power of change and reform. But some Petrarch or
Ariosto, filled with the new wine of his imagination, writes me an
ode or a brisk romance, full of daring thought and action. He smites
and arouses me with his shrill tones, breaks up my whole chain of
habits, and I open my eye on my own possibilities. He claps wings to
the sides of all the solid old lumber of the world, and I am capable
once more of choosing a straight path in theory and practice.

We have the same need to command a view of the religion of the
world. We can never see Christianity from the catechism: -- from the
pastures, from a boat in the pond, from amidst the songs of
wood-birds, we possibly may. Cleansed by the elemental light and
wind, steeped in the sea of beautiful forms which the field offers
us, we may chance to cast a right glance back upon biography.
Christianity is rightly dear to the best of mankind; yet was there
never a young philosopher whose breeding had fallen into the
Christian church, by whom that brave text of Paul's was not specially
prized: -- "Then shall also the Son be subject unto Him who put all
things under him, that God may be all in all." Let the claims and
virtues of persons be never so great and welcome, the instinct of man
presses eagerly onward to the impersonal and illimitable, and gladly
arms itself against the dogmatism of bigots with this generous word
out of the book itself.

The natural world may be conceived of as a system of concentric
circles, and we now and then detect in nature slight dislocations,
which apprize us that this surface on which we now stand is not
fixed, but sliding. These manifold tenacious qualities, this
chemistry and vegetation, these metals and animals, which seem to
stand there for their own sake, are means and methods only, -- are
words of God, and as fugitive as other words. Has the naturalist or
chemist learned his craft, who has explored the gravity of atoms and
the elective affinities, who has not yet discerned the deeper law
whereof this is only a partial or approximate statement, namely, that
like draws to like; and that the goods which belong to you gravitate
to you, and need not be pursued with pains and cost? Yet is that
statement approximate also, and not final. Omnipresence is a higher
fact. Not through subtle, subterranean channels need friend and fact
be drawn to their counterpart, but, rightly considered, these things
proceed from the eternal generation of the soul. Cause and effect
are two sides of one fact.

The same law of eternal procession ranges all that we call the
virtues, and extinguishes each in the light of a better. The great
man will not be prudent in the popular sense; all his prudence will
be so much deduction from his grandeur. But it behooves each to see,
when he sacrifices prudence, to what god he devotes it; if to ease
and pleasure, he had better be prudent still; if to a great trust, he
can well spare his mule and panniers who has a winged chariot
instead. Geoffrey draws on his boots to go through the woods, that
his feet may be safer from the bite of snakes; Aaron never thinks of
such a peril. In many years neither is harmed by such an accident.
Yet it seems to me, that, with every precaution you take against such
an evil, you put yourself into the power of the evil. I suppose that
the highest prudence is the lowest prudence. Is this too sudden a
rushing from the centre to the verge of our orbit? Think how many
times we shall fall back into pitiful calculations before we take up
our rest in the great sentiment, or make the verge of to-day the new
centre. Besides, your bravest sentiment is familiar to the humblest
men. The poor and the low have their way of expressing the last
facts of philosophy as well as you. "Blessed be nothing," and "the
worse things are, the better they are," are proverbs which express
the transcendentalism of common life.

One man's justice is another's injustice; one man's beauty,
another's ugliness; one man's wisdom, another's folly; as one beholds
the same objects from a higher point. One man thinks justice
consists in paying debts, and has no measure in his abhorrence of
another who is very remiss in this duty, and makes the creditor wait
tediously. But that second man has his own way of looking at things;
asks himself which debt must I pay first, the debt to the rich, or
the debt to the poor? the debt of money, or the debt of thought to
mankind, of genius to nature? For you, O broker! there is no other
principle but arithmetic. For me, commerce is of trivial import;
love, faith, truth of character, the aspiration of man, these are
sacred; nor can I detach one duty, like you, from all other duties,
and concentrate my forces mechanically on the payment of moneys. Let
me live onward; you shall find that, though slower, the progress of
my character will liquidate all these debts without injustice to
higher claims. If a man should dedicate himself to the payment of
notes, would not this be injustice? Does he owe no debt but money?
And are all claims on him to be postponed to a landlord's or a

There is no virtue which is final; all are initial. The
virtues of society are vices of the saint. The terror of reform is
the discovery that we must cast away our virtues, or what we have
always esteemed such, into the same pit that has consumed our grosser

"Forgive his crimes, forgive his virtues too,
Those smaller faults, half converts to the right."

It is the highest power of divine moments that they abolish our
contritions also. I accuse myself of sloth and unprofitableness day
by day; but when these waves of God flow into me, I no longer reckon
lost time. I no longer poorly compute my possible achievement by
what remains to me of the month or the year; for these moments confer
a sort of omnipresence and omnipotence which asks nothing of
duration, but sees that the energy of the mind is commensurate with
the work to be done, without time.

And thus, O circular philosopher, I hear some reader exclaim,
you have arrived at a fine Pyrrhonism, at an equivalence and
indifferency of all actions, and would fain teach us that, _if we are
true_, forsooth, our crimes may be lively stones out of which we
shall construct the temple of the true God!

I am not careful to justify myself. I own I am gladdened by
seeing the predominance of the saccharine principle throughout
vegetable nature, and not less by beholding in morals that
unrestrained inundation of the principle of good into every chink and
hole that selfishness has left open, yea, into selfishness and sin
itself; so that no evil is pure, nor hell itself without its extreme
satisfactions. But lest I should mislead any when I have my own head
and obey my whims, let me remind the reader that I am only an
experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least
discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as
true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred;
none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no
Past at my back.

Yet this incessant movement and progression which all things
partake could never become sensible to us but by contrast to some
principle of fixture or stability in the soul. Whilst the eternal
generation of circles proceeds, the eternal generator abides. That
central life is somewhat superior to creation, superior to knowledge
and thought, and contains all its circles. For ever it labors to
create a life and thought as large and excellent as itself; but in
vain; for that which is made instructs how to make a better.

