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Complete Prose Works by Walt Whitman

Part 6 out of 13

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finally satisfied; but needs what, (standing on these and on all
things, as the feet stand on the ground,) is address'd to the
loftiest, to itself alone.

Out of such considerations, such truths, arises for treatment in
these Vistas the important question of character, of an American
stock-personality, with literatures and arts for outlets and
return-expressions, and, of course, to correspond, within outlines
common to all. To these, the main affair, the thinkers of the United
States, in general so acute, have either given feeblest attention, or
have remain'd, and remain, in a state of somnolence.

For my part, I would alarm and caution even the political and business
reader, and to the utmost extent, against the prevailing delusion
that the establishment of free political institutions, and plentiful
intellectual smartness, with general good order, physical plenty,
industry, &c., (desirable and precious advantages as they all are,)
do, of themselves, determine and yield to our experiment of democracy
the fruitage of success. With such advantages at present fully, or
almost fully, possess'd--the Union just issued, victorious, from the
struggle with the only foes it need ever fear, (namely, those within
itself, the interior ones,) and with unprecedented materialistic
advancement--society, in these States, is canker'd, crude,
superstitious, and rotten. Political, or law-made society is, and
private, or voluntary society, is also. In any vigor, the element of
the moral conscience, the most important, the verteber to State or
man, seems to me either entirely lacking, or seriously enfeebled or
ungrown.

I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face,
like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there,
perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the
United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying
principles of the States are not honestly believ'd in, (for all this
hectic glow, and these melo-dramatic screamings,) nor is humanity
itself believ'd in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see
through the mask? The spectacle is appaling. We live in an atmosphere
of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the
women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The
aim of all the _litterateurs_ is to find something to make fun of. A
lot of churches, sects, &c., the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp
the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit
in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already
incalculable. An acute and candid person, in the revenue department in
Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to regularly
visit the cities, north, south and west, to investigate frauds, has
talk'd much with me about his discoveries. The depravity of the
business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed,
but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national,
state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except
the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood,
mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities
reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and
scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak
infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time. In
business, (this all-devouring modern word, business,) the one sole
object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician's serpent in
the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our
magician's serpent, remaining today sole master of the field. The best
class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress'd speculators and
vulgarians. True, indeed, behind this fantastic farce, enacted on the
visible stage of society, solid things and stupendous labors are to
be discover'd, existing crudely and going on in the background, to
advance and tell themselves in time. Yet the truths are none the less
terrible. I say that our New World democracy, however great a success
in uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic
development, products, and in a certain highly-deceptive superficial
popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete failure in its
social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral, literary, and
esthetic results. In vain do we march with unprecedented strides to
empire so colossal, outvying the antique, beyond Alexander's, beyond
the proudest sway of Rome. In vain have we annex'd Texas, California,
Alaska, and reach north for Canada and south for Cuba. It is as if
we were somehow being endow'd with a vast and more and more
thoroughly-appointed body, and then left with little or no soul.

Let me illustrate further, as I write, with current observations,
localities, &c. The subject is important, and will bear repetition.
After an absence, I am now again (September, 1870) in New York city
and Brooklyn, on a few weeks' vacation. The splendor, picturesqueness,
and oceanic amplitude and rush of these great cities, the unsurpass'd
situation, rivers and bay, sparkling sea-tides, costly and lofty
new buildings, facades of marble and iron, of original grandeur and
elegance of design, with the masses of gay color, the preponderance of
white and blue, the flags flying, the endless ships, the tumultuous
streets, Broadway, the heavy, low, musical roar, hardly ever
intermitted, even at night; the jobbers' houses, the rich shops, the
wharves, the great Central Park, and the Brooklyn Park of hills, (as
I wander among them this beautiful fall weather, musing, watching,
absorbing)--the assemblages of the citizens in their groups,
conversations, trades, evening amusements, or along the
by-quarters--these, I say, and the like of these, completely satisfy
my senses of power, fulness, motion, &c., and give me, through such
senses and appetites, and through my esthetic conscience, a continued
exaltation and absolute fulfilment. Always and more and more, as I
cross the East and North rivers, the ferries, or with the pilots
in their pilot-houses, or pass an hour in Wall street, or the gold
exchange, I realize, (if we must admit such partialisms,) that not
Nature alone is great in her fields of freedom and the open air,
in her storms, the shows of night and day, the mountains, forests,
seas--but in the artificial, the work of man too is equally great--in
this profusion of teeming humanity--in these ingenuities, streets,
goods, houses, ships--these hurrying, feverish, electric crowds
of men, their complicated business genius, (not least among the
geniuses,) and all this mighty, many-threaded wealth and industry
concentrated here.

But sternly discarding, shutting our eyes to the glow and grandeur of
the general superficial effect, coming down to what is of the only
real importance, Personalities, and examining minutely, we question,
we ask, Are there, indeed, _men_ here worthy the name? Are there
athletes? Are there perfect women, to match the generous material
luxuriance? Is there a pervading atmosphere of beautiful manners? Are
there crops of fine youths, and majestic old persons? Are there arts
worthy freedom and a rich people? Is there a great moral and religious
civilization--the only justification of a great material one? Confess
that to severe eyes, using the moral microscope upon humanity, a sort
of dry and flat Sahara appears, these cities, crowded with petty
grotesques, malformations, phantoms, playing meaningless antics.

Confess that everywhere, in shop, street, church, theatre, bar-room,
official chair, are pervading flippancy and vulgarity, low cunning,
infidelity--everywhere the youth puny, impudent, foppish, prematurely
ripe--everywhere an abnormal libidinousness, unhealthy forms, male,
female, painted, padded, dyed, chignon'd, muddy complexions, bad
blood, the capacity for good motherhood deceasing or deceas'd, shallow
notions of beauty, with a range of manners, or rather lack of manners,
(considering the advantages enjoy'd,) probably the meanest to be seen
in the world.[22]

Of all this, and these lamentable conditions, to breathe into them
the breath recuperative of sane and heroic life, I say a new founded
literature, not merely to copy and reflect existing surfaces, or
pander to what is called taste--not only to amuse, pass away time,
celebrate the beautiful, the refined, the past, or exhibit technical,
rhythmic, or grammatical dexterity--but a literature underlying life,
religious, consistent with science, handling the elements and forces
with competent power, teaching and training men--and, as perhaps the
most precious of its results, achieving the entire redemption of woman
out of these incredible holds and webs of silliness, millinery, and
every kind of dyspeptic depletion--and thus insuring to the States a
strong and sweet Female Race, a race of perfect Mothers--is what is
needed.

And now, in the full conception of these facts and points, and all
that they infer, pro and con--with yet unshaken faith in the elements
of the American masses, the composites, of both sexes, and even
consider'd as individuals--and ever recognizing in them the broadest
bases of the best literary and esthetic appreciation--I proceed with
my speculations, Vistas.

First, let us see what we can make out of a brief, general,
sentimental consideration of political democracy, and whence it has
arisen, with regard to some of its current features, as an aggregate,
and as the basic structure of our future literature and authorship.
We shall, it is true, quickly and continually find the origin-idea of
the singleness of man, individualism, asserting itself, and cropping
forth, even from the opposite ideas. But the mass, or lump character,
for imperative reasons, is to be ever carefully weigh'd, borne in
mind, and provided for. Only from it, and from its proper regulation
and potency, comes the other, comes the chance of individualism. The
two are contradictory, but our task is to reconcile them.[23]

The political history of the past may be summ'd up as having grown out
of what underlies the words, order, safety, caste, and especially out
of the need of some prompt deciding authority, and of cohesion at all
cost. Leaping time, we come to the period within the memory of people
now living, when, as from some lair where they had slumber'd long,
accumulating wrath, sprang up and are yet active, (1790, and on
eyen to the present, 1870,) those noisy eructations, destructive
iconoclasms, a fierce sense of wrongs, amid which moves the form, well
known in modern history, in the old world, stain'd with much blood,
and mark'd by savage reactionary clamors and demands. These bear,
mostly, as on one inclosing point of need.

For after the rest is said--after the many time-honor'd and really
true things for subordination, experience, rights of property, &c.,
have been listen'd to and acquiesced in--after the valuable and
well-settled statement of our duties and relations in society is
thoroughly conn'd over and exhausted--it remains to bring forward and
modify everything else with the idea of that Something a man is, (last
precious consolation of the drudging poor,) standing apart from
all else, divine in his own right, and a woman in hers, sole and
untouchable by any canons of authority, or any rule derived from
precedent, state-safety, the acts of legislatures, or even from what
is called religion, modesty, or art. The radiation of this truth is
the key of the most significant doings of our immediately preceding
three centuries, and has been the political genesis and life of
America. Advancing visibly, it still more advances invisibly.
Underneath the fluctuations of the expressions of society, as well as
the movements of the politics of the leading nations of the world,
we see steadily pressing ahead and strengthening itself, even in the
midst of immense tendencies toward aggregation, this image of
completeness in separatism, of individual personal dignity, of a single
person, either male or female, characterized in the main, not from
extrinsic acquirements or position, but in the pride of himself or
herself alone; and, as an eventual conclusion and summing up, (or else
the entire scheme of things is aimless, a cheat, a crash,) the simple
idea that the last, best dependence is to be upon humanity itself, and
its own inherent, normal, fullgrown qualities, without any superstitious
support whatever. This idea of perfect individualism it is indeed that
deepest tinges and gives character to the idea of the aggregate. For it
is mainly or altogether to serve independent separatism that we favor
a strong generalization, consolidation. As it is to give the best
vitality and freedom to the rights of the States, (every bit as
important as the right of nationality, the union,) that we insist on
the identity of the Union at all hazards.

The purpose of democracy--supplanting old belief in the necessary
absoluteness of establish'd dynastic rulership, temporal,
ecclesiastical, and scholastic, as furnishing the only security
against chaos, crime, and ignorance--is, through many transmigrations,
and amid endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible failures, to
illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man, properly
train'd in sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and
series of laws, unto himself, surrounding and providing for, not only
his own personal control, but all his relations to other individuals,
and to the State; and that, while other theories, as in the past
histories of nations, have proved wise enough, and indispensable
perhaps for their conditions, _this,_ as matters now stand in our
civilized world, is the only scheme worth working from, as warranting
results like those of Nature's laws, reliable, when once establish'd,
to carry on themselves.

The argument of the matter is extensive, and, we admit, by no means
all on one side. What we shall offer will be far, far from sufficient.
But while leaving unsaid much that should properly even prepare
the way for the treatment of this many-sided question of political
liberty, equality, or republicanism--leaving the whole history and
consideration of the feudal plan and its products, embodying humanity,
its politics and civilization, through the retrospect of past time,
(which plan and products, indeed, make up all of the past, and a large
part of the present)--leaving unanswer'd, at least by any specific and
local answer, many a well-wrought argument and instance, and many a
conscientious declamatory cry and warning--as, very lately, from an
eminent and venerable person abroad[24]--things, problems, full of
doubt, dread, suspense, (not new to me, but old occupiers of many an
anxious hour in city's din, or night's silence,) we still may give a
page or so, whose drift is opportune. Time alone can finally answer
these things. But as a substitute in passing, let us, even if
fragmentarily, throw forth a short direct or indirect suggestion of
the premises of that other plan, in the new spirit, under the new
forms, started here in our America.

As to the political section of Democracy, which introduces and breaks
ground for further and vaster sections, few probably are the minds,
even in these republican States, that fully comprehend the aptness of
that phrase, "THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE
PEOPLE," which we inherit from the lips of Abraham Lincoln; a formula
whose verbal shape is homely wit, but whose scope includes both the
totality and all minutiae of the lesson.

The People! Like our huge earth itself, which, to ordinary scansion,
is full of vulgar contradictions and offence, man, viewed in the
lump, displeases, and is a constant puzzle and affront to the merely
educated classes. The rare, cosmical, artist-mind, lit with the
Infinite, alone confronts his manifold and oceanic qualities--but
taste, intelligence and culture, (so-called,) have been against the
masses, and remain so. There is plenty of glamour about the most
damnable crimes and hoggish meannesses, special and general, of the
feudal and dynastic world over there, with its _personnel_ of lords
and queens and courts, so well-dress'd and so handsome. But the People
are ungrammatical, untidy, and their sins gaunt and ill-bred.

