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Essays, Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Essays, Second Series

by Ralph Waldo Emerson


A moody child and wildly wise
Pursued the game with joyful eyes,
Which chose, like meteors, their way,
And rived the dark with private ray:
They overleapt the horizon's edge,
Searched with Apollo's privilege;
Through man, and woman, and sea, and star
Saw the dance of nature forward far;
Through worlds, and races, and terms, and times
Saw musical order, and pairing rhymes.

Olympian bards who sung
Divine ideas below,
Which always find us young,
And always keep us so.


Those who are esteemed umpires of taste are often
persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired
pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for
whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether they
are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are
like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish
and sensual. Their cultivation is local, as if you
should rub a log of dry wood in one spot to produce
fire, all the rest remaining cold. Their knowledge
of the fine arts is some study of rules and particulars,
or some limited judgment of color or form, which is
exercised for amusement or for show. It is a proof of
the shallowness of the doctrine of beauty as it lies
in the minds of our amateurs, that men seem to have
lost the perception of the instant dependence of form
upon soul. There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy.
We were put into our bodies, as fire is put into a pan to
be carried about; but there is no accurate adjustment
between the spirit and the organ, much less is the latter
the germination of the former. So in regard to other forms,
the intellectual men do not believe in any essential
dependence of the material world on thought and volition.
Theologians think it a pretty air-castle to talk of the
Spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a
contract, but they prefer to come again to the solid
ground of historical evidence; and even the poets are
contented with a civil and conformed manner of living,
and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance
from their own experience. But the highest minds of the
world have never ceased to explore the double meaning,
or shall I say the quadruple or the centuple or much more
manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact; Orpheus,
Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, Swedenborg,
and the masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry. For we
are not pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire
and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it,
and only the same divinity transmuted and at two or three
removes, when we know least about it. And this hidden
truth, that the fountains whence all this river of Time
and its creatures floweth are intrinsically ideal and
beautiful, draws us to the consideration of the nature
and functions of the Poet, or the man of Beauty; to the
means and materials he uses, and to the general aspect
of the art in the present time.

The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet
is representative. He stands among partial men for
the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth,
but of the common wealth. The young man reveres men
of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more
himself than he is. They receive of the soul as he
also receives, but they more. Nature enhances her
beauty, to the eye of loving men, from their belief
that the poet is beholding her shows at the same time.
He is isolated among his contemporaries by truth and
by his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits,
that they will draw all men sooner or later. For all
men live by truth and stand in need of expression. In
love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in
games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man
is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

Notwithstanding this necessity to be published,
adequate expression is rare. I know not how it is
that we need an interpreter, but the great majority
of men seem to be minors, who have not yet come into
possession of their own, or mutes, who cannot report
the conversation they have had with nature. There is
no man who does not anticipate a supersensual utility
in the sun and stars, earth and water. These stand
and wait to render him a peculiar service. But there
is some obstruction or some excess of phlegm in our
constitution, which does not suffer them to yield the
due effect. Too feeble fall the impressions of nature
on us to make us artists. Every touch should thrill.
Every man should be so much an artist that he could
report in conversation what had befallen him. Yet, in
our experience, the rays or appulses have sufficient
force to arrive at the senses, but not enough to reach
the quick and compel the reproduction of themselves in
speech. The poet is the person in whom these powers are
in balance, the man without impediment, who sees and
handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole
scale of experience, and is representative of man, in
virtue of being the largest power to receive and to

For the Universe has three children, born at one
time, which reappear under different names in every
system of thought, whether they be called cause,
operation, and effect; or, more poetically, Jove,
Pluto, Neptune; or, theologically, the Father, the
Spirit, and the Son; but which we will call here
the Knower, the Doer, and the Sayer. These stand
respectively for the love of truth, for the love
of good, and for the love of beauty. These three
are equal. Each is that which he is essentially,
so that he cannot be surmounted or analyzed, and
each of these three has the power of the others
latent in him, and his own, patent.

The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents
beauty. He is a sovereign, and stands on the centre.
For the world is not painted or adorned, but is from
the beginning beautiful; and God has not made some
beautiful things, but Beauty is the creator of the
universe. Therefore the poet is not any permissive
potentate, but is emperor in his own right. Criticism
is infested with a cant of materialism, which assumes
that manual skill and activity is the first merit of
all men, and disparages such as say and do not,
overlooking the fact that some men, namely poets, are
natural sayers, sent into the world to the end of
expression, and confounds them with those whose province
is action but who quit it to imitate the sayers. But
Homer's words are as costly and admirable to Homer as
Agamemnon's victories are to Agamemnon. The poet does
not wait for the hero or the sage, but, as they act and
think primarily, so he writes primarily what will and
must be spoken, reckoning the others, though primaries
also, yet, in respect to him, secondaries and servants;
as sitters or models in the studio of a painter, or as
assistants who bring building materials to an architect.

For poetry was all written before time was, and
whenever we are so finely organized that we can
penetrate into that region where the air is music,
we hear those primal warblings and attempt to write
them down, but we lose ever and anon a word or a
verse and substitute something of our own, and thus
miswrite the poem. The men of more delicate ear
write down these cadences more faithfully, and
these transcripts, though imperfect, become the songs
of the nations. For nature is as truly beautiful as
it is good, or as it is reasonable, and must as much
appear as it must be done, or be known. Words and
deeds are quite indifferent modes of the divine energy.
Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.

The sign and credentials of the poet are that he
announces that which no man foretold. He is the
true and only doctor; he knows and tells; he is
the only teller of news, for he was present and
privy to the appearance which he describes. He is
a beholder of ideas and an utterer of the necessary
and causal. For we do not speak now of men of
poetical talents, or of industry and skill in metre,
but of the true poet. I took part in a conversation
the other day concerning a recent writer of lyrics,
a man of subtle mind, whose head appeared to be a
music-box of delicate tunes and rhythms, and whose
skill and command of language, we could not sufficiently
praise. But when the question arose whether he was not
only a lyrist but a poet, we were obliged to confess
that he is plainly a contemporary, not an eternal man.
He does not stand out of our low limitations, like a
Chimborazo under the line, running up from the torrid
Base through all the climates of the globe, with belts
of the herbage of every latitude on its high and mottled
sides; but this genius is the landscape-garden of a
modern house, adorned with fountains and statues, with
well-bred men and women standing and sitting in the
walks and terraces. We hear, through all the varied
music, the ground-tone of conventional life. Our poets
are men of talents who sing, and not the children of
music. The argument is secondary, the finish of the
verses is primary.

For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument
that makes a poem,--a thought so passionate and
alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal
it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature
with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal
in the order of time, but in the order of genesis
the thought is prior to the form. The poet has a new
thought; he has a whole new experience to unfold; he
will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be
the richer in his fortune. For the experience of each
new age requires a new confession, and the world seems
always waiting for its poet. I remember when I was
young how much I was moved one morning by tidings that
genius had appeared in a youth who sat near me at
table. He had left his work and gone rambling none
knew whither, and had written hundreds of lines, but
could not tell whether that which was in him was
therein told; he could tell nothing but that all was
changed,--man, beast, heaven, earth and sea. How gladly
we listened! how credulous! Society seemed to be
compromised. We sat in the aurora of a sunrise which
was to put out all the stars. Boston seemed to be at
twice the distance it had the night before, or was
much farther than that. Rome,--what was Rome? Plutarch
and Shakspeare were in the yellow leaf, and Homer no
more should be heard of. It is much to know that poetry
has been written this very day, under this very roof,
by your side. What! that wonderful spirit has not
expired! These stony moments are still sparkling and
animated! I had fancied that the oracles were all silent,
and nature had spent her fires; and behold! all night,
from every pore, these fine auroras have been streaming.
Every one has some interest in the advent of the poet,
and no one knows how much it may concern him. We know
that the secret of the world is profound, but who or
what shall be our interpreter, we know not. A mountain
ramble, a new style of face, a new person, may put the
key into our hands. Of course the value of genius to us
is in the veracity of its report. Talent may frolic and
juggle; genius realizes and adds. Mankind in good
earnest have availed so far in understanding themselves
and their work, that the foremost watchman on the peak
announces his news. It is the truest word ever spoken,
and the phrase will be the fittest, most musical, and
the unerring voice of the world for that time.

All that we call sacred history attests that the
birth of a poet is the principal event in chronology.
Man, never so often deceived, still watches for the
arrival of a brother who can hold him steady to a
truth until he has made it his own. With what joy I
begin to read a poem which I confide in as an
inspiration! And now my chains are to be broken; I
shall mount above these clouds and opaque airs in
which I live,--opaque, though they seem transparent,
--and from the heaven of truth I shall see and
comprehend my relations. That will reconcile me to
life and renovate nature, to see trifles animated
by a tendency, and to know what I am doing. Life will
no more be a noise; now I shall see men and women,
and know the signs by which they may be discerned
from fools and satans. This day shall be better than
my birthday: then I became an animal; now I am
invited into the science of the real. Such is the
hope, but the fruition is postponed. Oftener it falls
that this winged man, who will carry me into the heaven,
whirls me into mists, then leaps and frisks about with
me as it were from cloud to cloud, still affirming that
he is bound heavenward; and I, being myself a novice,
am slow in perceiving that he does not know the way
into the heavens, and is merely bent that I should admire
his skill to rise like a fowl or a flying fish, a little
way from the ground or the water; but the all-piercing,
all-feeding, and ocular air of heaven that man shall
never inhabit. I tumble down again soon into my old nooks,
and lead the life of exaggerations as before, and have
lost my faith in the possibility of any guide who can
lead me thither where I would be.