Thus there is no sleep, no pause, no preservation, but all
things renew, germinate, and spring. Why should we import rags and
relics into the new hour? Nature abhors the old, and old age seems
the only disease; all others run into this one. We call it by many
names, -- fever, intemperance, insanity, stupidity, and crime; they
are all forms of old age; they are rest, conservatism, appropriation,
inertia, not newness, not the way onward. We grizzle every day. I
see no need of it. Whilst we converse with what is above us, we do
not grow old, but grow young. Infancy, youth, receptive, aspiring,
with religious eye looking upward, counts itself nothing, and
abandons itself to the instruction flowing from all sides. But the
man and woman of seventy assume to know all, they have outlived their
hope, they renounce aspiration, accept the actual for the necessary,
and talk down to the young. Let them, then, become organs of the
Holy Ghost; let them be lovers; let them behold truth; and their eyes
are uplifted, their wrinkles smoothed, they are perfumed again with
hope and power. This old age ought not to creep on a human mind. In
nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and
forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life,
transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or
covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but
it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People
wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any
hope for them.

Life is a series of surprises. We do not guess to-day the
mood, the pleasure, the power of to-morrow, when we are building up
our being. Of lower states, -- of acts of routine and sense, -- we
can tell somewhat; but the masterpieces of God, the total growths and
universal movements of the soul, he hideth; they are incalculable. I
can know that truth is divine and helpful; but how it shall help me I
can have no guess, for _so to be_ is the sole inlet of _so to know._
The new position of the advancing man has all the powers of the old,
yet has them all new. It carries in its bosom all the energies of
the past, yet is itself an exhalation of the morning. I cast away in
this new moment all my once hoarded knowledge, as vacant and vain.
Now, for the first time, seem I to know any thing rightly. The
simplest words, -- we do not know what they mean, except when we love
and aspire.

The difference between talents and character is adroitness to
keep the old and trodden round, and power and courage to make a new
road to new and better goals. Character makes an overpowering
present; a cheerful, determined hour, which fortifies all the
company, by making them see that much is possible and excellent that
was not thought of. Character dulls the impression of particular
events. When we see the conqueror, we do not think much of any one
battle or success. We see that we had exaggerated the difficulty.
It was easy to him. The great man is not convulsible or tormentable;
events pass over him without much impression. People say sometimes,
`See what I have overcome; see how cheerful I am; see how completely
I have triumphed over these black events.' Not if they still remind
me of the black event. True conquest is the causing the calamity to
fade and disappear, as an early cloud of insignificant result in a
history so large and advancing.

The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget
ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our
sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing how or why;
in short, to draw a new circle. Nothing great was ever achieved
without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful: it is by
abandonment. The great moments of history are the facilities of
performance through the strength of ideas, as the works of genius and
religion. "A man," said Oliver Cromwell, "never rises so high as
when he knows not whither he is going." Dreams and drunkenness, the
use of opium and alcohol are the semblance and counterfeit of this
oracular genius, and hence their dangerous attraction for men. For
the like reason, they ask the aid of wild passions, as in gaming and
war, to ape in some manner these flames and generosities of the heart


Go, speed the stars of Thought
On to their shining goals; --
The sower scatters broad his seed,
The wheat thou strew'st be souls.

ESSAY XI _Intellect_

Every substance is negatively electric to that which stands
above it in th chemical tables, positively to that which stands below
it. Water dissolves wood, and iron, and salt; air dissolves water;
electric fire dissolves 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 intellect, but what man has yet been able to
mark the steps and boundaries of that transparent essence? The first
questions are always to be asked, and the wisest doctor is gravelled
by the inquisitiveness of a child. How can we speak of the action of
the mind under any divisions, as of its knowledge, of its ethics, of
its works, and so forth, since it melts will into perception,
knowledge into act? Each becomes the other. Itself alone is. Its
vision is not like the vision of the eye, but is union with the
things known.

Intellect and intellection signify to the common ear
consideration of abstract truth. The considerations of time and
place, of you and me, of profit and hurt, tyrannize over most men's
minds. Intellect separates the fact considered from _you_, from all
local and personal reference, and discerns it as if it existed for
its own sake. Heraclitus looked upon the affections as dense and
colored mists. In the fog of good and evil affections, it is hard
for man to walk forward in a straight line. Intellect is void of
affection, and sees an object as it stands in the light of science,
cool and disengaged. The intellect goes out of the individual,
floats over its own personality, and regards it as a fact, and not as
_I_ and _mine_. He who is immersed in what concerns person or place
cannot see the problem of existence. This the intellect always
ponders. Nature shows all things formed and bound. The intellect
pierces the form, overleaps the wall, detects intrinsic likeness
between remote things, and reduces all things into a few principles.

The making a fact the subject of thought raises it. All that
mass of mental and moral phenomena, which we do not make objects of
voluntary thought, come within the power of fortune; they constitute
the circumstance of daily life; they are subject to change, to fear,
and hope. Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of
melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man,
imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events.
But a truth, separated by the intellect, is no longer a subject of
destiny. We behold it as a god upraised above care and fear. And so
any fact in our life, or any record of our fancies or reflections,
disentangled from the web of our unconsciousness, becomes an object
impersonal and immortal. It is the past restored, but embalmed. A
better art than that of Egypt has taken fear and corruption out of
it. It is eviscerated of care. It is offered for science. What is
addressed to us for contemplation does not threaten us, but makes us
intellectual beings.

The growth of the intellect is spontaneous in every expansion.
The mind that grows could not predict the times, the means, the mode
of that spontaneity. God enters by a private door into every
individual. Long prior to the age of reflection is the thinking of
the mind. Out of darkness, it came insensibly into the marvellous
light of to-day. In the period of infancy it accepted and disposed
of all impressions from the surrounding creation after its own way.
Whatever any mind doth or saith is after a law; and this native law
remains over it after it has come to reflection or conscious thought.
In the most worn, pedantic, introverted self-tormenter's life, the
greatest part is incalculable by him, unforeseen, unimaginable, and
must be, until he can take himself up by his own ears. What am I?
What has my will done to make me that I am? Nothing. I have been
floated into this thought, this hour, this connection of events, by
secret currents of might and mind, and my ingenuity and wilfulness
have not thwarted, have not aided to an appreciable degree.