Literature, strictly consider'd, has never recognized the People,
and, whatever may be said, does not to-day. Speaking generally, the
tendencies of literature, as hitherto pursued, have been to make
mostly critical and querulous men. It seems as if, so far, there were
some natural repugnance between a literary and professional life,
and the rude rank spirit of the democracies. There is, in later
literature, a treatment of benevolence, a charity business, rife
enough it is true; but I know nothing more rare, even in this country,
than a fit scientific estimate and reverent appreciation of the
People--of their measureless wealth of latent power and capacity,
their vast, artistic contrasts of lights and shades--with, in America,
their entire reliability in emergencies, and a certain breadth of
historic grandeur, of peace or war, far surpassing all the vaunted
samples of book-heroes, or any _haut ton_ coteries, in all the records
of the world.

The movements of the late secession war, and their results, to any
sense that studies well and comprehends them, show that popular
democracy, whatever its faults and dangers, practically justifies
itself beyond the proudest claims and wildest hopes of its
enthusiasts. Probably no future age can know, but I well know, how
the gist of this fiercest and most resolute of the world's war-like
contentions resided exclusively in the unnamed, unknown rank and
file; and how the brunt of its labor of death was, to all essential
purposes, volunteer'd. The People, of their own choice,
fighting, dying for their own idea, insolently attack'd by the
secession-slave-power, and its very existence imperil'd. Descending
to detail, entering any of the armies, and mixing with the private
soldiers, we see and have seen august spectacles. We have seen the
alacrity with which the American-born populace, the peaceablest
and most good-natured race in the world, and the most personally
independent and intelligent, and the least fitted to submit to the
irksomeness and exasperation of regimental discipline, sprang, at the
first tap of the drum, to arms--not for gain, nor even glory, nor to
repel invasion--but for an emblem, a mere abstraction--for the life,
_the safety of the flag_. We have seen the unequal'd docility and
obedience of these soldiers. We have seen them tried long and long by
hopelessness, mismanagement, and by defeat; have seen the incredible
slaughter toward or through which the armies (as at first
Fredericksburg, and afterward at the Wilderness,) still unhesitatingly
obey'd orders to advance. We have seen them in trench, or crouching
behind breastwork, or tramping in deep mud, or amid pouring rain or
thick-falling snow, or under forced marches in hottest summer (as on
the road to get to Gettysburg)--vast suffocating swarms, divisions,
corps, with every single man so grimed and black with sweat and dust,
his own mother would not have known him--his clothes all dirty,
stain'd and torn, with sour, accumulated sweat for perfume--many a
comrade, perhaps a brother, sun-struck, staggering out, dying, by
the roadside, of exhaustion--yet the great bulk bearing steadily
on, cheery enough, hollow-bellied from hunger, but sinewy with
unconquerable resolution.

We have seen this race proved by wholesale by drearier, yet more
fearful tests--the wound, the amputation, the shatter'd face or limb,
the slow hot fever, long impatient anchorage in bed, and all the forms
of maiming, operation and disease. Alas! America have we seen, though
only in her early youth, already to hospital brought. There have we
watch'd these soldiers, many of them only boys in years--mark'd
their decorum, their religious nature and fortitude, and their sweet
affection. Wholesale, truly. For at the front, and through the camps,
in countless tents, stood the regimental, brigade and division
hospitals; while everywhere amid the land, in or near cities, rose
clusters of huge, white-wash'd, crowded, one-story wooden barracks;
and there ruled agony with bitter scourge, yet seldom brought a cry;
and there stalk'd death by day and night along the narrow aisles
between the rows of cots, or by the blankets on the ground, and
touch'd lightly many a poor sufferer, often with blessed, welcome
touch.

I know not whether I shall be understood, but I realize that it is
finally from what I learn'd personally mixing in such scenes that I am
now penning these pages. One night in the gloomiest period of the war,
in the Patent-office hospital in Washington city, as I stood by
the bedside of a Pennsylvania soldier, who lay, conscious of quick
approaching death, yet perfectly calm, and with noble, spiritual
manner, the veteran surgeon, turning aside, said to me, that though he
had witness'd many, many deaths of soldiers, and had been a worker at
Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, &c., he had not seen yet the first
case of man or boy that met the approach of dissolution with cowardly
qualms or terror. My own observation fully bears out the remark.

What have we here, if not, towering above all talk and argument,
the plentifully-supplied, last-needed proof of democracy, in its
personalities? Curiously enough, too, the proof on this point comes,
I should say, every bit as much from the south, as from the north.
Although I have spoken only of the latter, yet I deliberately include
all. Grand, common stock! to me the accomplish'd and convincing
growth, prophetic of the future; proof undeniable to sharpest sense,
of perfect beauty, tenderness and pluck, that never feudal lord, nor
Greek, nor Roman breed, yet rival'd. Let no tongue ever speak in
disparagement of the American races, north or south, to one who has
been through the war in the great army hospitals.

Meantime, general humanity, (for to that we return, as, for our
purposes, what it really is, to bear in mind,) has always, in every
department, been full of perverse maleficence, and is so yet. In
downcast hours the soul thinks it always will be--but soon recovers
from such sickly moods. I myself see clearly enough the crude,
defective streaks in all the strata of the common people; the
specimens and vast collections of the ignorant, the credulous, the
unfit and uncouth, the incapable, and the very low and poor. The
eminent person just mention'd sneeringly asks whether we expect to
elevate and improve a nation's politics by absorbing such morbid
collections and qualities therein. The point is a formidable one,
and there will doubtless always be numbers of solid and reflective
citizens who will never get over it. Our answer is general, and
is involved in the scope and letter of this essay. We believe the
ulterior object of political and all other government, (having, of
course, provided for the police, the safety of life, property, and for
the basic statute and common law, and their administration, always
first in order,) to be among the rest, not merely to rule, to repress
disorder, &c., but to develop, to open up to cultivation, to encourage
the possibilities of all beneficent and manly outcroppage, and of that
aspiration for independence, and the pride and self-respect latent in
all characters. (Or, if there be exceptions, we cannot, fixing our
eyes on them alone, make theirs the rule for all.)

I say the mission of government, henceforth, in civilized lands, is
not repression alone, and not Authority alone, not even of law, nor
by that favorite standard of the eminent writer, the rule of the best
men, the born heroes and captains of the race, (as if such ever,
or one time out of a hundred, get into the big places, elective or
dynastic)--but higher than the highest arbitrary rule, to train
communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and
ending there again, to rule themselves. What Christ appear'd for in
the moral-spiritual field for human-kind, namely, that in respect to
the absolute soul, there is in the possession of such by each single
individual, something so transcendent, so incapable of gradations,
(like life,) that, to that extent, it places all beings on a common
level, utterly regardless of the distinctions of intellect, virtue,
station, or any height or lowliness whatever--is tallied in like
manner, in this other field, by democracy's rule that men, the nation,
as a common aggregate of living identities, affording in each a
separate and complete subject for freedom, worldly thrift and
happiness, and for a fair chance for growth, and for protection in
citizenship, &c., must, to the political extent of the suffrage or
vote, if no further, be placed, in each and in the whole, on one
broad, primary, universal, common platform.

The purpose is not altogether direct; perhaps it is more indirect. For
it is not that democracy is of exhaustive account, in itself. Perhaps,
indeed, it is, (like Nature,) of no account in itself. It is that, as
we see, it is the best, perhaps only, fit and full means, formulater,
general caller-forth, trainer, for the million, not for grand material
personalities only, but for immortal souls. To be a voter with the
rest is not so much; and this, like every institute, will have its
imperfections.

But to become an enfranchised man, and now, impediments removed, to
stand and start without humiliation, and equal with the rest; to
commence, or have the road clear'd to commence, the grand experiment
of development, whose end, (perhaps requiring several generations,)
may be the forming of a full-grown man or woman--that _is_ something.
To ballast the State is also secured, and in our times is to be
secured, in no other way.

We do not, (at any rate I do not,) put it either on the ground that
the People, the masses, even the best of them, are, in their latent or
exhibited qualities, essentially sensible and good--nor on the ground
of their rights; but that good or bad, rights or no rights, the
democratic formula is the only safe and preservative one for coming
times. We endow the masses with the suffrage for their own sake, no
doubt; then, perhaps still more, from another point of view, for
community's sake. Leaving the rest to the sentimentalists, we
present freedom as sufficient in its scientific aspect, cold as ice,
reasoning, deductive, clear and passionless as crystal.

Democracy too is law, and of the strictest, amplest kind. Many
suppose, (and often in its own ranks the error,) that it means a
throwing aside of law, and running riot. But, briefly, it is the
superior law, not alone that of physical force, the body, which,
adding to, it supersedes with that of the spirit. Law is the
unshakable order of the universe forever; and the law over all, and
law of laws, is the law of successions; that of the superior law, in
time, gradually supplanting and overwhelming the inferior one. (While,
for myself, I would cheerfully agree--first covenanting that the
formative tendencies shall be administer'd in favor, or at least not
against it, and that this reservation be closely construed--that
until the individual or community show due signs, or be so minor
and fractional as not to endanger the State, the condition of
authoritative tutelage may continue, and self-government must abide
its time.) Nor is the esthetic point, always an important one, without
fascination for highest aiming souls. The common ambition strains
for elevations, to become some privileged exclusive. The master sees
greatness and health in being part of the mass; nothing will do as
well as common ground. Would you have in yourself the divine, vast,
general law? Then merge yourself in it.

And, topping democracy, this most alluring record, that it alone can
bind, and ever seeks to bind, all nations, all men, of however various
and distant lands, into a brotherhood, a family. It is the old, yet
ever-modern dream of earth, out of her eldest and her youngest, her
fond philosophers and poets. Not that half only, individualism, which
isolates. There is another half, which is adhesiveness or love,
that fuses, ties and aggregates, making the races comrades, and
fraternizing all. Both are to be vitalized by religion, (sole
worthiest elevator of man or State,) breathing into the proud,
material tissues, the breath of life. For I say at the core of
democracy, finally, is the religious element. All the religions,
old and new, are there. Nor may the scheme step forth, clothed in
resplendent beauty and command, till these, bearing the best, the
latest fruit, the spiritual, shall fully appear.

A portion of our pages we might indite with reference toward Europe,
especially the British part of it, more than our own land, perhaps not
absolutely needed for the home reader. But the whole question hangs
together, and fastens and links all peoples. The liberalist of to-day
has this advantage over antique or mediaeval times, that his doctrine
seeks not only to individualize but to universalize. The great word
Solidarity has arisen. Of all dangers to a nation, as things exist in
our day, there can be no greater one than having certain portions of
the people set off from the rest by a line drawn--they not privileged
as others, but degraded, humiliated, made of no account. Much quackery
teems, of course, even on democracy's side, yet does not really affect
the orbic quality of the matter. To work in, if we may so term it,
and justify God, his divine aggregate, the People, (or, the veritable
horn'd and sharp-tail'd Devil, _his_ aggregate, if there be who
convulsively insist upon it)--this, I say, is what democracy is for;
and this is what our America means, and is doing--may I not say, has
done? If not, she means nothing more, and does nothing more, than
any other land. And as, by virtue of its kosmical, antiseptic power,
Nature's stomach is fully strong enough not only to digest the
morbific matter always presented, not to be turn'd aside, and perhaps,
indeed, intuitively gravitating thither--but even to change such
contributions into nutriment for highest use and life--so American
democracy's. That is the lesson we, these days, send over to European
lands by every western breeze.

And, truly, whatever may be said in the way of abstract argument, for
or against the theory of a wider democratizing of institutions in any
civilized country, much trouble might well be saved to all European
lands by recognizing this palpable fact, (for a palpable fact it is,)
that some form of such democratizing is about the only resource now
left. _That_, or chronic dissatisfaction continued, mutterings which
grow annually louder and louder, till, in due course, and pretty
swiftly in most cases, the inevitable crisis, crash, dynastic ruin.
Anything worthy to be call'd statesmanship in the Old World, I should
say, among the advanced students, adepts, or men of any brains, does
not debate to-day whether to hold on, attempting to lean back and
monarchize, or to look forward and democratize--but _how_, and in what
degree and part, most prudently to democratize.

The eager and often inconsiderate appeals of reformers and
revolutionists are indispensable, to counterbalance the inertness and
fossilism making so large a part of human institutions. The latter
will always take care of themselves--the danger being that they
rapidly tend to ossify us. The former is to be treated with
indulgence, and even with respect. As circulation to air, so is
agitation and a plentiful degree of speculative license to political
and moral sanity. Indirectly, but surely, goodness, virtue, law, (of
the very best,) follow freedom. These, to democracy, are what the keel
is to the ship, or saltness to the ocean.