But, leaving these victims of vanity, let us, with
new hope, observe how nature, by worthier impulses,
has ensured the poet's fidelity to his office of
announcement and affirming, namely by the beauty of
things, which becomes a new and higher beauty when
expressed. Nature offers all her creatures to him as
a picture-language. Being used as a type, a second
wonderful value appears in the object, far better
than its old value; as the carpenter's stretched
cord, if you hold your ear close enough, is musical
in the breeze. "Things more excellent than every
image," says Jamblichus, "are expressed through
images." Things admit of being used as symbols
because nature is a symbol, in the whole, and in
every part. Every line we can draw in the sand has
expression; and there is no body without its spirit
or genius. All form is an effect of character; all
condition, of the quality of the life; all harmony,
of health; and for this reason a perception of beauty
should be sympathetic, or proper only to the good.
The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary.
The soul makes the body, as the wise Spenser teaches:--

"So every spirit, as it is most pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer body doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairly dight,
With cheerful grace and amiable sight.
For, of the soul, the body form doth take,
For soul is form, and doth the body make."

Here we find ourselves suddenly not in a critical
speculation but in a holy place, and should go very
warily and reverently. We stand before the secret
of the world, there where Being passes into Appearance
and Unity into Variety.

The Universe is the externization of the soul.
Wherever the life is, that bursts into appearance
around it. Our science is sensual, and therefore
superficial. The earth and the heavenly bodies,
physics, and chemistry, we sensually treat, as if
they were self-existent; but these are the retinue
of that Being we have. "The mighty heaven," said
Proclus, "exhibits, in its transfigurations, clear
images of the splendor of intellectual perceptions;
being moved in conjunction with the unapparent periods
of intellectual natures." Therefore science always
goes abreast with the just elevation of the man,
keeping step with religion and metaphysics; or the
state of science is an index of our self-knowledge.
Since everything in nature answers to a moral power,
if any phenomenon remains brute and dark it is that
the corresponding faculty in the observer is not yet

No wonder then, if these waters be so deep, that we
hover over them with a religious regard. The beauty
of the fable proves the importance of the sense; to
the poet, and to all others; or, if you please, every
man is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these
enchantments of nature; for all men have the thoughts
whereof the universe is the celebration. I find that
the fascination resides in the symbol. Who loves
nature? Who does not? Is it only poets, and men of
leisure and cultivation, who live with her? No; but
also hunters, farmers, grooms, and butchers, though
they express their affection in their choice of life
and not in their choice of words. The writer wonders
what the coachman or the hunter values in riding, in
horses and dogs. It is not superficial qualities. When
you talk with him he holds these at as slight a rate as
you. His worship is sympathetic; he has no definitions,
but he is commanded in nature, by the living power
which he feels to be there present. No imitation or
playing of these things would content him; he loves
the earnest of the north wind, of rain, of stone, and
wood, and iron. A beauty not explicable is dearer than
a beauty which we can see to the end of. It is nature
the symbol, nature certifying the supernatural, body
overflowed by life which he worships with coarse but
sincere rites.

The inwardness and mystery of this attachment
drives men of every class to the use of emblems.
The schools of poets and philosophers are not more
intoxicated with their symbols than the populace
with theirs. In our political parties, compute the
power of badges and emblems. See the great ball
which they roll from Baltimore to Bunker hill! In
the political processions, Lowell goes in a loom,
and Lynn in a shoe, and Salem in a ship. Witness
the cider-barrel, the log-cabin, the hickory-stick,
the palmetto, and all the cognizances of party. See
the power of national emblems. Some stars, lilies,
leopards, a crescent, a lion, an eagle, or other
figure which came into credit God knows how, on an
old rag of bunting, blowing in the wind on a fort
at the ends of the earth, shall make the blood tingle
under the rudest or the most conventional exterior.
The people fancy they hate poetry, and they are all
poets and mystics!

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

For as it is dislocation and detachment from the
life of God that makes things ugly, the poet, who
re-attaches things to nature and the Whole,--
re-attaching even artificial things and violations
of nature, to nature, by a deeper insight,--disposes
very easily of the most disagreeable facts. Readers
of poetry see the factory-village and the railway,
and fancy that the poetry of the landscape is broken
up by these; for these works of art are not yet
consecrated in their reading; but the poet sees them
fall within the great Order not less than the beehive
or the spider's geometrical web. Nature adopts them
very fast into her vital circles, and the gliding
train of cars she loves like her own. Besides, in a
centred mind, it signifies nothing how many mechanical
inventions you exhibit. Though you add millions, and
never so surprising, the fact of mechanics has not
gained a grain's weight. The spiritual fact remains
unalterable, by many or by few particulars; as no
mountain is of any appreciable height to break the
curve of the sphere. A shrewd country-boy goes to the
city for the first time, and the complacent citizen
is not satisfied with his little wonder. It is not
that he does not see all the fine houses and know that
he never saw such before, but he disposes of them as
easily as the poet finds place for the railway. The
chief value of the new fact is to enhance the great
and constant fact of Life, which can dwarf any and
every circumstance, and to which the belt of wampum
and the commerce of America are alike.

The world being thus put under the mind for verb
and noun, the poet is he who can articulate it.
For though life is great, and fascinates, and absorbs;
and though all men are intelligent of the symbols
through which it is named; yet they cannot originally
use them. We are symbols and inhabit symbols; workmen,
work, and tools, words and things, birth and death,
all are emblems; but we sympathize with the symbols,
and being infatuated with the economical uses of
things, we do not know that they are thoughts. The
poet, by an ulterior intellectual perception, gives
them a power which makes their old use forgotten, and
puts eyes and a tongue into every dumb and inanimate
object. He perceives the independence of the thought
on the symbol, the stability of the thought, the
accidency and fugacity of the symbol. As the eyes of
Lyncaeus were said to see through the earth, so the
poet turns the world to glass, and shows us all
things in their right series and procession. For
through that better perception he stands one step
nearer to things, and sees the flowing or metamorphosis;
perceives that thought is multiform; that within the
form of every creature is a force impelling it to ascend
into a higher form; and following with his eyes the life,
uses the forms which express that life, and so his speech
flows with the flowing of nature. All the facts of the
animal economy, sex, nutriment, gestation, birth, growth,
are symbols of the passage of the world into the soul of
man, to suffer there a change and reappear a new and
higher fact. He uses forms according to the life, and
not according to the form. This is true science. The
poet alone knows astronomy, chemistry, vegetation and
animation, for he does not stop at these facts, but
employs them as signs. He knows why the plain or meadow
of space was strewn with these flowers we call suns and
moons and stars; why the great deep is adorned with
animals, with men, and gods; for in every word he speaks
he rides on them as the horses of thought.

By virtue of this science the poet is the Namer
or Language-maker, naming things sometimes after
their appearance, sometimes after their essence,
and giving to every one its own name and not
another's, thereby rejoicing the intellect, which
delights in detachment or boundary. The poets made
all the words, and therefore language is the
archives of history, and, if we must say it, a
sort of tomb of the muses. For though the origin
of most of our words is forgotten, each word was
at first a stroke of genius, and obtained currency
because for the moment it symbolized the world to
the first speaker and to the hearer. The etymologist
finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant
picture. Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone
of the continent consists of infinite masses of the
shells of animalcules, so language is made up of
images or tropes, which now, in their secondary use,
have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.
But the poet names the thing because he sees it, or
comes one step nearer to it than any other. This
expression or naming is not art, but a second nature,
grown out of the first, as a leaf out of a tree. What
we call nature is a certain self-regulated motion or
change; and nature does all things by her own hands,
and does not leave another to baptize her but baptizes
herself; and this through the metamorphosis again. I
remember that a certain poet described it to me thus:

Genius is the activity which repairs the decays
of things, whether wholly or partly of a material
and finite kind. Nature, through all her kingdoms,
insures herself. Nobody cares for planting the
poor fungus; so she shakes down from the gills of
one agaric countless spores, any one of which,
being preserved, transmits new billions of spores
to-morrow or next day. The new agaric of this hour
has a chance which the old one had not. This atom
of seed is thrown into a new place, not subject to
the accidents which destroyed its parent two rods
off. She makes a man; and having brought him to
ripe age, she will no longer run the risk of losing
this wonder at a blow, but she detaches from him a
new self, that the kind may be safe from accidents
to which the individual is exposed. So when the
soul of the poet has come to ripeness of thought,
she detaches and sends away from it its poems or
songs,--a fearless, sleepless, deathless progeny,
which is not exposed to the accidents of the weary
kingdom of time; a fearless, vivacious offspring,
clad with wings (such was the virtue of the soul out
of which they came) which carry them fast and far,
and infix them irrecoverably into the hearts of men.
These wings are the beauty of the poet's soul. The
songs, thus flying immortal from their mortal parent,
are pursued by clamorous flights of censures, which
swarm in far greater numbers and threaten to devour
them; but these last are not winged. At the end of a
very short leap they fall plump down and rot, having
received from the souls out of which they came no
beautiful wings. But the melodies of the poet ascend
and leap and pierce into the deeps of infinite time.