Our spontaneous action is always the best. You cannot, with
your best deliberation and heed, come so close to any question as
your spontaneous glance shall bring you, whilst you rise from your
bed, or walk abroad in the morning after meditating the matter before
sleep on the previous night. Our thinking is a pious reception. Our
truth of thought is therefore vitiated as much by too violent
direction given by our will, as by too great negligence. We do not
determine what we will think. We only open our senses, clear away,
as we can, all obstruction from the fact, and suffer the intellect to
see. We have little control over our thoughts. We are the prisoners
of ideas. They catch us up for moments into their heaven, and so
fully engage us, that we take no thought for the morrow, gaze like
children, without an effort to make them our own. By and by we fall
out of that rapture, bethink us where we have been, what we have
seen, and repeat, as truly as we can, what we have beheld. As far as
we can recall these ecstasies, we carry away in the ineffaceable
memory the result, and all men and all the ages confirm it. It is
called Truth. But the moment we cease to report, and attempt to
correct and contrive, it is not truth.

If we consider what persons have stimulated and profited us, we
shall perceive the superiority of the spontaneous or intuitive
principle over the arithmetical or logical. The first contains the
second, but virtual and latent. We want, in every man, a long logic;
we cannot pardon the absence of it, but it must not be spoken. Logic
is the procession or proportionate unfolding of the intuition; but
its virtue is as silent method; the moment it would appear as
propositions, and have a separate value, it is worthless.

In every man's mind, some images, words, and facts remain,
without effort on his part to imprint them, which others forget, and
afterwards these illustrate to him important laws. All our progress
is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud. You have first an instinct,
then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud, and
fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no
reason. It is vain to hurry it. By trusting it to the end, it shall
ripen into truth, and you shall know why you believe.

Each mind has its own method. A true man never acquires after
college rules. What you have aggregated in a natural manner
surprises and delights when it is produced. For we cannot oversee
each other's secret. And hence the differences between men in
natural endowment are insignificant in comparison with their common
wealth. Do you think the porter and the cook have no anecdotes, no
experiences, no wonders for you? Every body knows as much as the
savant. The walls of rude minds are scrawled all over with facts,
with thoughts. They shall one day bring a lantern and read the
inscriptions. Every man, in the degree in which he has wit and
culture, finds his curiosity inflamed concerning the modes of living
and thinking of other men, and especially of those classes whose
minds have not been subdued by the drill of school education.

This instinctive action never ceases in a healthy mind, but
becomes richer and more frequent in its informations through all
states of culture. At last comes the era of reflection, when we not
only observe, but take pains to observe; when we of set purpose sit
down to consider an abstract truth; when we keep the mind's eye open,
whilst we converse, whilst we read, whilst we act, intent to learn
the secret law of some class of facts.

What is the hardest task in the world? To think. I would put
myself in the attitude to look in the eye an abstract truth, and I
cannot. I blench and withdraw on this side and on that. I seem to
know what he meant who said, No man can see God face to face and
live. For example, a man explores the basis of civil government.
Let him intend his mind without respite, without rest, in one
direction. His best heed long time avails him nothing. Yet thoughts
are flitting before him. We all but apprehend, we dimly forebode the
truth. We say, I will walk abroad, and the truth will take form and
clearness to me. We go forth, but cannot find it. It seems as if we
needed only the stillness and composed attitude of the library to
seize the thought. But we come in, and are as far from it as at
first. Then, in a moment, and unannounced, the truth appears. A
certain, wandering light appears, and is the distinction, the
principle, we wanted. But the oracle comes, because we had
previously laid siege to the shrine. It seems as if the law of the
intellect resembled that law of nature by which we now inspire, now
expire the breath; by which the heart now draws in, then hurls out
the blood, -- the law of undulation. So now you must labor with your
brains, and now you must forbear your activity, and see what the
great Soul showeth.

The immortality of man is as legitimately preached from the
intellections as from the moral volitions. Every intellection is
mainly prospective. Its present value is its least. Inspect what
delights you in Plutarch, in Shakspeare, in Cervantes. Each truth
that a writer acquires is a lantern, which he turns full on what
facts and thoughts lay already in his mind, and behold, all the mats
and rubbish which had littered his garret become precious. Every
trivial fact in his private biography becomes an illustration of this
new principle, revisits the day, and delights all men by its piquancy
and new charm. Men say, Where did he get this? and think there was
something divine in his life. But no; they have myriads of facts
just as good, would they only get a lamp to ransack their attics

We are all wise. The difference between persons is not in
wisdom but in art. I knew, in an academical club, a person who
always deferred to me, who, seeing my whim for writing, fancied that
my experiences had somewhat superior; whilst I saw that his
experiences were as good as mine. Give them to me, and I would make
the same use of them. He held the old; he holds the new; I had the
habit of tacking together the old and the new, which he did not use
to exercise. This may hold in the great examples. Perhaps if we
should meet Shakspeare, we should not be conscious of any steep
inferiority; no: but of a great equality, -- only that he possessed a
strange skill of using, of classifying, his facts, which we lacked.
For, notwithstanding our utter incapacity to produce any thing like
Hamlet and Othello, see the perfect reception this wit, and immense
knowledge of life, and liquid eloquence find in us all.

If you gather apples in the sunshine, or make hay, or hoe corn,
and then retire within doors, and shut your eyes, and press them with
your hand, you shall still see apples hanging in the bright light,
with boughs and leaves thereto, or the tasselled grass, or the
corn-flags, and this for five or six hours afterwards. There lie the
impressions on the retentive organ, though you knew it not. So lies
the whole series of natural images with which your life has made you
acquainted in your memory, though you know it not, and a thrill of
passion flashes light on their dark chamber, and the active power
seizes instantly the fit image, as the word of its momentary thought.

