Essays, First Series
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Part 2 out of 5

And, like thy shadow, follow thee.


Ever since I was a boy I have wished to write a discourse
on Compensation; for it seemed to me when very young that
on this subject life was ahead of theology and the people
knew more than the preachers taught. The documents too
from which the doctrine is to be drawn, charmed my fancy
by their endless variety, and lay always before me, even
in sleep; for they are the tools in our hands, the bread
in our basket, the transactions of the street, the farm
and the dwelling-house; greetings, relations, debts and
credits, the influence of character, the nature and
endowment of all men. It seemed to me also that in it
might be shown men a ray of divinity, the present action of
the soul of this world, clean from all vestige of tradition;
and so the heart of man might be bathed by an inundation of
eternal love, conversing with that which he knows was always
and always must be, because it really is now. It appeared
moreover that if this doctrine could be stated in terms with
any resemblance to those bright intuitions in which this
truth is sometimes revealed to us, it would be a star in many
dark hours and crooked passages in our journey, that would
not suffer us to lose our way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 St. Augustine, Confessions, B. I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet the compensations of calamity are made apparent
to the understanding also, after long intervals of time.
A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of
wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid
loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep
remedial force that underlies all facts. The death of a
dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing
but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a
guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in
our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of
youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted
occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows
the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of
character. It permits or constrains the formation of new
acquaintances and the reception of new influences that
prove of the first importance to the next years; and the
man or woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower,
with no room for its roots and too much sunshine for its
head, by the falling of the walls and the neglect of the
gardener is made the banian of the forest, yielding shade
and fruit to wide neighborhoods of men.


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


When the act of reflection takes place in the mind,
when we look at ourselves in the light of thought, we
discover that our life is embosomed in beauty. Behind
us, as we go, all things assume pleasing forms, as
clouds do far off. Not only things familiar and stale,
but even the tragic and terrible are comely as they
take their place in the pictures of memory. The river-
bank, the weed at the water-side, the old house, the
foolish person, however neglected in the passing, have
a grace in the past. Even the corpse that has lain in
the chambers has added a solemn ornament to the house.
The soul will not know either deformity or pain. If in
the hours of clear reason we should speak the severest
truth, we should say that we had never made a sacrifice.
In these hours the mind seems so great that nothing can
be taken from us that seems much. All loss, all pain, is
particular; the universe remains to the heart unhurt.
Neither vexations nor calamities abate our trust. No man
ever stated his griefs as lightly as he might. Allow for
exaggeration in the most patient and sorely ridden hack
that ever was driven. For it is only the finite that has
wrought and suffered; the infinite lies stretched in
smiling repose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Every promise of the soul has innumerable fulfilments;
each of its joys ripens into a new want. Nature,
uncontainable, flowing, forelooking, in the first
sentiment of kindness anticipates already a benevolence
which shall lose all particular regards in its general
light. The introduction to this felicity is in a private
and tender relation of one to one, which is the enchantment
of human life; which, like a certain divine rage and
enthusiasm, seizes on man at one period and works a
revolution in his mind and body; unites him to his race,
pledges him to the domestic and civic relations, carries
him with new sympathy into nature, enhances the power of
the senses, opens the imagination, adds to his character
heroic and sacred attributes, establishes marriage, and
gives permanence to human society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"All other pleasures are not worth its pains:"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If however, from too much conversing with material
objects, the soul was gross, and misplaced its
satisfaction in the body, it reaped nothing but
sorrow; body being unable to fulfil the promise
which beauty holds out; but if, accepting the hint
of these visions and suggestions which beauty makes
to his mind, the soul passes through the body and


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