A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings;
The eye reads omens where it goes,
And speaks all languages the rose;
And, striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form.

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biograph-
ies, histories, and criticism.
The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face
to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to
the universe?
Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of
tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?
for a season in nature,whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite
us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope
among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of
its faded wardrobe?
The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the
fields.There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works
and laws and worship.

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the
perfection of the creationso far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of
things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.
Every man's con-
dition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life,
before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and
tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that
shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

All science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature. We have theories of races
and of functions, butscarcely yet a remote approach to an idea of creation. We are
now so far from the road to truth, that religiousteachers dispute and hate each other,
and speculative men are esteemed unsound and frivolous.
But to a soundjudgment,
the most abstract truth is the most practical. Whenever a true theory appears, it will
be its ownevidence.
Its test is, that it will explain all phenomena. Now many are thought
not only unexplained butinexplicable; as language, sleep, madness, dreams, beasts, sex.

Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul. Strictly
speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which Philosophy distinguishes as
the NOT ME, that is, both nature and art, all other men and my own body, must be ranked
under this name, NATURE.
In enumerating the values of nature andcasting up their sum,
I shall use the word in both senses; — in its common and in its philosophical import. In
inquiries so general as our present one, the inaccuracy is not material; no confusion of
thought will occur.
Nature, in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man;
space, the air, the river, the leaf. Art is applied tothe mixture of his will with the same
things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture. But his operations taken together are
so insignificant, a little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression so
grand as that of the world on the human mind, they do not vary the result.

           Chapter 1. Nature

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I
am not solitary whilst Iread and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be
alone, let him look at the stars. The rays thatcome from those heavenly worlds, will sep-
arate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made trans-
parent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the
sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are!
If the stars should appear one
night in athousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many gen-
erations the remembrance of thecity of God which had been shown!
But every night come
out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inacces-
sible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their in-
Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her
secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy
to a wise spirit.
The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best
hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the
mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which
distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charm-
ing landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms.
Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns
the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can
integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to
this their warranty-deeds give no title.

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least
they have a very superficial seeing.
The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines
into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward
senses are still truly adjusted to each other;
who has retained the spirit of infancy even into
the era of manhood.
His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food.
In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Na-
ture says,--he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me.

Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for
every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes adifferent state of the mind, from
breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a
mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare com-
mon, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any o-
ccurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink
of fear.
In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what per-
iod soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.
Within these plantations
of God, a decorum and sanctity reign,
a perennial festival is dressed, and theguest sees not
how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith.
There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,--no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my
eyes,) which nature cannot repair.
Standing on the bare ground,--my head bathed by the
blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,— all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transpa-
rent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through
me; I am part or particle of God.
The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and
accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,--master or servant, is then a trifle and a
disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find
something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and
es-pecially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his
own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult
relation between manand the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to
me, and I to them.
The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes
me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like thatof a higher thought or a bet-
ter emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in
man, or in a harmony of both.
It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temper-
ance. For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yest-
erday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with
melancholy today.
Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under
calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt
of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less
grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population.

           Chapter 2. Commodity

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of
uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following
classes; Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our
senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and
mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is
perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend.
misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and
prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green
ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid
ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water
beneath, this firmament of earth between? this zodiac of lights, this tent of
dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts,
fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his
work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

           "More servants wait on man
           Than he'll take notice of."

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the
process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands
for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the
wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet,
condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal;
and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

The useful arts are reproductions or new combinations by the wit of man, of the
same natural benefactors.
He no longer waits for favoring gales, but by means
of steam, he realizes the fable of Aeolus's bag, and carries the two and thirty
winds in the boiler of his boat.
To diminish friction, he paves the road with
iron bars, and, mounting a coach with a ship-load of men, animals, and mer-
chandise behind him, he darts through the country, from town to town, like an
eagle or a swallow through the air. By the aggregate of these aids, how is the
face of the world changed, from the era of Noah to that of Napoleon!
The private
poor man hath cities, ships, canals, bridges, built for him. He goes to the
post-office, and the human race run on his errands; to the book-shop, and the
human race read and write of all that happens, for him; to the court-house, and
nations repair his wrongs. He sets his house upon the road, and the human race
go forth every morning, and shovel out the snow, and cut a path for him

But there is no need of specifying particulars in this class of uses. The
catalogue is endless, and the examples so obvious, that I shall leave them to
the reader's reflection, with the general remark, that this mercenary benefit is
one which has respect to a farther good. A man is fed, not that he may be fed,
but that he may work.

      Chapter 3. Beauty

A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.

The ancient Greeks called the world kosmos, beauty.
Such is the con-
stitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the
primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight
in and for themselves; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and
grouping. This seems partly owing to the eye itself. The eye is the best of
artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light,
perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what
character soever, into a well colored and shaded globe, so that where the
particular objects are mean and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose,
is round and symmetrical. And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the
first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make
beautiful. And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude
which it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its
own beauty.
But besides this general grace diffused over nature, almost all the
individual forms are agreeable to the eye
, as is proved by our endless
imitations of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the
wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion's claw, the
serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms
of many trees, as the palm.

For better consideration, we may distribute the aspects of Beauty in a
threefold manner.

1. First, the simple perception of natural forms is a delight. The influence
of the forms and actions in nature, is so needful to man, that, in its lowest
functions, it seems to lie on the confines of commodity and beauty. To the body
and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal
and restores their tone.
The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and
craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In
their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a
horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

But in other hours, Nature satisfies by its loveliness, and without any
mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spectacle of morning from the hill-top
over against my house, from day-break to sun-rise, with emotions which an angel
might share.
The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of
crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I
seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my
dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind.
How does Nature deify us
with a few and cheap elements! Give me health and a day, and I will make the
pomp of emperors ridiculous.
The dawn is my Assyria; the sun-set and moon-rise
my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of
the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic
philosophy and dreams.

Not less excellent, except for our less susceptibility in the afternoon, was
the charm, last evening, of a January sunset. The western clouds divided and
subdivided themselves into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable
and the air had so much life and sweetness, that it was a pain to come
within doors.
What was it that nature would say? Was there no meaning in the
live repose of the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shakspeare could
not reform for me in words? The leafless trees become spires of flame in the
sunset, with the blue east for their back-ground, and the stars of the dead
calices of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with frost,
contribute something to the mute music.

The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only
half the year. I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and
believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.
To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the
same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and
which shall never be seen again. The heavens change every moment, and reflect
their glory or gloom on the plains beneath.
The state of the crop in the
surrounding farms alters the expression of the earth from week to week. The
succession of native plants in the pastures and roadsides, which makes the
silent clock by which time tells the summer hours, will make even the divisions
of the day sensible to a keen observer. The tribes of birds and insects, like
the plants punctual to their time, follow each other, and the year has room for
all. By water-courses, the variety is greater. In July, the blue pontederia or
pickerel-weed blooms in large beds in the shallow parts of our pleasant river,
and swarms with yellow butterflies in continual motion. Art cannot rival this
pomp of purple and gold. Indeed the river is a perpetual gala, and boasts each
month a new ornament.

But this beauty of Nature which is seen and felt as beauty, is the least
part. The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in
blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still water, and the like, if too eagerly
hunted, become shows merely, and mock us with their unreality. Go out of the
house to see the moon, and ‘t is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its
light shines upon your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow
afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? Go forth to find it, and it is
gone: ‘t is only a mirage as you look from the windows of diligence.

2. The presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual element is essential to
its perfection. The high and divine beauty which can be loved without
effeminacy, is that which is found in combination with the human will. Beauty is
the mark God sets upon virtue.
Every natural action is graceful. Every heroic
act is also decent, and causes the place and the bystanders to shine. We are
taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in
it. Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate. It is his,
if he will. He may divest himself of it; he may creep into a corner, and
abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his
constitution. In proportion to the energy of his thought and will, he takes up
the world into himself. "All those things for which men plough, build, or sail,
obey virtue;" said Sallust." The winds and waves," said Gibbon,"are always on
the side of the ablest navigators." So are the sun and moon and all the stars of
heaven. When a noble act is done, -- perchance in a scene of great natural
beauty; when Leonidas and his three hundred martyrs consume one day in dying,
and the sun and moon come each and look at them once in the steep defile of
Thermopylae; when Arnold Winkelried, in the high Alps, under the shadow of the
avalanche, gathers in his side a sheaf of Austrian spears to break the line for
his comrades; are not these heroes entitled to add the beauty of the scene to
the beauty of the deed? When the bark of Columbus nears the shore of America; --
before it, the beach lined with savages, fleeing out of all their huts of cane;
the sea behind; and the purple mountains of the Indian Archipelago around, can
we separate the man from the living picture? Does not the New World clothe his
form with her palm-groves and savannahs as fit drapery? Ever does natural beauty
steal in like air, and envelope great actions.
When Sir Harry Vane was dragged
up the Tower-hill, sitting on a sled, to suffer death, as the champion of the
English laws, one of the multitude cried out to him,"You never sate on so
glorious a seat."
Charles II., to intimidate the citizens of London, caused the
patriot Lord Russel to be drawn in an open coach, through the principal streets
of the city, on his way to the scaffold. "But," his biographer says,"the
multitude imagined they saw liberty and virtue sitting by his side." In private
places, among sordid objects, an act of truth or heroism seems at once to draw
to itself the sky as its temple, the sun as its candle. Nature stretcheth out
her arms to embrace man, only let his thoughts be of equal greatness. Willingly
does she follow his steps with the rose and the violet, and bend her lines of
grandeur and grace to the decoration of her darling child. Only let his thoughts
be of equal scope, and the frame will suit the picture. A virtuous man is in
unison with her works, and makes the central figure of the visible sphere.

Homer, Pindar, Socrates, Phocion, associate themselves fitly in our memory with
the geography and climate of Greece. The visible heavens and earth sympathize
with Jesus. And in common life, whosoever has seen a person of powerful
character and happy genius, will have remarked how easily he took all things
along with him,
-- the persons, the opinions, and the day, and nature became
ancillary to a man.

3. There is still another aspect under which the beauty of the world may be
viewed, namely, as it becomes an object of the intellect. Beside the relation
of things to virtue, they have a relation to thought. The intellect searches out
the absolute order of things as they stand in the mind of God, and without the
colors of affection.
The intellectual and the active powers seem to succeed each
other, and the exclusive activity of the one, generates the exclusive activity
of the other. There is something unfriendly in each to the other, but they are
like the alternate periods of feeding and working in animals; each prepares and
will be followed by the other. Therefore does beauty, which, in relation to
actions, as we have seen, comes unsought, and comes because it is unsought,
remain for the apprehension and pursuit of the intellect; and then again, in its
turn, of the active power.
Nothing divine dies. All good is eternally
reproductive. The beauty of nature reforms itself in the mind, and not for
barren contemplation, but for new creation.

All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even
to delight. This love of beauty is Taste. Others have the same love in such
excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms.
The creation of beauty is Art.

The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity.
A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or
expression of nature, in miniature. For, although the works of nature are
innumerable and all different, the result or the expression of them all is
similar and single.
Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A
leaf, a sun-beam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the
mind. What is common to them all, -- that perfectness and harmony, is beauty.
The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, -- the totality
of nature; which the Italians expressed by defining beauty "il piu nell' uno."
Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A
single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The
poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to
concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several
work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art,
a nature passed through the alembic of man.
Thus in art, does nature work
through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.

The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty. This
element I call an ultimate end. No reason can be asked or given why the soul
seeks beauty. Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expression
for the universe. God is the all-fair. Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but
different faces of the same All.
But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the
herald of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a solid and satisfactory
good. It must stand as a part, and not as yet the last or highest expression of
the final cause of Nature.

Chapter 4. Language

Language is a third use which Nature subserves to man. Nature is the vehicle,
and threefold degree.

1. Words are signs of natural facts.

2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.

3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.

1. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us
aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language
for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to
express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be
borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means
twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line;
supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say the heart to express emotion,
the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from
sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature.
Most of the process
by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when
language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children.
Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into
verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.

2. But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import,--so conspic-
uous a fact in the history of language,--is our least debt to nature. It is
not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic.
Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.
Every appearance in
nature corresponds to some state of the mind,
and that state of the mind can
only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An
enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned
man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to
us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for
knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love.
Visible distance behind and before
us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux
of all things? Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate
themselves are the beautiful type of all influence.
Man is conscious of a
universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament,
the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal
soul, he calls Reason:
it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are
its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the
sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason.
That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to
nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And
man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER.

It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these
analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade nature. These are not the
dreams of a few poets, here and there, but
man is an analogist, and studies
relations in all objects. He is placed in the centre of beings, and a ray of
relation passes from every other being to him. And neither can man be understood
without these objects, nor these objects without man. All the facts in natural
history taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren, like a single sex.
But marry it to human history, and it is full of life. Whole Floras, all
Linnaeus' and Buffon's volumes, are dry catalogues of facts; but the most
trivial of these facts, the habit of a plant, the organs, or work, or noise of
an insect, applied to the illustration of a fact in intellectual philosophy, or,
in any way associated to human nature, affects us in the most lively and
agreeable manner. The seed of a plant,--to what affecting analogies in the
nature of man, is that little fruit made use of, in all discourse, up to the
voice of Paul, who calls the human corpse a seed,--"It is sown a natural body;
it is raised a spiritual body."
The motion of the earth round its axis, and
round the sun, makes the day, and the year.
These are certain amounts of brute
light and heat. But is there no intent of an analogy between man's life and the
seasons? And do the seasons gain no grandeur or pathos from that analogy? The
instincts of the ant are very unimportant, considered as the ant's; but the
moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge
is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits,
even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime.

Because of this radical correspondence between visible things and human
thoughts, savages, who have only what is necessary, converse in figures. As we
go back in history, language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when
it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols. The
same symbols are found to make the original elements of all languages. It has
moreover been observed, that the idioms of all languages approach each other in
passages of the greatest eloquence and power.
And as this is the first language,
so is it the last. This immediate dependence of language upon nature, this
conversion of an outward phenomenon into a type of somewhat in human life,
never loses its power to affect us. It is this which gives that piquancy to the
conversation of a strong-natured farmer or back-woodsman, which all men relish.

A man's power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter
it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth,
and his desire to communicate it without loss.
The corruption of man is followed
by the corruption of language.
When simplicity of character and the sovereignty
of ideas is broken up by the prevalence of secondary desires, the desire of
riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise,--and duplicity and falsehood
take place of simplicity and truth,
the power over nature as an interpreter of
the will, is in a degree lost; new imagery ceases to be created,
and old words
are perverted to stand for things which are not; a paper currency is employed,
when there is no bullion in the vaults. In due time, the fraud is manifest, and
words lose all power to stimulate the understanding or the affections. Hundreds
of writers may be found in every long-civilized nation, who for a short time
believe, and make others believe, that they see and utter truths,
who do not of
themselves clothe one thought in its natural garment, but who feed unconsciously
on the language created by the primary writers of the country, those, namely,
who hold primarily on nature.

But wise men pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible
things; so that picturesque language is at once a commanding certificate that he
who employs it, is a man in alliance with truth and God. The moment our
discourse rises above the ground line of familiar facts, and is inflamed with
passion or exalted by thought, it clothes itself in images. A man conversing in
earnest, if he watch his intellectual processes, will find that a material
image, more or less luminous, arises in his mind, cotemporaneous with every
thought, which furnishes the vestment of the thought. Hence, good writing and
brilliant discourse are perpetual allegories.
This imagery is spontaneous. It is
the blending of experience with the present action of the mind.
It is proper
creation. It is the working of the Original Cause through the instruments he has
already made.