It is long ere we discover how rich we are. Our history, we
are sure, is quite tame: we have nothing to write, nothing to infer.
But our wiser years still run back to the despised recollections of
childhood, and always we are fishing up some wonderful article out of
that pond; until, by and by, we begin to suspect that the biography
of the one foolish person we know is, in reality, nothing less than
the miniature paraphrase of the hundred volumes of the Universal

In the intellect constructive, which we popularly designate by
the word Genius, we observe the same balance of two elements as in
intellect receptive. The constructive intellect produces thoughts,
sentences, poems, plans, designs, systems. It is the generation of
the mind, the marriage of thought with nature. To genius must always
go two gifts, the thought and the publication. The first is
revelation, always a miracle, which no frequency of occurrence or
incessant study can ever familiarize, but which must always leave the
inquirer stupid with wonder. It is the advent of truth into the
world, a form of thought now, for the first time, bursting into the
universe, a child of the old eternal soul, a piece of genuine and
immeasurable greatness. It seems, for the time, to inherit all that
has yet existed, and to dictate to the unborn. It affects every
thought of man, and goes to fashion every institution. But to make
it available, it needs a vehicle or art by which it is conveyed to
men. To be communicable, it must become picture or sensible object.
We must learn the language of facts. The most wonderful inspirations
die with their subject, if he has no hand to paint them to the
senses. The ray of light passes invisible through space, and only
when it falls on an object is it seen. When the spiritual energy is
directed on something outward, then it is a thought. The relation
between it and you first makes you, the value of you, apparent to me.
The rich, inventive genius of the painter must be smothered and lost
for want of the power of drawing, and in our happy hours we should be
inexhaustible poets, if once we could break through the silence into
adequate rhyme. As all men have some access to primary truth, so all
have some art or power of communication in their head, but only in
the artist does it descend into the hand. There is an inequality,
whose laws we do not yet know, between two men and between two
moments of the same man, in respect to this faculty. In common
hours, we have the same facts as in the uncommon or inspired, but
they do not sit for their portraits; they are not detached, but lie
in a web. The thought of genius is spontaneous; but the power of
picture or expression, in the most enriched and flowing nature,
implies a mixture of will, a certain control over the spontaneous
states, without which no production is possible. It is a conversion
of all nature into the rhetoric of thought, under the eye of
judgment, with a strenuous exercise of choice. And yet the
imaginative vocabulary seems to be spontaneous also. It does not
flow from experience only or mainly, but from a richer source. Not
by any conscious imitation of particular forms are the grand strokes
of the painter executed, but by repairing to the fountain-head of all
forms in his mind. Who is the first drawing-master? Without
instruction we know very well the ideal of the human form. A child
knows if an arm or a leg be distorted in a picture, if the attitude
be natural or grand, or mean, though he has never received any
instruction in drawing, or heard any conversation on the subject, nor
can himself draw with correctness a single feature. A good form
strikes all eyes pleasantly, long before they have any science on the
subject, and a beautiful face sets twenty hearts in palpitation,
prior to all consideration of the mechanical proportions of the
features and head. We may owe to dreams some light on the fountain
of this skill; for, as soon as we let our will go, and let the
unconscious states ensue, see what cunning draughtsmen we are! We
entertain ourselves with wonderful forms of men, of women, of
animals, of gardens, of woods, and of monsters, and the mystic pencil
wherewith we then draw has no awkwardness or inexperience, no
meagreness or poverty; it can design well, and group well; its
composition is full of art, its colors are well laid on, and the
whole canvas which it paints is life-like, and apt to touch us with
terror, with tenderness, with desire, and with grief. Neither are
the artist's copies from experience ever mere copies, but always
touched and softened by tints from this ideal domain.

The conditions essential to a constructive mind do not appear
to be so often combined but that a good sentence or verse remains
fresh and memorable for a long time. Yet when we write with ease,
and come out into the free air of thought, we seem to be assured that
nothing is easier than to continue this communication at pleasure.
Up, down, around, the kingdom of thought has no inclosures, but the
Muse makes us free of her city. Well, the world has a million
writers. One would think, then, that good thought would be as
familiar as air and water, and the gifts of each new hour would
exclude the last. Yet we can count all our good books; nay, I
remember any beautiful verse for twenty years. It is true that the
discerning intellect of the world is always much in advance of the
creative, so that there are many competent judges of the best book,
and few writers of the best books. But some of the conditions of
intellectual construction are of rare occurrence. The intellect is a
whole, and demands integrity in every work. This is resisted equally
by a man's devotion to a single thought, and by his ambition to
combine too many.

Truth is our element of life, yet if a man fasten his attention
on a single aspect of truth, and apply himself to that alone for a
long time, the truth becomes distorted and not itself, but falsehood;
herein resembling the air, which is our natural element, and the
breath of our nostrils, but if a stream of the same be directed on
the body for a time, it causes cold, fever, and even death. How
wearisome the grammarian, the phrenologist, the political or
religious fanatic, or indeed any possessed mortal whose balance is
lost by the exaggeration of a single topic. It is incipient
insanity. Every thought is a prison also. I cannot see what you
see, because I am caught up by a strong wind, and blown so far in one
direction that I am out of the hoop of your horizon.

Is it any better, if the student, to avoid this offence, and to
liberalize himself, aims to make a mechanical whole of history, or
science, or philosophy, by a numerical addition of all the facts that
fall within his vision? The world refuses to be analyzed by addition
and subtraction. When we are young, we spend much time and pains in
filling our note-books with all definitions of Religion, Love,
Poetry, Politics, Art, in the hope that, in the course of a few
years, we shall have condensed into our encyclopaedia the net value
of all the theories at which the world has yet arrived. But year
after year our tables get no completeness, and at last we discover
that our curve is a parabola, whose arcs will never meet.