The true gravitation-hold of liberalism in the United States will be
a more universal ownership of property, general homesteads, general
comfort--a vast, intertwining reticulation of wealth. As the human
frame, or, indeed, any object in this manifold universe, is best kept
together by the simple miracle of its own cohesion, and the necessity,
exercise and profit thereof, so a great and varied nationality,
occupying millions of square miles, were firmest held and knit by the
principle of the safety and endurance of the aggregate of its middling
property owners. So that, from another point of view, ungracious as
it may sound, and a paradox after what we have been saying, democracy
looks with suspicious, ill-satisfied eye upon the very poor, the
ignorant, and on those out of business. She asks for men and women
with occupations, well-off, owners of houses and acres, and with cash
in the bank--and with some cravings for literature, too; and must
have them, and hastens to make them. Luckily, the seed is already
well-sown, and has taken ineradicable root.[25]

Huge and mighty are our days, our republican lands--and most in their
rapid shiftings, their changes, all in the interest of the cause. As
I write this particular passage, (November, 1868,) the din of
disputation rages around me. Acrid the temper of the parties, vital
the pending questions. Congress convenes; the President sends his
message; reconstruction is still in abeyance; the nomination and the
contest for the twenty-first Presidentiad draw close, with loudest
threat and bustle. Of these, and all the like of these, the
eventuations I know not; but well I know that behind them, and
whatever their eventuations, the vital things remain safe and
certain, and all the needed work goes on. Time, with soon or later
superciliousness, disposes of Presidents, Congressmen, party
platforms, and such. Anon, it clears the stage of each and any mortal
shred that thinks itself so potent to its day; and at and after which,
(with precious, golden exceptions once or twice in a century,) all
that relates to sir potency is flung to moulder in a burial-vault,
and no one bothers himself the least bit about it afterward. But
the People ever remain, tendencies continue, and all the idiocratic
transfers in unbroken chain go on.

In a few years the dominion-heart of America will be far inland,
toward the west. Our future national capital may not be where the
present one is. It is possible, nay likely, that in less than fifty
years, it will migrate a thousand or two miles, will be re-founded,
and every thing belonging to it made on a different plan, original,
far more superb. The main social, political, spine-character of the
States will probably run along the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi
rivers, and west and north of them, including Canada. Those regions,
with the group of powerful brothers toward the Pacific, (destined to
the mastership of that sea and its countless paradises of islands,)
will compact and settle the traits of America, with all the old
retain'd, but more expanded, grafted on newer, hardier, purely
native stock. A giant growth, composite from the rest, getting their
contribution, absorbing it, to make it more illustrious. From the
north, intellect, the sun of things, also the idea of unswayable
justice, anchor amid the last, the wildest tempests. From the south
the living soul, the animus of good and bad, haughtily admitting no
demonstration but its own. While from the west itself comes
solid personality, with blood and brawn, and the deep quality of
all-accepting fusion.

Political democracy, as it exists and practically works in America,
with all its threatening evils, supplies a training-school for making
first-class men. It is life's gymnasium, not of good only, but of all.
We try often, though we fall back often. A brave delight, fit for
freedom's athletes, fills these arenas, and fully satisfies, out
of the action in them, irrespective of success. Whatever we do not
attain, we at any rate attain the experiences of the fight, the
hardening of the strong campaign, and throb with currents of attempt
at least. Time is ample. Let the victors come after us. Not for
nothing does evil play its part among us. Judging from the main
portions of the history of the world, so far, justice is always in
jeopardy, peace walks amid hourly pitfalls, and of slavery, misery,
meanness, the craft of tyrants and the credulity of the populace, in
some of their protean forms, no voice can at any time say, They are
not. The clouds break a little, and the sun shines out--but soon and
certain the lowering darkness falls again, as if to last forever. Yet
is there an immortal courage and prophecy in every sane soul that
cannot, must not, under any circumstances, capitulate. _Vive_, the
attack--the perennial assault! _Vive_, the unpopular cause--the spirit
that audaciously aims--the never-abandon'd efforts, pursued the same
amid opposing proofs and precedents.

Once, before the war, (alas! I dare not say how many times the mood
has come!) I, too, was fill'd with doubt and gloom. A foreigner, an
acute and good man, had impressively said to me, that day--putting in
form, indeed, my own observations: "I have travel'd much in the United
States, and watch'd their politicians, and listen'd to the speeches
of the candidates, and read the journals, and gone into the public
houses, and heard the unguarded talk of men. And I have found your
vaunted America honeycomb'd from top to toe with infidelism, even to
itself and its own programme. I have mark'd the brazen hell-faces
of secession and slavery gazing defiantly from all the windows and
doorways. I have everywhere found, primarily, thieves and scalliwags
arranging the nominations to offices, and sometimes filling the
offices themselves. I have found the north just as full of bad stuff
as the south. Of the holders of public office in the Nation or the
States or their municipalities, I have found that not one in a hundred
has been chosen by any spontaneous selection of the outsiders, the
people, but all have been nominated and put through by little or large
caucuses of the politicians, and have got in by corrupt rings and
electioneering, not capacity or desert. I have noticed how the
millions of sturdy farmers and mechanics are thus the helpless
supple-jacks of comparatively few politicians. And I have noticed more
and more, the alarming spectacle of parties usurping the government,
and openly and shamelessly wielding it for party purposes."

Sad, serious, deep truths. Yet are there other, still deeper, amply
confronting, dominating truths. Over those politicians and great and
little rings, and over all their insolence and wiles, and over the
powerfulest parties, looms a power, too sluggish maybe, but ever
holding decisions and decrees in hand, ready, with stern process,
to execute them as soon as plainly needed--and at times, indeed,
summarily crushing to atoms the mightiest parties, even in the hour of
their pride.

In saner hours far different are the amounts of these things from
what, at first sight, they appear. Though it is no doubt important who
is elected governor, mayor, or legislator, (and full of dismay when
incompetent or vile ones get elected, as they sometimes do,) there are
other, quieter contingencies, infinitely more important. Shams, &c.,
will always be the show, like ocean's scum; enough, if waters deep
and clear make up the rest. Enough, that while the piled embroider'd
shoddy gaud and fraud spreads to the superficial eye, the hidden warp
and weft are genuine, and will wear forever. Enough, in short, that
the race, the land which could raise such as the late rebellion, could
also put it down. The average man of a land at last only is important.
He, in these States, remains immortal owner and boss, deriving good
uses, somehow, out of any sort of servant in office, even the basest;
(certain universal requisites, and their settled regularity and
protection, being first secured,) a nation like ours, in a sort of
geological formation state, trying continually new experiments,
choosing new delegations, is not served by the best men only, but
sometimes more by those that provoke it--by the combats they arouse.
Thus national rage, fury, discussions, &c., better than content. Thus,
also, the warning signals, invaluable for after times.

What is more dramatic than the spectacle we have seen repeated, and
doubtless long shall see--the popular judgment taking the successful
candidates on trial in the offices--standing off, as it were, and
observing them and their doings for a while, and always giving,
finally, the fit, exactly due reward? I think, after all, the
sublimest part of political history, and its culmination, is currently
issuing from the American people. I know nothing grander, better
exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the
triumphant result of faith in human-kind, than a well-contested
American national election.

Then still the thought returns, (like the thread-passage in
overtures,) giving the key and echo to these pages. When I pass to and
fro, different latitudes, different seasons, beholding the crowds of
the great cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago,
St. Louis, San Francisco, New Orleans, Baltimore--when I mix with
these interminable swarms of alert, turbulent, good-natured,
independent citizens, mechanics, clerks, young persons--at the idea
of this mass of men, so fresh and free, so loving and so proud, a
singular awe falls upon me. I feel, with dejection and amazement, that
among our geniuses and talented writers or speakers, few or none have
yet really spoken to this people, created a single image-making work
for them, or absorb'd the central spirit and the idiosyncrasies which
are theirs--and which, thus, in highest ranges, so far remain entirely
uncelebrated, unexpress'd.

Dominion strong is the body's; dominion stronger is the mind's. What
has fill'd, and fills to-day our intellect, our fancy, furnishing
the standards therein, is yet foreign. The great poems, Shakspere
included, are poisonous to the idea of the pride and dignity of
the common people, the life-blood of democracy. The models of our
literature, as we get it from other lands, ultra-marine, have had
their birth in courts, and bask'd and grown in castle sunshine; all
smells of princes' favors. Of workers of a certain sort, we have,
indeed, plenty, contributing after their kind; many elegant, many
learn'd, all complacent. But touch'd by the national test, or tried by
the standards of democratic personality, they wither to ashes. I say I
have not seen a single writer, artist, lecturer, or what-not, that
has confronted the voiceless but ever erect and active, pervading,
underlying will and typic aspiration of the land, in a spirit kindred
to itself. Do you call those genteel little creatures American poets?
Do you term that perpetual, pistareen, paste-pot work, American art,
American drama, taste, verse? I think I hear, echoed as from some
mountain-top afar in the west, the scornful laugh of the Genius of
these States.

Democracy, in silence, biding its time, ponders its own ideals, not of
literature and art only--not of men only, but of women. The idea of
the women of America, (extricated from this daze, this fossil and
unhealthy air which hangs about the word _lady_,) develop'd, raised to
become the robust equals, workers, and, it may be, even practical
and political deciders with the men--greater than man, we may admit,
through their divine maternity, always their towering, emblematical
attribute--but great, at any rate, as man, in all departments; or,
rather, capable of being so, soon as they realize it, and can bring
themselves to give up toys and fictions, and launch forth, as men do,
amid real, independent, stormy life.

Then, as towards our thought's finale, (and, in that, overarching the
true scholar's lesson,) we have to say there can be no complete or
epical presentation of democracy in the aggregate, or anything like
it, at this day, because its doctrines will only be effectually
incarnated in any one branch, when, in all, their spirit is at the
root and centre. Far, far, indeed, stretch, in distance, our Vistas!
How much is still to be disentangled, freed! How long it takes to make
this American world see that it is, in itself, the final authority and
reliance!

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for
politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there
that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruits in manners, in
the highest forms of interaction between men, and their beliefs--in
religion, literature, colleges, and schools--democracy in all public
and private life, and in the army and navy.[26] I have intimated
that, as a paramount scheme, it has yet few or no full realizers and
believers. I do not see, either, that it owes any serious thanks to
noted propagandists or champions, or has been essentially help'd,
though often harm'd, by them. It has been and is carried on by all the
moral forces, and by trade, finance, machinery, intercommunications,
and, in fact, by all the developments of history, and can no more be
stopp'd than the tides, or the earth in its orbit. Doubtless, also, it
resides, crude and latent, well down in the hearts of the fair average
of the American-born people, mainly in the agricultural regions. But
it is not yet, there or anywhere, the fully-receiv'd, the fervid, the
absolute faith.

I submit, therefore, that the fruition of democracy, on aught like a
grand scale, resides altogether in the future. As, under any profound
and comprehensive view of the gorgeous-composite feudal world, we see
in it, through the long ages and cycles of ages, the results of a
deep, integral, human and divine principle, or fountain, from which
issued laws, ecclesia, manners, institutes, costumes, personalities,
poems, (hitherto unequall'd,) faithfully partaking of their source,
and indeed only arising either to betoken it, or to furnish parts of
that varied-flowing display, whose centre was one and absolute--so,
long ages hence, shall the due historian or critic make at least an
equal retrospect, an equal history for the democratic principle. It
too must be adorn'd, credited with its results--then, when it, with
imperial power, through amplest time, has dominated mankind--has been
the source and test of all the moral, esthetic, social, political,
and religious expressions and institutes of the civilized world--has
begotten them in spirit and in form, and has carried them to its
own unprecedented heights--has had, (it is possible,) monastics and
ascetics, more numerous, more devout than the monks and priests of
all previous creeds--has sway'd the ages with a breadth and rectitude
tallying Nature's own--has fashion'd, systematized, and triumphantly
finish'd and carried out, in its own interest, and with unparallel'd
success, a new earth and a new man.