These facts may suggest the advantage which the country-life possesses for a
powerful mind, over the artificial and curtailed life of cities.
We know more
from nature than we can at will communicate. Its light flows into the mind
evermore, and we forget its presence.
The poet, the orator, bred in the woods,
whose senses have been nourished by their fair and appeasing changes, year after
year, without design and without heed,--shall not lose their lesson
altogether, in the roar of cities or the broil of politics. Long hereafter,
amidst agitation and terror in national councils,--in the hour of revolution,
--these solemn images shall reappear in their morning lustre, as fit symbols
and words of the thoughts which the passing events shall awaken. At the call of
a noble sentiment, again the woods wave, the pines murmur, the river rolls and
and the cattle low upon the mountains, as he saw and heard them in his
infancy. And with these forms, the spells of persuasion, the keys of power are
put into his hands.

3. We are thus assisted by natural objects in the expression of particular
meanings. But how great a language to convey such pepper-corn informations! Did
it need such noble races of creatures, this profusion of forms, this host of
orbs in heaven, to furnish man with the dictionary and grammar of his municipal
Whilst we use this grand cipher to expedite the affairs of our pot and
kettle, we feel that we have not yet put it to its use, neither are able.
We are
like travellers using the cinders of a volcano to roast their eggs. Whilst we
see that it always stands ready to clothe what we would say, we cannot avoid the
question, whether the characters are not significant of themselves.
mountains, and waves, and skies, no significance but what we consciously give
them, when we employ them as emblems of our thoughts?
The world is emblematic.
Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole of nature is a metaphor of the
human mind. The laws of moral nature answer to those of matter as face to face
in a glass. "The visible world and the relation of its parts, is the dial plate
of the invisible."
The axioms of physics translate the laws of ethics. Thus,
"the whole is greater than its part;" "reaction is equal to action;" "the
smallest weight may be made to lift the greatest, the difference of weight being
compensated by time;" and many the like propositions, which have an ethical as
well as physical sense.
These propositions have a much more extensive and
universal sense when applied to human life, than when confined to technical use.

In like manner, the memorable words of history, and the proverbs of nations,
consist usually of a natural fact, selected as a picture or parable of a moral
Thus; A rolling stone gathers no moss; A bird in the hand is worth two in
the bush; A cripple in the right way, will beat a racer in the wrong; Make hay
while the sun shines; ‘T is hard to carry a full cup even; Vinegar is the son of
wine; The last ounce broke the camel's back; Long-lived trees make roots first;
--and the like. In their primary sense these are trivial facts, but we repeat
them for the value of their analogical import. What is true of proverbs, is true
of all fables, parables, and allegories.

This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but
stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men.
It appears to
men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the
wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf;

           -----"Can these things be,
           And overcome us like a summer's cloud,
           Without our special wonder?"

for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its
own, shines through it.
It is the standing problem which has exercised the
wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of
the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of
Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to
age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle.
seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day
and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, preexist in nec-
essary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding
affections, in the world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit.
The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible
"Material objects," said a French philosopher, "are necessarily kinds of
1 of the substantial thoughts of the Creator, which must always preserve
an exact relation to their first origin; in other words, visible nature must
have a spiritual and moral side."

This doctrine is abstruse, and though the images of "garment," "scoriae,"
"mirror," &c., may stimulate the fancy, we must summon the aid of subtler
and more vital expositors to make it plain. "Every scripture is to be
interpreted by the same spirit which gave it forth,"--is the fundamental law
of criticism.
A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and of virtue,
will purge the eyes to understand her text. By degrees we may come to know the
primitive sense of the permanent objects of nature, so that the world shall be
to us an open book, and every form significant of its hidden life and final

A new interest surprises us, whilst, under the view now suggested, we
contemplate the fearful extent and multitude of objects; since "every object
rightly seen, unlocks a new faculty of the soul." That which was unconscious
truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain
of knowledge,--a new weapon in the magazine of power.

Chapter 5. Discipline

In view of the significance of nature, we arrive at once at a new This use of
the world includes the preceding uses, as parts of itself.

Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals, the
mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day by day, whose meaning is
unlimited. They educate both the Understanding and the Reason.
Every proper-
ty of matter is a school for the understanding, --its solidity or resistance, its
inertia, its extension, its figure, its divisibility. The understanding adds, div-
ides, combines, measures, and finds nutriment and room for its activity in
this worthy scene. Meantime, Reason transfers all these lessons into its own
world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind.

1. Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths. Our
dealing with sensible objects is a constant exercise in the necessary lessons
of difference, of likeness, of order, of being and seeming, of progressive ar-
rangement; of ascent from particular to general; of combination to one end of
manifold forces.
Proportioned to the importance of the organ to be formed, is
the extreme care with which its tuition is provided, --a care pretermitted in
no single case.
What tedious training, day after day, year after year, never
ending, to form the common sense; what continual reproduction of annoyances,
inconveniences, dilemmas; what rejoicing over us of little men; what disputing
of prices, what reckonings of interest, --and all to form the Hand of the mind;
--to instruct us that "good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless
they be executed!"

The same good office is performed by Property and its filial systems of debt
and credit. Debt, grinding debt, whose iron face the widow, the orphan, and the
sons of genius fear and hate; --debt, which consumes so much time, which so
cripples and disheartens a great spirit with cares that seem so base, is a
preceptor whose lessons cannot be forgone,
and is needed most by those who
suffer from it most.
Moreover, property, which has been well compared to snow,
--"if it fall level to-day, it will be blown into drifts to-morrow," --is the
surface action of internal machinery, like the index on the face of a clock.
Whilst now it is the gymnastics of the understanding, it is hiving in the
foresight of the spirit, experience in profounder laws.

The whole character and fortune of the individual are affected by the least
inequalities in the culture of the understanding; for example, in the perception
of differences.
Therefore is Space, and therefore Time, that man may know that
things are not huddled and lumped, but sundered and individual. A bell and a
plough have each their use, and neither can do the office of the other. Water is
good to drink, coal to burn, wool to wear; but wool cannot be drunk, nor water
spun, nor coal eaten. The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation,
and his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature.
The foolish have
no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man.
What is
not good they call the worst, and what is not hateful, they call the best.

In like manner, what good heed, nature forms in us! She pardons no mistakes.
Her yea is yea, and her nay, nay.

The first steps in Agriculture, Astronomy, Zoology, (those first steps which
the farmer, the hunter, and the sailor take,) teach that nature's dice are
always loaded; that in her heaps and rubbish are concealed sure and useful

How calmly and genially the mind apprehends one after another the laws of
physics! What noble emotions dilate the mortal as he enters into the counsels of
the creation, and feels by knowledge the privilege to BE! His insight refines
him. The beauty of nature shines in his own breast. Man is greater that he can
see this, and the universe less, because Time and Space relations vanish as laws
are known.

Here again we are impressed and even daunted by the immense Universe to be
explored. "What we know, is a point to what we do not know."
Open any recent
journal of science, and weigh the problems suggested concerning Light, Heat,
Electricity, Magnetism, Physiology, Geology, and judge whether the interest of
natural science is likely to be soon exhausted.

Passing by many particulars of the discipline of nature, we must not omit to
specify two.

The exercise of the Will or the lesson of power is taught in every event.
From the child's successive possession of his several senses up to the hour
when he saith, "Thy will be done!" he is learning the secret, that
he can re-
duce under his will, not only particular events, but great classes, nay the
whole series of events, and so conform all facts to his character. Nature is
thoroughly mediate. It is made to serve. It receives the dominion of man as
meekly as the ass on which the Saviour rode. It offers all its kingdoms to man
as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful. Man is never weary
of working it up. He forges the subtile and delicate air into wise and melodious
words, and gives them wing as angels of persuasion and command. One after
another, his victorious thought comes up with and reduces all things, until the
world becomes, at last, only a realized will, --the double of the man.

2. Sensible objects conform to the premonitions of Reason and reflect the
conscience. All things are moral; and in their boundless changes have an
unceasing reference to spiritual nature.
Therefore is nature glorious with form,
color, and motion, that every globe in the remotest heaven; every chemical
change from the rudest crystal up to the laws of life; every change of
vegetation from the first principle of growth in the eye of a leaf, to the
tropical forest and antediluvian coal-mine; every animal function from the
sponge up to Hercules, shall hint or thunder to man the laws of right and wrong,
and echo the Ten Commandments. Therefore is nature ever the ally of Religion:
lends all her pomp and riches to the religious sentiment. Prophet and priest,
David, Isaiah, Jesus, have drawn deeply from this source. This ethical character
so penetrates the bone and marrow of nature, as to seem the end for which it was
Whatever private purpose is answered by any member or part, this is its
public and universal function, and is never omitted. Nothing in nature is ex-
hausted in its first use. When a thing has served an end to the uttermost, it
is wholly new for an ulterior service. In God, every end is converted into a new
means. Thus the use of commodity, regarded by itself, is mean and squalid. But
it is to the mind an education in the doctrine of Use, namely, that a thing is
good only so far as it serves; that a conspiring of parts and efforts to the
production of an end, is essential to any being. The first and gross manifes-
tation of this truth, is our inevitable and hated training in values and wants,
in corn and meat.

It has already been illustrated, that every natural process is a version of a
moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the
circumference. It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and
every process. All things with which we deal, preach to us.
What is a farm but a
mute gospel? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects,
sun, --it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack
which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields.
But the sailor, the shepherd,
the miner, the merchant, in their several resorts, have each an experience
precisely parallel, and leading to the same conclusion: because all organizations
are radically alike. Nor can it be doubted that
this moral sentiment which thus
scents the air, grows in the grain, and impregnates the waters of the world, is
caught by man and sinks into his soul. The moral influence of nature upon e-
very individual is that amount of truth which it illustrates to him. Who can es-
timate this? Who can guess how much firmness the sea-beaten rock has taught
the fisherman? how much tranquillity has been reflected to man from the azure
sky, over whose unspotted deeps the winds forevermore drive flocks of stormy
clouds, and leave no wrinkle or stain? how much industry and providence and
affection we have caught from the pantomime of brutes? What a searching pre-
acher of self-command is the varying phenomenon of Health!

Herein is especially apprehended the unity of Nature, --the unity in variety,
--which meets us everywhere. All the endless variety of things make an
identical impression. Xenophanes complained in his old age, that,
look where he
would, all things hastened back to Unity. He was weary of seeing the same entity
in the tedious variety of forms. The fable of Proteus has a cordial truth. A
leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes
of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully
renders the likeness of the world.

Not only resemblances exist in things whose analogy is obvious, as when we
detect the type of the human hand in the flipper of the fossil saurus, but also
in objects wherein there is great superficial unlikeness.
Thus architecture is
called "frozen music," by De Stael and Goethe. Vitruvius thought an architect
should be a musician. "A Gothic church," said Coleridge, "is a petrified
religion." Michael Angelo maintained, that, to an architect, a knowledge of
anatomy is essential. In Haydn's oratorios, the notes present to the imagination
not only motions, as, of the snake, the stag, and the elephant, but colors also;
as the green grass. The law of harmonic sounds reappears in the harmonic colors.
The granite is differenced in its laws only by the more or less of heat, from
the river that wears it away. The river, as it flows, resembles the air that
flows over it; the air resembles the light which traverses it with more subtile
currents; the light resembles the heat which rides with it through Space.
creature is only a modification of the other; the likeness in them is more than
the difference,
and their radical law is one and the same. A rule of one art, or
a law of one organization, holds true throughout nature. So intimate is this
Unity, that, it is easily seen, it lies under the undermost garment of nature,
and betrays its source in Universal Spirit. For, it pervades Thought also. Every
universal truth which we express in words, implies or supposes every other
. Omne verum vero consonat. It is like a great circle on a sphere,
comprising all possible circles; which, however, may be drawn, and comprise it,
in like manner. Every such truth is the absolute Ens seen from one side. But it
has innumerable sides.

The central Unity is still more conspicuous in actions. Words are finite
organs of the infinite mind. They cannot cover the dimensions of what is in
truth. They break, chop, and impoverish it. An action is the perfection and
publication of thought.
A right action seems to fill the eye, and to be related
to all nature. "The wise man, in doing one thing, does all; or, in the one thing
he does rightly, he sees the likeness of all which is done rightly."

Words and actions are not the attributes of brute nature. They introduce us
to the human form, of which all other organizations appear to be degradations.
When this appears among so many that surround it, the spirit prefers it to all
others. It says, `From such as this, have I drawn joy and knowledge; in such as
this, have I found and beheld myself; I will speak to it; it can speak again; it
can yield me thought already formed and alive.' In fact, the eye, --the mind,
--is always accompanied by these forms, male and female; and these are
incomparably the richest informations of the power and order that lie at the
heart of things. Unfortunately, every one of them bears the marks as of some
injury; is marred and superficially defective. Nevertheless, far different from
the deaf and dumb nature around them, these all rest like fountain-pipes on the
unfathomed sea of thought and virtue whereto they alone, of all organizations,
are the entrances.

It were a pleasant inquiry to follow into detail their ministry to our
education, but where would it stop? We are associated in adolescent and adult
life with some
friends, who, like skies and waters, are coextensive with our
idea; who, answering each to a certain affection of the soul, satisfy our desire
on that side; whom we lack power to put at such focal distance from us, that we
can mend or even analyze them. We cannot choose but love them. When much
intercourse with a friend has supplied us with a standard of excellence, and has
increased our respect for the resources of God who thus sends a real person to
outgo our ideal; when he has, moreover, become an object of thought, and, whilst
his character retains all its unconscious effect, is converted in the mind into
solid and sweet wisdom,
--it is a sign to us that his office is closing, and he
is commonly withdrawn from our sight in a short time.

Chapter 6. Idealism

Thus is the unspeakable but intelligible and practicable meaning of the
world conveyed to man, the immortal pupil, in every object of sense.
this one end of Discipline, all parts of nature conspire.

A noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, whether this end be not the
Final Cause of the Universe; and whether nature outwardly exists.
It is
a sufficient account of that Appearance we call the World, that God will
teach a human mind, and so makes it the receiver of a certain number of
congruent sensations, which we call sun and moon, man and woman, house
and trade. In my utter impotence to test the authenticity of the report
of my senses, to know whether the impressions they make on me correspond
with outlying objects, what difference does it make, whether Orion is up
there in heaven, or some god paints the image in the firmament of the soul?
The relations of parts and the end of the whole remaining the same, what
is the difference, whether land and sea interact, and worlds revolve and
intermingle without number or end,--deep yawning under deep, and galaxy
balancing galaxy, throughout absolute space,--or, whether, without rela-
tions of time and space, the same appearances are inscribed in the constant
faith of man? Whether nature enjoy a substantial existence without, or is
only in the apocalypse of the mind, it is alike useful and alike venerable
to me
. Be it what it may, it is ideal to me, so long as I cannot try the
accuracy of my senses.

The frivolous make themselves merry with the Ideal theory, if its conse-
quences were burlesque; as if it affected the stability of nature. It sure-
ly does not. God never jests with us, and will not compromise the end of
nature, by permitting any inconsequence in its procession.
Any distrust of
the permanence of laws, would paralyze the faculties of man. Their perma-
nence is sacredly respected, and his faith therein is perfect.
The wheels
and springs of man are all set to the hypothesis of the permanence of na-
ture. We are not built like a ship to be tossed, but like a house to stand.
It is a natural consequence of this structure, that, so long as the active
powers predominate over the reflective, we resist with indignation any hint
that nature is more short-lived or mutable than spirit.
The broker, the
wheelwright, the carpenter, the toll-man, are much displeased at the in-

But whilst we acquiesce entirely in the permanence of natural laws, the
question of the absolute existence of nature still remains open. It is the
uniform effect of culture on the human mind, not to shake our faith in the
stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote; but to lead
us to regard nature as a phenomenon, not a substance; to attribute neces-
sary existence to spirit; to esteem nature as an accident and an effect.