Neither by detachment, neither by aggregation, is the integrity
of the intellect transmitted to its works, but by a vigilance which
brings the intellect in its greatness and best state to operate every
moment. It must have the same wholeness which nature has. Although
no diligence can rebuild the universe in a model, by the best
accumulation or disposition of details, yet does the world reappear
in miniature in every event, so that all the laws of nature may be
read in the smallest fact. The intellect must have the like
perfection in its apprehension and in its works. For this reason, an
index or mercury of intellectual proficiency is the perception of
identity. We talk with accomplished persons who appear to be
strangers in nature. The cloud, the tree, the turf, the bird are not
theirs, have nothing of them: the world is only their lodging and
table. But the poet, whose verses are to be spheral and complete, is
one whom Nature cannot deceive, whatsoever face of strangeness she
may put on. He feels a strict consanguinity, and detects more
likeness than variety in all her changes. We are stung by the desire
for new thought; but when we receive a new thought, it is only the
old thought with a new face, and though we make it our own, we
instantly crave another; we are not really enriched. For the truth
was in us before it was reflected to us from natural objects; and the
profound genius will cast the likeness of all creatures into every
product of his wit.

But if the constructive powers are rare, and it is given to few
men to be poets, yet every man is a receiver of this descending holy
ghost, and may well study the laws of its influx. Exactly parallel
is the whole rule of intellectual duty to the rule of moral duty. A
self-denial, no less austere than the saint's, is demanded of the
scholar. He must worship truth, and forego all things for that, and
choose defeat and pain, so that his treasure in thought is thereby

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.
Take which you please, -- you can never have both. Between these, as
a pendulum, man oscillates. He in whom the love of repose
predominates will accept the first creed, the first philosophy, the
first political party he meets, -- most likely his father's. He gets
rest, commodity, and reputation; but he shuts the door of truth. He
in whom the love of truth predominates will keep himself aloof from
all moorings, and afloat. He will abstain from dogmatism, and
recognize all the opposite negations, between which, as walls, his
being is swung. He submits to the inconvenience of suspense and
imperfect opinion, but he is a candidate for truth, as the other is
not, and respects the highest law of his being.

The circle of the green earth he must measure with his shoes,
to find the man who can yield him truth. He shall then know that
there is somewhat more blessed and great in hearing than in speaking.
Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man. As long as I
hear truth, I am bathed by a beautiful element, and am not conscious
of any limits to my nature. The suggestions are thousandfold that I
hear and see. The waters of the great deep have ingress and egress
to the soul. But if I speak, I define, I confine, and am less. When
Socrates speaks, Lysis and Menexenus are afflicted by no shame that
they do not speak. They also are good. He likewise defers to them,
loves them, whilst he speaks. Because a true and natural man
contains and is the same truth which an eloquent man articulates: but
in the eloquent man, because he can articulate it, it seems something
the less to reside, and he turns to these silent beautiful with the
more inclination and respect. The ancient sentence said, Let us be
silent, for so are the gods. Silence is a solvent that destroys
personality, and gives us leave to be great and universal. Every
man's progress is through a succession of teachers, each of whom
seems at the time to have a superlative influence, but it at last
gives place to a new. Frankly let him accept it all. Jesus says,
Leave father, mother, house and lands, and follow me. Who leaves
all, receives more. This is as true intellectually as morally. Each
new mind we approach seems to require an abdication of all our past
and present possessions. A new doctrine seems, at first, a
subversion of all our opinions, tastes, and manner of living. Such
has Swedenborg, such has Kant, such has Coleridge, such has Hegel or
his interpreter Cousin, seemed to many young men in this country.
Take thankfully and heartily all they can give. Exhaust them,
wrestle with them, let them not go until their blessing be won, and,
after a short season, the dismay will be overpast, the excess of
influence withdrawn, and they will be no longer an alarming meteor,
but one more bright star shining serenely in your heaven, and
blending its light with all your day.

But whilst he gives himself up unreservedly to that which draws
him, because that is his own, he is to refuse himself to that which
draws him not, whatsoever fame and authority may attend it, because
it is not his own. Entire self-reliance belongs to the intellect.
One soul is a counterpoise of all souls, as a capillary column of
water is a balance for the sea. It must treat things, and books, and
sovereign genius, as itself also a sovereign. If Aeschylus be that
man he is taken for, he has not yet done his office, when he has
educated the learned of Europe for a thousand years. He is now to
approve himself a master of delight to me also. If he cannot do
that, all his fame shall avail him nothing with me. I were a fool
not to sacrifice a thousand Aeschyluses to my intellectual integrity.
Especially take the same ground in regard to abstract truth, the
science of the mind. The Bacon, the Spinoza, the Hume, Schelling,
Kant, or whosoever propounds to you a philosophy of the mind, is only
a more or less awkward translator of things in your consciousness,
which you have also your way of seeing, perhaps of denominating.
Say, then, instead of too timidly poring into his obscure sense, that
he has not succeeded in rendering back to you your consciousness. He
has not succeeded; now let another try. If Plato cannot, perhaps
Spinoza will. If Spinoza cannot, then perhaps Kant. Anyhow, when at
last it is done, you will find it is no recondite, but a simple,
natural, common state, which the writer restores to you.

But let us end these didactics. I will not, though the subject
might provoke it, speak to the open question between Truth and Love.
I shall not presume to interfere in the old politics of the
skies;---- "The cherubim know most; the seraphim love most." The gods
shall settle their own quarrels. But I cannot recite, even thus
rudely, laws of the intellect, without remembering that lofty and
sequestered class of men who have been its prophets and oracles, the
high-priesthood of the pure reason, the _Trismegisti_, the expounders
of the principles of thought from age to age. When, at long
intervals, we turn over their abstruse pages, wonderful seems the
calm and grand air of these few, these great spiritual lords, who
have walked in the world, -- these of the old religion, -- dwelling
in a worship which makes the sanctities of Christianity look
_parvenues_ and popular; for "persuasion is in soul, but necessity is
in intellect." This band of grandees, Hermes, Heraclitus, Empedocles,
Plato, Plotinus, Olympiodorus, Proclus, Synesius, and the rest, have
somewhat so vast in their logic, so primary in their thinking, that
it seems antecedent to all the ordinary distinctions of rhetoric and
literature, and to be at once poetry, and music, and dancing, and
astronomy, and mathematics. I am present at the sowing of the seed
of the world. With a geometry of sunbeams, the soul lays the
foundations of nature. The truth and grandeur of their thought is
proved by its scope and applicability, for it commands the entire
schedule and inventory of things for its illustration. But what
marks its elevation, and has even a comic look to us, is the innocent
serenity with which these babe-like Jupiters sit in their clouds, and
from age to age prattle to each other, and to no contemporary. Well
assured that their speech is intelligible, and the most natural thing
in the world, they add thesis to thesis, without a moment's heed of
the universal astonishment of the human race below, who do not
comprehend their plainest argument; nor do they ever relent so much
as to insert a popular or explaining sentence; nor testify the least
displeasure or petulance at the dulness of their amazed auditory.
The angels are so enamoured of the language that is spoken in heaven,
that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical
dialects of men, but speak their own, whether there be any who
understand it or not.