Thus we presume to write, as it were, upon things that exist not, and
travel by maps yet unmade, and a blank. But the throes of birth are
upon us; and we have something of this advantage in seasons of strong
formations, doubts, suspense--for then the afflatus of such themes
haply may fall upon us, more or less; and then, hot from surrounding
war and revolution, our speech, though without polish'd coherence, and
a failure by the standard called criticism, comes forth, real at least
as the lightnings.

And may-be we, these days, have, too, our own reward--(for there are
yet some, in all lands, worthy to be so encouraged.) Though not for
us the joy of entering at the last the conquer'd city--not ours the
chance ever to see with our own eyes the peerless power and splendid
_eclat_ of the democratic principle, arriv'd at meridian, filling the
world with effulgence and majesty far beyond those of past history's
kings, or all dynastic sway--there is yet, to whoever is eligible
among us, the prophetic vision, the joy of being toss'd in the brave
turmoil of these times--the promulgation and the path, obedient, lowly
reverent to the voice, the gesture of the god, or holy ghost, which
others see not, hear not--with the proud consciousness that amid
whatever clouds, seductions, or heart-wearying postponements, we have
never deserted, never despair'd, never abandon'd the faith.

So much contributed, to be conn'd well, to help prepare and brace our
edifice, our plann'd Idea--we still proceed to give it in another
of its aspects--perhaps the main, the high facade of all. For to
democracy, the leveler, the unyielding principle of the average, is
surely join'd another principle, equally unyielding, closely tracking
the first, indispensable to it, opposite, (as the sexes are opposite,)
and whose existence, confronting and ever modifying the other, often
clashing, paradoxical, yet neither of highest avail without the other,
plainly supplies to these grand cosmic politics of ours, and to the
launch'd-forth mortal dangers of republicanism, to-day or any day, the
counterpart and offset whereby Nature restrains the deadly original
relentlessness of all her first-class laws. This second principle is
individuality, the pride and centripetal isolation of a human being in
himself--identity--personalism. Whatever the name, its acceptance and
thorough infusion through the organizations of political commonalty
now shooting Aurora-like about the world, are of utmost importance, as
the principle itself is needed for very life's sake. It forms, in a
sort, or is to form, the compensating balance-wheel of the successful
working machinery of aggregate America.

And, if we think of it, what does civilization itself rest upon--and
what object has it, with its religions, arts, schools, &c., but rich,
luxuriant, varied personalism? To that, all bends; and it is because
toward such result democracy alone, on anything like Nature's scale,
breaks up the limitless fallows of humankind, and plants the seed, and
gives fair play, that its claims now precede the rest. The literature,
songs, esthetics, &c., of a country are of importance principally
because they furnish the materials and suggestions of personality for
the women and men of that country, and enforce them in a thousand
effective ways.[27] As the topmost claim of a strong consolidating
of the nationality of these States, is, that only by such powerful
compaction can the separate States secure that full and free swing
within their spheres, which is becoming to them, each after its kind,
so will individuality, with unimpeded branchings, flourish best under
imperial republican forms.

Assuming Democracy to be at present in its embryo condition, and that
the only large and satisfactory justification of it resides in the
future, mainly through the copious production of perfect characters
among the people, and through the advent of a sane and pervading
religiousness, it is with regard to the atmosphere and spaciousness
fit for such characters, and of certain nutriment and cartoon-draftings
proper for them, and indicating them for New-World purposes, that I
continue the present statement--an exploration, as of new ground,
wherein, like other primitive surveyors, I must do the best I can,
leaving it to those who come after me to do much better. (The service,
in fact, if any, must be to break a sort of first path or track, no
matter how rude and ungeometrical.)

We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I cannot too often
repeat that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite
unawaken'd, notwithstanding the resonance and the many angry tempests
out of which its syllables have come, from pen or tongue. It is a
great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten, because that
history has yet to be enacted. It is, in some sort, younger brother of
another great and often-used word, Nature, whose history also waits
unwritten. As I perceive, the tendencies of our day, in the States,
(and I entirely respect them,) are toward those vast and sweeping
movements, influences, moral and physical, of humanity, now and always
current over the planet, on the scale of the impulses of the elements.
Then it is also good to reduce the whole matter to the consideration
of a single self, a man, a woman, on permanent grounds. Even for the
treatment of the universal, in politics, metaphysics, or anything,
sooner or later we come down to one single, solitary soul.

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises,
independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining
eternal. This is the thought of identity--yours for you, whoever you
are, as mine for me. Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, most
spiritual and vaguest of earth's dreams, yet hardest basic fact, and
only entrance to all facts. In such devout hours, in the midst of the
significant wonders of heaven and earth, (significant only because of
the Me in the centre,) creeds, conventions, fall away and become of
no account before this simple idea. Under the luminousness of real
vision, it alone takes possession, takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf
in the fable, 'once liberated and look'd upon, it expands over the
whole earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven.

The quality of BEING, in the object's self, according to its own
central idea and purpose, and of growing therefrom and thereto--not
criticism by other standards, and adjustments thereto--is the lesson
of Nature. True, the full man wisely gathers, culls, absorbs; but
if, engaged disproportionately in that, he slights or overlays the
precious idiocrasy and special nativity and intention that he is, the
man's self, the main thing, is a failure, however wide his general
cultivation. Thus, in our times, refinement and delicatesse are not
only attended to sufficiently, but threaten to eat us up, like a
cancer. Already, the democratic genius watches, ill-pleased, these
tendencies. Provision for a little healthy rudeness, savage virtue,
justification of what one has in one's self, whatever it is, is
demanded. Negative qualities, even deficiencies, would be a relief.
Singleness and normal simplicity and separation, amid this more and
more complex, more and more artificialized state of society--how
pensively we yearn for them! how we would welcome their return!

In some such direction, then--at any rate enough to preserve the
balance--we feel called upon to throw what weight we can, not for
absolute reasons, but current ones. To prune, gather, trim, conform,
and ever cram and stuff, and be genteel and proper, is the pressure
of our days. While aware that much can be said even in behalf of all
this, we perceive that we have not now to consider the question of
what is demanded to serve a half-starved and barbarous nation, or set
of nations, but what is most applicable, most pertinent, for numerous
congeries of conventional, over-corpulent societies, already becoming
stifled and rotten with flatulent, infidelistic literature, and polite
conformity and art. In addition to establish'd sciences, we suggest
a science as it were of healthy average personalism, on
original-universal grounds, the object of which should be to raise up
and supply through the States a copious race of superb American men
and women, cheerful, religious, ahead of any yet known.

America has yet morally and artistically originated nothing. She seems
singularly unaware that the models of persons, books, manners, &c.,
appropriate for former conditions and for European lands, are but
exiles and exotics here. No current of her life, as shown on the
surfaces of what is authoritatively called her society, accepts or
runs into social or esthetic democracy; but all the currents set
squarely against it. Never, in the Old World, was thoroughly
upholster'd exterior appearance and show, mental and other, built
entirely on the idea of caste, and on the sufficiency of mere outside
acquisition--never were glibness, verbal intellect, more the test, the
emulation--more loftily elevated as head and sample--than they are on
the surface of our republican States this day. The writers of a time
hint the mottoes of its gods. The word of the modern, say these
voices, is the word Culture.

We find ourselves abruptly in close quarters with the enemy. This word
Culture, or what it has come to represent, involves, by contrast, our
whole theme, and has been, indeed, the spur, urging us to engagement.
Certain questions arise. As now taught, accepted and carried out, are
not the processes of culture rapidly creating a class of supercilious
infidels, who believe in nothing? Shall a man lose himself in
countless masses of adjustments, and be so shaped with reference to
this, that, and the other, that the simply good and healthy and brave
parts of him are reduced and clipp'd away, like the bordering of box
in a garden? You can cultivate corn and roses and orchards--but who
shall cultivate the mountain peaks, the ocean, and the tumbling
gorgeousness of the clouds? Lastly--is the readily-given reply that
culture only seeks to help, systematize, and put in attitude, the
elements of fertility and power, a conclusive reply?

I do not so much object to the name, or word, but I should certainly
insist, for the purposes of these States, on a radical change of
category, in the distribution of precedence. I should demand a
programme of culture, drawn out, not for a single class alone, or for
the parlors or lecture-rooms, but with an eye to practical life,
the west, the working-men, the facts of farms and jack-planes and
engineers, and of the broad range of the women also of the middle and
working strata, and with reference to the perfect equality of women,
and of a grand and powerful motherhood. I should demand of this
programme or theory a scope generous enough to include the widest
human area. It must have for its spinal meaning the formation of a
typical personality of character, eligible to the uses of the high
average of men--and _not_ restricted by conditions ineligible to
the masses. The best culture will always be that of the manly
and courageous instincts, and loving perceptions, and of
self-respect--aiming to form, over this continent, an idiocrasy of
universalism, which, true child of America, will bring joy to its
mother, returning to her in her own spirit, recruiting myriads of
offspring, able, natural, perceptive, tolerant, devout believers in
her, America, and with some definite instinct why and for what she has
arisen, most vast, most formidable of historic births, and is, now and
here, with wonderful step, journeying through Time.

The problem, as it seems to me, presented to the New World, is,
under permanent law and order, and after preserving cohesion,
(ensemble-individuality,) at all hazards, to vitalize man's free play
of special Personalism, recognizing in it something that calls ever
more to be consider'd, fed, and adopted as the substratum for the best
that belongs to us, (government indeed is for it,) including the new
esthetics of our future.

To formulate beyond this present vagueness--to help line and put
before us the species, or a specimen of the species, of the democratic
ethnology of the future, is a work toward which the genius of our
land, with peculiar encouragement, invites her well-wishers. Already
certain limnings, more or less grotesque, more or less fading and
watery, have appear'd. We too, (repressing doubts and qualms,) will
try our hand.

Attempting, then, however crudely, a basic model or portrait of
personality for general use for the manliness of the States, (and
doubtless that is most useful which is most simple and comprehensive
for all, and toned low enough,) we should prepare the canvas well
beforehand. Parentage must consider itself in advance. (Will the time
hasten when fatherhood and motherhood shall become a science--and
the noblest science?) To our model, a clear-blooded, strong-fibred
physique, is indispensable; the questions of food, drink, air,
exercise, assimilation, digestion, can never be intermitted. Out of
these we descry a well-begotten selfhood--in youth, fresh, ardent,
emotional, aspiring, full of adventure; at maturity, brave,
perceptive, under control, neither too talkative nor too reticent,
neither flippant nor sombre; of the bodily figure, the movements
easy, the complexion showing the best blood, somewhat flush'd, breast
expanded, an erect attitude, a voice whose sound outvies music, eyes
of calm and steady gaze, yet capable also of flashing--and a general
presence that holds its own in the company of the highest. (For it is
native personality, and that alone, that endows a man to stand before
presidents or generals, or in any distinguish'd collection, with
_aplomb_--and _not_ culture, or any knowledge or intellect whatever.)
With regard to the mental-educational part of our model, enlargement
of intellect, stores of cephalic knowledge, &c., the concentration
thitherward of all the customs of our age, especially in America, is
so overweening, and provides so fully for that part, that, important
and necessary as it is, it really needs nothing from us here--except,
indeed, a phrase of warning and restraint. Manners, costumes, too,
though important, we need not dwell upon here. Like beauty, grace of
motion, &c., they are results. Causes, original things, being attended
to, the right manners unerringly follow. Much is said, among artists,
of "the grand style," as if it were a thing by itself. When a man,
artist or whoever, has health, pride, acuteness, noble aspirations,
he has the motive-elements of the grandest style. The rest is but
manipulation, (yet that is no small matter.)

Leaving still unspecified several sterling parts of any model fit for
the future personality of America, I must not fail, again and ever,
to pronounce myself on one, probably the least attended to in modern
times--a hiatus, indeed, threatening its gloomiest consequences after
us. I mean the simple, unsophisticated Conscience, the primary moral
element. If I were asked to specify in what quarter lie the grounds of
darkest dread, respecting the America of our hopes, I should have to
point to this particular. I should demand the invariable application
to individuality, this day and any day, of that old, ever-true
plumb-rule of persons, eras, nations. Our triumphant modern civilizee,
with his all-schooling and his wondrous appliances, will still show
himself but an amputation while this deficiency remains. Beyond,
(assuming a more hopeful tone,) the vertebration of the manly and
womanly personalism of our western world, can only be, and is, indeed,
to be, (I hope,) its all-penetrating Religiousness.