So far the bard taught me, using his freer speech.
But nature has a higher end, in the production of
New individuals, than security, namely ascension,
or the passage of the soul into higher forms. I knew
in my younger days the sculptor who made the statue
of the youth which stands in the public garden. He
was, as I remember, unable to tell directly, what
made him happy or unhappy, but by wonderful
indirections he could tell. He rose one day, according
to his habit, before the dawn, and saw the morning
break, grand as the eternity out of which it came,
and for many days after, he strove to express this
tranquillity, and lo! his chisel had fashioned out
of marble the form of a beautiful youth, Phosphorus,
whose aspect is such that it is said all persons who
look on it become silent. The poet also resigns
himself to his mood, and that thought which agitated
him is expressed, but alter idem, in a manner totally
new. The expression is organic, or the new type which
things themselves take when liberated. As, in the sun,
objects paint their images on the retina of the eye,
so they, sharing the aspiration of the whole universe,
tend to paint a far more delicate copy of their essence
in his mind. Like the metamorphosis of things into
higher organic forms is their change into melodies.
Over everything stands its daemon or soul, and, as
the form of the thing is reflected by the eye, so the
soul of the thing is reflected by a melody. The sea,
the mountain-ridge, Niagara, and every flower-bed,
pre-exist, or super-exist, in pre-cantations, which
sail like odors in the air, and when any man goes by
with an ear sufficiently fine, he overhears them and
endeavors to write down the notes without diluting or
depraving them. And herein is the legitimation of
criticism, in the mind's faith that the poems are a
corrupt version of some text in nature with which they
ought to be made to tally. A rhyme in one of our sonnets
should not be less pleasing than the iterated nodes of
a sea-shell, or the resembling difference of a group
of flowers. The pairing of the birds is an idyl, not
tedious as our idyls are; a tempest is a rough ode,
without falsehood or rant; a summer, with its harvest
sown, reaped, and stored, is an epic song, subordinating
how many admirably executed parts. Why should not the
symmetry and truth that modulate these, glide into our
spirits, and we participate the invention of nature?

This insight, which expresses itself by what is
called Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing,
which does not come by study, but by the intellect
being where and what it sees; by sharing the path
or circuit of things through forms, and so making
them translucid to others. The path of things is
silent. Will they suffer a speaker to go with them?
A spy they will not suffer; a lover, a poet, is the
transcendency of their own nature,--him they will
suffer. The condition of true naming, on the poet's
part, is his resigning himself to the divine aura
which breathes through forms, and accompanying that.

It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly
learns, that, beyond the energy of his possessed and
conscious intellect he is capable of a new energy
(as of an intellect doubled on itself), by abandonment
to the nature of things; that beside his privacy of
power as an individual man, there is a great public
power on which he can draw, by unlocking, at all risks,
his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to
roll and circulate through him; then he is caught up
into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder,
his thought is law, and his words are universally
intelligible as the plants and animals. The poet knows
that he speaks adequately then only when he speaks
somewhat wildly, or, "with the flower of the mind;"
not with the intellect used as an organ, but with the
intellect released from all service and suffered to
take its direction from its celestial life; or as the
ancients were wont to express themselves, not with
intellect alone but with the intellect inebriated by
nectar. As the traveller who has lost his way throws
his reins on his horse's neck and trusts to the
instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we
do with the divine animal who carries us through this
world. For if in any manner we can stimulate this
instinct, new passages are opened for us into nature;
the mind flows into and through things hardest and
highest, and the metamorphosis is possible.

This is the reason why bards love wine, mead,
narcotics, coffee, tea, opium, the fumes of sandal
-wood and tobacco, or whatever other procurers of
animal exhilaration. All men avail themselves of
such means as they can, to add this extraordinary
power to their normal powers; and to this end they
prize conversation, music, pictures, sculpture,
dancing, theatres, travelling, war, mobs, fires,
gaming, politics, or love, or science, or animal
intoxication,--which are several coarser or finer
quasi-mechanical substitutes for the true nectar,
which is the ravishment of the intellect by coming
nearer to the fact. These are auxiliaries to the
centrifugal tendency of a man, to his passage out
into free space, and they help him to escape the
custody of that body in which he is pent up, and
of that jail-yard of individual relations in which
he is enclosed. Hence a great number of such as were
professionally expressers of Beauty, as painters,
poets, musicians, and actors, have been more than
others wont to lead a life of pleasure and indulgence;
all but the few who received the true nectar; and, as
it was a spurious mode of attaining freedom, as it was
an emancipation not into the heavens but into the
freedom of baser places, they were punished for that
advantage they won, by a dissipation and deterioration.
But never can any advantage be taken of nature by a
trick. The spirit of the world, the great calm presence
of the Creator, comes not forth to the sorceries of
opium or of wine. The sublime vision comes to the pure
and simple soul in a clean and chaste body. That is not
an inspiration, which we owe to narcotics, but some
counterfeit excitement and fury. Milton says that the
lyric poet may drink wine and live generously, but the
epic poet, he who shall sing of the gods and their
descent unto men, must drink water out of a wooden
bowl. For poetry is not 'Devil's wine,' but God's wine.
It is with this as it is with toys. We fill the hands
and nurseries of our children with all manner of dolls,
drums, and horses; withdrawing their eyes from the
plain face and sufficing objects of nature, the sun,
and moon, the animals, the water, and stones, which
should be their toys. So the poet's habit of living
should be set on a key so low that the common
influences should delight him. His cheerfulness should
be the gift of the sunlight; the air should suffice
for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with water.
That spirit which suffices quiet hearts, which seems to
come forth to such from every dry knoll of sere grass,
from every pine-stump and half-imbedded stone on which
the dull March sun shines, comes forth to the poor and
hungry, and such as are of simple taste. If thou fill
thy brain with Boston and New York, with fashion and
covetousness, and wilt stimulate thy jaded senses with
wine and French coffee, thou shalt find no radiance of
wisdom in the lonely waste of the pinewoods.

If the imagination intoxicates the poet, it is
not inactive in other men. The metamorphosis
excites in the beholder an emotion of joy. The
use of symbols has a certain power of emancipation
and exhilaration for all men. We seem to be touched
by a wand which makes us dance and run about happily,
like children. We are like persons who come out of
a cave or cellar into the open air. This is the
effect on us of tropes, fables, oracles, and all
poetic forms. Poets are thus liberating gods. Men
have really got a new sense, and found within their
world another world, or nest of worlds; for, the
metamorphosis once seen, we divine that it does not
stop. I will not now consider how much this makes
the charm of algebra and the mathematics, which
also have their tropes, but it is felt in every
definition; as when Aristotle defines space to be
an immovable vessel in which things are contained;
--or when Plato defines a line to be a flowing
point; or figure to be a bound of solid; and many
the like. What a joyful sense of freedom we have
when Vitruvius announces the old opinion of artists
that no architect can build any house well who does
not know something of anatomy. When Socrates, in
Charmides, tells us that the soul is cured of its
maladies by certain incantations, and that these
incantations are beautiful reasons, from which
temperance is generated in souls; when Plato calls
the world an animal; and Timaeus affirms that the
plants also are animals; or affirms a man to be a
heavenly tree, growing with his root, which is his
head, upward; and, as George Chapman, following him,

"So in our tree of man, whose nervie root
Springs in his top;" --

when Orpheus speaks of hoariness as "that white
flower which marks extreme old age;" when Proclus
calls the universe the statue of the intellect;
when Chaucer, in his praise of 'Gentilesse,' compares
good blood in mean condition to fire, which, though
carried to the darkest house betwixt this and the
mount of Caucasus, will yet hold its natural office
and burn as bright as if twenty thousand men did it
behold; when John saw, in the Apocalypse, the ruin
of the world through evil, and the stars fall from
heaven as the figtree casteth her untimely fruit;
when Aesop reports the whole catalogue of common
daily relations through the masquerade of birds and
beasts;--we take the cheerful hint of the immortality
of our essence and its versatile habit and escapes,
as when the gypsies say "it is in vain to hang them,
they cannot die."