Give to barrows, trays, and pans
Grace and glimmer of romance;
Bring the moonlight into noon
Hid in gleaming piles of stone;
On the city's paved street
Plant gardens lined with lilac sweet;
Let spouting fountains cool the air,
Singing in the sun-baked square;
Let statue, picture, park, and hall,
Ballad, flag, and festival,
The past restore, the day adorn,
And make each morrow a new morn.
So shall the drudge in dusty frock
Spy behind the city clock
Retinues of airy kings,
Skirts of angels, starry wings,
His fathers shining in bright fables,
His children fed at heavenly tables.
'T is the privilege of Art
Thus to play its cheerful part,
Man in Earth to acclimate,
And bend the exile to his fate,
And, moulded of one element
With the days and firmament,
Teach him on these as stairs to climb,
And live on even terms with Time;
Whilst upper life the slender rill
Of human sense doth overfill.


Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats itself,
but in every act attempts the production of a new and fairer whole.
This appears in works both of the useful and the fine arts, if we
employ the popular distinction of works according to their aim,
either at use or beauty. Thus in our fine arts, not imitation, but
creation is the aim. In landscapes, the painter should give the
suggestion of a fairer creation than we know. The details, the prose
of nature he should omit, and give us only the spirit and splendor.
He should know that the landscape has beauty for his eye, because it
expresses a thought which is to him good: and this, because the same
power which sees through his eyes, is seen in that spectacle; and he
will come to value the expression of nature, and not nature itself,
and so exalt in his copy, the features that please him. He will give
the gloom of gloom, and the sunshine of sunshine. In a portrait, he
must inscribe the character, and not the features, and must esteem
the man who sits to him as himself only an imperfect picture or
likeness of the aspiring original within.

What is that abridgment and selection we observe in all
spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse? for it is the
inlet of that higher illumination which teaches to convey a larger
sense by simpler symbols. What is a man but nature's finer success
in self-explication? What is a man but a finer and compacter
landscape than the horizon figures, -- nature's eclecticism? and what
is his speech, his love of painting, love of nature, but a still
finer success? all the weary miles and tons of space and bulk left
out, and the spirit or moral of it contracted into a musical word, or
the most cunning stroke of the pencil?

But the artist must employ the symbols in use in his day and
nation, to convey his enlarged sense to his fellow-men. Thus the new
in art is always formed out of the old. The Genius of the Hour sets
his ineffaceable seal on the work, and gives it an inexpressible
charm for the imagination. As far as the spiritual character of the
period overpowers the artist, and finds expression in his work, so
far it will retain a certain grandeur, and will represent to future
beholders the Unknown, the Inevitable, the Divine. No man can quite
exclude this element of Necessity from his labor. No man can quite
emancipate himself from his age and country, or produce a model in
which the education, the religion, the politics, usages, and arts, of
his times shall have no share. Though he were never so original,
never so wilful and fantastic, he cannot wipe out of his work every
trace of the thoughts amidst which it grew. The very avoidance
betrays the usage he avoids. Above his will, and out of his sight,
he is necessitated, by the air he breathes, and the idea on which he
and his contemporaries live and toil, to share the manner of his
times, without knowing what that manner is. Now that which is
inevitable in the work has a higher charm than individual talent can
ever give, inasmuch as the artist's pen or chisel seems to have been
held and guided by a gigantic hand to inscribe a line in the history
of the human race. This circumstance gives a value to the Egyptian
hieroglyphics, to the Indian, Chinese, and Mexican idols, however
gross and shapeless. They denote the height of the human soul in
that hour, and were not fantastic, but sprung from a necessity as
deep as the world. Shall I now add, that the whole extant product of
the plastic arts has herein its highest value, _as history_; as a
stroke drawn in the portrait of that fate, perfect and beautiful,
according to whose ordinations all beings advance to their beatitude?

Thus, historically viewed, it has been the office of art to
educate the perception of beauty. We are immersed in beauty, but our
eyes have no clear vision. It needs, by the exhibition of single
traits, to assist and lead the dormant taste. We carve and paint, or
we behold what is carved and painted, as students of the mystery of
Form. The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one
object from the embarrassing variety. Until one thing comes out from
the connection of things, there can be enjoyment, contemplation, but
no thought. Our happiness and unhappiness are unproductive. The
infant lies in a pleasing trance, but his individual character and
his practical power depend on his daily progress in the separation of
things, and dealing with one at a time. Love and all the passions
concentrate all existence around a single form. It is the habit of
certain minds to give an all-excluding fulness to the object, the
thought, the word, they alight upon, and to make that for the time
the deputy of the world. These are the artists, the orators, the
leaders of society. The power to detach, and to magnify by
detaching, is the essence of rhetoric in the hands of the orator and
the poet. This rhetoric, or power to fix the momentary eminency of
an object, -- so remarkable in Burke, in Byron, in Carlyle, -- the
painter and sculptor exhibit in color and in stone. The power
depends on the depth of the artist's insight of that object he
contemplates. For every object has its roots in central nature, and
may of course be so exhibited to us as to represent the world.
Therefore, each work of genius is the tyrant of the hour, and
concentrates attention on itself. For the time, it is the only thing
worth naming to do that, -- be it a sonnet, an opera, a landscape, a
statue, an oration, the plan of a temple, of a campaign, or of a
voyage of discovery. Presently we pass to some other object, which
rounds itself into a whole, as did the first; for example, a
well-laid garden: and nothing seems worth doing but the laying out of
gardens. I should think fire the best thing in the world, if I were
not acquainted with air, and water, and earth. For it is the right
and property of all natural objects, of all genuine talents, of all
native properties whatsoever, to be for their moment the top of the
world. A squirrel leaping from bough to bough, and making the wood
but one wide tree for his pleasure, fills the eye not less than a
lion, -- is beautiful, self-sufficing, and stands then and there for
nature. A good ballad draws my ear and heart whilst I listen, as
much as an epic has done before. A dog, drawn by a master, or a
litter of pigs, satisfies, and is a reality not less than the
frescoes of Angelo. From this succession of excellent objects, we
learn at last the immensity of the world, the opulence of human
nature, which can run out to infinitude in any direction. But I also
learn that what astonished and fascinated me in the first work
astonished me in the second work also; that excellence of all things
is one.