The ripeness of Religion is doubtless to be looked for in this field
of individuality, and is a result that no organization or church can
ever achieve. As history is poorly retain'd by what the technists call
history, and is not given out from their pages, except the learner has
in himself the sense of the well-wrapt, never yet written, perhaps
impossible to be written, history--so Religion, although casually
arrested, and, after a fashion, preserv'd in the churches and creeds,
does not depend at all upon them, but is a part of the identified
soul, which, when greatest, knows not bibles in the old way, but in
new ways--the identified soul, which can really confront Religion when
it extricates itself entirely from the churches, and not before.

Personalism fuses this, and favors it. I should say, indeed, that only
in the perfect uncontamination and solitariness of individuality may
the spirituality of religion positively come forth at all. Only here,
and on such terms, the meditation, the devout ecstasy, the soaring
flight. Only here, communion with the mysteries, the eternal problems,
whence? whither? Alone, and identity, and the mood--and the soul
emerges, and all statements, churches, sermons, melt away like vapors.
Alone, and silent thought and awe, and aspiration--and then the
interior consciousness, like a hitherto unseen inscription, in magic
ink, beams out its wondrous lines to the sense. Bibles may convey, and
priests expound, but it is exclusively for the noiseless operation of
one's isolated Self, to enter the pure ether of veneration, reach the
divine levels, and commune with the unutterable.

To practically enter into politics is an important part of American
personalism. To every young man, north and south, earnestly studying
these things, I should here, as an offset to what I have said in
former pages, now also say, that may be to views of very largest
scope, after all, perhaps the political, (perhaps the literary and
sociological,) America goes best about its development its own
way--sometimes, to temporary sight, appaling enough. It is the fashion
among dillettants and fops (perhaps I myself am not guiltless,) to
decry the whole formulation of the active politics of America, as
beyond redemption, and to be carefully kept away from. See you that
you do not fall into this error. America, it may be, is doing very
well upon the whole, notwithstanding these antics of the parties and
their leaders, these half-brain'd nominees, the many ignorant ballots,
and many elected failures and blatherers. It is the dillettants, and
all who shirk their duty, who are not doing well. As for you, I advise
you to enter more strongly yet into politics. I advise every young man
to do so. Always inform yourself; always do the best you can; always
vote. Disengage yourself from parties. They have been useful, and
to some extent remain so; but the floating, uncommitted electors,
farmers, clerks, mechanics, the masters of parties--watching aloof,
inclining victory this side or that side--such are the ones most
needed, present and future. For America, if eligible at all to
downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I
see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down.
But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their
own will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea
of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect equality of the
States, the ever-overarching American ideas, it behooves you to convey
yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators,
but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them.

So much, (hastily toss'd together, and leaving far more unsaid,) for
an ideal, or intimations of an ideal, toward American manhood. But the
other sex, in our land, requires at least a basis of suggestion.

I have seen a young American woman, one of a large family of
daughters, who, some years since, migrated from her meagre country
home to one of the northern cities, to gain her own support. She soon
became an expert seamstress, but finding the employment too confining
for health and comfort, she went boldly to work for others, to
house-keep, cook, clean, &c. After trying several places, she fell
upon one where she was suited. She has told me that she finds nothing
degrading in her position; it is not inconsistent with personal
dignity, self-respect, and the respect of others. She confers benefits
and receives them. She has good health; her presence itself is
healthy and bracing; her character is unstain'd; she has made herself
understood, and preserves her independence, and has been able to help
her parents, and educate and get places for her sisters; and her
course of life is not without opportunities for mental improvement,
and of much quiet, uncosting happiness and love.

I have seen another woman who, from taste and necessity conjoin'd, has
gone into practical affairs, carries on a mechanical business, partly
works at it herself, dashes out more and more into real hardy life, is
not abash'd by the coarseness of the contact, knows how to be firm and
silent at the same time, holds her own with unvarying coolness and
decorum, and will compare, any day, with superior carpenters, farmers,
and even boatmen and drivers. For all that, she has not lost the
charm of the womanly nature, but preserves and bears it fully, though
through such rugged presentation.

Then there is the wife of a mechanic, mother of two children, a woman
of merely passable English education, but of fine wit, with all her
sex's grace and intuitions, who exhibits, indeed, such a noble female
personality, that I am fain to record it here. Never abnegating her
own proper independence, but always genially preserving it, and what
belongs to it--cooking, washing, child-nursing, house-tending--she
beams sunshine out of all these duties, and makes them illustrious.
Physiologically sweet and sound, loving work, practical, she yet knows
that there are intervals, however few, devoted to recreation, music,
leisure, hospitality--and affords such intervals. Whatever she does,
and wherever she is, that charm, that indescribable perfume of genuine
womanhood attends her, goes with her, exhales from her, which belongs
of right to all the sex, and is, or ought to be, the invariable
atmosphere and common aureola of old as well as young.

My dear mother once described to me a resplendent person, down on Long
Island, whom she knew in early days. She was known by the name of the
Peacemaker. She was well toward eighty years old, of happy and sunny
temperament, had always lived on a farm, and was very neighborly,
sensible and discreet, an invariable and welcom'd favorite, especially
with young married women. She had numerous children and grandchildren.
She was uneducated, but possess'd a native dignity. She had come to
be a tacitly agreed upon domestic regulator, judge, settler of
difficulties, shepherdess, and reconciler in the land. She was a
sight to draw near and look upon, with her large figure, her profuse
snow-white hair, (uncoil'd by any head-dress or cap,) dark eyes, clear
complexion, sweet breath, and peculiar personal magnetism.

The foregoing portraits, I admit, are frightfully out of line from
these imported models of womanly personality--the stock feminine
characters of the current novelists, or of the foreign court poems,
(Ophelias, Enids, princesses, or ladies of one thing or another,)
which fill the envying dreams of so many poor girls, and are accepted
by our men, too, as supreme ideals of feminine excellence to be sought
after. But I present mine just for a change.

Then there are mutterings, (we will not now stop to heed them here,
but they must be heeded,) of something more revolutionary. The day is
coming when the deep questions of woman's entrance amid the arenas of
practical life, politics, the suffrage, &c., will not only be argued
all around us, but may be put to decision, and real experiment.

Of course, in these States, for both man and woman, we must entirely
recast the types of highest personality from what the oriental,
feudal, ecclesiastical worlds bequeath us, and which yet possess the
imaginative and esthetic fields of the United States, pictorial and
melodramatic, not without use as studies, but making sad work, and
forming a strange anachronism upon the scenes and exigencies around
us. Of course, the old undying elements remain. The task is, to
successfully adjust them to new combinations, our own days. Nor is
this so incredible. I can conceive a community, to-day and here, in
which, on a sufficient scale, the perfect personalities, without noise
meet; say in some pleasant western settlement or town, where a couple
of hundred best men and women, of ordinary worldly status, have by
luck been drawn together, with nothing extra of genius or wealth,
but virtuous, chaste, industrious, cheerful, resolute, friendly and
devout. I can conceive such a community organized in running order,
powers judiciously delegated--farming, building, trade, courts, mails,
schools, elections, all attended to; and then the rest of life, the
main thing, freely branching and blossoming in each individual, and
bearing golden fruit. I can see there, in every young and old man,
after his kind, and in every woman after hers, a true personality,
develop'd, exercised proportionately in body, mind, and spirit. I can
imagine this case as one not necessarily rare or difficult, but in
buoyant accordance with the municipal and general requirements of our
times. And I can realize in it the culmination of something better
than any stereotyped _eclat_ of history or poems. Perhaps, unsung,
undramatized, unput in essays or biographies--perhaps even some such
community already exists, in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, or somewhere,
practically fulfilling itself, and thus outvying, in cheapest vulgar
life, all that has been hitherto shown in best ideal pictures.

In short, and to sum up, America, betaking herself to formative
action, (as it is about time for more solid achievement, and less
windy promise,) must, for her purposes, cease to recognize a theory of
character grown of feudal aristocracies, or form'd by merely literary
standards, or from any ultramarine, full-dress formulas of culture,
polish, caste, &c., and must sternly promulgate her own new standard,
yet old enough, and accepting the old, the perennial elements, and
combining them into groups, unities, appropriate to the modern, the
democratic, the west, and to the practical occasions and needs of our
own cities, and of the agricultural regions. Ever the most precious in
the common. Ever the fresh breeze of field, or hill, or lake, is more
than any palpitation of fans, though of ivory, and redolent with
perfume; and the air is more than the costliest perfumes.

And now, for fear of mistake, we may not intermit to beg our
absolution from all that genuinely is, or goes along with, even
Culture. Pardon us, venerable shade! if we have seem'd to speak
lightly of your office. The whole civilization of the earth, we know,
is yours, with all the glory and the light thereof. It is, indeed, in
your own spirit, and seeking to tally the loftiest teachings of it,
that we aim these poor utterances. For you, too, mighty minister! know
that there is something greater than you, namely, the fresh, eternal
qualities of Being. From them, and by them, as you, at your best, we
too evoke the last, the needed help, to vitalize our country and our
days. Thus we pronounce not so much against the principle of culture;
we only supervise it, and promulge along with it, as deep, perhaps a
deeper, principle. As we have shown the New World including in itself
the all-leveling aggregate of democracy, we show it also including the
all-varied, all-permitting, all-free theorem of individuality, and
erecting therefor a lofty and hitherto unoccupied framework or
platform, broad enough for all, eligible to every farmer and
mechanic--to the female equally with the male--a towering selfhood,
not physically perfect only--not satisfied with the mere mind's and
learning's stores, but religious, possessing the idea of the infinite,
(rudder and compass sure amid this troublous voyage, o'er darkest,
wildest wave, through stormiest wind, of man's or nation's
progress)--realizing, above the rest, that known humanity, in deepest
sense, is fair adhesion to itself, for purposes beyond--and that,
finally, the personality of mortal life is most important with
reference to the immortal, the unknown, the spiritual, the only
permanently real, which as the ocean waits for and receives the
rivers, waits for us each and all.

Much is there, yet, demanding line and outline in our Vistas, not only
on these topics, but others quite unwritten. Indeed, we could talk the
matter, and expand it, through lifetime. But it is necessary to return
to our original premises. In view of them, we have again pointedly to
confess that all the objective grandeurs of the world, for highest
purposes, yield themselves up, and depend on mentality alone. Here,
and here only, all balances, all rests. For the mind, which alone
builds the permanent edifice, haughtily builds it to itself. By it,
with what follows it, are convey'd to mortal sense the culminations of
the materialistic, the known, and a prophecy of the unknown. To
take expression, to incarnate, to endow a literature with grand and
archetypal models--to fill with pride and love the utmost capacity,
and to achieve spiritual meanings, and suggest the future--these, and
these only, satisfy the soul. We must not say one word against real
materials; but the wise know that they do not become real till touched
by emotions, the mind. Did we call the latter imponderable? Ah, let us
rather proclaim that the slightest song-tune, the countless ephemera
of passions arous'd by orators and tale-tellers, are more dense, more
weighty than the engines there in the great factories, or the granite
blocks in their foundations.

Approaching thus the momentous spaces, and considering with reference
to a new and greater personalism, the needs and possibilities of
American imaginative literature, through the medium-light of what we
have already broach'd, it will at once be appreciated that a vast
gulf of difference separates the present accepted condition of these
spaces, inclusive of what is floating in them, from any condition
adjusted to, or fit for, the world, the America, there sought to be
indicated, and the copious races of complete men and women, along
these Vistas crudely outlined. It is, in some sort, no less a
difference than lies between that long-continued nebular state and
vagueness of the astronomical worlds, compared with the subsequent
state, the definitely-form'd worlds themselves, duly compacted,
clustering in systems, hung up there, chandeliers of the universe,
beholding and mutually lit by each other's lights, serving for ground
of all substantial foothold, all vulgar uses--yet serving still more
as an undying chain and echelon of spiritual proofs and shows. A
boundless field to fill! A new creation, with needed orbic works
launch'd forth, to revolve in free and lawful circuits--to move,
self-poised, through the ether, and shine like heaven's own suns! With
such, and nothing less, we suggest that New World literature, fit to
rise upon, cohere, and signalize in time, these States.