To the senses and the unrenewed understanding, belongs a sort of instinct-
ive belief in the absolute existence of nature. In their view, man and na-
ture are indissolubly joined. Things are ultimates, and they never look be-
yond their sphere. The presence of Reason mars this faith. The first effort
of thought tends to relax this despotism of the senses, which binds us to
nature as if we were a part of it, and shows us nature aloof, and, as it
were, afloat. Until this higher agency intervened, the animal eye sees,
with wonderful accuracy, sharp outlines and colored surfaces. When the eye
of Reason opens, to outline and surface are at once added, grace and expres-
sion. These proceed from imagination and affection, and abate somewhat of
the angular distinctness of objects. If the Reason be stimulated to more
earnest vision, outlines and surfaces become transparent, and are no longer
seen; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best moments of life
are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential
withdrawing of nature before its God.

Let us proceed to indicate the effects of culture. 1. Our first institution
in the Ideal philosophy is a hint from nature herself.

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.
Certain mechanical
changes, a small alteration in our local position apprizes us of a dualism.
We are strangely affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a
balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least change in our
point of view, gives the whole world a pictorial air. A man who seldom
rides, needs only to get into a coach and traverse his own town, to turn
the street into a puppet-show. The men, the women,--talking, running, bar-
tering, fighting,--the earnest mechanic, the lounger, the beggar, the boys,
the dogs, are unrealized at once, or, at least, wholly detached from all
relation to the observer, and seen as apparent, not substantial beings.
new thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quite familiar, in
the rapid movement of the rail-road car!
Nay, the most wonted objects, (make
a very slight change in the point of vision,) please us most. In a camera
obscura, the butcher's cart, and the figure of one of our own family amuse
us. So a portrait of a well-known face gratifies us. Turn the eyes upside
down, by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable is
the picture, though you have seen it any time these twenty years!

In these cases, by mechanical means, is suggested the difference between
the observer and the spectacle,--between man and nature. Hence arises a
pleasure mixed with awe; I may say, a low degree of the sublime is felt
from the fact, probably, that man is hereby apprized, that, whilst the
world is a spectacle, something in himself is stable.

2. In a higher manner, the poet communicates the same pleasure. By a few
strokes he delineates, as on air, the sun, the mountain, the camp, the
city, the hero, the maiden, not different from what we know them, but on-
ly lifted from the ground and afloat before the eye. He unfixes the land
and the sea, makes them revolve around the axis of his primary thought,
and disposes them anew. Possessed himself by a heroic passion, he uses
matter as symbols of it. The sensual man conforms thoughts to things; the
poet conforms things to his thoughts. The one esteems nature as rooted
and fast; the other, as fluid, and impresses his being thereon. To him,
the refractory world is ductile and flexible; he invests dust and stones
with humanity, and makes them the words of the Reason.
The Imagination
may be defined to be, the use which the Reason makes of the material
world. Shakspeare possesses the power of subordinating nature for the
purposes of expression, beyond all poets.
His imperial muse tosses the
creation like a bauble from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any ca-
price of thought that is upper-most in his mind. The remotest spaces of
nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together,
by a subtle spiritual connection.
We are made aware that magnitude of
material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve
the passion of the poet. Thus, in his sonnets, the lays of birds, the
scents and dyes of flowers, he finds to be the shadow of his beloved;
time, which keeps her from him, is his chest; the suspicion she has a-
wakened, is her ornament;

           The ornament of beauty is Suspect,
           A crow which flies in heaven's sweetest air.

His passion is not the fruit of chance; it swells, as he speaks, to a
city, or a state.

           No, it was builded far from accident;
           It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
           Under the brow of thralling discontent;
           It fears not policy, that heretic,
           That works on leases of short numbered hours,
           But all alone stands hugely politic.

In the strength of his constancy, the Pyramids seem to him recent and
transitory. The freshness of youth and love dazzles him with its resem-
blance to morning.

           Take those lips away
           Which so sweetly were forsworn;
           And those eyes,--the break of day,
           Lights that do mislead the morn.

The wild beauty of this hyperbole, I may say, in passing, it would not be
easy to match in literature.

This transfiguration which all material objects undergo through the pas-
sion of the poet,--this power which he exerts to dwarf the great, to mag-
nify the small,--might be illustrated by a thousand examples from his
Plays. I have before me the Tempest,
and will cite only these few lines.

           ARIEL. The strong based promontory
           Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up
           The pine and cedar.

Prospero calls for music to soothe the frantic Alonzo, and his companions;

           A solemn air, and the best comforter
           To an unsettled fancy, cure thy brains
           Now useless, boiled within thy skull.


                     The charm dissolves apace,
           And, as the morning steals upon the night,
           Melting the darkness, so their rising senses
           Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle
           Their clearer reason.
                      Their understanding
           Begins to swell: and the approaching tide
           Will shortly fill the reasonable shores
           That now lie foul and muddy.

The perception of real affinities between events, (that is to say, of ideal
affinities, for those only are real,) enables the poet thus to make free
with the most imposing forms and phenomena of the world, and to assert the
predominance of the soul.

3. Whilst thus the poet animates nature with his own thoughts, he differs
from the philosopher only herein, that the one proposes Beauty as his main
end; the other Truth.
But the philosopher, not less than the poet, postpones
the apparent order and relations of things to the empire of thought."The
problem of philosophy," according to Plato," is, for all that exists con-
ditionally, to find a ground unconditioned and absolute." It proceeds on
the faith that a law determines all phenomena, which being known, the phen-
omena can be predicted. That law, when in the mind, is an idea. Its beauty
is infinite. The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty,
which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both.
Is not the
charm of one of Plato's or Aristotle's definitions, strictly like that of
the Antigone of Sophocles? It is, in both cases, that a spiritual life has
been imparted to nature; that the solid seeming block of matter has been
pervaded and dissolved by a thought; that this feeble human being has pen-
etrated the vast masses of nature with an informing soul, and recognised
itself in their harmony, that is, seized their law. In physics, when this
is attained, the memory disburthens itself of its cumbrous catalogues of
particulars, and carries centuries of observation in a single formula.

Thus even in physics, the material is degraded before the spiritual. The
astronomer, the geometer, rely on their irrefragable analysis, and disdain
the results of observation.
The sublime remark of Euler on his law of
arches,"This will be found contrary to all experience, yet is true;"
had already transferred nature into the mind, and left matter like an
outcast corpse.

4. Intellectual science has been observed to beget invariably a doubt of
the existence of matter. Turgot said,"He that has never doubted the
existence of matter, may be assured he has no aptitude for metaphysical
It fastens the attention upon immortal necessary uncreated
natures, that is, upon Ideas; and in their presence, we feel that the
outward circumstance is a dream and a shade. Whilst we wait in this Olym-
pus of gods, we think of nature as an appendix to the soul.
We ascend
into their region, and know that these are the thoughts of the Supreme
These are they who were set up from everlasting, from the begin-
ning, or ever the earth was. When he prepared the heavens, they were
there; when he established the clouds above, when he strengthened the
fountains of the deep. Then they were by him, as one brought up with him.
Of them took he counsel."

Their influence is proportionate. As objects of science, they are acces-
sible to few men.
Yet all men are capable of being raised by piety or by
passion, into their region. And no man touches these divine natures, with-
out becoming, in some degree, himself divine. Like a new soul, they renew
the body. We become physically nimble and lightsome; we tread on air;
life is no longer irksome, and we think it will never be so. No man fears
age or misfortune or death, in their serene company, for he is transported
out of the district of change.
Whilst we behold unveiled the nature of
Justice and Truth, we learn the difference between the absolute and the
conditional or relative. We apprehend the absolute. As it were, for the
first time, we exist. We become immortal, for we learn that time and space
are relations of matter; that, with a perception of truth, or a virtuous
will, they have no affinity.

5. Finally, religion and ethics, which may be fitly called,--the practice
of ideas, or the introduction of ideas into life,--have an analogous ef-
fect with all lower culture, in degrading nature and suggesting its depen-
dence on spirit. Ethics and religion differ herein; that the one is the
system of human duties commencing from man; the other, from God
. Religion
includes the personality of God; Ethics does not. They are one to our pre-
sent design. They both put nature under foot. The first and last lesson of
religion is,"The things that are seen, are temporal; the things that are
unseen, are eternal."
It puts an affront upon nature. It does that for the
unschooled, which philosophy does for Berkeley and Viasa. The uniform lan-
guage that may be heard in the churches of the most ignorant sects, is,--
"Contemn the unsubstantial shows of the world; they are vanities, dreams,
shadows, unrealities; seek the realities of religion." The devotee flouts
nature. Some theosophists have arrived at a certain hostility and indigna-
tion towards matter, as the Manichean and Plotinus.
They distrusted in
themselves any looking back to these flesh-pots of Egypt. Plotinus was a-
shamed of his body. In short, they might all say of matter, what Michael
Angelo said of external beauty,"it is the frail and weary weed, in which
God dresses the soul, which he has called into time."

It appears that motion, poetry, physical and intellectual science, and re-
ligion, all tend to affect our convictions of the reality of the external
world. But I own
there is something ungrateful in expanding too curiously
the particulars of the general proposition, that all culture tends to imbue
us with idealism. I have no hostility to nature, but a child's love to it.
I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons. Let us speak her
fair. I do not wish to fling stones at my beautiful mother, nor soil my
gentle nest.
I only wish to indicate the true position of nature in regard
to man, wherein to establish man, all right education tends; as the ground
which to attain is the object of human life, that is, of man's connection
with nature. Culture inverts the vulgar views of nature, and brings the
mind to call that apparent, which it uses to call real, and that real,
which it uses to call visionary.
Children, it is true, believe in the ex-
ternal world. The belief that it appears only, is an afterthought, but with
culture, this faith will as surely arise on the mind as did the first.

The advantage of the ideal theory over the popular faith, is this, that it
presents the world in precisely that view which is most desirable to the
mind. It is, in fact, the view which Reason, both speculative and practical,
that is, philosophy and virtue, take. For, seen in the light of thought,
the world always is phenomenal; and virtue subordinates it to the mind.
Idealism sees the world in God.
It beholds the whole circle of persons and
things, of actions and events, of country and religion, not as painfully
accumulated, atom after atom, act after act, in an aged creeping Past, but
as one vast picture, which God paints on the instant eternity, for the con-
templation of the soul. Therefore the soul holds itself off from a too tri-
vial and microscopic study of the universal tablet. It respects the end too
much, to immerse itself in the means.
It sees something more important in
Christianity, than the scandals of ecclesiastical history, or the niceties
of criticism; and, very incurious concerning persons or miracles, and not
at all disturbed by chasms of historical evidence, it accepts from God the
phenomenon, as it finds it, as the pure and awful form of religion in the
world. It is not hot and passionate at the appearance of what it calls its
own good or bad fortune, at the union or opposition of other persons. No
man is its enemy. It accepts whatsoever befalls, as part of its lesson.
It is a watcher more than a doer, and it is a doer, only that it may the
better watch.

Chapter 7. Spirit

It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, that it should con-
tain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted or that may be, and facts
that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging
wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and
endless exercise. And all the uses of nature admit of being summed in one,
which yields the activity of man an infinite scope.
Through all its king-
doms, to the suburbs and outskirts of things, it is faithful to the cause
whence it had its origin. It always speaks of Spirit. It suggests the abso-
lute. It is a perpetual effect. It is a great shadow pointing always to the
sun behind us.

The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with
bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who
learns from nature the lesson of worship.

Of that ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that thinks most, will
say least.
We can foresee God in the coarse, and, as it were, distant phen-
omena of matter; but when we try to define and describe himself, both lan-
guage and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and savages.
That essence refuses to be recorded in propositions, but when man has wor-
shipped him intellectually, the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as
the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit
speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.

When we consider Spirit, we see that the views already presented do not in-
clude the whole circumference of man. We must add some related thoughts.

Three problems are put by nature to the mind; What is matter? Whence is it?
and Whereto? The first of these questions only, the ideal theory answers.
Idealism saith: matter is a phenomenon, not a substance. Idealism acquaints
us with the total disparity between the evidence of our own being, and the
evidence of the world's being. The one is perfect; the other, incapable of
any assurance; the mind is a part of the nature of things; the world is a
divine dream, from which we may presently awake to the glories and certain-
ties of day. Idealism is a hypothesis to account for nature by other prin-
ciples than those of carpentry and chemistry. Yet, if it only deny the ex-
istence of matter, it does not satisfy the demands of the spirit.
It leaves
God out of me. It leaves me in the splendid labyrinth of my perceptions, to
wander without end. Then the heart resists it, because it balks the affect-
ions in denying substantive being to men and women. Nature is so pervaded
with human life, that there is something of humanity in all, and in every
But this theory makes nature foreign to me, and does not account
for that consanguinity which we acknowledge to it.

Let it stand, then, in the present state of our knowledge, merely as a use-
ful introductory hypothesis, serving to apprize us of the eternal distinc-
tion between the soul and the world.

But when, following the invisible steps of thought, we come to inquire,
Whence is matter? and Whereto? many truths arise to us out of the recesses
of consciousness. We learn that the highest is present to the soul of man,
that the dread universal essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty,
or power, but all in one, and each entirely, is that for which all things
exist, and that by which they are; that spirit creates; that behind nature,
throughout nature, spirit is present; one and not compound, it does not act
upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or
through ourselves: therefore, that
spirit, that is, the Supreme Being,
does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us, as the
life of the tree puts forth new branches and leaves through the pores of
the old. As a plant upon the earth, so a man rests upon the bosom of God;
he is nourished by unfailing fountains, and draws, at his need, inexhaust-
ible power. Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man? Once inhale the
upper air, being admitted to behold the absolute natures of justice and
truth, and we learn that man has access to the entire mind of the Creator,
is himself the creator in the finite.
This view, which admonishes me where
the sources of wisdom and power lie, and points to virtue as to

                 "The golden key
           Which opes the palace of eternity,"

carries upon its face the highest certificate of truth, because it animates
me to create my own world through the purification of my soul.

The world proceeds from the same spirit as the body of man. It is a remoter
and inferior incarnation of God, a projection of God in the unconscious.
But it differs from the body in one important respect. It is not, like that,
now subjected to the human will. Its serene order is inviolable by us. It
is, therefore, to us, the present expositor of the divine mind. It is a
fixed point whereby we may measure our departure.
As we degenerate, the
contrast between us and our house is more evident. We are as much stran-
gers in nature, as we are aliens from God. We do not understand the notes
of birds. The fox and the deer run away from us; the bear and tiger rend us.
We do not know the uses of more than a few plants, as corn and the apple,
the potato and the vine. Is not the landscape, every glimpse of which hath
a grandeur, a face of him? Yet this may show us what discord is between man
and nature, for you cannot freely admire a noble landscape, if laborers are
digging in the field hard by. The poet finds something ridiculous in his de-
light, until he is out of the sight of men.

Chapter 7. Prospects

In inquiries respecting the laws of the world and the frame of things,
the highest reason is always the truest.
That which seems faintly
possible--it is so refined, is often faint and dim because it is
deepest seated in the mind among the eternal verities. Empirical
science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of
functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly
contemplation of the whole. The savant becomes unpoetic. But the best
read naturalist who lends an entire and devout attention to truth, will
see that there remains much to learn of his relation to the world, and
that it is not to be learned by any addition or subtraction or other
comparison of known quantities, but is arrived at by untaught sallies
of the spirit, by a continual self-recovery, and by entire humility.
will perceive that there are far more excellent qualities in the
student than preciseness and infallibility; that a guess is often more
fruitful than an indisputable affirmation, and that
a dream may let us
deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.