The office of painting and sculpture seems to be merely
initial. The best pictures can easily tell us their last secret.
The best pictures are rude draughts of a few of the miraculous dots
and lines and dyes which make up the ever-changing "landscape with
figures" amidst which we dwell. Painting seems to be to the eye what
dancing is to the limbs. When that has educated the frame to
self-possession, to nimbleness, to grace, the steps of the
dancing-master are better forgotten; so painting teaches me the
splendor of color and the expression of form, and, as I see many
pictures and higher genius in the art, I see the boundless opulence
of the pencil, the indifferency in which the artist stands free to
choose out of the possible forms. If he can draw every thing, why
draw any thing? and then is my eye opened to the eternal picture
which nature paints in the street with moving men and children,
beggars, and fine ladies, draped in red, and green, and blue, and
gray; long-haired, grizzled, white-faced, black-faced, wrinkled,
giant, dwarf, expanded, elfish, -- capped and based by heaven, earth,
and sea.

A gallery of sculpture teaches more austerely the same lesson.
As picture teaches the coloring, so sculpture the anatomy of form.
When I have seen fine statues, and afterwards enter a public
assembly, I understand well what he meant who said, "When I have been
reading Homer, all men look like giants." I too see that painting and
sculpture are gymnastics of the eye, its training to the niceties and
curiosities of its function. There is no statue like this living
man, with his infinite advantage over all ideal sculpture, of
perpetual variety. What a gallery of art have I here! No mannerist
made these varied groups and diverse original single figures. Here
is the artist himself improvising, grim and glad, at his block. Now
one thought strikes him, now another, and with each moment he alters
the whole air, attitude, and expression of his clay. Away with your
nonsense of oil and easels, of marble and chisels: except to open
your eyes to the masteries of eternal art, they are hypocritical

The reference of all production at last to an aboriginal Power
explains the traits common to all works of the highest art, -- that
they are universally intelligible; that they restore to us the
simplest states of mind; and are religious. Since what skill is
therein shown is the reappearance of the original soul, a jet of pure
light, it should produce a similar impression to that made by natural
objects. In happy hours, nature appears to us one with art; art
perfected, -- the work of genius. And the individual, in whom simple
tastes and susceptibility to all the great human influences overpower
the accidents of a local and special culture, is the best critic of
art. Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must
carry it with us, or we find it not. The best of beauty is a finer
charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of art can ever
teach, namely, a radiation from the work of art of human character,
-- a wonderful expression through stone, or canvas, or musical sound,
of the deepest and simplest attributes of our nature, and therefore
most intelligible at last to those souls which have these attributes.
In the sculptures of the Greeks, in the masonry of the Romans, and in
the pictures of the Tuscan and Venetian masters, the highest charm is
the universal language they speak. A confession of moral nature, of
purity, love, and hope, breathes from them all. That which we carry
to them, the same we bring back more fairly illustrated in the
memory. The traveller who visits the Vatican, and passes from
chamber to chamber through galleries of statues, vases, sarcophagi,
and candelabra, through all forms of beauty, cut in the richest
materials, is in danger of forgetting the simplicity of the
principles out of which they all sprung, and that they had their
origin from thoughts and laws in his own breast. He studies the
technical rules on these wonderful remains, but forgets that these
works were not always thus constellated; that they are the
contributions of many ages and many countries; that each came out of
the solitary workshop of one artist, who toiled perhaps in ignorance
of the existence of other sculpture, created his work without other
model, save life, household life, and the sweet and smart of personal
relations, of beating hearts, and meeting eyes, of poverty, and
necessity, and hope, and fear. These were his inspirations, and
these are the effects he carries home to your heart and mind. In
proportion to his force, the artist will find in his work an outlet
for his proper character. He must not be in any manner pinched or
hindered by his material, but through his necessity of imparting
himself the adamant will be wax in his hands, and will allow an
adequate communication of himself, in his full stature and
proportion. He need not cumber himself with a conventional nature
and culture, nor ask what is the mode in Rome or in Paris, but that
house, and weather, and manner of living which poverty and the fate
of birth have made at once so odious and so dear, in the gray,
unpainted wood cabin, on the corner of a New Hampshire farm, or in
the log-hut of the backwoods, or in the narrow lodging where he has
endured the constraints and seeming of a city poverty, will serve as
well as any other condition as the symbol of a thought which pours
itself indifferently through all.