What, however, do we more definitely mean by New World literature? Are
we not doing well enough here already? Are not the United States this
day busily using, working, more printer's type, more presses, than
any other country? uttering and absorbing more publications than any
other? Do not our publishers fatten quicker and deeper? (helping
themselves, under shelter of a delusive and sneaking law, or rather
absence of law, to most of their forage, poetical, pictorial,
historical, romantic, even comic, without money and without price--and
fiercely resisting the timidest proposal to pay for it.) Many will
come under this delusion--but my purpose is to dispel it. I say that
a nation may hold and circulate rivers and oceans of very readable
print, journals, magazines, novels, library-books, "poetry," &c.--such
as the States to-day possess and circulate--of unquestionable aid and
value--hundreds of new volumes annually composed and brought out
here, respectable enough, indeed unsurpass'd in smartness and
erudition--with further hundreds, or rather millions, (as by free
forage or theft aforemention'd,) also thrown into the market--and yet,
all the while, the said nation, land, strictly speaking, may possess
no literature at all.

Repeating our inquiry, what, then, do we mean by real literature?
especially the democratic literature of the future? Hard questions to
meet. The clues are inferential, and turn us to the past. At best, we
can only offer suggestions, comparisons, circuits.

It must still be reiterated, as, for the purpose of these memoranda,
the deep lesson of history and time, that all else in the
contributions of a nation or age, through its politics, materials,
heroic personalities, military eclat, &c., remains crude, and defers,
in any close and thorough-going estimate, until vitalized by national,
original archetypes in literature. They only put the nation in form,
finally tell anything--prove, complete anything--perpetuate anything.
Without doubt, some of the richest and most powerful and populous
communities of the antique world, and some of the grandest
personalities and events, have, to after and present times, left
themselves entirely unbequeath'd. Doubtless, greater than any that
have come down to us, were among those lands, heroisms, persons, that
have not come down to us at all, even by name, date, or
location. Others have arrived safely, as from voyages over wide,
century-stretching seas. The little ships, the miracles that have
buoy'd them, and by incredible chances safely convey'd them, (or the
best of them, their meaning and essence,) overlong wastes, darkness,
lethargy, ignorance, &c., have been a few inscriptions--a few
immortal compositions, small in size, yet compassing what measureless
values of reminiscence, contemporary portraitures, manners, idioms and
beliefs, with deepest inference, hint and thought, to tie and touch
forever the old, new body, and the old, new soul! These! and still
these! bearing the freight so dear--dearer than pride--dearer than
love. All the best experience of humanity, folded, saved, freighted
to us here. Some of these tiny ships we call Old and New Testament,
Homer, Eschylus, Plato, Juvenal, &c. Precious minims! I think, if we
were forced to choose, rather than have you, and the likes of you, and
what belongs to, and has grown of you, blotted out and gone, we could
better afford, appaling as that would be, to lose all actual ships,
this day fasten'd by wharf, or floating on wave, and see them, with
all their cargoes, scuttled and sent to the bottom.

Gather'd by geniuses of city, race or age, and put by them in highest
of art's forms, namely, the literary form, the peculiar combinations
and the outshows of that city, age, or race, its particular modes of
the universal attributes and passions, its faiths, heroes, lovers and
gods, wars, traditions, struggles, crimes, emotions, joys, (or the
subtle spirit of these,) having been pass'd on to us to illumine our
own selfhood, and its experiences--what they supply, indispensable
and highest, if taken away, nothing else in all the world's boundless
store-houses could make up to us, or ever again return.

For us, along the great highways of time, those monuments stand
--those forms of majesty and beauty. For us those beacons burn through
all the nights. Unknown Egyptians, graving hieroglyphs; Hindus, with
hymn and apothegm and endless epic; Hebrew prophet, with spirituality,
as in flashes of lightning, conscience like red-hot iron, plaintive
songs and screams of vengeance for tyrannies and enslavement; Christ,
with bent head, brooding love and peace, like a dove; Greek, creating
eternal shapes of physical and esthetic proportion; Roman, lord of
satire, the sword, and the codex;--of the figures, some far off and
veil'd, others nearer and visible; Dante, stalking with lean form,
nothing but fibre, not a grain of superfluous flesh; Angelo, and the
great painters, architects, musicians; rich Shakspere, luxuriant as
the sun, artist and singer of feudalism in its sunset, with all the
gorgeous colors, owner thereof, and using them at will; and so to such
as German Kant and Hegel, where they, though near us, leaping over the
ages, sit again, impassive, imperturbable, like the Egyptian gods. Of
these, and the like of these, is it too much, indeed, to return to our
favorite figure, and view them as orbs and systems of orbs, moving in
free paths in the spaces of that other heaven, the kosmic intellect,
the soul?

Ye powerful and resplendent ones! ye were, in your atmospheres,
grown not for America, but rather for her foes, the feudal and the
old--while our genius is democratic and modern. Yet could ye, indeed,
but breathe your breath of life into our New World's nostrils--not to
enslave us, as now, but, for our needs, to breed a spirit like your
own--perhaps, (dare we to say it?) to dominate, even destroy, what you
yourselves have left! On your plane, and no less, but even higher and
wider, must we mete and measure for to-day and here. I demand races of
orbic bards, with unconditional uncompromising sway. Come forth, sweet
democratic despots of the west!

By points like these we, in reflection, token what we mean by any
land's or people's genuine literature. And thus compared and tested,
judging amid the influence of loftiest products only, what do our
current copious fields of print, covering in manifold forms, the
United States, better, for an analogy, present, than, as in certain
regions of the sea, those spreading, undulating masses of squid,
through which the whale swimming, with head half out, feeds?

Not but that doubtless our current so-called literature, (like an
endless supply of small coin,) performs a certain service, and may-be,
too, the service needed for the time, (the preparation-service, as
children learn to spell.) Everybody reads, and truly nearly everybody
writes, either books, or for the magazines or journals. The matter has
magnitude, too, after a sort. But is it really advancing? or, has it
advanced for a long while? There is something impressive about the
huge editions of the dailies and weeklies, the mountain-stacks of
white paper piled in the press-vaults, and the proud, crashing,
ten-cylinder presses, which I can stand and watch any time by the half
hour. Then, (though the States in the field of imagination present not
a single first-class work, not a single great literatus,) the main
objects, to amuse, to titillate, to pass away time, to circulate the
news, and rumors of news, to rhyme and read rhyme, are yet attain'd,
and on a scale of infinity. To-day, in books, in the rivalry of
writers, especially novelists, success, (so-call'd,) is for him or
her who strikes the mean flat average, the sensational appetite for
stimulus, incident, persiflage, &c., and depicts, to the common
calibre, sensual, exterior life. To such, or the luckiest of them, as
we see, the audiences are limitless and profitable; but they cease
presently. While this day, or any day, to workmen portraying interior
or spiritual life, the audiences were limited, and often laggard--but
they last forever.

Compared with the past, our modern science soars, and our journals
serve--but ideal and even ordinary romantic literature, does not,
I think, substantially advance. Behold the prolific brood of the
contemporary novel, magazine-tale, theatre-play, &c. The same endless
thread of tangled and superlative love-story, inherited, apparently
from the Amadises and Palmerins of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries
over there in Europe. The costumes and associations brought down to
date, the seasoning hotter and more varied, the dragons and ogres
left out--but the _thing_, I should say, has not advanced--is just as
sensational, just as strain'd--remains about the same, nor more, nor
less.

What is the reason our time, our lands, that we see no fresh local
courage, sanity, of our own--the Mississippi, stalwart Western men,
real mental and physical facts, Southerners, &c., in the body of our
literature? especially the poetic part of it. But always, instead, a
parcel of dandies and ennuyees, dapper little gentlemen from abroad,
who flood us with their thin sentiment of parlors, parasols,
piano-songs, tinkling rhymes, the five-hundredth importation--or
whimpering and crying about something, chasing one aborted conceit
after another, and forever occupied in dyspeptic amours with dyspeptic
women. While, current and novel, the grandest events and revolutions
and stormiest passions of history, are crossing to-day with
unparallel'd rapidity and magnificence over the stages of our own and
all the continents, offering new materials, opening new vistas, with
largest needs, inviting the daring launching forth of conceptions in
literature, inspired by them, soaring in highest regions, serving art
in its highest (which is only the other name for serving God, and
serving humanity,) where is the man of letters, where is the book,
with any nobler aim than to follow in the old track, repeat what
has been said before--and, as its utmost triumph, sell well, and be
erudite or elegant?

Mark the roads, the processes, through which these States have
arrived, standing easy, henceforth ever-equal, ever-compact in their
range to-day. European adventures? the most antique? Asiatic or
African? old history--miracles--romances? Rather our own unquestion'd
facts. They hasten, incredible, blazing bright as fire. From the
deeds and days of Columbus down to the present, and including the
present--and especially the late secession war--when I con them, I
feel, every leaf, like stopping to see if I have not made a mistake,
and fall'n on the splendid figments of some dream. But it is no dream.
We stand, live, move, in the huge flow of our age s materialism--in
its spirituality. We have had founded for us the most positive of
lands. The founders have pass'd to other spheres--but what are these
terrible duties they have left us?

Their politics the United States have, in my opinion, with all their
faults, already substantially establish'd, for good, on their own
native, sound, long-vista'd principles, never to be overturn'd,
offering a sure basis for all the rest. With that, their future
religious forms sociology, literature, teachers, schools, costumes,
&c., are of course to make a compact whole, uniform, on tallying
principles. For how can we remain, divided, contradicting ourselves,
this way?[28] I say we can only attain harmony and stability by
consulting ensemble and the ethic purports, and faithfully building
upon them. For the New World, indeed, after two grand stages of
preparation-strata, I perceive that now a third stage, being ready
for, (and without which the other two were useless,) with unmistakable
signs appears. The First stage was the planning and putting on record
the political foundation rights of immense masses of people--indeed
all people--in the organization of republican National, State, and
municipal governments, all constructed with reference to each, and
each to all. This is the American programme, not for classes, but for
universal man, and is embodied in the compacts of the Declaration of
Independence, and, as it began and has now grown, with its amendments,
the Federal Constitution--and in the State governments, with all their
interiors, and with general suffrage; those having the sense not
only of what is in themselves, but that their certain several things
started, planted, hundreds of others in the same direction duly arise
and follow. The Second stage relates to material prosperity, wealth,
produce, labor-saving machines, iron, cotton, local, State and
continental railways, intercommunication and trade with all lands,
steamships, mining, general employment, organization of great cities,
cheap appliances for comfort, numberless technical schools, books,
newspapers, a currency for money circulation, &c. The Third stage,
rising out of the previous ones, to make them and all illustrious, I,
now, for one, promulge, announcing a native expression-spirit,
getting into form, adult, and through mentality, for these States,
self-contain'd, different from others, more expansive, more rich
and free, to be evidenced by original authors and poets to come, by
American personalities, plenty of them, male and female, traversing
the States, none excepted--and by native superber tableaux and growths
of language, songs, operas, orations, lectures, architecture--and by
a sublime and serious Religious Democracy sternly taking command,
dissolving the old, sloughing off surfaces, and from its own interior
and vital principles, reconstructing, democratizing society.

For America, type of progress, and of essential faith in man, above
all his errors and wickedness--few suspect how deep, how deep it
really strikes. The world evidently supposes, and we have evidently
supposed so too, that the States are merely to achieve the equal
franchise, an elective government--to inaugurate the respectability
of labor, and become a nation of practical operatives, law-abiding,
orderly and well off. Yes, those are indeed parts of the task of
America; but they not only do not exhaust the progressive conception,
but rather arise, teeming with it, as the mediums of deeper, higher
progress. Daughter of a physical revolution--mother of the true
revolutions, which are of the interior life, and of the arts. For so
long as the spirit is not changed, any change of appearance is of no
avail.

The old men, I remember as a boy, were always talking of American
independence. What is independence? Freedom from all laws or bonds
except those of one's own being, control'd by the universal ones.
To lands, to man, to woman, what is there at last to each, but the
inherent soul, nativity, idiocrasy, free, highest-poised, soaring its
own flight, following out itself?

At present, these States, in their theology and social standards, (of
greater importance than their political institutions,) are entirely
held possession of by foreign lands. We see the sons and daughters
of the New World, ignorant of its genius, not yet inaugurating the
native, the universal, and the near, still importing the distant, the
partial, and the dead. We see London, Paris, Italy--not original,
superb, as where they belong--but second-hand here, where they do not
belong. We see the shreds of Hebrews, Romans, Greeks; but where, on
her own soil, do we see, in any faithful, highest, proud expression,
America herself? I sometimes question whether she has a corner in her
own house.