For, the problems to be solved are precisely those which the
physiologist and the naturalist omit to state. It is not so pertinent
to man to know all the individuals of the animal kingdom, as it is to
know whence and whereto is this tyrannizing unity in his constitution,
which evermore separates and classifies things, endeavoring to reduce
the most diverse to one form. When I behold a rich landscape, it is
less to my purpose to recite correctly the order and superposition of
the strata, than to know why all thought of multitude is lost in a
tranquil sense of unity. I cannot greatly honor minuteness in details,
so long as there is no hint to explain the relation between things and
thoughts; no ray upon the metaphysics of conchology,
2 of botany, of
the arts, to show the relation of the forms of flowers, shells,
animals, architecture, to the mind, and build science upon ideas. In a
cabinet of natural history, we become sensible of a certain occult
recognition and sympathy in regard to the most unwieldly and eccentric
forms of beast, fish, and insect.
The American who has been confined,
in his own country, to the sight of buildings designed after foreign
models, is surprised on entering York Minster or St. Peter's at Rome,
by the feeling that these structures are imitations also,--faint
copies of an invisible archetype.
Nor has science sufficient humanity,
so long as the naturalist overlooks that wonderful congruity which
subsists between man and the world; of which he is lord, not because he
is the most subtile inhabitant, but because he is its head and heart,
and finds something of himself in every great and small thing, in every
mountain stratum, in every new law of color, fact of astronomy, or
atmospheric influence which observation or analysis lay open
. A
perception of this mystery inspires the muse of George Herbert, the
beautiful psalmist of the seventeenth century. The following lines are
part of his little poem on Man.

"Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
And to all the world besides.
Each part may call the farthest, brother;
For head with foot hath private amity,
And both with moons and tides.

"Nothing hath got so far
But man hath caught and kept it as his prey;
His eyes dismount the highest star;
He is in little all the sphere.
Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they
Find their acquaintance there.

"For us, the winds do blow,
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow;
Nothing we see, but means our good,

As our delight, or as our treasure;
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.

"The stars have us to bed:
Night draws the curtain; which the sun withdraws.
Music and light attend our head.
All things unto our flesh are kind,
In their descent and being; to our mind,
In their ascent and cause.

"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of. In every path,
He treads down that which doth befriend him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him."

The perception of this class of truths makes the attraction which draws
men to science, but the end is lost sight of in attention to the means.
In view of this half-sight of science, we accept
the sentence of Plato,
that, "poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history." Every surmise
and vaticination of the mind is entitled to a certain respect, and we
learn to prefer imperfect theories, and sentences, which contain
glimpses of truth, to digested systems which have no one valuable
suggestion. A wise writer will feel that the ends of study and
composition are best answered by announcing undiscovered regions of
thought, and so communicating, through hope, new activity to the torpid

I shall therefore conclude this essay with some traditions of man and
nature, which a certain poet sang to me; and which, as they have always
been in the world, and perhaps reappear to every bard, may be both
history and prophecy.

`The foundations of man are not in matter, but in spirit. But the
element of spirit is eternity. To it, therefore, the longest series of
events, the oldest chronologies are young and recent. In the cycle of
the universal man, from whom the known individuals proceed, centuries
are points, and all history is but the epoch of one degradation.

`We distrust and deny inwardly our sympathy with nature. We own and
disown our relation to it, by turns.
We are, like Nebuchadnezzar,
dethroned, bereft of reason, and eating grass like an ox. But who can
set limits to the remedial force of spirit?

`A man is a god in ruins.
When men are innocent, life shall be longer,
and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.
Now, the world would be insane and rabid, if these disorganizations
should last for hundreds of years. It is kept in check by death and
infancy. Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of
fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise.

`Man is the dwarf of himself. Once he was permeated and dissolved by
spirit. He filled nature with his overflowing currents. Out from him
sprang the sun and moon; from man, the sun; from woman, the moon. The
laws of his mind, the periods of his actions externized themselves into
day and night, into the year and the seasons. But, having made for
himself this huge shell, his waters retired; he no longer fills the
veins and veinlets; he is shrunk to a drop. He sees, that the structure
still fits him, but fits him colossally. Say, rather, once it fitted
him, now it corresponds to him from far and on high.
He adores timidly
his own work. Now is man the follower of the sun, and woman the
follower of the moon. Yet sometimes he starts in his slumber, and
wonders at himself and his house, and muses strangely at the
resemblance betwixt him and it.
He perceives that if his law is still
paramount, if still he have elemental power, if his word is sterling
yet in nature, it is not conscious power, it is not inferior but
superior to his will. It is Instinct.'
Thus my Orphic poet sang.

At present, man applies to nature but half his force. He works on the
world with his understanding alone. He lives in it, and masters it by a
penny-wisdom; and he that works most in it, is but a half-man, and
whilst his arms are strong and his digestion good, his mind is
imbruted, and he is a selfish savage. His relation to nature, his power
over it, is through the understanding; as by manure; the economic use
of fire, wind, water, and the mariner's needle; steam, coal, chemical
agriculture; the repairs of the human body by the dentist and the
surgeon. This is such a resumption of power, as if a banished king
should buy his territories inch by inch, instead of vaulting at once
into his throne. Meantime, in the thick darkness, there are not wanting
gleams of a better light,--occasional examples of the action of man
upon nature with his entire force,--with reason as well as
understanding. Such examples are; the traditions of miracles in the
earliest antiquity of all nations; the history of Jesus Christ; the
achievements of a principle, as in religious and political revolutions,
and in the abolition of the Slave-trade; the miracles of enthusiasm, as
those reported of Swedenborg, Hohenlohe, and the Shakers; many obscure
and yet contested facts, now arranged under the name of Animal
Magnetism; prayer; eloquence; self-healing; and the wisdom of children.
These are examples of Reason's momentary grasp of the sceptre; the
exertions of a power which exists not in time or space, but an
instantaneous in-streaming causing power.
The difference between the
actual and the ideal force of man is happily figured by the schoolmen,
in saying, that the knowledge of man is an evening knowledge,
vespertina cognitio, but that of God is a morning knowledge,
matutina cognitio.

The problem of restoring to the world original and eternal beauty, is
solved by the redemption of the soul. The ruin or the blank, that we
see when we look at nature, is in our own eye. The axis of vision is
not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not
transparent but opake.
The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies
broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself. He
cannot be a naturalist, until he satisfies all the demands of the
spirit. Love is as much its demand, as perception. Indeed, neither can
be perfect without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words,
thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep.
in actual life, the marriage is not celebrated. There are innocent men
who worship God after the tradition of their fathers, but their sense
of duty has not yet extended to the use of all their faculties. And

there are patient naturalists, but they freeze their subject under the
wintry light of the understanding. Is not prayer also a study of truth,
--a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed
heartily, without learning something. But when a faithful thinker,
resolute to detach every object from personal relations, and see it in
the light of thought, shall, at the same time, kindle science with the
fire of the holiest affections, then will God go forth anew into the

It will not need, when the mind is prepared for study, to search for
objects. The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the
common. What is a day? What is a year? What is summer? What is woman?
What is a child? What is sleep? To our blindness, these things seem
unaffecting. We make fables to hide the baldness of the fact and
conform it, as we say, to the higher law of the mind. But when the fact
is seen under the light of an idea, the gaudy fable fades and shrivels.
We behold the real higher law. To the wise, therefore, a fact is true
poetry, and the most beautiful of fables.
These wonders are brought to
our own door. You also are a man. Man and woman, and their social life,
poverty, labor, sleep, fear, fortune,
are known to you. Learn that none
of these things is superficial, but that each phenomenon has its roots
in the faculties and affections of the mind.
Whilst the abstract
question occupies your intellect, nature brings it in the concrete to
be solved by your hands.
It were a wise inquiry for the closet, to
compare, point by point, especially at remarkable crises in life, our
daily history, with the rise and progress of ideas in the mind.

So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer
the endless inquiry of the intellect,--What is truth? and of the
affections,--What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated
Will. Then shall come to pass what my poet said;
`Nature is not fixed
but fluid. Spirit alters, moulds, makes it. The immobility or bruteness
of nature, is the absence of spirit; to pure spirit, it is fluid, it is
volatile, it is obedient. Every spirit builds itself a house; and
beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven.
Know then,
that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect. What
we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could,
you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven and earth;
called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler's trade; a
hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar's garret. Yet line for
line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though
without fine names.
Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you
conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its
great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the
influx of the spirit. So fast will disagreeable appearances, swine,
spiders, snakes, pests, madhouses, prisons, enemies, vanish; they are
temporary and shall be no more seen. The sordor and filths of nature,
the sun shall dry up, and the wind exhale. As when the summer comes
from the south; the snow-banks melt, and the face of the earth becomes
green before it, so shall the advancing spirit create its ornaments
along its path, and carry with it the beauty it visits, and the song
which enchants it; it shall draw beautiful faces, warm hearts, wise
discourse, and heroic acts, around its way, until evil is no more seen.

The kingdom of man over nature, which cometh not with observation,--a
dominion such as now is beyond his dream of God,--he shall enter
without more wonder than the blind man feels who is gradually restored
to perfect sight.

The American Scholar

An Orations delivered before the Phi Beta Kappy Society at
     Cambridge, August 31, 1837

Mr. President and Gentlemen,

I greet you on the re-commencement of our literary year. Our anniversary is
one of hope, and, perhaps, not enough of labor. We do not meet for games of
strength or skill, for the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like
the ancient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the Troubadours; nor
for the advancement of science, like our cotemporaries in the British and
European capitals.
Thus far, our holiday has been simply a friendly sign of the
survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any
more. As such, it is precious as the sign of an indestructible instinct. Perhaps
the time is already come, when it ought to be, and will be, something else; when
the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids, and
fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the
exertions of mechanical skill.
Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to
the learning of other lands, draws to a close.
The millions, that around us are
rushing into life, cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests.
Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can
doubt, that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the
constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall
one day be the pole-star for a thousand years?

In this hope, I accept the topic which not only usage, but the nature of our
association, seem to prescribe to this day,--the AMERICAN SCHOLAR. Year by
year, we come up hither to read one more chapter of his biography. Let us
inquire what light new days and events have thrown on his character, and his

It is one of those fables, which, out of an unknown antiquity, convey an
unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that
he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers,
the better to answer its end.

The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man,
--present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and
that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer,
or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and
statesman, and producer, and soldier.
In the divided or social state, these
functions are parcelled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of
the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies, that the
individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to
embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original unit, this
fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely
subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be
gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered
amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters,--a good
finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.

Man is thus metamorphosed into a thing, into many things. The planter, who is
Man sent out into the field to gather food, is seldom cheered by any idea of the
true dignity of his ministry. He sees his bushel and his cart, and nothing
beyond, and sinks into the farmer, instead of Man on the farm. The tradesman
scarcely ever gives an ideal worth to his work, but is
ridden by the routine of
his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars. The priest becomes a form; the
attorney, a statute-book; the mechanic, a machine; the sailor, a rope of a ship

In this distribution of functions, the scholar is the delegated intellect. In
the right state, he is, Man Thinking.
In the degenerate state, when the victim
of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of
other men's thinking.

In this view of him, as Man Thinking, the theory of his office is contained.
Him nature solicits with all her placid, all her monitory pictures; him the past
instructs; him the future invites. Is not, indeed, every man a student, and do
not all things exist for the student's behoof? And, finally, is not the true
scholar the only true master?
But the old oracle said, `All things have two
handles: beware of the wrong one.'
In life, too often, the scholar errs with
mankind and forfeits his privilege. Let us see him in his school, and consider
him in reference to the main influences he receives.

I. The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the
mind is that of nature. Every day, the sun; and, after sunset, night and her
stars. Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows. Every day, men and women,
conversing, beholding and beholden. The scholar is he of all men whom this
spectacle most engages. He must settle its value in his mind.
What is nature to
him? There is never a beginning, there is never an end, to the inexplicable
continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning into itself.
Therein it resembles his own spirit, whose beginning, whose ending, he never can
find,--so entire, so boundless.
Far, too, as her splendors shine, system on
system shooting like rays, upward, downward, without centre, without
in the mass and in the particle, nature hastens to render
account of herself to the mind. Classification begins. To the young mind, every
thing is individual, stands by itself. By and by, it finds how to join two
things, and see in them one nature; then three, then three thousand; and so,
tyrannized over by its own unifying instinct, it goes on tying things together,
diminishing anomalies, discovering roots running under ground, whereby contrary
and remote things cohere, and flower out from one stem. It presently learns,
that, since the dawn of history, there has been a constant accumulation and
classifying of facts. But what is classification but the perceiving that these
objects are not chaotic, and are not foreign, but have a law which is also a law
of the human mind? The astronomer discovers that geometry, a pure abstraction of
the human mind, is the measure of planetary motion. The chemist finds
proportions and intelligible method throughout matter; and science is nothing
but the finding of analogy, identity, in the most remote parts. The ambitious
soul sits down before each refractory fact; one after another, reduces all
strange constitutions, all new powers, to their class and their law, and goes on
for ever to animate the last fibre of organization, the outskirts of nature, by

Thus to him, to this school-boy under the bending dome of day, is suggested,
that he and it proceed from one root; one is leaf and one is flower; relation,
sympathy, stirring in every vein. And what is that Root? Is not that the soul of
his soul?--A thought too bold,--a dream too wild. Yet when this spiritual
light shall have revealed the law of more earthly natures,--when he has
learned to worship the soul, and to see that the natural philosophy that now is,
is only the first gropings of its gigantic hand, he shall look forward to an ever
expanding knowledge as to a becoming creator. He shall see, that nature is
the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part. One is seal, and one is
print. Its beauty is the beauty of his own mind.
Its laws are the laws of his own
mind. Nature then becomes to him the measure of his attainments.
So much of
nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess.
And, in fine, the ancient precept, "Know thyself," and the modern precept,
"Study nature," become at last one maxim.

II. The next great influence into the spirit of the scholar, is, the mind of
the Past,--in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, of institutions,
that mind is inscribed.
Books are the best type of the influence of the past,
and perhaps we shall get at the truth,--learn the amount of this influence
more conveniently,--by considering their value alone.

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him
the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind,
and uttered it again.
It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It
came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It
came to him, business; it went from him, poetry
. It was dead fact; now, it is
quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now
inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so
high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Or, I might say, it depends on how far the process had gone, of transmuting
life into truth. In proportion to the completeness of the distillation, so will
the purity and imperishableness of the product be.
But none is quite perfect. As
no air-pump can by any means make a perfect vacuum, so neither can any artist
entirely exclude the conventional, the local, the perishable from his book, or
write a book of pure thought,
that shall be as efficient, in all respects, to a
remote posterity, as to cotemporaries, or rather to the second age. Each age, it
is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next
succeeding. The books of an older period will not fit this.

Yet hence arises a grave mischief. The sacredness which attaches to the act
of creation,--the act of thought,--is transferred to the record.
The poet
chanting, was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The
writer was a just and wise spirit: henceforward it is settled, the book is
perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue. Instantly, the
book becomes noxious: the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted mind of
the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of Reason, having once so opened,
having once received this book, stands upon it, and makes an outcry, if it is
disparaged. Colleges are built on it.
Books are written on it by thinkers, not
by Man Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out from
accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles. Meek young men grow up
in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which
Locke, which Bacon, have given,
forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were
only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books.

Hence, instead of Man Thinking, we have the bookworm. Hence, the book-learned
class, who value books, as such; not as related to nature and the human
constitution, but as making a sort of Third Estate with the world and the soul.
Hence, the restorers of readings, the emendators, the bibliomaniacs of all

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the
right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect?
They are for
nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its
attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system.
The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul.
This every man is
entitled to; this every man contains within him, although, in almost all men,
obstructed, and as yet unborn. The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters
truth, or creates.
In this action, it is genius; not the privilege of here and
there a favorite, but the sound estate of every man. In its essence, it is
progressive. The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any
kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they,--let us
hold by this. They pin me down. They look backward and not forward. But genius
looks forward: the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead: man
hopes: genius creates.
Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure
efflux of the Deity is not his;--cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet
flame. There are creative manners, there are creative actions, and creative
words; manners, actions, words, that is, indicative of no custom or authority,
but springing spontaneous from the mind's own sense of good and fair.

On the other part, instead of being its own seer, let it receive from another
mind its truth, though it were in torrents of light, without periods of solitude,
inquest, and self-recovery, and a fatal disservice is done.
Genius is always
sufficiently the enemy of genius by over influence.
The literature of every
nation bear me witness. The English dramatic poets have Shakspearized now
for two hundred years.