I remember, when in my younger days I had heard of the wonders
of Italian painting, I fancied the great pictures would be great
strangers; some surprising combination of color and form; a foreign
wonder, barbaric pearl and gold, like the spontoons and standards of
the militia, which play such pranks in the eyes and imaginations of
school-boys. I was to see and acquire I knew not what. When I came
at last to Rome, and saw with eyes the pictures, I found that genius
left to novices the gay and fantastic and ostentatious, and itself
pierced directly to the simple and true; that it was familiar and
sincere; that it was the old, eternal fact I had met already in so
many forms, -- unto which I lived; that it was the plain _you and me_
I knew so well, -- had left at home in so many conversations. I had
the same experience already in a church at Naples. There I saw that
nothing was changed with me but the place, and said to myself, --
`Thou foolish child, hast thou come out hither, over four thousand
miles of salt water, to find that which was perfect to thee there at
home?' -- that fact I saw again in the Academmia at Naples, in the
chambers of sculpture, and yet again when I came to Rome, and to the
paintings of Raphael, Angelo, Sacchi, Titian, and Leonardo da Vinci.
"What, old mole! workest thou in the earth so fast?" It had travelled
by my side: that which I fancied I had left in Boston was here in the
Vatican, and again at Milan, and at Paris, and made all travelling
ridiculous as a treadmill. I now require this of all pictures, that
they domesticate me, not that they dazzle me. Pictures must not be
too picturesque. Nothing astonishes men so much as common-sense and
plain dealing. All great actions have been simple, and all great
pictures are.

The Transfiguration, by Raphael, is an eminent example of this
peculiar merit. A calm, benignant beauty shines over all this
picture, and goes directly to the heart. It seems almost to call you
by name. The sweet and sublime face of Jesus is beyond praise, yet
how it disappoints all florid expectations! This familiar, simple,
home-speaking countenance is as if one should meet a friend. The
knowledge of picture-dealers has its value, but listen not to their
criticism when your heart is touched by genius. It was not painted
for them, it was painted for you; for such as had eyes capable of
being touched by simplicity and lofty emotions.

Yet when we have said all our fine things about the arts, we
must end with a frank confession, that the arts, as we know them, are
but initial. Our best praise is given to what they aimed and
promised, not to the actual result. He has conceived meanly of the
resources of man, who believes that the best age of production is
past. The real value of the Iliad, or the Transfiguration, is as
signs of power; billows or ripples they are of the stream of
tendency; tokens of the everlasting effort to produce, which even in
its worst estate the soul betrays. Art has not yet come to its
maturity, if it do not put itself abreast with the most potent
influences of the world, if it is not practical and moral, if it do
not stand in connection with the conscience, if it do not make the
poor and uncultivated feel that it addresses them with a voice of
lofty cheer. There is higher work for Art than the arts. They are
abortive births of an imperfect or vitiated instinct. Art is the
need to create; but in its essence, immense and universal, it is
impatient of working with lame or tied hands, and of making cripples
and monsters, such as all pictures and statues are. Nothing less
than the creation of man and nature is its end. A man should find in
it an outlet for his whole energy. He may paint and carve only as
long as he can do that. Art should exhilarate, and throw down the
walls of circumstance on every side, awakening in the beholder the
same sense of universal relation and power which the work evinced in
the artist, and its highest effect is to make new artists.

Already History is old enough to witness the old age and
disappearance of particular arts. The art of sculpture is long ago
perished to any real effect. It was originally a useful art, a mode
of writing, a savage's record of gratitude or devotion, and among a
people possessed of a wonderful perception of form this childish
carving was refined to the utmost splendor of effect. But it is the
game of a rude and youthful people, and not the manly labor of a wise
and spiritual nation. Under an oak-tree loaded with leaves and nuts,
under a sky full of eternal eyes, I stand in a thoroughfare; but in
the works of our plastic arts, and especially of sculpture, creation
is driven into a corner. I cannot hide from myself that there is a
certain appearance of paltriness, as of toys, and the trumpery of a
theatre, in sculpture. Nature transcends all our moods of thought,
and its secret we do not yet find. But the gallery stands at the
mercy of our moods, and there is a moment when it becomes frivolous.
I do not wonder that Newton, with an attention habitually engaged on
the paths of planets and suns, should have wondered what the Earl of
Pembroke found to admire in "stone dolls." Sculpture may serve to
teach the pupil how deep is the secret of form, how purely the spirit
can translate its meanings into that eloquent dialect. But the
statue will look cold and false before that new activity which needs
to roll through all things, and is impatient of counterfeits, and
things not alive. Picture and sculpture are the celebrations and
festivities of form. But true art is never fixed, but always
flowing. The sweetest music is not in the oratorio, but in the human
voice when it speaks from its instant life tones of tenderness,
truth, or courage. The oratorio has already lost its relation to the
morning, to the sun, and the earth, but that persuading voice is in
tune with these. All works of art should not be detached, but
extempore performances. A great man is a new statue in every
attitude and action. A beautiful woman is a picture which drives all
beholders nobly mad. Life may be lyric or epic, as well as a poem or
a romance.

A true announcement of the law of creation, if a man were found
worthy to declare it, would carry art up into the kingdom of nature,
and destroy its separate and contrasted existence. The fountains of
invention and beauty in modern society are all but dried up. A
popular novel, a theatre, or a ball-room makes us feel that we are
all paupers in the alms-house of this world, without dignity, without
skill, or industry. Art is as poor and low. The old tragic
Necessity, which lowers on the brows even of the Venuses and the
Cupids of the antique, and furnishes the sole apology for the
intrusion of such anomalous figures into nature, -- namely, that they
were inevitable; that the artist was drunk with a passion for form
which he could not resist, and which vented itself in these fine
extravagances, -- no longer dignifies the chisel or the pencil. But
the artist and the connoisseur now seek in art the exhibition of
their talent, or an asylum from the evils of life. Men are not well
pleased with the figure they make in their own imaginations, and they
flee to art, and convey their better sense in an oratorio, a statue,
or a picture. Art makes the same effort which a sensual prosperity
makes; namely, to detach the beautiful from the useful, to do up the
work as unavoidable, and, hating it, pass on to enjoyment. These
solaces and compensations, this division of beauty from use, the laws
of nature do not permit. As soon as beauty is sought, not from
religion and love, but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker. High
beauty is no longer attainable by him in canvas or in stone, in
sound, or in lyrical construction; an effeminate, prudent, sickly
beauty, which is not beauty, is all that can be formed; for the hand
can never execute any thing higher than the character can inspire.

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


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