Not but that in one sense, and a very grand one, good theology, good
art, or good literature, has certain features shared in common. The
combination fraternizes, ties the races--is, in many particulars,
under laws applicable indifferently to all, irrespective of climate
or date, and, from whatever source, appeals to emotions, pride, love,
spirituality, common to human kind. Nevertheless, they touch a man
closest, (perhaps only actually touch him,) even in these, in
their expression through autochthonic lights and shades, flavors,
fondnesses, aversions, specific incidents, illustrations, out of his
own nationality, geography, surroundings, antecedents, &c. The spirit
and the form are one, and depend far more on association, identity and
place, than is supposed. Subtly interwoven with the materiality
and personality of a land, a race--Teuton, Turk, Californian, or
what-not--there is always something--I can hardly tell what it
is--history but describes the results of it--it is the same as the
untellable look of some human faces. Nature, too, in her stolid forms,
is full of it--but to most it is there a secret. This something is
rooted in the invisible roots, the profoundest meanings of that place,
race, or nationality; and to absorb and again effuse it, uttering
words and products as from its midst, and carrying it into highest
regions, is the work, or a main part of the work, of any country's
true author, poet, historian, lecturer, and perhaps even priest and
philosoph. Here, and here only, are the foundations for our really
valuable and permanent verse, drama, &c.

But at present, (judged by any higher scale than that which finds the
chief ends of existence to be to feverishly make money during one-half
of it, and by some "amusement," or perhaps foreign travel, flippantly
kill time, the other half,) and consider'd with reference to purposes
of patriotism, health, a noble personality, religion, and the
democratic adjustments, all these swarms of poems, literary magazines,
dramatic plays, resultant so far from American intellect, and
the formation of our best ideas, are useless and a mockery. They
strengthen and nourish no one, express nothing characteristic, give
decision and purpose to no one, and suffice only the lowest level of
vacant minds.

Of what is called the drama, or dramatic presentation in the United
States, as now put forth at the theatres, I should say it deserves to
be treated with the same gravity, and on a par with the questions of
ornamental confectionery at public dinners, or the arrangement of
curtains and hangings in a ball-room--nor more, nor less. Of the
other, I will not insult the reader's intelligence, (once really
entering into the atmosphere of these Vistas,) by supposing it
necessary to show, in detail, why the copious dribble, either of our
little or well-known rhymesters, does not fulfil, in any respect, the
needs and august occasions of this land. America demands a poetry that
is bold, modern, and all-surrounding and kosmical, as she is herself.
It must in no respect ignore science or the modern, but inspire itself
with science and the modern. It must bend its vision toward the
future, more than the past. Like America, it must extricate itself
from even the greatest models of the past, and, while courteous to
them, must have entire faith in itself, and the products of its own
democratic spirit only. Like her, it must place in the van, and hold
up at all hazards, the banner of the divine pride of man in himself,
(the radical foundation of the new religion.) Long enough have the
People been listening to poems in which common humanity, deferential,
bends low, humiliated, acknowledging superiors. But America listens to
no such poems. Erect, inflated, and fully self-esteeming be the chant;
and then America will listen with pleased ears.

Nor may the genuine gold, the gems, when brought to light at last, be
probably usher'd forth from any of the quarters currently counted on.
To-day, doubtless, the infant genius of American poetic expression,
(eluding those highly-refined imported and gilt-edged themes,
and sentimental and butterfly flights, pleasant to orthodox
publishers--causing tender spasms in the coteries, and warranted not
to chafe the sensitive cuticle of the most exquisitely artificial
gossamer delicacy,) lies sleeping far away, happily unrecognized and
uninjur'd by the coteries, the art-writers, the talkers and critics of
the saloons, or the lecturers in the colleges--lies sleeping, aside,
unrecking itself, in some western idiom, or native Michigan or
Tennessee repartee, or stumpspeech--or in Kentucky or Georgia, or
the Carolinas--or in some slang or local song or allusion of the
Manhattan, Boston, Philadelphia or Baltimore mechanic--or up in the
Maine woods--or off in the hut of the California miner, or crossing
the Rocky mountains, or along the Pacific railroad--or on the breasts
of the young farmers of the northwest, or Canada, or boatmen of
the lakes. Rude and coarse nursing-beds, these; but only from such
beginnings and stocks, indigenous here, may haply arrive, be grafted,
and sprout, in time, flowers of genuine American aroma, and fruits
truly and fully our own.

I say it were a standing disgrace to these States--I say it were a
disgrace to any nation, distinguish'd above others by the variety and
vastness of its territories, its materials, its inventive activity,
and the splendid practicality of its people, not to rise and soar
above others also in its original styles in literature and art, and
its own supply of intellectual and esthetic masterpieces, archetypal,
and consistent with itself. I know not a land except ours that has
not, to some extent, however small, made its title clear. The Scotch
have their born ballads, subtly expressing their past and present, and
expressing character. The Irish have theirs. England, Italy, France,
Spain, theirs. What has America? With exhaustless mines of the richest
ore of epic, lyric, tale, tune, picture, etc., in the Four Years' War;
with, indeed, I sometimes think, the richest masses of material ever
afforded a nation, more variegated, and on a larger scale--the first
sign of proportionate, native, imaginative Soul, and first-class works
to match, is, (I cannot too often repeat,) so far wanting.

Long ere the second centennial arrives, there will be some forty to
fifty great States, among them Canada and Cuba. When the present
century closes, our population will be sixty or seventy millions. The
Pacific will be ours, and the Atlantic mainly ours. There will be
daily electric communication with every part of the globe. What an
age! What a land! Where, elsewhere, one so great? The individuality
of one nation must then, as always, lead the world. Can there be any
doubt who the leader ought to be? Bear in mind, though, that nothing
less than the mightiest original non-subordinated SOUL has ever
really, gloriously led, or ever can lead. (This Soul--its other name,
in these Vistas, is LITERATURE.)

In fond fancy leaping those hundred years ahead, let us survey
America's works, poems, philosophies, fulfilling prophecies, and
giving form and decision to best ideals. Much that is now undream'd
of, we might then perhaps see establish'd, luxuriantly cropping forth,
richness, vigor of letters and of artistic expression, in whose
products character will be a main requirement, and not merely
erudition or elegance.

Intense and loving comradeship, the personal and passionate attachment
of man to man--which, hard to define, underlies the lessons and ideals
of the profound saviours of every land and age, and which seems to
promise, when thoroughly develop'd, cultivated and recognized in
manners and literature, the most substantial hope and safety of the
future of these States, will then be fully express'd.[29]

A strong fibred joyousness and faith, and the sense of health _al
fresco_, may well enter into the preparation of future noble American
authorship. Part of the test of a great literatus shall be the absence
in him of the idea of the covert, the lurid, the maleficent, the
devil, the grim estimates inherited from the Puritans, hell, natural
depravity, and the like. The great literatus will be known, among the
rest, by his cheerful simplicity, his adherence to natural standards,
his limitless faith in God, his reverence, and by the absence in him
of doubt, ennui, burlesque, persiflage, or any strain'd and temporary
fashion.

Nor must I fail, again and yet again, to clinch, reiterate more
plainly still, (O that indeed such survey as we fancy, may show in
time this part completed also!) the lofty aim, surely the proudest and
the purest, in whose service the future literatus, of whatever field,
may gladly labor. As we have intimated, offsetting the material
civilization of our race, our nationality, its wealth, territories,
factories, population, products, trade, and military and naval
strength, and breathing breath of life into all these, and more, must
be its moral civilization--the formulation, expression, and aidancy
whereof, is the very highest height of literature. The climax of this
loftiest range of civilization, rising above all the gorgeous shows
and results of wealth, intellect, power, and art, as such--above even
theology and religious fervor--is to be its development, from the
eternal bases, and the fit expression, of absolute Conscience, moral
soundness, Justice. Even in religious fervor there is a touch of
animal heat. But moral conscientiousness, crystalline, without flaw,
not Godlike only, entirely human, awes and enchants forever. Great is
emotional love, even in the order of the rational universe. But, if we
must make gradations, I am clear there is something greater. Power,
love, veneration, products, genius, esthetics, tried by subtlest
comparisons, analyses, and in serenest moods, somewhere fail, somehow
become vain. Then noiseless, withflowing steps, the lord, the sun, the
last ideal comes. By the names right, justice, truth, we suggest, but
do not describe it. To the world of men it remains a dream, an idea as
they call it. But no dream is it to the wise--but the proudest, almost
only solid, lasting thing of all. Its analogy in the material universe
is what holds together this world, and every object upon it, and
carries its dynamics on forever sure and safe. Its lack, and the
persistent shirking of it, as in life, sociology, literature, politics,
business, and even sermonizing, these times, or any times, still leaves
the abysm, the mortal flaw and smutch, mocking civilization to-day,
with all its unquestion'd triumphs, and all the civilization so far
known.[30]

Present literature, while magnificently fulfilling certain popular
demands, with plenteous knowledge and verbal smartness, is profoundly
sophisticated, insane, and its very joy is morbid. It needs tally and
express Nature, and the spirit of Nature, and to know and obey the
standards. I say the question of Nature, largely consider'd, involves
the questions of the esthetic, the emotional, and the religious--and
involves happiness. A fitly born and bred race, growing up in right
conditions of out-door as much as in-door harmony, activity and
development, would probably, from and in those conditions, find it
enough merely _to live_--and would, in their relations to the sky,
air, water, trees, &c., and to the countless common shows, and in
the fact of life itself, discover and achieve happiness--with Being
suffused night and day by wholesome extasy, surpassing all the
pleasures that wealth, amusement, and even gratified intellect,
erudition, or the sense of art, can give.

In the prophetic literature of these States, (the reader of my
speculations will miss their principal stress unless he allows well
for the point that a new Literature, perhaps a new Metaphysics,
certainly a new Poetry, are to be, in my opinion, the only sure and
worthy supports and expressions of the American Democracy,) Nature,
true Nature, and the true idea of Nature, long absent, must, above all,
become fully restored, enlarged, and must furnish the pervading
atmosphere to poems, and the test of all high literary and esthetic
compositions. I do not mean the smooth walks, trimm'd hedges, poseys
and nightingales of the English poets, but the whole orb, with its
geologic history, the kosmos, carrying fire and snow, that rolls
through the illimitable areas, light as a feather, though weighing
billions of tons. Furthermore, as by what we now partially call Nature
is intended, at most, only what is entertainable by the physical
conscience, the sense of matter, and of good animal health--on these it
must be distinctly accumulated, incorporated, that man, comprehending
these, has, in towering superaddition, the moral and spiritual
consciences, indicating his destination beyond the ostensible, the
mortal.

To the heights of such estimate of Nature indeed ascending, we proceed
to make observations for our Vistas, breathing rarest air. What is
I believe called Idealism seems to me to suggest, (guarding against
extravagance, and ever modified even by its opposite,) the course of
inquiry and desert of favor for our New World metaphysics, their
foundation of and in literature, giving hue to all.[31]

The elevating and etherealizing ideas of the unknown and of unreality
must be brought forward with authority, as they are the legitimate
heirs of the known, and of reality, and at least as great as their
parents. Fearless of scoffing, and of the ostent, let us take our
stand, our ground, and never desert it, to confront the growing excess
and arrogance of realism. To the cry, now victorious--the cry of
sense, science, flesh, incomes, farms, merchandise, logic, intellect,
demonstrations, solid perpetuities, buildings of brick and iron, or
even the facts of the shows of trees, earth, rocks, &c., fear not, my
brethren, my sisters, to sound out with equally determin'd voice,
that conviction brooding within the recesses of every envision'd
soul--illusions! apparitions! figments all! True, we must not condemn
the show, neither absolutely deny it, for the indispensability of its
meanings; but how clearly we see that, migrate in soul to what we
can already conceive of superior and spiritual points of view, and,
palpable as it seems under present relations, it all and several
might, nay certainly would, fall apart and vanish.