Undoubtedly there is a right way of reading, so it be sternly subordinated.
Man Thinking must not be subdued by his instruments.
Books are for the scholar's
idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted
in other men's transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness
come, as come they must,--when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their
shining,--we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our
steps to the East again, where the dawn is.
We hear, that we may speak. The
Arabian proverb says, "A fig tree, looking on a fig tree, becometh fruitful."

It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive from the best
books. They impress us with the conviction, that one nature wrote and the same
We read the verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, of
Marvell, of Dryden, with the most modern joy,--with a pleasure, I mean, which
is in great part caused by the abstraction of all time from their verses.
is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in
some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to
my own soul, that which I also had wellnigh thought and said.
But for the
evidence thence afforded to the philosophical doctrine of the identity of all
minds, we should suppose some preestablished harmony, some foresight of souls
that were to be, and some preparation of stores for their future wants, like the
fact observed in insects, who lay up food before death for the young grub
shall never see.

I would not be hurried by any love of system, by any exaggeration of
instincts, to underrate the Book.
We all know, that, as the human body can be
nourished on any food, though it were boiled grass and the broth of shoes, so
the human mind can be fed by any knowledge.
And great and heroic men have
existed, who had almost no other information than by the printed page.
I only
would say, that it needs a strong head to bear that diet. One must be an
inventor to read well. As the proverb says, "He that would bring home the wealth
of the Indies, must carry out the wealth of the Indies." There is then creative
reading as well as creative writing.
When the mind is braced by labor and
invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold
allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is
as broad as the world. We then see, what is always true, that, as the seer's
hour of vision is short and rare among heavy days and months, so is its record,
perchance, the least part of his volume.
The discerning will read, in his Plato
or Shakspeare, only that least part,--only the authentic utterances of the
oracle;--all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato's and

Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man.
History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in like
manner, have their indispensable office,--to teach elements. But they can only
highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create;
when they gather
from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the
concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and
knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns,
and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never countervail the
least sentence or syllable of wit.
Forget this, and our American colleges will
recede in their public importance, whilst they grow richer every year.

III. There goes in the world a notion, that the scholar should be a recluse,
a valetudinarian,--as unfit for any handiwork or public labor, as a penknife
for an axe. The so-called `practical men' sneer at speculative men, as if,
because they speculate or see, they could do nothing.
I have heard it said
that the clergy,--who are always, more universally than any other class, the
scholars of their day,--are addressed as women; that the rough, spontaneous
conversation of men they do not hear, but only a mincing and diluted speech
They are often virtually disfranchised; and, indeed, there are advocates for
their celibacy. As far as this is true of the studious classes, it is not just
and wise. Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without
it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst
the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its
beauty. Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic
mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the
unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know, as I have
Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not.

The world,--this shadow of the soul, or other me, lies wide around. Its
attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with
myself. I run eagerly into this resounding tumult. I grasp the hands of those
next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an
instinct, that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech. I pierce its order;
I dissipate its fear; I dispose of it within the circuit of my expanding life.

So much only of life as I know by experience, so much of the wilderness have I
vanquished and planted, or so far have I extended my being, my dominion.
I do
not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare
any action in which he can partake. It is pearls and rubies to his discourse.
Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructers in eloquence and wisdom.
The true scholar grudges every opportunity of action past by, as a loss of

It is the raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid
products. A strange process too, this, by which experience is converted into
thought, as a mulberry leaf is converted into satin.
The manufacture goes
forward at all hours.

The actions and events of our childhood and youth, are now matters of calm-
est observation. They lie like fair pictures in the air. Not so with our recent
actions,--with the business which we now have in hand. On this we are quite
unable to speculate. Our affections as yet circulate through it. We no more
feel or know it, than we feel the feet, or the hand, or the brain of our body.

The new deed is yet a part of life,--remains for a time immersed in our un-
conscious life. In some contemplative hour, it detaches itself from the life
like a ripe fruit, to become a thought of the mind. Instantly, it is raised,
transfigured; the corruptible has put on incorruption. Henceforth it is an
object of beauty, however base its origin and neighborhood. Observe, too,
the impossibility of antedating this act. In its grub state, it cannot fly, it
cannot shine, it is a dull grub. But suddenly, without observation, the selfsame
thing unfurls beautiful wings, and is an angel of wisdom. So is there no fact,
no event, in our private history, which shall not, sooner or later, lose its
adhesive, inert form, and astonish us by soaring from our body into the
empyrean. Cradle and infancy, school and playground, the fear of boys, and dogs,
and ferules,
4 the love of little maids and berries, and many another fact that
once filled the whole sky, are gone already; friend and relative, profession and
party, town and country, nation and world, must also soar and sing.

Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the
richest return of wisdom. I will not shut myself out of this globe of action,
and transplant an oak into a flower-pot, there to hunger and pine; nor trust the
revenue of some single faculty, and exhaust one vein of thought, much like those
Savoyards, who, getting their livelihood by carving shepherds, shepherdesses,
and smoking Dutchmen, for all Europe, went out one day to the mountain to find
stock, and discovered that they had whittled up the last of their pine-trees.
Authors we have, in numbers, who have written out their vein, and who, moved by
a commendable prudence, sail for Greece or Palestine, follow the trapper into
the prairie, or ramble round Algiers, to replenish their merchantable stock.

If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action.
Life is our dictionary. Years are well spent in country labors; in town,--in
the insight into trades and manufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and
women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in all their facts a
language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions. I learn immediately
from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the
splendor of his speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get
tiles and copestones for the masonry of to-day. This is the way to learn
Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the
work-yard made.

But the final value of action, like that of books, and better than books, is,
that it is a resource. That great principle of Undulation in nature, that shows
itself in the inspiring and expiring of the breath; in desire and satiety; in
the ebb and flow of the sea; in day and night; in heat and cold; and as yet more
deeply ingrained in every atom and every fluid, is known to us under the name of
Polarity,--these "fits of easy transmission and reflection," as Newton called
them, are the law of nature because they are the law of spirit.

The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other. When the
artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when
thoughts are no longer apprehended, and books are a weariness,--he has always
the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the
function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great
soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or
medium to impart his truths? He can still fall back on this elemental force of
living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act. Let the grandeur of
justice shine in his affairs. Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof.

Those ‘far from fame,' who dwell and act with him, will feel the force of his
constitution in the doings and passages of the day better than it can be
measured by any public and designed display.
Time shall teach him, that the
scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of
his instinct, screened from influence. What is lost in seemliness is gained in
strength. Not out of those, on whom systems of education have exhausted their
culture, comes the helpful giant to destroy the old or to build the new, but out
of unhandselled savage nature, out of terrible Druids and Berserkirs, come at
last Alfred and Shakspeare.

I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and
necessity of labor to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the
spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands.
And labor is everywhere
welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a
man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the
popular judgments and modes of action.

I have now spoken of the education of the scholar by nature, by books, and by
action. It remains to say somewhat of his duties.

They are such as become Man Thinking. They may all be comprised in self-
trust. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by
showing them facts amidst appearances.
He plies the slow, unhonored, and un-
paid task of observation. Flamsteed and Herschel, in their glazed observatories,
may catalogue the stars with the praise of all men, and, the results being splen-
did and useful, honor is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing ob-
scure and nebulous stars of the human mind, which as yet no man has thought
of as such,
--watching days and months, sometimes, for a few facts; correcting
still his old records;--must relinquish display and immediate fame. In the
long period of his preparation, he must betray often an ignorance and
shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able who shoulder
him aside.
Long he must stammer in his speech; often forego the living for the
dead. Worse yet, he must accept,--how often! poverty and solitude. For the
ease and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the fashions, the
education, the religion of society, he takes the cross of making his own, and,
of course, the self-accusation, the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty and
loss of time, which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the
self-relying and self-directed;
and the state of virtual hostility in which he
seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society. For all this loss
and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest
functions of human nature. He is one, who raises himself from private
considerations, and
breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is
the world's eye. He is the world's heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity
that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic
sentiments, noble biographies, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history.
Whatsoever oracles the human heart, in all emergencies, in all solemn hours, has
uttered as its commentary on the world of actions,--these he shall receive and
And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on
the passing men and events of to-day,--this he shall hear and promulgate.

These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all confidence in himself,
and to defer never to the popular cry. He and he only knows the world.
The world
of any moment is the merest appearance. Some great decorum, some fetish of a
government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried up by half mankind
and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or
The odds are that the whole question is not worth the poorest thought
which the scholar has lost in listening to the controversy.
Let him not quit his
belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable of the earth
affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe
abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of
neglect, patient of reproach; and bide his own time,--happy enough, if he can
satisfy himself alone, that this day he has seen something truly.
Success treads
on every right step. For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his
brother what he thinks. He then learns, that in going down into the secrets of
his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds.
He learns that he
who has mastered any law in his private thoughts, is master to that extent of
all men whose language he speaks, and of all into whose language his own can be
translated. The poet, in utter solitude remembering his spontaneous thoughts and
recording them, is found to have recorded that, which men in crowded cities find
true for them also. The orator distrusts at first the fitness of his frank
confessions,--his want of knowledge of the persons he addresses,--
until he
finds that he is the complement of his hearers;--that they drink his words
because he fulfils for them their own nature; the deeper he dives into his
privatest, secretest presentiment, to his wonder he finds, this is the most
acceptable, most public, and universally true. The people delight in it; the
better part of every man feels, This is my music; this is myself.

In self-trust, all the virtues are comprehended. Free should the scholar be,
--free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, "
without any
hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution." Brave; for fear is a
thing, which a scholar by his very function puts behind him. Fear always springs
from ignorance. It is a shame to him if his tranquillity, amid dangerous times,
arise from the presumption, that, like children and women, his is a protected
class; or if he seek a temporary peace by the diversion of his thoughts from
politics or vexed questions, hiding his head like an ostrich in the flowering
bushes, peeping into microscopes, and turning rhymes, as a boy whistles to keep
his courage up.
So is the danger a danger still; so is the fear worse. Manlike
let him turn and face it. Let him look into its eye and search its nature,
inspect its origin,--see the whelping of this lion,
--which lies no great way
back; he will then find in himself a perfect comprehension of its nature and
extent; he will have made his hands meet on the other side, and can henceforth
defy it, and pass on superior. The world is his, who can see through its
pretension. What deafness, what stone-blind custom, what overgrown error you
behold, is there only by sufferance,--by your sufferance. See it to be a lie,
and you have already dealt it its mortal blow.

Yes, we are the cowed,--we the trustless. It is a mischievous notion that
we are come late into nature; that the world was finished a long time ago. As
the world was plastic and fluid in the hands of God, so it is ever to so much of
his attributes as we bring to it. To ignorance and sin, it is flint. They adapt
themselves to it as they may; but in proportion as a man has any thing in him
divine, the firmament flows before him and takes his signet and form. Not he is
great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind. They are the
kings of the world who give the color of their present thought to all nature and
all art, and persuade men by the cheerful serenity of their carrying the matter,
that this thing which they do, is the apple which the ages have desired to
pluck, now at last ripe, and inviting nations to the harvest.
The great man
makes the great thing. Wherever Macdonald sits, there is the head of the table.
Linnaeus makes botany the most alluring of studies, and wins it from the farmer
and the herb-woman; Davy, chemistry; and Cuvier, fossils.
The day is always his,
who works in it with serenity and great aims. The unstable estimates of men
crowd to him whose mind is filled with a truth, as the heaped waves of the
Atlantic follow the moon.

For this self-trust, the reason is deeper than can be fathomed,--darker
than can be enlightened. I might not carry with me the feeling of my audience
in stating my own belief. But I have already shown the ground of my hope, in
adverting to the doctrine that man is one. I believe man has been wronged; he
has wronged himself. He has almost lost the light, that can lead him back to his
prerogatives. Men are become of no account.
Men in history, men in the world
of to-day are bugs, are spawn, and are called `the mass' and `the herd.' In a
century, in a millennium, one or two men; that is to say,--one or two
approximations to the right state of every man. All the rest behold in the hero
or the poet their own green and crude being,--ripened; yes, and are content to
be less, so that may attain to its full stature. What a testimony,--full of
grandeur, full of pity, is borne to the demands of his own nature, by the poor
clansman, the poor partisan, who rejoices in the glory of his chief. The poor
and the low find some amends to their immense moral capacity, for their
acquiescence in a political and social inferiority. They are content to be
brushed like flies from the path of a great person, so that justice shall be
done by him to that common nature which it is the dearest desire of all to see
enlarged and glorified. They sun themselves in the great man's light, and feel
it to be their own element. They cast the dignity of man from their downtrod
selves upon the shoulders of a hero, and will perish to add one drop of blood to
make that great heart beat, those giant sinews combat and conquer.
He lives for
us, and we live in him.

Men such as they are, very naturally seek money or power; and power because
it is as good as money,--the "spoils," so called, "of office." And why not?
for they aspire to the highest, and this, in their sleep-walking, they dream is
highest. Wake them, and they shall quit the false good, and leap to the true,
and leave governments to clerks and desks. This revolution is to be wrought by
the gradual domestication of the idea of Culture. The main enterprise of the
world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of a man. Here are the
materials strown along the ground.
The private life of one man shall be a more
illustrious monarchy,--more formidable to its enemy, more sweet and serene in
its influence to its friend, than any kingdom in history.
For a man, rightly
viewed, comprehendeth the particular natures of all men. Each philosopher, each
bard, each actor, has only done for me, as by a delegate, what one day I can do
for myself. The books which once we valued more than the apple of the eye, we
have quite exhausted. What is that but saying, that we have come up with the
point of view which the universal mind took through the eyes of one scribe; we
have been that man, and have passed on. First, one; then, another;
we drain all
cisterns, and, waxing greater by all these supplies, we crave a better and more
abundant food. The man has never lived that can feed us ever. The human mind
cannot be enshrined in a person, who shall set a barrier on any one side to this
unbounded, unboundable empire. It is one central fire, which, flaming now out of
the lips of Etna, lightens the capes of Sicily; and, now out of the throat of
Vesuvius, illuminates the towers and vineyards of Naples. It is one light which
beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men.

But I have dwelt perhaps tediously upon this abstraction of the Scholar. I
ought not to delay longer to add what I have to say, of nearer reference to the
time and to this country.

Historically, there is thought to be a difference in the ideas which predo-
minate over successive epochs, and there are data for marking the genius of
the Classic, of the Romantic, and now of the Reflective or Philosophical age.
With the views I have intimated of the oneness or the identity of the mind
through all individuals, I do not much dwell on these differences. In fact, I
believe each individual passes through all three. The boy is a Greek; the youth,
romantic; the adult, reflective. I deny not, however, that a revolution in the
leading idea may be distinctly enough traced.

Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. Must that needs be evil? We,
it seems, are critical; we are embarrassed with second thoughts; we cannot enjoy
any thing for hankering to know whereof the pleasure consists;
we are lined with
eyes; we see with our feet; the time is infected with Hamlet's unhappiness,--

      "Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."

Is it so bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied. Would we be blind?
Do we fear lest we should outsee nature and God, and drink truth dry?
I look
upon the discontent of the literary class, as a mere announcement of the fact,
that they find themselves not in the state of mind of their fathers, and regret
the coming state as untried; as a boy dreads the water before he has learned
that he can swim. If there is any period one would desire to be born in,--is
it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and
admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and
by hope;
when the historic glories of the old, can be compensated by the rich
possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if
we but know what to do with it.

I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they
glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through
church and state.

One of these signs is the fact, that the same movement which effected the
elevation of what was called the lowest class in the state, assumed in
literature a very marked and as benign an aspect.
Instead of the sublime and
beautiful; the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized. That, which
had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and
provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found
to be richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of
the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the
topics of the time. It is a great stride. It is a sign,--is it not? of new vigor,
when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into
the hands and the feet.
I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what
is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I
embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give
me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What
would we really know the meaning of?
The meal in the firkin;5 the milk in the
pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the
form and the gait of the body;--show me the ultimate reason of these matters;
show me the sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always
it does lurk, in these suburbs and extremities of nature; let me see every
trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law;
and the shop, the plough, and the leger,
6 referred to the like cause by which
light undulates and poets sing;--and the world lies no longer a dull miscel-
lany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is
no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the
lowest trench.

This idea has inspired the genius of Goldsmith, Burns, Cowper, and, in a
newer time, of Goethe, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. This idea they have differently
followed and with various success.
In contrast with their writing, the style of
Pope, of Johnson, of Gibbon, looks cold and pedantic. This writing is
blood-warm. Man is surprised to find that things near are not less beautiful and
wondrous than things remote. The near explains the far. The drop is a small
ocean. A man is related to all nature.
This perception of the worth of the
vulgar is fruitful in discoveries. Goethe, in this very thing the most modern of
the moderns, has shown us, as none ever did, the genius of the ancients.

There is one man of genius, who has done much for this philosophy of life,
whose literary value has never yet been rightly estimated;--I mean Emanuel
Swedenborg. The most imaginative of men, yet writing with the precision of a
mathematician, he endeavored to engraft a purely philosophical Ethics on the
popular Christianity of his time. Such an attempt, of course, must have dif-
ficulty, which no genius could surmount. But he saw and showed the connection
between nature and the affections of the soul.
He pierced the emblematic or
spiritual character of the visible, audible, tangible world. Especially did his shade-
loving muse hover over and interpret the lower parts of nature; he showed
the mysterious bond that allies moral evil to the foul material forms, and has
given in epical parables a theory of isanity, of beasts, of unclean and fearful

Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous political movement,
is, the new importance given to the single person. Every thing that tends to
insulate the individual,--to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so
that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a
sovereign state with a sovereign state;--tends to true union as well as
greatness. "I learned," said the melancholy Pestalozzi, "that no man in God's
wide earth is either willing or able to help any other man." Help must come from
the bosom alone. The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the
ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the
future. He must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than
another, which should pierce his ear, it is, The world is nothing, the man is
all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of
sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know
all, it is for you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentlemen, this confidence in
the unsearched might of man belongs, by all motives, by all prophecy, by all
preparation, to the American Scholar.
We have listened too long to the courtly
muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be
timid, imitative, tame. Public and private avarice make the air we breathe thick
and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the tragic
consequence. The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon
itself. There is no work for any but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men
of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain
winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not in unison
with these,--but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles
on which business is managed inspire, and turn drudges, or die of disgust,--
some of them suicides.
What is the remedy? They did not yet see, and thousands
of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career, do not yet
see, that, if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and
there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience,--patience;--
with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace, the
perspective of your own infinite life; and for work, the study and the
communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the
conversion of the world.
Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be an
unit;--not to be reckoned one character;--not to yield that peculiar fruit
which each man was created to bear, but to be reckoned in the gross, in the
hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to which we belong; and our
opinion predicted geographically, as the north, or the south?
Not so, brothers
and friends,--please God, ours shall not be so. We will walk on our own feet;
we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.
The study of
letters shall be no longer a name for pity, for doubt, and for sensual
indulgence. The dread of man and the love of man shall be a wall of defence and
a wreath of joy around all.
A nation of men will for the first time exist,
because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires
all men.

The Divinity College Address

Delivered before the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Sunday
Evening, July 15, 1838

In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life.
The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the
tint of flowers. The air is full of birds, and sweet with the breath of the
pine, the balm-of-Gilead, and the new hay. Night brings no gloom to the heart
with its welcome shade. Through the transparent darkness the stars pour their
almost spiritual rays. Man under them seems a young child, and his huge globe a
toy. The cool night bathes the world as with a river, and prepares his eyes
again for the crimson dawn. The mystery of nature was never displayed more
happily. The corn and the wine have been freely dealt to all creatures, and the
never-broken silence with which the old bounty goes forward, has not yielded yet
one word of explanation. One is constrained to respect the perfection of this
world, in which our senses converse. How wide; how rich; what invitation from
every property it gives to every faculty of man! In its fruitful soils; in its
navigable sea; in its mountains of metal and stone; in its forests of all woods;
in its animals; in its chemical ingredients; in the powers and path of light,
heat, attraction, and life, it is well worth the pith and heart of great men to
subdue and enjoy it.
The planters, the mechanics, the inventors, the
astronomers, the builders of cities, and the captains, history delights to

But when the mind opens, and reveals the laws which traverse the universe,
and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere
illustration and fable of this mind. What am I? and What is? asks the human
spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched.
Behold these
outrunning laws, which our imperfect apprehension can see tend this way and
that, but not come full circle.
Behold these infinite relations, so like, so
unlike; many, yet one.
I would study, I would know, I would admire forever.
These works of thought have been the entertainments of the human spirit in all

A more secret, sweet, and overpowering beauty appears to man when his heart
and mind open to the sentiment of virtue. Then he is instructed in what is above
him. He learns that his being is without bound; that, to the good, to the
perfect, he is born, low as he now lies in evil and weakness. That which he
venerates is still his own, though he has not realized it yet. He ought. He
knows the sense of that grand word, though his analysis fails entirely to render
account of it.
When in innocency, or when by intellectual perception, he attains
to say,--`I love the Right; Truth is beautiful within and without,
forevermore. Virtue, I am thine: save me: use me: thee will I serve, day and
night, in great, in small, that I may be not virtuous, but virtue;'
--then is
the end of the creation answered, and God is well pleased.

The sentiment of virtue is a reverence and delight in the presence of certain
divine laws. It perceives that this homely game of life we play, covers, under
what seem foolish details, principles that astonish. The child amidst his
baubles, is learning the action of light, motion, gravity, muscular force; and
in the game of human life, love, fear, justice, appetite, man, and God,
interact. These laws refuse to be adequately stated. They will not be written
out on paper, or spoken by the tongue. They elude our persevering thought; yet
we read them hourly in each other's faces, in each other's actions, in our own
remorse. The moral traits which are all globed into every virtuous act and
thought,--in speech, we must sever, and describe or suggest by painful
enumeration of many particulars.
Yet, as this sentiment is the essence of all
religion, let me guide your eye to the precise objects of the sentiment,
by an
enumeration of some of those classes of facts in which this element is

The intuition of the moral sentiment is an insight of the perfection of the
laws of the soul. These laws execute themselves. They are out of time, out of
space, and not subject to circumstance.
Thus; in the soul of man there is a
justice whose retributions are instant and entire. He who does a good deed, is
instantly ennobled. He who does a mean deed, is by the action itself contracted.
He who puts off impurity, thereby puts on purity. If a man is at heart just,
then in so far is he God; the safety of God, the immortality of God, the majesty
of God do enter into that man with justice. If a man dissemble, deceive, he
deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own being.
A man in the
view of absolute goodness, adores, with total humility.
Every step so downward,
is a step upward. The man who renounces himself, comes to himself.

See how this rapid intrinsic energy worketh everywhere, righting wrongs,
correcting appearances, and bringing up facts to a harmony with thoughts. Its
operation in life, though slow to the senses, is, at last, as sure as in the
soul. By it, a man is made the Providence to himself, dispensing good to his
goodness, and evil to his sin. Character is always known.
Thefts never enrich;
alms never impoverish; murder will speak out of stone walls. The least admixture
of a lie,--for example, the taint of vanity, the least attempt to make a good
impression, a favorable appearance,--will instantly vitiate the effect. But
speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected
furtherance. Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and
the very roots of the grass underground there, do seem to stir and move to bear
you witness.
See again the perfection of the Law as it applies itself to the
affections, and becomes the law of society. As we are, so we associate. The
good, by affinity, seek the good; the vile, by affinity, the vile. Thus of their
own volition, souls proceed into heaven, into hell.

These facts have always suggested to man the sublime creed, that
the world is
not the product of manifold power, but of one will, of one mind; and that one
mind is everywhere active, in each ray of the star, in each wavelet of the pool;
and whatever opposes that will, is everywhere balked and baffled, because things
are made so, and not otherwise. Good is positive. Evil is merely privative, not
absolute: it is like cold, which is the privation of heat. All evil is so much
death or nonentity. Benevolence is absolute and real. So much benevolence as a
man hath, so much life hath he.
For all things proceed out of this same spirit,
which is differently named love, justice, temperance, in its different
applications, just as the ocean receives different names on the several shores
which it washes. All things proceed out of the same spirit, and all things
conspire with it. Whilst a man seeks good ends, he is strong by the whole
strength of nature. In so far as he roves from these ends, he bereaves himself
of power, of auxiliaries; his being shrinks out of all remote channels, he
becomes less and less, a mote, a point, until absolute badness is absolute

The perception of this law of laws awakens in the mind a sentiment which we
call the religious sentiment, and which makes our highest happiness. Wonderful
is its power to charm and to command. It is a mountain air. It is the embalmer
of the world. It is myrrh and storax,
7 and chlorine and rosemary. It makes the
sky and the hills sublime, and the silent song of the stars is it. By it, is the
universe made safe and habitable, not by science or power.
Thought may work cold
and intransitive in things, and find no end or unity; but the dawn of the
sentiment of virtue on the heart, gives and is the assurance that Law is
sovereign over all natures; and the worlds, time, space, eternity, do seem to
break out into joy.

This sentiment is divine and deifying. It is the beatitude of man. It makes
him illimitable. Through it, the soul first knows itself. It corrects the
capital mistake of the infant man, who seeks to be great by following the great,
and hopes to derive advantages from another,--by showing the fountain of all
good to be in himself, and that he, equally with every man, is an inlet into the
deeps of Reason. When he says, "I ought;" when love warms him; when he chooses,
warned from on high, the good and great deed; then, deep melodies wander through
his soul from Supreme Wisdom. Then he can worship, and be enlarged by his
worship; for he can never go behind this sentiment. In the sublimest flights of
the soul, rectitude is never surmounted, love is never outgrown.

This sentiment lies at the foundation of society, and successively creates
all forms of worship. The principle of veneration never dies out. Man fallen
into superstition, into sensuality, is never quite without the visions of the
moral sentiment.
In like manner, all the expressions of this sentiment are
sacred and permanent in proportion to their purity. The expressions of this
sentiment affect us more than all other compositions. The sentences of the
oldest time, which ejaculate this piety, are still fresh and fragrant. This
thought dwelled always deepest in the minds of men in the devout and
contemplative East; not alone in Palestine, where it reached its purest
expression, but in Egypt, in Persia, in India, in China. Europe has always owed
to oriental genius, its divine impulses. What these holy bards said, all sane
men found agreeable and true. And the unique impression of Jesus upon mankind,
whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of this world, is
proof of the subtle virtue of this infusion.

Meantime, whilst the doors of the temple stand open, night and day, before
every man, and the oracles of this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern
condition; this, namely; it is an intuition. It cannot be received at second
hand. Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive
from another soul. What he announces, I must find true in me, or wholly reject;
and on his word, or as his second, be he who he may, I can accept nothing. On
the contrary, the absence of this primary faith is the presence of degradation.

As is the flood so is the ebb. Let this faith depart, and the very words it
spake, and the things it made, become false and hurtful. Then falls the church,
the state, art, letters, life.
The doctrine of the divine nature being forgotten,
a sickness infects and dwarfs the constitution. Once man was all; now he is
an appendage, a nuisance. And because the indwelling Supreme Spirit cannot
wholly be got rid of, the doctrine of it suffers this perversion, that the
divine nature is attributed to one or two persons, and denied to all the rest,
and denied with fury. The doctrine of inspiration is lost; the base doctrine of
the majority of voices, usurps the place of the doctrine of the soul. Miracles,
prophecy, poetry; the ideal life, the holy life, exist as ancient history merely;
they are not in the belief, nor in the aspiration of society; but, when suggest-
ed, seem ridiculous. Life is comic or pitiful, as soon as the high ends of being
fade out of sight, and man becomes near-sighted, and can only attend to
what addresses the senses.

These general views, which, whilst they are general, none will contest, find
abundant illustration in the history of religion, and especially in the history
of the Christian church.
In that, all of us have had our birth and nurture. The
truth contained in that, you, my young friends, are now setting forth to teach.
As the Cultus, or established worship of the civilized world, it has great
historical interest for us. Of its blessed words, which have been the
consolation of humanity, you need not that I should speak. I shall endeavor to
discharge my duty to you, on this occasion, by pointing out two errors in its
administration, which daily appear more gross from the point of view we have
just now taken.

Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets. He saw with open eye the
mystery of the soul. Drawn by its severe harmony, ravished with its beauty, he
lived in it, and had his being there. Alone in all history, he estimated the
greatness of man. One man was true to what is in you and me. He saw that God
incarnates himself in man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of
his world. He said, in this jubilee of sublime emotion, `I am divine. Through
me, God acts; through me, speaks. Would you see God, see me; or, see thee, when
thou also thinkest as I now think.'
But what a distortion did his doctrine and
memory suffer in the same, in the next, and the following ages! There is no
doctrine of the Reason which will bear to be taught by the Understanding.
understanding caught this high chant from the poet's lips, and said, in the next
age, `This was Jehovah come down out of heaven. I will kill you, if you say he
was a man.' The idioms of his language, and the figures of his rhetoric, have
usurped the place of his truth; and churches are not built on his principles,
but on his tropes. Christianity became a Mythus, as the poetic teaching of
Greece and of Egypt, before. He spoke of miracles; for he felt that man's life
was a miracle, and all that man doth, and he knew that this daily miracle
shines, as the character ascends. But the word Miracle, as pronounced by
Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster. It is not one with
the blowing clover and the falling rain.

He felt respect for Moses and the prophets; but no unfit tenderness at
postponing their initial revelations, to the hour and the man that now is; to
the eternal revelation in the heart.
Thus was he a true man. Having seen that
the law in us is commanding, he would not suffer it to be commanded. Boldly,
with hand, and heart, and life, he declared it was God. Thus is he, as I think,
the only soul in history who has appreciated the worth of a man.

1. In this point of view we become very sensible of the first defect of
historical Christianity. Historical Christianity has fallen into the error that
corrupts all attempts to communicate religion. As it appears to us, and as it
has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration
of the personal, the positive, the ritual.
It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious
exaggeration about the person of Jesus. The soul knows no persons. It invites
every man to expand to the full circle of the universe, and will have no
preferences but those of spontaneous love. But by this eastern monarchy of a
Christianity, which indolence and fear have built, the friend of man is made the
injurer of man. The manner in which his name is surrounded with expressions,
which were once sallies of admiration and love, but are now petrified into
official titles, kills all generous sympathy and liking.
All who hear me, feel,
that the language that describes Christ to Europe and America, is not the style
of friendship and enthusiasm to a good and noble heart, but is appropriated and
formal,--paints a demigod, as the Orientals or the Greeks would describe
Osiris or Apollo.
Accept the injurious impositions of our early catachetical
instruction, and even honesty and self-denial were but splendid sins, if they
did not wear the Christian name. One would rather be

      `A pagan, suckled in a creed outworn,'

than to be defrauded of his manly right in coming into nature, and finding
not names and places, not land and professions, but even virtue and truth
foreclosed and monopolized. You shall not be a man even. You shall not own the
world; you shall not dare, and live after the infinite Law that is in you, and
in company with the infinite Beauty which heaven and earth reflect to you in all
lovely forms;
but you must subordinate your nature to Christ's nature; you must
accept our interpretations; and take his portrait as the vulgar draw it.

That is always best which gives me to myself. The sublime is excited in me by
the great stoical doctrine, Obey thyself.
That which shows God in me, fortifies
me. That which shows God out of me, makes me a wart and a wen.
8 There is no
longer a necessary reason for my being. Already the long shadows of untimely
oblivion creep over me, and I shall decease forever.