The poets are thus liberating gods. The ancient
British bards had for the title of their order, "Those
Who are free throughout the world." They are free, and
they make free. An imaginative book renders us much
more service at first, by stimulating us through its
tropes, than afterward when we arrive at the precise
sense of the author. I think nothing is of any value
in books excepting the transcendental and extraordinary.
If a man is inflamed and carried away by his thought,
to that degree that he forgets the authors and the
public and heeds only this one dream which holds him
like an insanity, let me read his paper, and you may
have all the arguments and histories and criticism.
All the value which attaches to Pythagoras, Paracelsus,
Cornelius Agrippa, Cardan, Kepler, Swedenborg, Schelling,
Oken, or any other who introduces questionable facts
into his cosmogony, as angels, devils, magic, astrology,
palmistry, mesmerism, and so on, is the certificate we
have of departure from routine, and that here is a new
witness. That also is the best success in conversation,
the magic of liberty, which puts the world like a ball
in our hands. How cheap even the liberty then seems;
how mean to study, when an emotion communicates to the
intellect the power to sap and upheave nature; how great
the perspective! nations, times, systems, enter and
disappear like threads in tapestry of large figure and
many colors; dream delivers us to dream, and while the
drunkenness lasts we will sell our bed, our philosophy,
our religion, in our opulence.

There is good reason why we should prize this
liberation. The fate of the poor shepherd, who,
blinded and lost in the snow-storm, perishes in a
drift within a few feet of his cottage door, is an
emblem of the state of man. On the brink of the
waters of life and truth, we are miserably dying.
The inaccessibleness of every thought but that we
are in, is wonderful. What if you come near to it;
you are as remote when you are nearest as when you
are farthest. Every thought is also a prison; every
heaven is also a prison. Therefore we love the poet,
the inventor, who in any form, whether in an ode or
in an action or in looks and behavior has yielded
us a new thought. He unlocks our chains and admits
us to a new scene.

This emancipation is dear to all men, and the power
to impart it, as it must come from greater depth and
scope of thought, is a measure of intellect. Therefore
all books of the imagination endure, all which ascend
to that truth that the writer sees nature beneath him,
and uses it as his exponent. Every verse or sentence
possessing this virtue will take care of its own
immortality. The religions of the world are the
ejaculations of a few imaginative men.

But the quality of the imagination is to flow,
and not to freeze. The poet did not stop at the
color or the form, but read their meaning; neither
may he rest in this meaning, but he makes the same
objects exponents of his new thought. Here is the
difference betwixt the poet and the mystic, that
the last nails a symbol to one sense, which was a
true sense for a moment, but soon becomes old and
false. For all symbols are fluxional; all language
is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries
and horses are, for conveyance, not as farms and
houses are, for homestead. Mysticism consists in
the mistake of an accidental and individual symbol
for an universal one. The morning-redness happens
to be the favorite meteor to the eyes of Jacob Behmen,
and comes to stand to him for truth and faith; and,
he believes, should stand for the same realities to
every reader. But the first reader prefers as
naturally the symbol of a mother and child, or a
gardener and his bulb, or a jeweller polishing a
gem. Either of these, or of a myriad more, are equally
good to the person to whom they are significant. Only
they must be held lightly, and be very willingly
translated into the equivalent terms which others use.
And the mystic must be steadily told,--All that you
say is just as true without the tedious use of that
symbol as with it. Let us have a little algebra,
instead of this trite rhetoric,--universal signs,
instead of these village symbols,--and we shall both
be gainers. The history of hierarchies seems to show
that all religious error consisted in making the
symbol too stark and solid, and was at last nothing
but an excess of the organ of language.

Swedenborg, of all men in the recent ages, stands
eminently for the translator of nature into thought.
I do not know the man in history to whom things
stood so uniformly for words. Before him the
metamorphosis continually plays. Everything on which
his eye rests, obeys the impulses of moral nature.
The figs become grapes whilst he eats them. When
some of his angels affirmed a truth, the laurel twig
which they held blossomed in their hands. The noise
which at a distance appeared like gnashing and
thumping, on coming nearer was found to be the voice
of disputants. The men in one of his visions, seen in
heavenly light, appeared like dragons, and seemed in
darkness; but to each other they appeared as men, and
when the light from heaven shone into their cabin,
they complained of the darkness, and were compelled
to shut the window that they might see.

There was this perception in him which makes the poet
or seer an object of awe and terror, namely that the
same man or society of men may wear one aspect to
themselves and their companions, and a different aspect
to higher intelligences. Certain priests, whom he
describes as conversing very learnedly together,
appeared to the children who were at some distance,
like dead horses; and many the like misappearances. And
instantly the mind inquires whether these fishes under
the bridge, yonder oxen in the pasture, those dogs in
the yard, are immutably fishes, oxen, and dogs, or only
so appear to me, and perchance to themselves appear
upright men; and whether I appear as a man to all eyes.
The Bramins and Pythagoras propounded the same question,
and if any poet has witnessed the transformation he
doubtless found it in harmony with various experiences.
We have all seen changes as considerable in wheat and
caterpillars. He is the poet and shall draw us with
love and terror, who sees through the flowing vest the
firm nature, and can declare it.

I look in vain for the poet whom I describe. We do
not with sufficient plainness or sufficient
profoundness address ourselves to life, nor dare we
chaunt our own times and social circumstance. If we
filled the day with bravery, we should not shrink
from celebrating it. Time and nature yield us many
gifts, but not yet the timely man, the new religion,
the reconciler, whom all things await. Dante's praise
is that he dared to write his autobiography in colossal
cipher, or into universality. We have yet had no genius
in America, with tyrannous eye, which knew the value of
our incomparable materials, and saw, in the barbarism
and materialism of the times, another carnival of the
same gods whose picture he so much admires in Homer;
then in the Middle Age; then in Calvinism. Banks and
tariffs, the newspaper and caucus, Methodism and
Unitarianism, are flat and dull to dull people, but
rest on the same foundations of wonder as the town of
Troy and the temple of Delphi, and are as swiftly passing
away. Our logrolling, our stumps and their politics, our
fisheries, our Negroes and Indians, our boats and our
repudiations, the wrath of rogues and the pusillanimity
of honest men, the northern trade, the southern planting,
the western clearing, Oregon and Texas, are yet unsung.
Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography
dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for
metres. If I have not found that excellent combination
of gifts in my countrymen which I seek, neither could
I aid myself to fix the idea of the poet by reading now
and then in Chalmers's collection of five centuries of
English poets. These are wits more than poets, though
there have been poets among them. But when we adhere
to the ideal of the poet, we have our difficulties even
with Milton and Homer. Milton is too literary, and Homer
too literal and historical.

But I am not wise enough for a national criticism,
and must use the old largeness a little longer, to
discharge my errand from the muse to the poet
concerning his art.

Art is the path of the creator to his work. The
paths or methods are ideal and eternal, though few
men ever see them; not the artist himself for years,
or for a lifetime, unless he come into the conditions.
The painter, the sculptor, the composer, the epic
rhapsodist, the orator, all partake one desire, namely
to express themselves symmetrically and abundantly,
not dwarfishly and fragmentarily. They found or put
themselves in certain conditions, as, the painter and
sculptor before some impressive human figures; the
orator, into the assembly of the people; and the others
in such scenes as each has found exciting to his
intellect; and each presently feels the new desire.
He hears a voice, he sees a beckoning. Then he is
apprised, with wonder, what herds of daemons hem him
in. He can no more rest; he says, with the old painter,
"By God, it is in me and must go forth of me." He
pursues a beauty, half seen, which flies before him.
The poet pours out verses in every solitude. Most of
the things he says are conventional, no doubt; but by
and by he says something which is original and beautiful.
That charms him. He would say nothing else but such
things. In our way of talking we say 'That is yours,
this is mine;' but the poet knows well that it is not
his; that it is as strange and beautiful to him as to
you; he would fain hear the like eloquence at length.
Once having tasted this immortal ichor, he cannot have
enough of it, and as an admirable creative power exists
in these intellections, it is of the last importance
that these things get spoken. What a little of all we
know is said! What drops of all the sea of our science
are baled up! and by what accident it is that these are
exposed, when so many secrets sleep in nature! Hence the
necessity of speech and song; hence these throbs and
heart-beatings in the orator, at the door of the assembly,
to the end namely that thought may be ejaculated as Logos,
or Word.

Doubt not, O poet, but persist. Say 'It is in me,
and shall out.' Stand there, balked and dumb,
stuttering and stammering, hissed and hooted, stand
and strive, until at last rage draw out of thee that
dream-power which every night shows thee is thine
own; a power transcending all limit and privacy, and
by virtue of which a man is the conductor of the
whole river of electricity. Nothing walks, or creeps,
or grows, or exists, which must not in turn arise
and walk before him as exponent of his meaning. Comes
he to that power, his genius is no longer exhaustible.
All the creatures by pairs and by tribes pour into
his mind as into a Noah's ark, to come forth again
to people a new world. This is like the stock of air
for our respiration or for the combustion of our
fireplace; not a measure of gallons, but the entire
atmosphere if wanted. And therefore the rich poets,
as Homer, Chaucer, Shakspeare, and Raphael, have
obviously no limits to their works except the limits
of their lifetime, and resemble a mirror carried
through the street, ready to render an image of every
created thing.