I hail with joy the oceanic, variegated, intense practical energy, the
demand for facts, even the business materialism of the current
age, our States. But we to the age or land in which these things,
movements, stopping at themselves, do not tend to ideas. As fuel
to flame, and flame to the heavens, so must wealth, science,
materialism--even this democracy of which we make so much--unerringly
feed the highest mind, the soul. Infinitude the flight: fathomless the
mystery. Man, so diminutive, dilates beyond the sensible universe,
competes with, outcopes space and time, meditating even one great
idea. Thus, and thus only, does a human being, his spirit, ascend
above, and justify, objective Nature, which, probably nothing in
itself, is incredibly and divinely serviceable, indispensable, real,
here. And as the purport of objective Nature is doubtless folded,
hidden, somewhere here--as somewhere here is what this globe and its
manifold forms, and the light of day, and night's darkness, and life
itself, with all its experiences, are for--it is here the great
literature, especially verse, must get its inspiration and throbbing
blood. Then may we attain to a poetry worthy the immortal soul of man,
and widen, while absorbing materials, and, in their own sense, the
shows of Nature, will, above all, have, both directly and indirectly,
a freeing, fluidizing, expanding, religious character, exulting with
science, fructifying the moral elements, and stimulating aspirations,
and meditations on the unknown.

The process, so far, is indirect and peculiar, and though it may be
suggested, cannot be defined. Observing, rapport, and with intuition,
the shows and forms presented by Nature, the sensuous luxuriance, the
beautiful in living men and women, the actual play of passions, in
history and life--and, above all, from those developments either in
Nature or human personality in which power, (dearest of all to the
sense of the artist,) transacts itself-out of these, and seizing what
is in them, the poet, the esthetic worker in any field, by the divine
magic of his genius, projects them, their analogies, by curious
removes, indirections, in literature and art. (No useless attempt to
repeat the material creation, by daguerreotyping the exact likeness by
mortal mental means.) This is the image-making faculty, coping with
material creation, and rivaling, almost triumphing over it. This
alone, when all the other parts of a specimen of literature or art are
ready and waiting, can breathe into it the breath of life, and endow
it with identity.

"The true question to ask," says the librarian of Congress in a paper
read before the Social Science Convention at New York, October, 1869,
"The true question to ask respecting a book, is, _has it help'd any
human soul?_" This is the hint, statement, not only of the great
literatus, his book, but of every great artist. It may be that all
works of art are to be first tried by their art qualities,
their image-forming talent, and their dramatic, pictorial,
plot-constructing, euphonious and other talents. Then, whenever
claiming to be first-class works, they are to be strictly and sternly
tried by their foundation in, and radiation, in the highest sense, and
always indirectly, of the ethic principles, and eligibility to free,
arouse, dilate.

As, within the purposes of the Kosmos, and vivifying all meteorology,
and all the congeries of the mineral, vegetable and animal worlds--all
the physical growth and development of man, and all the history of the
race in politics, religions, wars, &c., there is a moral purpose, a
visible or invisible intention, certainly underlying all--its results
and proof needing to be patiently waited for--needing intuition,
faith, idiosyncrasy, to its realization, which many, and especially
the intellectual, do not have--so in the product, or congeries of the
product, of the greatest literatus. This is the last, profoundest
measure and test of a first-class literary or esthetic achievement,
and when understood and put in force must fain, I say, lead to works,
books, nobler than any hitherto known. Lo! Nature, (the only complete,
actual poem,) existing calmly in the divine scheme, containing all,
content, careless of the criticisms of a day, or these endless and
wordy chatterers. And lo! to the consciousness of the soul, the
permanent identity, the thought, the something, before which the
magnitude even of democracy, art, literature, &c., dwindles, becomes
partial, measurable--something that fully satisfies, (which those
do not.) That something is the All, and the idea of All, with the
accompanying idea of eternity, and of itself, the soul, buoyant,
indestructible, sailing space forever, visiting every region, as a
ship the sea. And again lo! the pulsations in all matter, all spirit,
throbbing forever--the eternal beats, eternal systole and diastole
of life in things--wherefrom I feel and know that death is not the
ending, as was thought, but rather the real beginning--and that
nothing ever is or can be lost, nor ever die, nor soul, nor matter.

In the future of these States must arise poets immenser far, and make
great poems of death. The poems of life are great, but there must be
the poems of the purports of life, not only in itself, but beyond
itself. I have eulogized Homer, the sacred bards of Jewry, Eschylus,
Juvenal, Shakspere, &c., and acknowledged their inestimable value.
But, (with perhaps the exception, in some, not all respects, of
the second-mention'd,) I say there must, for future and democratic
purposes, appear poets, (dare I to say so?) of higher class even than
any of those--poets not only possess'd of the religious fire and
abandon of Isaiah, luxuriant in the epic talent of Homer, or for proud
characters as in Shakspere, but consistent with the Hegelian formulas,
and consistent with modern science. America needs, and the world
needs, a class of bards who will, now and ever, so link and tally the
rational physical being of man, with the ensembles of time and space,
and with this vast and multiform show, Nature, surrounding him, ever
tantalizing him, equally a part, and yet not a part of him, as to
essentially harmonize, satisfy, and put at rest. Faith, very old, now
scared away by science, must be restored, brought back by the same
power that caused her departure--restored with new sway, deeper,
wider, higher than ever. Surely, this universal ennui, this coward
fear, this shuddering at death, these low, degrading views, are not
always to rule the spirit pervading future society, as it has the
past, and does the present. What the Roman Lucretius sought most
nobly, yet all too blindly, negatively to do for his age and its
successors, must be done positively by some great coming literatus,
especially poet, who, while remaining fully poet, will absorb whatever
science indicates, with spiritualism, and out of them, and out of his
own genius, will compose the great poem of death. Then will man indeed
confront Nature, and confront time and space, both with science, and
_con amore_, and take his right place, prepared for life, master of
fortune and misfortune. And then that which was long wanted will be
supplied, and the ship that had it not before in all her voyages, will
have an anchor.

There are still other standards, suggestions, for products of high
literatuses. That which really balances and conserves the social and
political world is not so much legislation, police, treaties, and
dread of punishment, as the latent eternal intuitional sense, in
humanity, of fairness, manliness, decorum, &c. Indeed, this perennial
regulation, control, and oversight, by self-suppliance, is _sine qua
non_ to democracy; and a highest widest aim of democratic literature
may well be to bring forth, cultivate, brace, and strengthen this
sense, in individuals and society. A strong mastership of the
general inferior self by the superior self, is to be aided, secured,
indirectly, but surely, by the literatus, in his works, shaping, for
individual or aggregate democracy, a great passionate body, in and
along with which goes a great masterful spirit.

And still, providing for contingencies, I fain confront the fact,
the need of powerful native philosophs and orators and bards, these
States, as rallying points to come, in times of danger, and to fend
off ruin and defection. For history is long, long, long. Shift and
turn the combinations of the statement as we may, the problem of the
future of America is in certain respects as dark as it is vast. Pride,
competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, and license beyond
example, brood already upon us. Unwieldy and immense, who shall hold
in behemoth? who bridle leviathan? Flaunt it as we choose, athwart and
over the roads of our progress loom huge uncertainty, and dreadful,
threatening gloom. It is useless to deny it: Democracy grows rankly
up the thickest, noxious, deadliest plants and fruits of all--brings
worse and worse invaders--needs newer, larger, stronger, keener
compensations and compellers.

Our lands, embracing so much, (embracing indeed the whole, rejecting
none,) hold in their breast that flame also, capable of consuming
themselves, consuming us all. Short as the span of our national life
has been, already have death and downfall crowded close upon us--and
will again crowd close, no doubt, even if warded off. Ages to come
may never know, but I know, how narrowly during the late secession
war--and more than once, and more than twice or thrice--our
Nationality, (wherein bound up, as in a ship in a storm, depended, and
yet depend, all our best life, all hope, all value,) just grazed, just
by a hair escaped destruction. Alas! to think of them! the agony and
bloody sweat of certain of those hours! those cruel, sharp, suspended
crises!

Even to-day, amid these whirls, incredible flippancy, and blind fury
of parties, infidelity, entire lack of first-class captains and
leaders, added to the plentiful meanness and vulgarity of the
ostensible masses--that problem, the labor question, beginning to open
like a yawning gulf, rapidly widening every year--what prospect
have we? We sail a dangerous sea of seething currents, cross and
under-currents, vortices--all so dark, untried--and whither shall we
turn? It seems as if the Almighty had spread before this nation charts
of imperial destinies, dazzling as the sun, yet with many a
deep intestine difficulty, and human aggregate of cankerous
imperfection-saying, lo! the roads, the only plans of development,
long and varied with all terrible balks and ebullitions. You said in
your soul, I will be empire of empires, overshadowing all else, past
and present, putting the history of Old-World dynasties, conquests
behind me, as of no account--making a new history, a history of
democracy, making old history a dwarf--I alone inaugurating largeness,
culminating time. If these, O lands of America, are indeed the prizes,
the determinations of your soul, be it so. But behold the cost, and
already specimens of the cost. Thought you greatness was to ripen
for you like a pear? If you would have greatness, know that you
must conquer it through ages, centuries--must pay for it with a
proportionate price. For you too, as for all lands, the struggle, the
traitor, the wily person in office, scrofulous wealth, the surfeit of
prosperity, the demonism of greed, the hell of passion, the decay of
faith, the long postponement, the fossil-like lethargy, the ceaseless
need of revolutions, prophets, thunder-storms, deaths, births, new
projections and invigorations of ideas and men.

Yet I have dream'd, merged in that hidden-tangled problem of our fate,
whose long unraveling stretches mysteriously through time--dream'd
out, portray'd, hinted already--a little or a larger band--a band
of brave and true, unprecedented yet--arm'd and equipt at every
point--the members separated, it may be, by different dates and
States, or south, or north, or east, or west--Pacific, Atlantic,
Southern, Canadian--a year, a century here, and other centuries
there--but always one, compact in soul, conscience-conserving,
God-inculcating, inspirid achievers, not only in literature, the
greatest art, but achievers in all art--a new, undying order,
dynasty, from age to age transmitted--a band, a class, at least as
fit to cope with current years, our dangers, needs, as those who, for
their times, so long, so well, in armor or in cowl, upheld and made
illustrious, that far-back feudal, priestly world. To offset chivalry,
indeed, those vanish'd countless knights, old altars, abbeys, priests,
ages and strings of ages, a knightlier and more sacred cause to-day
demands, and shall supply, in a New World, to larger, grander work,
more than the counterpart and tally of them.

Arrived now, definitely, at an apex for these Vistas, I confess that
the promulgation and belief in such a class or institution--a new and
greater literatus order--its possibility, (nay certainty,) underlies
these entire speculations--and that the rest, the other parts, as
superstructures, are all founded upon it. It really seems to me the
condition, not only of our future national and democratic development,
but of our perpetuation. In the highly artificial and materialistic
bases of modern civilization, with the corresponding arrangements
and methods of living, the force-infusion of intellect alone, the
depraving influences of riches just as much as poverty, the absence
of all high ideals in character--with the long series of tendencies,
shapings, which few are strong enough to resist, and which now seem,
with steam-engine speed, to be everywhere turning out the generations
of humanity like uniform iron castings--all of which, as compared with
the feudal ages, we can yet do nothing better than accept, make the
best of, and even welcome, upon the whole, for their oceanic practical
grandeur, and their restless wholesale kneading of the masses--I say
of all this tremendous and dominant play of solely materialistic
bearings upon current life in the United States, with the results as
already seen, accumulating, and reaching far into the future, that
they must either be confronted and met by at least an equally subtle
and tremendous force-infusion for purposes of spiritualization, for
the pure conscience, for genuine esthetics, and for absolute and
primal manliness and womanliness--or else our modern civilization,
with all its improvements, is in vain, and we are on the road to a
destiny, a status, equivalent, in its real world, to that of the
fabled damned.

Prospecting thus the coming unsped days, and that new order in
them--marking the endless train of exercise, development, unwind, in
nation as in man, which life is for--we see, fore-indicated, amid
these prospects and hopes, new law-forces of spoken and written
language--not merely the pedagogue-forms, correct, regular, familiar
with precedents, made for matters of outside propriety, fine words,
thoughts definitely told out--but a language fann'd by the breath of
Nature, which leaps overhead, cares mostly for impetus and effects,
and for what it plants and invigorates to grow--tallies life and
character, and seldomer tells a thing than suggests or necessitates
it. In fact, a new theory of literary composition for imaginative
works of the very first class, and especially for highest poems, is
the sole course open to these States. Books are to be call'd for,
and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a
half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle;
that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert,
must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history,
metaphysical essay--the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start
or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing,
but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple
and athletic minds, well-train'd, intuitive, used to depend on
themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers.

Investigating here, we see, not that it is a little thing we have,

Book of the day: