Essays, First Series
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Part 1 out of 5

Essays, 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.


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 befallen 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

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

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

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 preexists 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 had 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 barrenness 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, Phoebus, 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 Capuchins.

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
to his 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 Venelas; 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 age 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 neighboring systems of being? Nay, what food or
experience or succor 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.


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 behavior 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 parlor 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

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
thousand-fold 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 solitude.

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 parlor. 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

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 misunderstood.

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 ephemera. 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 man.

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 becoming.

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

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
footprints 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 death.

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 riches.

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 love."

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 may you 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, neighbor, 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 others!

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 parlor
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 views.

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 endeavors;
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 swift."

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

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

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 Cases, "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 them.

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 principles.


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


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