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


THE lords of life, the lords of life,--
I saw them pass,
In their own guise,
Like and unlike,
Portly and grim,
Use and Surprise,
Surface and Dream,
Succession swift, and spectral Wrong,
Temperament without a tongue,
And the inventor of the game
Omnipresent without name;--
Some to see, some to be guessed,
They marched from east to west:
Little man, least of all,
Among the legs of his guardians tall,
Walked about with puzzled look:--
Him by the hand dear Nature took;
Dearest Nature, strong and kind,
Whispered, 'Darling, never mind!
Tomorrow they will wear another face,
The founder thou! these are thy race!'


WHERE do we find ourselves? In a series of which
we do not know the extremes, and believe that it
has none. We wake and find ourselves on a stair;
there are stairs below us, which we seem to have
ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one,
which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius
which according to the old belief stands at the
door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to
drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup
too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy
now at noonday. Sleep lingers all our lifetime
about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the
boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glitter.
Our life is not so much threatened as our perception.
Ghostlike we glide through nature, and should not
know our place again. Did our birth fall in some
fit of indigence and frugality in nature, that she
was so sparing of her fire and so liberal of her
earth that it appears to us that we lack the
affirmative principle, and though we have health
and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit
for new creation? We have enough to live and bring
the year about, but not an ounce to impart or to
invest. Ah that our Genius were a little more of a
genius! We are like millers on the lower levels of
a stream, when the factories above them have
exhausted the water. We too fancy that the upper
people must have raised their dams.

If any of us knew what we were doing, or where we
are going, then when we think we best know! We do
not know to-day whether we are busy or idle. In
times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have
afterwards discovered that much was accomplished,
and much was begun in us. All our days are so
unprofitable while they pass, that 'tis wonderful
where or when we ever got anything of this which
we call wisdom, poetry, virtue. We never got it on
any dated calendar day. Some heavenly days must have
been intercalated somewhere, like those that Hermes
won with dice of the Moon, that Osiris might be born.
It is said all martyrdoms looked mean when they were
suffered. Every ship is a romantic object, except
that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our
vessel and hangs on every other sail in the horizon.
Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it. Men
seem to have learned of the horizon the art of
perpetual retreating and reference. 'Yonder uplands
are rich pasturage, and my neighbor has fertile
meadow, but my field,' says the querulous farmer,
'only holds the world together.' I quote another man's
saying; unluckily that other withdraws himself in the
same way, and quotes me. 'Tis the trick of nature
thus to degrade to-day; a good deal of buzz, and
somewhere a result slipped magically in. Every roof is
agreeable to the eye until it is lifted; then we find
tragedy and moaning women and hard-eyed husbands and
deluges of lethe, and the men ask, 'What's the news?'
as if the old were so bad. How many individuals can we
count in society? how many actions? how many opinions?
So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine,
and so much retrospect, that the pith of each man's
genius contracts itself to a very few hours. The history
of literature--take the net result of Tiraboschi, Warton,
or Schlegel,--is a sum of very few ideas and of very few
original tales; all the rest being variation of these.
So in this great society wide lying around us, a critical
analysis would find very few spontaneous actions. It is
almost all custom and gross sense. There are even few
opinions, and these seem organic in the speakers, and do
not disturb the universal necessity.

What opium is instilled into all disaster! It shows
formidable as we approach it, but there is at last no
rough rasping friction, but the most slippery sliding
surfaces. We fall soft on a thought; Ate Dea is gentle,--

"Over men's heads walking aloft,
With tender feet treading so soft."

People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not
half so bad with them as they say. There are moods
in which we court suffering, in the hope that here
at least we shall find reality, sharp peaks and
edges of truth. But it turns out to be scene-painting
and counterfeit. The only thing grief has taught me
is to know how shallow it is. That, like all the rest,
plays about the surface, and never introduces me into
the reality, for contact with which we would even pay
the costly price of sons and lovers. Was it Boscovich
who found out that bodies never come in contact? Well,
souls never touch their objects. An innavigable sea
washes with silent waves between us and the things we
aim at and converse with. Grief too will make us
idealists. In the death of my son, now more than two
years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate,--no
more. I cannot get it nearer to me. If to-morrow I
should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal
debtors, the loss of my property would be a great
inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years; but it
would leave me as it found me,--neither better nor
worse. So is it with this calamity: it does not touch
me; something which I fancied was a part of me, which
could not be torn away without tearing me nor enlarged
without enriching me, falls off from me and leaves no
scar. It was caducous. I grieve that grief can teach
me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature.
The Indian who was laid under a curse that the wind
should not blow on him, nor water flow to him, nor
fire burn him, is a type of us all. The dearest events
are summer-rain, and we the Para coats that shed every
drop. Nothing is left us now but death. We look to that
with a grim satisfaction, saying There at least is
reality that will not dodge us.

I take this evanescence and lubricity of all objects,
which lets them slip through our fingers then when
we clutch hardest, to be the most unhandsome part of
our condition. Nature does not like to be observed,
and likes that we should be her fools and playmates.
We may have the sphere for our cricket-ball, but not
a berry for our philosophy. Direct strokes she never
gave us power to make; all our blows glance, all our
hits are accidents. Our relations to each other are
oblique and casual.

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to
illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of
beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be
many-colored lenses which paint the world their own
hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus. From
the mountain you see the mountain. We animate what we
can, and we see only what we animate. Nature and books
belong to the eyes that see them. It depends on the
mood of the man whether he shall see the sunset or the
fine poem. There are always sunsets, and there is
always genius; but only a few hours so serene that we
can relish nature or criticism. The more or less
depends on structure or temperament. Temperament is the
iron wire on which the beads are strung. Of what use is
fortune or talent to a cold and defective nature? Who
cares what sensibility or discrimination a man has at
some time shown, if he falls asleep in his chair? or if
he laugh and giggle? or if he apologize? or is infected
with egotism? or thinks of his dollar? or cannot go by
food? or has gotten a child in his boyhood? Of what use
is genius, if the organ is too convex or too concave
and cannot find a focal distance within the actual
horizon of human life? Of what use, if the brain is too
cold or too hot, and the man does not care enough for
results to stimulate him to experiment, and hold him up
in it? or if the web is too finely woven, too irritable
by pleasure and pain, so that life stagnates from too
much reception without due outlet? Of what use to make
heroic vows of amendment, if the same old law-breaker
is to keep them? What cheer can the religious sentiment
yield, when that is suspected to be secretly dependent
on the seasons of the year and the state of the blood?
I knew a witty physician who found the creed in the
biliary duct, and used to affirm that if there was
disease in the liver, the man became a Calvinist, and
if that organ was sound, he became a Unitarian. Very
mortifying is the reluctant experience that some
unfriendly excess or imbecility neutralizes the promise
of genius. We see young men who owe us a new world, so
readily and lavishly they promise, but they never acquit
the debt; they die young and dodge the account; or if
they live they lose themselves in the crowd.

Temperament also enters fully into the system of
illusions and shuts us in a prison of glass which
we cannot see. There is an optical illusion about
every person we meet. In truth they are all
creatures of given temperament, which will appear
in a given character, whose boundaries they will
never pass: but we look at them, they seem alive,
and we presume there is impulse in them. In the
moment it seems impulse; in the year, in the lifetime,
it turns out to be a certain uniform tune which the
revolving barrel of the music-box must play. Men
resist the conclusion in the morning, but adopt it
as the evening wears on, that temper prevails over
everything of time, place, and condition, and is
inconsumable in the flames of religion. Some
modifications the moral sentiment avails to impose,
but the individual texture holds its dominion, if not
to bias the moral judgments, yet to fix the measure
of activity and of enjoyment.

I thus express the law as it is read from the
platform of ordinary life, but must not leave
it without noticing the capital exception. For
temperament is a power which no man willingly
hears any one praise but himself. On the platform
of physics we cannot resist the contracting
influences of so-called science. Temperament puts
all divinity to rout. I know the mental proclivity
of physicians. I hear the chuckle of the phrenologists.
Theoretic kidnappers and slave-drivers, they esteem
each man the victim of another, who winds him round
his finger by knowing the law of his being; and by
such cheap signboards as the color of his beard or
the slope of his occiput, reads the inventory of his
fortunes and character. The grossest ignorance does
not disgust like this impudent knowingness. The
physicians say they are not materialists; but they
are:--Spirit is matter reduced to an extreme thinness:
O so thin!--But the definition of spiritual should be,
that which is its own evidence. What notions do they
attach to love! what to religion! One would not
willingly pronounce these words in their hearing,
and give them the occasion to profane them. I saw a
gracious gentleman who adapts his conversation to the
form of the head of the man he talks with! I had
fancied that the value of life lay in its inscrutable
possibilities; in the fact that I never know, in
addressing myself to a new individual, what may befall
me. I carry the keys of my castle in my hand, ready to
throw them at the feet of my lord, whenever and in what
disguise soever he shall appear. I know he is in the
neighborhood hidden among vagabonds. Shall I preclude
my future by taking a high seat and kindly adapting my
conversation to the shape of heads? When I come to that,
the doctors shall buy me for a cent.--'But, sir, medical
history; the report to the Institute; the proven facts!'
--I distrust the facts and the inferences. Temperament
is the veto or limitation-power in the constitution,
very justly applied to restrain an opposite excess in
the constitution, but absurdly offered as a bar to
original equity. When virtue is in presence, all
subordinate powers sleep. On its own level, or in
view of nature, temperament is final. I see not, if
one be once caught in this trap of so-called sciences,
any escape for the man from the links of the chain of
physical necessity. Given such an embryo, such a
history must follow. On this platform one lives in a
sty of sensualism, and would soon come to suicide.
But it is impossible that the creative power should
exclude itself. Into every intelligence there is a door
which is never closed, through which the creator passes.
The intellect, seeker of absolute truth, or the heart,
lover of absolute good, intervenes for our succor, and
at one whisper of these high powers we awake from
ineffectual struggles with this nightmare. We hurl it
into its own hell, and cannot again contract ourselves
to so base a state.

The secret of the illusoriness is in the necessity
of a succession of moods or objects. Gladly we would
anchor, but the anchorage is quicksand. This onward
trick of nature is too strong for us: Pero si muove.
When at night I look at the moon and stars, I seem
stationary, and they to hurry. Our love of the real
draws us to permanence, but health of body consists
in circulation, and sanity of mind in variety or
facility of association. We need change of objects.
Dedication to one thought is quickly odious. We house
with the insane, and must humor them; then conversation
dies out. Once I took such delight in Montaigne, that
I thought I should not need any other book; before that,
in Shakspeare; then in Plutarch; then in Plotinus; at
one time in Bacon; afterwards in Goethe; even in Bettine;
but now I turn the pages of either of them languidly,
whilst I still cherish their genius. So with pictures;
each will bear an emphasis of attention once, which it
cannot retain, though we fain would continue to be
pleased in that manner. How strongly I have felt of
pictures that when you have seen one well, you must
take your leave of it; you shall never see it again.
I have had good lessons from pictures which I have
since seen without emotion or remark. A deduction must
be made from the opinion which even the wise express
of a new book or occurrence. Their opinion gives me
tidings of their mood, and some vague guess at the
new fact, but is nowise to be trusted as the lasting
relation between that intellect and that thing. The
child asks, 'Mamma, why don't I like the story as well
as when you told it me yesterday?' Alas! child it is
even so with the oldest cherubim of knowledge. But
will it answer thy question to say, Because thou wert
born to a whole and this story is a particular? The
reason of the pain this discovery causes us (and we
make it late in respect to works of art and intellect),
is the plaint of tragedy which murmurs from it in regard
to persons, to friendship and love.

That immobility and absence of elasticity which
we find in the arts, we find with more pain in the
artist. There is no power of expansion in men. Our
friends early appear to us as representatives of
certain ideas which they never pass or exceed. They
stand on the brink of the ocean of thought and power,
but they never take the single step that would bring
them there. A man is like a bit of Labrador spar,
which has no lustre as you turn it in your hand until
you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep
and beautiful colors. There is no adaptation or
universal applicability in men, but each has his
special talent, and the mastery of successful men
consists in adroitly keeping themselves where and
when that turn shall be oftenest to be practised.
We do what we must, and call it by the best names
we can, and would fain have the praise of having
intended the result which ensues. I cannot recall
any form of man who is not superfluous sometimes.
But is not this pitiful? Life is not worth the
taking, to do tricks in.

Of course it needs the whole society to give the
symmetry we seek. The party-colored wheel must
revolve very fast to appear white. Something is
earned too by conversing with so much folly and
defect. In fine, whoever loses, we are always of
the gaining party. Divinity is behind our failures
and follies also. The plays of children are nonsense,
but very educative nonsense. So it is with the largest
and solemnest things, with commerce, government,
church, marriage, and so with the history of every
man's bread, and the ways by which he is to come by
it. Like a bird which alights nowhere, but hops
perpetually from bough to bough, is the Power which
abides in no man and in no woman, but for a moment
speaks from this one, and for another moment from
that one.

But what help from these fineries or pedantries?
What help from thought? Life is not dialectics.
We, I think, in these times, have had lessons
enough of the futility of criticism. Our young
people have thought and written much on labor and
reform, and for all that they have written, neither
the world nor themselves have got on a step.
Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede
muscular activity. If a man should consider the
nicety of the passage of a piece of bread down his
throat, he would starve. At Education-Farm, the
noblest theory of life sat on the noblest figures
of young men and maidens, quite powerless and
melancholy. It would not rake or pitch a ton of hay;
it would not rub down a horse; and the men and
maidens it left pale and hungry. A political orator
wittily compared our party promises to western roads,
which opened stately enough, with planted trees on
either side to tempt the traveller, but soon became
narrow and narrower and ended in a squirrel-track
and ran up a tree. So does culture with us; it ends
in headache. Unspeakably sad and barren does life
look to those who a few months ago were dazzled with
the splendor of the promise of the times. "There is
now no longer any right course of action nor any
self-devotion left among the Iranis." Objections and
criticism we have had our fill of. There are objections
to every course of life and action, and the practical
wisdom infers an indifferency, from the omnipresence
of objection. The whole frame of things preaches
indifferency. Do not craze yourself with thinking, but
go about your business anywhere. Life is not intellectual
or critical, but sturdy. Its chief good is for well-mixed
people who can enjoy what they find, without question.
Nature hates peeping, and our mothers speak her very
sense when they say, "Children, eat your victuals, and
say no more of it." To fill the hour,--that is happiness;
to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance
or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art
of life is to skate well on them. Under the oldest
mouldiest conventions a man of native force prospers
just as well as in the newest world, and that by skill
of handling and treatment. He can take hold anywhere.
Life itself is a mixture of power and form, and will
not bear the least excess of either. To finish the
moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the
road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is
wisdom. It is not the part of men, but of fanatics,
or of mathematicians if you will, to say that the
shortness of life considered, it is not worth caring
whether for so short a duration we were sprawling in
want or sitting high. Since our office is with moments,
let us husband them. Five minutes of today are worth
as much to me as five minutes in the next millennium.
Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today. Let us
treat the men and women well; treat them as if they
were real; perhaps they are. Men live in their fancy,
like drunkards whose hands are too soft and tremulous
for successful labor. It is a tempest of fancies, and
the only ballast I know is a respect to the present
hour. Without any shadow of doubt, amidst this vertigo
of shows and politics, I settle myself ever the firmer
in the creed that we should not postpone and refer and
wish, but do broad justice where we are, by whomsoever
we deal with, accepting our actual companions and
circumstances, however humble or odious as the mystic
officials to whom the universe has delegated its
whole pleasure for us. If these are mean and malignant,
their contentment, which is the last victory of justice,
is a more satisfying echo to the heart than the voice
of poets and the casual sympathy of admirable persons.
I think that however a thoughtful man may suffer from
the defects and absurdities of his company, he cannot
without affectation deny to any set of men and women
a sensibility to extraordinary merit. The coarse and
frivolous have an instinct of superiority, if they have
not a sympathy, and honor it in their blind capricious
way with sincere homage.

The fine young people despise life, but in me,
and in such as with me are free from dyspepsia,
and to whom a day is a sound and solid good, it
is a great excess of politeness to look scornful
and to cry for company. I am grown by sympathy a
little eager and sentimental, but leave me alone
and I should relish every hour and what it brought
me, the potluck of the day, as heartily as the oldest
gossip in the bar-room. I am thankful for small
mercies. I compared notes with one of my friends
who expects everything of the universe and is
disappointed when anything is less than the best,
and I found that I begin at the other extreme,
expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for
moderate goods. I accept the clangor and jangle of
contrary tendencies. I find my account in sots and
bores also. They give a reality to the circumjacent
picture which such a vanishing meteorous appearance
can ill spare. In the morning I awake and find the
old world, wife, babes, and mother, Concord and
Boston, the dear old spiritual world and even the
dear old devil not far off. If we will take the good
we find, asking no questions, we shall have heaping
measures. The great gifts are not got by analysis.
Everything good is on the highway. The middle region
of our being is the temperate zone. We may climb
into the thin and cold realm of pure geometry and
lifeless science, or sink into that of sensation.
Between these extremes is the equator of life, of
thought, of spirit, of poetry,--a narrow belt.
Moreover, in popular experience everything good is
on the highway. A collector peeps into all the
picture-shops of Europe for a landscape of Poussin,
a crayon-sketch of Salvator; but the Transfiguration,
the Last Judgment, the Communion of St. Jerome, and
what are as transcendent as these, are on the walls
of the Vatican, the Uffizii, or the Louvre, where
every footman may see them; to say nothing of Nature's
pictures in every street, of sunsets and sunrises
every day, and the sculpture of the human body never
absent. A collector recently bought at public auction,
in London, for one hundred and fifty-seven guineas,
an autograph of Shakspeare; but for nothing a school-boy
can read Hamlet and can detect secrets of highest
concernment yet unpublished therein. I think I will
never read any but the commonest books,--the Bible,
Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and Milton. Then we are
impatient of so public a life and planet, and run
hither and thither for nooks and secrets. The
imagination delights in the woodcraft of Indians,
trappers, and bee-hunters. We fancy that we are
strangers, and not so intimately domesticated in the
planet as the wild man and the wild beast and bird.
But the exclusion reaches them also; reaches the
climbing, flying, gliding, feathered and four-footed
man. Fox and woodchuck, hawk and snipe and bittern,
when nearly seen, have no more root in the deep world
than man, and are just such superficial tenants of the
globe. Then the new molecular philosophy shows
astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom, shows
that the world is all outside; it has no inside.

The mid-world is best. Nature, as we know her, is
no saint. The lights of the church, the ascetics,
Gentoos, and corn-eaters, she does not distinguish
by any favor. She comes eating and drinking and
sinning. Her darlings, the great, the strong, the
beautiful, are not children of our law; do not come
out of the Sunday School, nor weigh their food, nor
punctually keep the commandments. If we will be
strong with her strength we must not harbor such
disconsolate consciences, borrowed too from the
consciences of other nations. We must set up the
strong present tense against all the rumors of
wrath, past or to come. So many things are unsettled
which it is of the first importance to settle;--and,
pending their settlement, we will do as we do. Whilst
the debate goes forward on the equity of commerce,
and will not be closed for a century or two, New and
Old England may keep shop. Law of copyright and
international copyright is to be discussed, and in
the interim we will sell our books for the most we
can. Expediency of literature, reason of literature,
lawfulness of writing down a thought, is questioned;
much is to say on both sides, and, while the fight
waxes hot, thou, dearest scholar, stick to thy
foolish task, add a line every hour, and between
whiles add a line. Right to hold land, right of
property, is disputed, and the conventions convene,
and before the vote is taken, dig away in your garden,
and spend your earnings as a waif or godsend to all
serene and beautiful purposes. Life itself is a bubble
and a skepticism, and a sleep within a sleep. Grant it,
and as much more as they will,--but thou, God's darling!
heed thy private dream; thou wilt not be missed in the
scorning and skepticism; there are enough of them;
stay there in thy closet and toil until the rest are
agreed what to do about it. Thy sickness, they say,
and thy puny habit require that thou do this or avoid
that, but know that thy life is a flitting state, a
tent for a night, and do thou, sick or well, finish
that stint. Thou art sick, but shalt not be worse,
and the universe, which holds thee dear, shall be the

Human life is made up of the two elements, power
and form, and the proportion must be invariably
kept if we would have it sweet and sound. Each
of these elements in excess makes a mischief as
hurtful as its defect. Everything runs to excess;
every good quality is noxious if unmixed, and, to
carry the danger to the edge of ruin, nature
causes each man's peculiarity to superabound. Here,
among the farms, we adduce the scholars as examples
of this treachery. They are nature's victims of
expression. You who see the artist, the orator,
the poet, too near, and find their life no more
excellent than that of mechanics or farmers, and
themselves victims of partiality, very hollow and
haggard, and pronounce them failures, not heroes,
but quacks,--conclude very reasonably that these
arts are not for man, but are disease. Yet nature
will not bear you out. Irresistible nature made
men such, and makes legions more of such, every
day. You love the boy reading in a book, gazing
at a drawing, or a cast; yet what are these millions
who read and behold, but incipient writers and
sculptors? Add a little more of that quality which
now reads and sees, and they will seize the pen and
chisel. And if one remembers how innocently he began
to be an artist, he perceives that nature joined with
his enemy. A man is a golden impossibility. The line
he must walk is a hair's breadth. The wise through
excess of wisdom is made a fool.

How easily, if fate would suffer it, we might
keep forever these beautiful limits, and adjust
ourselves, once for all, to the perfect calculation
of the kingdom of known cause and effect. In the
street and in the newspapers, life appears so plain
a business that manly resolution and adherence to
the multiplication-table through all weathers will
insure success. But ah! presently comes a day, or
is it only a half-hour, with its angel-whispering,
--which discomfits the conclusions of nations and
of years! Tomorrow again everything looks real and
angular, the habitual standards are reinstated,
common sense is as rare as genius,--is the basis of
genius, and experience is hands and feet to every
enterprise;--and yet, he who should do his business
on this understanding would be quickly bankrupt.
Power keeps quite another road than the turnpikes
of choice and will; namely the subterranean and
invisible tunnels and channels of life. It is
ridiculous that we are diplomatists, and doctors,
and considerate people: there are no dupes like
these. Life is a series of surprises, and would not
be worth taking or keeping if it were not. God
delights to isolate us every day, and hide from us
the past and the future. We would look about us,
but with grand politeness he draws down before us
an impenetrable screen of purest sky, and another
behind us of purest sky. 'You will not remember,'
he seems to say, `and you will not expect.' All
good conversation, manners, and action, come from
a spontaneity which forgets usages and makes the
moment great. Nature hates calculators; her methods
are saltatory and impulsive. Man lives by pulses;
our organic movements are such; and the chemical
and ethereal agents are undulatory and alternate;
and the mind goes antagonizing on, and never
prospers but by fits. We thrive by casualties. Our
chief experiences have been casual. The most
attractive class of people are those who are
powerful obliquely and not by the direct stroke;
men of genius, but not yet accredited; one gets the
cheer of their light without paying too great a tax.
Theirs is the beauty of the bird or the morning
light, and not of art. In the thought of genius
there is always a surprise; and the moral sentiment
is well called "the newness," for it is never other;
as new to the oldest intelligence as to the young
child;--"the kingdom that cometh without observation."
In like manner, for practical success, there must not
be too much design. A man will not be observed in
doing that which he can do best. There is a certain
magic about his properest action which stupefies
your powers of observation, so that though it is done
before you, you wist not of it. The art of life has a
pudency, and will not be exposed. Every man is an
impossibility until he is born; every thing impossible
until we see a success. The ardors of piety agree at
last with the coldest skepticism,--that nothing is of
us or our works,--that all is of God. Nature will not
spare us the smallest leaf of laurel. All writing
comes by the grace of God, and all doing and having.
I would gladly be moral and keep due metes and bounds,
which I dearly love, and allow the most to the will of
man; but I have set my heart on honesty in this chapter,
and I can see nothing at last, in success or failure,
than more or less of vital force supplied from the
Eternal. The results of life are uncalculated and
uncalculable. The years teach much which the days
never know. The persons who compose our company,
converse, and come and go, and design and execute
many things, and somewhat comes of it all, but an
unlooked-for result. The individual is always mistaken.
He designed many things, and drew in other persons as
coadjutors, quarrelled with some or all, blundered much,
and something is done; all are a little advanced, but
the individual is always mistaken. It turns out somewhat
new and very unlike what he promised himself.

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

"Since neither now nor yesterday began
These thoughts, which have been ever, nor yet can
A man be found who their first entrance knew."

If I have described life as a flux of moods, I must
now add that there is that in us which changes not
and which ranks all sensations and states of mind.
The consciousness in each man is a sliding scale,
which identifies him now with the First Cause, and
now with the flesh of his body; life above life, in
infinite degrees. The sentiment from which it sprung
determines the dignity of any deed, and the question
ever is, not what you have done or forborne, but at
whose command you have done or forborne it.

Fortune, Minerva, Muse, Holy Ghost,--these are
quaint names, too narrow to cover this unbounded
substance. The baffled intellect must still kneel
before this cause, which refuses to be named,--
ineffable cause, which every fine genius has essayed
to represent by some emphatic symbol, as, Thales by
water, Anaximenes by air, Anaxagoras by (Nous)
thought, Zoroaster by fire, Jesus and the moderns by
love; and the metaphor of each has become a national
religion. The Chinese Mencius has not been the least
successful in his generalization. "I fully understand
language," he said, "and nourish well my vast-flowing
vigor."--"I beg to ask what you call vast-flowing
vigor?"--said his companion. "The explanation," replied
Mencius, "is difficult. This vigor is supremely great,
and in the highest degree unbending. Nourish it
correctly and do it no injury, and it will fill up
the vacancy between heaven and earth. This vigor
accords with and assists justice and reason, and
leaves no hunger."--In our more correct writing we
give to this generalization the name of Being, and
thereby confess that we have arrived as far as we can
go. Suffice it for the joy of the universe that we
have not arrived at a wall, but at interminable oceans.
Our life seems not present so much as prospective; not
for the affairs on which it is wasted, but as a hint
of this vast-flowing vigor. Most of life seems to be
mere advertisement of faculty; information is given us
not to sell ourselves cheap; that we are very great. So,
in particulars, our greatness is always in a tendency
or direction, not in an action. It is for us to believe
in the rule, not in the exception. The noble are thus
known from the ignoble. So in accepting the leading of
the sentiments, it is not what we believe concerning the
immortality of the soul or the like, but the universal
impulse to believe, that is the material circumstance
and is the principal fact in the history of the globe.
Shall we describe this cause as that which works
directly? The spirit is not helpless or needful of
mediate organs. It has plentiful powers and direct
effects. I am explained without explaining, I am felt
without acting, and where I am not. Therefore all just
persons are satisfied with their own praise. They refuse
to explain themselves, and are content that new actions
should do them that office. They believe that we
communicate without speech and above speech, and that
no right action of ours is quite unaffecting to our
friends, at whatever distance; for the influence of
action is not to be measured by miles. Why should I
fret myself because a circumstance has occurred which
hinders my presence where I was expected? If I am not
at the meeting, my presence where I am should be as
useful to the commonwealth of friendship and wisdom,
as would be my presence in that place. I exert the
same quality of power in all places. Thus journeys
the mighty Ideal before us; it never was known to fall
into the rear. No man ever came to an experience which
was satiating, but his good is tidings of a better.
Onward and onward! In liberated moments we know that
a new picture of life and duty is already possible;
the elements already exist in many minds around you
of a doctrine of life which shall transcend any
written record we have. The new statement will comprise
the skepticisms as well as the faiths of society, and
out of unbeliefs a creed shall be formed. For skepticisms
are not gratuitous or lawless, but are limitations of the
affirmative statement, and the new philosophy must take
them in and make affirmations outside of them, just as
much as it must include the oldest beliefs.

It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped,
the discovery we have made that we exist. That
discovery is called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards
we suspect our instruments. We have learned that we
do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have
no means of correcting these colored and distorting
lenses which we are, or of computing the amount of
their errors. Perhaps these subject-lenses have a
creative power; perhaps there are no objects. Once
we lived in what we saw; now, the rapaciousness of
this new power, which threatens to absorb all things,
engages us. Nature, art, persons, letters, religions,
objects, successively tumble in, and God is but one
of its ideas. Nature and literature are subjective
phenomena; every evil and every good thing is a shadow
which we cast. The street is full of humiliations to
the proud. As the fop contrived to dress his bailiffs
in his livery and make them wait on his guests at
table, so the chagrins which the bad heart gives off
as bubbles, at once take form as ladies and gentlemen
in the street, shopmen or bar-keepers in hotels, and
threaten or insult whatever is threatenable and
insultable in us. 'Tis the same with our idolatries.
People forget that it is the eye which makes the
horizon, and the rounding mind's eye which makes this
or that man a type or representative of humanity, with
the name of hero or saint. Jesus, the "providential
man," is a good man on whom many people are agreed that
these optical laws shall take effect. By love on one
part and by forbearance to press objection on the other
part, it is for a time settled, that we will look at
him in the centre of the horizon, and ascribe to him
the properties that will attach to any man so seen. But
the longest love or aversion has a speedy term. The great
and crescive self, rooted in absolute nature, supplants
all relative existence and ruins the kingdom of mortal
friendship and love. Marriage (in what is called the
spiritual world) is impossible, because of the inequality
between every subject and every object. The subject is
the receiver of Godhead, and at every comparison must
feel his being enhanced by that cryptic might. Though not
in energy, yet by presence, this magazine of substance
cannot be otherwise than felt; nor can any force of
intellect attribute to the object the proper deity which
sleeps or wakes forever in every subject. Never can love
make consciousness and ascription equal in force. There
will be the same gulf between every me and thee as
between the original and the picture. The universe is
the bride of the soul. All private sympathy is partial.
Two human beings are like globes, which can touch only
in a point, and whilst they remain in contact, all other
points of each of the spheres are inert; their turn must
also come, and the longer a particular union lasts the
more energy of appetency the parts not in union acquire.

Life will be imaged, but cannot be divided nor
doubled. Any invasion of its unity would be chaos.
The soul is not twin-born but the only begotten,
and though revealing itself as child in time, child
in appearance, is of a fatal and universal power,
admitting no co-life. Every day, every act betrays
the ill-concealed deity. We believe in ourselves as
we do not believe in others. We permit all things to
ourselves, and that which we call sin in others is
experiment for us. It is an instance of our faith in
ourselves that men never speak of crime as lightly
as they think; or every man thinks a latitude safe
for himself which is nowise to be indulged to another.
The act looks very differently on the inside and on
the outside; in its quality and in its consequences.
Murder in the murderer is no such ruinous thought as
poets and romancers will have it; it does not unsettle
him or fright him from his ordinary notice of trifles;
it is an act quite easy to be contemplated; but in
its sequel it turns out to be a horrible jangle and
confounding of all relations. Especially the crimes
that spring from love seem right and fair from the
actor's point of view, but when acted are found
destructive of society. No man at last believes that
he can be lost, nor that the crime in him is as black
as in the felon. Because the intellect qualifies in
our own case the moral judgments. For there is no
crime to the intellect. That is antinomian or hypernomian,
and judges law as well as fact. "It is worse than a
crime, it is a blunder," said Napoleon, speaking the
language of the intellect. To it, the world is a problem
in mathematics or the science of quantity, and it
leaves out praise and blame and all weak emotions. All
stealing is comparative. If you come to absolutes,
pray who does not steal? Saints are sad, because they
behold sin (even when they speculate), from the point
of view of the conscience, and not of the intellect;
a confusion of thought. Sin, seen from the thought,
is a diminution, or less: seen from the conscience or
will, it is pravity or bad. The intellect names it
shade, absence of light, and no essence. The conscience
must feel it as essence, essential evil. This it is
not; it has an objective existence, but no subjective.

Thus inevitably does the universe wear our color,
and every object fall successively into the subject
itself. The subject exists, the subject enlarges;
all things sooner or later fall into place. As I am,
so I see; use what language we will, we can never
say anything but what we are; Hermes, Cadmus, Columbus,
Newton, Bonaparte, are the mind's ministers. Instead
of feeling a poverty when we encounter a great man,
let us treat the new comer like a travelling geologist
who passes through our estate and shows us good slate,
or limestone, or anthracite, in our brush pasture.
The partial action of each strong mind in one direction
is a telescope for the objects on which it is pointed.
But every other part of knowledge is to be pushed to
the same extravagance, ere the soul attains her due
sphericity. Do you see that kitten chasing so prettily
her own tail? If you could look with her eyes you
might see her surrounded with hundreds of figures
performing complex dramas, with tragic and comic
issues, long conversations, many characters, many ups
and downs of fate,--and meantime it is only puss and
her tail. How long before our masquerade will end its
noise of tambourines, laughter, and shouting, and we
shall find it was a solitary performance? A subject
and an object,--it takes so much to make the galvanic
circuit complete, but magnitude adds nothing. What
imports it whether it is Kepler and the sphere, Columbus
and America, a reader and his book, or puss with her tail?

It is true that all the muses and love and religion
hate these developments, and will find a way to
punish the chemist who publishes in the parlor the
secrets of the laboratory. And we cannot say too
little of our constitutional necessity of seeing
things under private aspects, or saturated with our
humors. And yet is the God the native of these bleak
rocks. That need makes in morals the capital virtue
of self-trust. We must hold hard to this poverty,
however scandalous, and by more vigorous self-recoveries,
after the sallies of action, possess our axis more
firmly. The life of truth is cold and so far mournful;
but it is not the slave of tears, contritions and
perturbations. It does not attempt another's work,
nor adopt another's facts. It is a main lesson of
wisdom to know your own from another's. I have learned
that I cannot dispose of other people's facts; but I
possess such a key to my own as persuades me, against
all their denials, that they also have a key to theirs.
A sympathetic person is placed in the dilemma of a
swimmer among drowning men, who all catch at him, and
if he give so much as a leg or a finger they will drown
him. They wish to be saved from the mischiefs of their
vices, but not from their vices. Charity would be
wasted on this poor waiting on the symptoms. A wise and
hardy physician will say, Come out of that, as the first
condition of advice.

In this our talking America we are ruined by our good
nature and listening on all sides. This compliance
takes away the power of being greatly useful. A man
should not be able to look other than directly and
forthright. A preoccupied attention is the only answer
to the importunate frivolity of other people; an
attention, and to an aim which makes their wants
frivolous. This is a divine answer, and leaves no
appeal and no hard thoughts. In Flaxman's drawing
of the Eumenides of Aeschylus, Orestes supplicates
Apollo, whilst the Furies sleep on the threshold.
The face of the god expresses a shade of regret and
compassion, but is calm with the conviction of the
irreconcilableness of the two spheres. He is born
into other politics, into the eternal and beautiful.
The man at his feet asks for his interest in turmoils
of the earth, into which his nature cannot enter. And
the Eumenides there lying express pictorially this
disparity. The god is surcharged with his divine destiny.

Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise,
Reality, Subjectiveness,--these are threads on the
loom of time, these are the lords of life. I dare not
assume to give their order, but I name them as I find
them in my way. I know better than to claim any
completeness for my picture. I am a fragment, and this
is a fragment of me. I can very confidently announce

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