The divine bards are the friends of my virtue, of my intellect of my strength.
They admonish me, that the gleams which flash across my mind, are not
mine, but God's; that they had the like, and were not disobedient to the
heavenly vision. So I love them. Noble provocations go out from them, invit-
ing me to resist evil; to subdue the world; and to Be. And thus by his holy
thoughts, Jesus serves us, and thus only. To aim to convert a man by miracles,
is a profanation of the soul.
A true conversion, a true Christ, is now, as
always, to be made, by the reception of beautiful sentiments. It is true that a
great and rich soul, like his, falling among the simple, does so preponderate,
that, as his did, it names the world.
The world seems to them to exist for him,
and they have not yet drunk so deeply of his sense, as to see that only by
coming again to themselves, or to God in themselves, can they grow forevermore.
It is a low benefit to give me something; it is a high benefit to enable me to
do somewhat of myself. The time is coming when all men will see, that
the gift
of God to the soul is not a vaunting, overpowering, excluding sanctity, but a
sweet, natural goodness
, a goodness like thine and mine, and that so invites
thine and mine to be and to grow.

The injustice of the vulgar tone of preaching is not less flagrant to Jesus,
than to the souls which it profanes. The preachers do not see that they make his
gospel not glad, and shear him of the locks of beauty and the attributes of hea-
ven. When I see a majestic Epaminondas, or Washington;
when I see among my
contemporaries, a true orator, an upright judge, a dear friend; when I vibrate
to the melody and fancy of a poem; I see beauty that is to be desired. And so
lovely, and with yet more entire consent of my human being, sounds in my ear the
severe music of the bards that have sung of the true God in all ages. Now do not
degrade the life and dialogues of Christ out of the circle of this charm, by
insulation and peculiarity. Let them lie as they befel, alive and warm, part of
human life, and of the landscape, and of the cheerful day.

2. The second defect of the traditionary and limited way of using the mind of
Christ is a consequence of the first; this, namely; that the Moral Nature, that
Law of laws, whose revelations introduce greatness,--yea, God himself, into
the open soul, is not explored as the fountain of the established teaching in
society. Men have come to speak of the revelation as somewhat long ago given
and done, as if God were dead.
The injury to faith throttles the preacher; and
the goodliest of institutions becomes an uncertain and inarticulate voice.

It is very certain that it is the effect of conversation with the beauty of the
soul, to beget a desire and need to impart to others the same knowledge and
love. If utterance is denied, the thought lies like a burden on the man. Always
the seer is a sayer. Somehow his dream is told: somehow he publishes it with
solemn joy: sometimes with pencil on canvas; sometimes with chisel on stone;
sometimes in towers and aisles of granite, his soul's worship is builded; some-
times in anthems of indefinite music; but clearest and most permanent, in

The man enamored of this excellency, becomes its priest or poet. The office
is coeval with the world. But observe the condition, the spiritual limitation of
the office. The spirit only can teach.
Not any profane man, not any sensual, not
any liar, not any slave can teach, but only he can give, who has; he only can
create, who is. The man on whom the soul descends, through whom the soul speaks,
alone can teach.
Courage, piety, love, wisdom, can teach; and every man can open
his door to these angels, and they shall bring him the gift of tongues. But the
man who aims to speak as books enable, as synods use, as the fashion guides, and
as interest commands, babbles. Let him hush.

To this holy office, you propose to devote yourselves. I wish you may feel
your call in throbs of desire and hope. The office is the first in the world. It
is of that reality, that it cannot suffer the deduction of any falsehood.
And it
is my duty to say to you, that the need was never greater of new revelation than
now. From the views I have already expressed, you will infer the sad conviction,
which I share, I believe, with numbers, of the universal decay and now almost
death of faith in society. The soul is not preached. The Church seems to totter
to its fall, almost all life extinct. On this occasion, any complaisance would
be criminal, which told you, whose hope and commission it is to preach the faith
of Christ, that the faith of Christ is preached.

It is time that this ill-suppressed murmur of all thoughtful men against the
famine of our churches; this moaning of the heart because it is bereaved of the
consolation, the hope, the grandeur, that come alone out of the culture of the
moral nature; should be heard through the sleep of indolence, and over the din
of routine.
This great and perpetual office of the preacher is not discharged.
Preaching is the expression of the moral sentiment in application to the duties
of life.
In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made
sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing
into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God? Where now sounds the
persuasion, that by its very melody imparadises my heart, and so affirms its own
origin in heaven?
Where shall I hear words such as in elder ages drew men to
leave all and follow,--father and mother, house and land, wife and child?
Where shall I hear these august laws of moral being so pronounced, as to fill my
ear, and I feel ennobled by the offer of my uttermost action and passion? The
test of the true faith, certainly, should be its power to charm and command the
soul, as the laws of nature control the activity of the hands,--so commanding
that we find pleasure and honor in obeying.
The faith should blend with the
light of rising and of setting suns, with the flying cloud, the singing bird, and
the breath of flowers. But now the priest's Sabbath has lost the splendor of
nature; it is unlovely; we are glad when it is done; we can make, we do make,
even sitting in our pews, a far better, holier, sweeter, for ourselves.

Whenever the pulpit is usurped by a formalist, then is the worshipper defraud-
ed and disconsolate. We shrink as soon as the prayers begin, which do not
uplift, but smite and offend us. We are fain to wrap our cloaks about us, and
secure, as best we can, a solitude that hears not.
I once heard a preacher who
sorely tempted me to say, I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where
they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon. A
snow storm was falling around us.
The snow storm was real; the preacher merely
spectral; and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of
the window behind him, into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in
vain. He had no one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or
in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and
acted, we were none the wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession,
namely, to convert life into truth, he had not learned. Not one fact in all his
experience, had he yet imported into his doctrine. This man had ploughed, and
planted, and talked, and bought, and sold; he had read books; he had eaten and
drunken; his head aches; his heart throbs; he smiles and suffers; yet was there
not a surmise, a hint, in all the discourse, that he had ever lived at all. Not
a line did he draw out of real history. The true preacher can be known by this,
that he deals out to the people his life,--life passed through the fire of
But of the bad preacher, it could not be told from his sermon, what age
of the world he fell in; whether he had a father or a child; whether he was a
freeholder or a pauper; whether he was a citizen or a countryman; or any other
fact of his biography. It seemed strange that the people should come to church.
It seemed as if their houses were very unentertaining, that they should prefer
this thoughtless clamor. It shows that there is a commanding attraction in the
moral sentiment, that can lend a faint tint of light to dulness and ignorance,
coming in its name and place. The good hearer is sure he has been touched
sometimes; is sure there is s
omewhat to be reached, and some word that can
reach it. When he listens to these vain words, he comforts himself by their re-
lation to his remembrance of better hours, and so they clatter and echo un-

I am not ignorant that when we preach unworthily, it is not always quite in
There is a good ear, in some men, that draws supplies to virtue out of
very indifferent nutriment. There is poetic truth concealed in all the common-
places of prayer and of sermons, and though foolishly spoken, they may be
wisely heard; for, each is some select expression that broke out in a moment
of piety from some stricken or jubilant soul, and its excellency made it remem-
The prayers and even the dogmas of our church, are like the zodiac
of Denderah, and the astronomical monuments of the Hindoos, wholly insulated
from anything now extant in the life and business of the people. They mark the
height to which the waters once rose.
But this docility is a check upon the
mischief from the good and devout. In a large portion of the community, the
religious service gives rise to quite other thoughts and emotions. We need not
chide the negligent servant. We are struck with pity, rather, at the swift
retribution of his sloth
. Alas for the unhappy man that is called to stand in
the pulpit, and not give bread of life. Everything that befalls, accuses him.
Would he ask contributions for the missions, foreign or domestic? Instantly his
face is suffused with shame, to propose to his parish, that they should send
money a hundred or a thousand miles, to furnish such poor fare as they have at
home, and would do well to go the hundred or the thousand miles to escape. Would
he urge people to a godly way of living;--and can he ask a fellow-creature to
come to Sabbath meetings, when he and they all know what is the poor uttermost
they can hope for therein? Will he invite them privately to the Lord's Supper?
He dares not. If no heart warm this rite, the hollow, dry, creaking formality is
too plain, than that he can face a man of wit and energy, and put the invitation
without terror. In the street, what has he to say to the bold village
blasphemer? The village blasphemer sees fear in the face, form, and gait of the

Let me not taint the sincerity of this plea by any oversight of the claims of
good men. I know and honor the purity and strict conscience of numbers of the
clergy. What life the public worship retains, it owes to the scattered company
of pious men, who minister here and there in the churches,
and who, sometimes
accepting with too great tenderness the tenet of the elders, have not accepted
from others, but from their own heart, the genuine impulses of virtue, and so
still command our love and awe, to the sanctity of character. Moreover, the
exceptions are not so much to be found in a few eminent preachers, as in the
better hours, the truer inspirations of all,--nay, in the sincere moments of
every man. But with whatever exception,
it is still true, that tradition char-
acterizes the preaching of this country; that it comes out of the memory,
and not out of the soul; that it aims at what is usual, and not at what is
necessary and eternal; that thus, historical Christianity destroys the power of
preaching, by withdrawing it from the exploration of the moral nature of man,
where the sublime is, where are the resources of astonishment and power.
What a cruel injustice it is to that Law, the joy of the whole earth, which a-
lone can make thought dear and rich; that Law whose fatal sureness the as-
tronomical orbits poorly emulate, that it is travestied and depreciated, that it is
behooted and behowled, and not a trait, not a word of it articulated. The pulpit
in losing sight of this Law, loses its reason, and gropes after it knows not
what. And for want of this culture, the soul of the community is sick and
It wants nothing so much as a stern, high, stoical, Christian disci-
pline, to make it know itself and the divinity that speaks through it.
man is ashamed of himself; he skulks and sneaks through the world, to be
tolerated, to be pitied,
and scarcely in a thousand years does any man dare to
be wise and good, and so draw after him the tears and blessings of his kind.

Certainly there have been periods when, from the inactivity of the intellect
on certain truths, a greater faith was possible in names and persons.
Puritans in England and America, found in the Christ of the Catholic Church, and
in the dogmas inherited from Rome, scope for their austere piety, and their
longings for civil freedom.
But their creed is passing away, and none arises in
its room. I think no man can go with his thoughts about him, into one of our
churches, without feeling, that what hold the public worship had on men is gone,
or going. It has lost its grasp on the affection of the good, and the fear of
the bad.
In the country, neighborhoods, half parishes are signing off,--to use
the local term. It is already beginning to indicate character and religion to
withdraw from the religious meetings. I have heard a devout person, who prized
the Sabbath, say in bitterness of heart, "On Sundays, it seems wicked to go to
church." And the motive, that holds the best there, is now only a hope and a
What was once a mere circumstance, that the best and the worst men in
the parish, the poor and the rich, the learned and the ignorant, young and old,
should meet one day as fellows in one house, in sign of an equal right in the
soul,--has come to be a paramount motive for going thither.

My friends, in these two errors, I think, I find the causes of a decaying
church and a wasting unbelief. And what greater calamity can fall upon a nation,
than the loss of worship? Then all things go to decay. Genius leaves the temple,
to haunt the senate, or the market. Literature becomes frivolous. Science is
cold. The eye of youth is not lighted by the hope of other worlds, and age is
without honor. Society lives to trifles, and when men die, we do not mention

And now, my brothers, you will ask, What in these desponding days can be done
by us? The remedy is already declared in the ground of our complaint of the
Church. We have contrasted the Church with the Soul.
In the soul, then, let the
redemption be sought. Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old
is for slaves. When a man comes, all books are legible, all things transparent, all
religions are forms. He is religious. Man is the wonderworker.
He is seen amid
miracles. All men bless and curse. He saith yea and nay, only. The station-
ariness of religion; the assumption that the age of inspiration is past, that the
Bible is closed; the fear of degrading the character of Jesus by representing
him as a man; indicate with sufficient clearness the falsehood of our theo-
logy. It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that
He speaketh, not spake. The true Christianity,--a faith like Christ's in the
infinitude of man,--is lost. None believeth in the soul of man, but only in
some man or person old and departed.
Ah me! no man goeth alone. All men
go in flocks to this saint or that poet, avoiding the God who seeth in se-
cret. They cannot see in secret; they love to be blind in public. They think
society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is
wiser than the whole world. See how nations and races flit by on the sea of
time, and leave no ripple to tell where they floated or sunk, and one good soul
shall make the name of Moses, or of Zeno, or of Zoroaster, reverend forever.

None assayeth the stern ambition to be the Self of the nation, and of nature,
but each would be an easy secondary to some
Christian scheme, or sectarian
connection, or some eminent man. Once leave your own knowledge of God, your
own sentiment, and take secondary knowledge, as St. Paul's, or George Fox's, or
Swedenborg's, and you get wide from God with every year this secondary form
lasts, and if, as now, for centuries,--the chasm yawns to that breadth, that
men can scarcely be convinced there is in them anything divine.

Let me admonish you, first of all, to go alone; to refuse the good models,
even those which are sacred in the imagination of men, and dare to love God
without mediator or veil.
Friends enough you shall find who will hold up to your
emulation Wesleys and Oberlins, Saints and Prophets. Thank God for these good
men, but say, `I also am a man.' Imitation cannot go above its model. The
imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it, because it
was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator, something
else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of
another man's.

Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost,--cast behind you all conformity,
and acquaint men at first hand with Deity. Look to it first and only, that
fashion, custom, authority, pleasure, and money, are nothing to you,--are not
bandages over your eyes, that you cannot see,--but live with the privilege of
the immeasurable mind. Not too anxious to visit periodically all families and
each family in your parish connection,--when you meet one of these men or
women, be to them a divine man; be to them thought and virtue; let their timid
aspirations find in you a friend; let their trampled instincts be genially
tempted out in your atmosphere; let their doubts know that you have doubted, and
their wonder feel that you have wondered. By trusting your own heart, you shall
gain more confidence in other men. For all our penny-wisdom, for all our
soul-destroying slavery to habit, it is not to be doubted, that all men have
sublime thoughts; that all men value the few real hours of life; they love to be
heard; they love to be caught up into the vision of principles. We mark with
light in the memory the few interviews we have had, in the dreary years of
routine and of sin, with souls that made our souls wiser; that spoke what we
thought; that told us what we knew; that gave us leave to be what we inly were.
Discharge to men the priestly office, and, present or absent, you shall be
followed with their love as by an angel.

And, to this end, let us not aim at common degrees of merit. Can we not
leave, to such as love it, the virtue that glitters for the commendation of
society, and ourselves pierce the deep solitudes of absolute ability and worth?

We easily come up to the standard of goodness in society. Society's praise can
be cheaply secured, and almost all men are content with those easy merits; but
the instant effect of conversing with God, will be, to put them away.
There are
persons who are not actors, not speakers, but influences; persons too great for
fame, for display; who disdain eloquence; to whom all we call art and artist,
seems too nearly allied to show and by-ends, to the exaggeration of the finite
and selfish, and loss of the universal. The orators, the poets, the commanders
encroach on us only as fair women do, by our allowance and homage. Slight them
by preoccupation of mind, slight them, as you can well afford to do, by high and
universal aims, and they instantly feel that you have right, and that it is in
lower places that they must shine. They also feel your right; for
they with you
are open to the influx of the all-knowing Spirit, which annihilates before its
broad noon the little shades and gradations of intelligence in the compositions
we call wiser and wisest.

In such high communion, let us study the grand strokes of rectitude: a bold
benevolence, an independence of friends, so that not the unjust wishes of those
who love us, shall impair our freedom, but we shall resist for truth's sake the
freest flow of kindness, and appeal to sympathies far in advance; and,--what
is the highest form in which we know this beautiful element,--a certain
solidity of merit, that has nothing to do with opinion,
and which is so essen-
tially and manifestly virtue, that it is taken for granted, that the right, the
brave, the generous step will be taken by it, and nobody thinks of commend-
ing it. You would compliment a coxcomb doing a good act, but you would not
praise an angel. The silence that accepts merit as the most natural thing in
the world, is the highest applause. Such souls, when they appear, are the
Imperial Guard of Virtue, the perpetual reserve, the dictators of fortune. One
needs not praise their courage,--they are the heart and soul of nature. O my
friends, there are resources in us on which we have not drawn.
There are men
who rise refreshed on hearing a threat; men to whom a crisis which intimidates
and paralyzes the majority,--demanding not the faculties of prudence and thrift,
but comprehension, immovableness, the readiness of sacrifice,--comes graceful
and beloved as a bride. Napoleon said of Massena, that he was not himself until
the battle began to go against him; then, when the dead began to fall in ranks
around him, awoke his powers of combination, and he put on terror and victory
as a robe.
So it is in rugged crises, in unweariable endurance, and in aims which
put sympathy out of question, that the angel is shown.
But these are heights
that we can scarce remember and look up to, without contrition and shame.
Let us thank God that such things exist.

And now let us do what we can to rekindle the smouldering, nigh quenched fire
on the altar. The evils of the church that now is are manifest. The question
returns, What shall we do? I confess, all attempts to project and establish a
Cultus with new rites and forms, seem to me vain. Faith makes us, and not we it,
and faith makes its own forms.
All attempts to contrive a system are as cold as
the new worship introduced by the French to the goddess of Reason,--to-day,
pasteboard and fillagree, and ending to-morrow in madness and murder. Rather let
the breath of new life be breathed by you through the forms already existing.
For, if once you are alive, you shall find they shall become plastic and new.
The remedy to their deformity is, first, soul, and second, soul, and evermore,
soul. A whole popedom of forms, one pulsation of virtue can uplift and vivify.
Two inestimable advantages Christianity has given us; first; the Sabbath, the
jubilee of the whole world; whose light dawns welcome alike into the closet of
the philosopher, into the garret of toil, and into prison cells, and everywhere
suggests, even to the vile, the dignity of spiritual being. Let it stand
forevermore, a temple, which new love, new faith, new sight shall restore to
more than its first splendor to mankind. And secondly, the institution of
preaching,--the speech of man to men,--essentially the most flexible of all
organs, of all forms.
What hinders that now, everywhere, in pulpits, in
lecture-rooms, in houses, in fields, wherever the invitation of men or your own
occasions lead you, you speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach
it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new

I look for the hour when that supreme Beauty, which ravished the souls of
those eastern men, and chiefly of those Hebrews, and through their lips spoke
oracles to all time, shall speak in the West also. The Hebrew and Greek
Scriptures contain immortal sentences, that have been bread of life to millions.
But they have no epical integrity; are fragmentary; are not shown in their order
to the intellect. I look for the new Teacher, that shall follow so far those
shining laws, that he shall see them come full circle; shall see their rounding
complete grace; shall see the world to be the mirror of the soul; shall see the
identity of the law of gravitation with purity of heart; and shall show that the
Ought, that Duty, is one thing with Science, with Beauty, and with Joy.

Literary Ethics

An Oration delivered before the Literary Societies of
Dartmouth College,
July 24, 1838


The invitation to address you this day, with which you have honored me, was
so welcome, that I made haste to obey it. A summons to celebrate with scholars
a literary festival, is so alluring to me, as to overcome the doubts I might well
entertain of my ability to bring you any thought worthy of your attention. I
have reached the middle age of man; yet I believe I am not less glad or sanguine
at the meeting of scholars, than when, a boy, I first saw the graduates of my
own College assembled at their anniversary.
Neither years nor books have yet
availed to extirpate a prejudice then rooted in me, that a scholar is the
favorite of Heaven and earth, the excellency of his country, the happiest of
men. His duties lead him directly into the holy ground where other men's
aspirations only point. His successes are occasions of the purest joy to all
men. Eyes is he to the blind; feet is he to the lame. His failures, if he is
worthy, are inlets to higher advantages. And because the scholar, by every
thought he thinks, extends his dominion into the general mind of men, he is not
one, but many.
The few scholars in each country, whose genius I know, seem
to me not individuals, but societies;
and, when events occur of great import, I
count over these representatives of opinion, whom they will affect, as if I were
counting nations. And, even if his results were incommunicable; if they abode in
his own spirit; the intellect hath somewhat so sacred in its possessions, that
the fact of his existence and pursuits would be a happy omen. Meantime I know
that a very different estimate of the scholar's profession prevails in this
country, and the importunity, with which society presses its claim upon young
men, tends to pervert the views of the youth in respect to the culture of the
intellect. Hence the historical failure, on which Europe and America have so
freely commented. This country has not fulfilled what seemed the reasonable
expectation of mankind.
Men looked, when all feudal straps and bandages were
snapped asunder, that nature, too long the mother of dwarfs, should reimburse
itself by a brood of Titans,
who should laugh and leap in the continent, and run
up the mountains of the West with the errand of genius and of love.
But the
mark of American merit in painting, in sculpture, in poetry, in fiction, in elo-
quence, seems to be a certain grace without grandeur, and itself not new but
derivative; a vase of fair outline, but empty,--which whoso sees, may fill
with what wit and character is in him, but which does not, like the charged
cloud, overflow with terrible beauty, and emit lightnings on all beholders.

I will not lose myself in the desultory questions, what are the limitations,
and what the causes of the fact. It suffices me to say, in general, that the
diffidence of mankind in the soul has crept over the American mind; that
here, as elsewhere, are indisposed to innovation, and prefer any antiquity, any
usage, any livery productive of ease or profit, to the unproductive service of

Yet, in every sane hour, the service of thought appears reasonable, the des-
potism of the senses insane. The scholar may lose himself in schools, in words,
and become a pedant; but when he comprehends his duties, he above all men
is a realist, and converses with things. For, the scholar is the student of the
world, and of what worth the world is, and with what emphasis it accosts the
soul of man, such is the worth, such the call of the scholar.

The want of the times, and the propriety of this anniversary, concur to draw
attention to the doctrine of Literary Ethics.
What I have to say on that doctrine
distributes itself under the topics of the resources, the subject, and the disci-
pline of the scholar.

I. The resources of the scholar are proportioned to his confidence in the
attributes of the Intellect.
The resources of the scholar are co-extensive
with nature and truth, yet can never be his, unless claimed by him with an equal
greatness of mind. He cannot know them until he has beheld with awe the
infinitude and impersonality of the intellectual power.
When he has seen, that
it is not his, nor any man's, but that it is the soul which made the world, and
that it is all accessible to him, he will know that he, as its minister, may
rightfully hold all things subordinate and answerable to it.
A divine pilgrim in
nature, all things attend his steps. Over him stream the flying constellations;
over him streams Time, as they, scarcely divided into months and years. He
inhales the year as a vapor: its fragrant midsummer breath, its sparkling
January heaven. And so pass into his mind, in bright transfiguration, the grand
events of history, to take a new order and scale from him. He is the world; and
the epochs and heroes of chronology are pictorial images, in which his thoughts
are told. There is no event but sprung somewhere from the soul of man; and
therefore there is none but the soul of man can interpret. Every presentiment of
the mind is executed somewhere in a gigantic fact. What else is Greece, Rome,
England, France, St. Helena? What else are churches, literatures, and empires?

The new man must feel that he is new, and has not come into the world mort-
gaged to the opinions and usages of Europe, and Asia, and Egypt.
The sense of
spiritual independence is like the lovely varnish of the dew, whereby the old,
hard, peaked earth, and its old self-same productions, are made new every
morning, and shining with the last touch of the artist's hand.
A false humility,
a complaisance to reigning schools, or to the wisdom of antiquity, must not
defraud me of supreme possession of this hour. If any person have less love of
liberty, and less jealousy to guard his integrity, shall he therefore dictate to
you and me?
Say to such doctors, We are thankful to you, as we are to history,
to the pyramids, and the authors; but now our day is come; we have been born
out of the eternal silence; and now will we live,--live for ourselves,--and not
as the pall-bearers of a funeral, but as the upholders and creators of our age;

and neither Greece nor Rome, nor the three Unities of Aristotle, nor the three
Kings of Cologne, nor the College of the Sorbonne, nor the Edinburgh Review, is
to command any longer. Now that we are here, we will put our own interpretation
on things, and our own things for interpretation. Please himself with
complaisance who will,--
for me, things must take my scale, not I theirs. I
will say with the warlike king, "God gave me this crown, and the whole world
shall not take it away."

The whole value of history, of biography, is to increase my self-trust, by de-
monstrating what man can be and do. This is the moral of the Plutarchs,
Cudworths, the Tennemanns, who give us the story of men or of opinions.
Any history of philosophy fortifies my faith, by showing me, that what high
dogmas I had supposed were the rare and late fruit of a cumulative culture,
and only now possible to some recent Kant or Fichte,--were the prompt im-
provisations of the earliest inquirers; of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Xeno-
phanes. In view of these students, the soul seems to whisper, `There is
a better way than this indolent learning of another. Leave me alone; do not
teach me out of Leibnitz or Schelling, and I shall find it all out myself.'

Still more do we owe to biography the fortification of our hope. If you would
know the power of character, see how much you would impoverish the world, if
you could take clean out of history the lives of Milton, Shakspeare, and Plato,--
these three, and cause them not to be. See you not, how much less the power of
man would be? I console myself in the poverty of my thoughts; in the paucity of
great men, in the malignity and dulness of the nations, by falling back on these
sublime recollections, and seeing what the prolific soul could beget on actual
nature;--seeing that Plato was, and Shakspeare, and Milton,--three irrefragable
facts. Then I dare; I also will essay to be. The humblest, the most hopeless,
in view of these radiant facts, may now theorize and hope. In spite of all the
rueful abortions that squeak and gibber in the street, in spite of slumber and
guilt, in spite of the army, the bar-room, and the jail, have been these glo-
rious manifestations of the mind;
and I will thank my great brothers so truly
for the admonition of their being, as to endeavor also to be just and brave,
to aspire and to speak. Plotinus too, and Spinoza, and the immortal bards of
philosophy,--that which they have written out with patient courage, makes me
No more will I dismiss, with haste, the visions which flash and sparkle
across my sky; but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood
on them, and draw out of the past, genuine life for the present hour.

To feel the full value of these lives, as occasions of hope and provocation,
you must come to know, that each admirable genius is but a successful diver
in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own.
The impoverishing philoso-
phy of ages has laid stress on the distinctions of the individual, and not on the
universal attributes of man. The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a
hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he
admires. In solitude, in a remote village, the ardent youth loiters and mourns.
With inflamed eye, in this sleeping wilderness, he has read the story of the
Emperor Charles the Fifth, until his fancy has brought home to the surrounding
woods, the faint roar of cannonades in the Milanese, and marches in Germany.
He is curious concerning that man's day. What filled it? the crowded orders,
the stern decisions, the foreign despatches, the Castilian etiquette?
The soul
answers--Behold his day here! In the sighing of these woods, in the quiet of
these gray fields, in the cool breeze that sings out of these northern moun-
tains; in the workmen, the boys, the maidens, you meet,--in the hopes of
the morning, the ennui of noon, and sauntering of the afternoon; in the dis-
quieting comparisons; in the regrets at want of vigor; in the great idea, and
the puny execution;
--behold Charles the Fifth's day; another, yet the same;
behold Chatham's, Hampden's, Bayard's, Alfred's, Scipio's, Pericles's day,--
day of all that are born of women. The difference of circumstance is merely
I am tasting the self-same life,--its sweetness, its greatness, its
pain, which I so admire in other men.
Do not foolishly ask of the inscrutable,
obliterated past, what it cannot tell,--the details of that nature, of that
day, called Byron, or Burke;--
but ask it of the enveloping Now; the more
quaintly you inspect its evanescent beauties, its wonderful details, its
spiritual causes, its astounding whole,--so much the more you master the
biography of this hero, and that, and every hero.
Be lord of a day, through
wisdom and justice, and you can put up your history books.

An intimation of these broad rights is familiar in the sense of injury which
men feel in the assumption of any man to limit their possible progress. We
resent all criticism, which denies us any thing that lies in our line of advance.
Say to the man of letters, that he cannot paint a Transfiguration, or build a
steamboat, or be a grand-marshal,--and he will not seem to himself depre-
ciated. But deny to him any quality of literary or metaphysical power, and
he is piqued. Concede to him genius, which is a sort of Stoical plenum
annulling the comparative, and he is content; but concede him talents never
so rare, denying him genius, and he is aggrieved. What does this mean? Why
simply, that
the soul has assurance, by instincts and presentiments, of all
power in the direction of its ray,
as well as of the special skills it has already

In order to a knowledge of the resources of the scholar, we must not
rest in the use of slender accomplishments,--of faculties to do this and that
other feat with words; but we must pay our vows to the highest power, and pass,
if it be possible, by assiduous love and watching, into the visions of absolute
truth. The growth of the intellect is strictly analogous in all individuals. It
is larger reception. Able men, in general, have good dispositions, and a respect
for justice; because
an able man is nothing else than a good, free, vascular
organization, whereinto the universal spirit freely flows; so that his fund of
justice is not only vast, but infinite.
All men, in the abstract, are just and
good; what hinders them, in the particular, is, the momentary predominance
of the finite and individual over the general truth. The condition of our
incarnation in a private self, seems to be, a perpetual tendency to prefer the
private law, to obey the private impulse, to the exclusion of the law of uni-
versal being. The hero is great by means of the predominance of the universal
nature; he has only to open his mouth, and it speaks; he has only to be forced
to act, and it acts. All men catch the word, or embrace the deed, with the
heart, for it is verily theirs as much as his; but in them this disease of an
excess of organization cheats them of equal issues. Nothing is more simple than
greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great. The vision of genius comes by
renouncing the too officious activity of the understanding, and giving leave and
amplest privilege to the spontaneous sentiment.
Out of this must all that is
alive and genial in thought go. Men grind and grind in the mill of a truism, and
nothing comes out but what was put in. But the moment they desert the tradition
for a spontaneous thought, then poetry, wit, hope, virtue, learning, anecdote,
all flock to their aid. Observe the phenomenon of extempore debate.
A man of
cultivated mind, but reserved habits, sitting silent, admires the miracle of
free, impassioned, picturesque speech, in the man addressing an assembly;--a
state of being and power, how unlike his own! Presently his own emotion rises to
his lips, and overflows in speech. He must also rise and say somewhat. Once
embarked, once having overcome the novelty of the situation, he finds it just as
easy and natural to speak,--to speak with thoughts, with pictures, with
rhythmical balance of sentences,--as it was to sit silent; for, it needs not
to do, but to suffer; he only adjusts himself to the free spirit which gladly
utters itself through him; and motion is as easy as rest.

II. I pass now to consider the task offered to the intellect of this country.
The view I have taken of the resources of the scholar, presupposes a subject
as broad. We do not seem to have imagined its riches. We have not heeded the
invitation it holds out. To be as good a scholar as Englishmen are; to have as
much learning as our contemporaries; to have written a book that is read;
satisfies us. We assume, that all thought is already long ago adequately set
down in books,--all imaginations in poems; and what we say, we only throw in
as confirmatory of this supposed complete body of literature. A very shallow
assumption. Say rather, all literature is yet to be written.
Poetry has scarce
chanted its first song. The perpetual admonition of nature to us, is, `The world
is new, untried. Do not believe the past. I give you the universe a virgin

By Latin and English poetry, we were born and bred in an oratorio of
praises of nature,--flowers, birds, mountains, sun, and moon;--yet the
naturalist of this hour finds that he knows nothing, by all their poems, of any
of these fine things; that he has conversed with the mere surface
and show of
them all; and of their essence, or of their history, knows nothing. Further
inquiry will discover that nobody,--that not these chanting poets themselves,
knew any thing sincere of these handsome natures they so commended; that they
contented themselves with the passing chirp of a bird, that they saw one or two
mornings, and listlessly looked at sunsets, and repeated idly these few glimpses
in their song.
But go into the forest, you shall find all new and undescribed.
The screaming of the wild geese flying by night; the thin note of the com-
panionable titmouse, in the winter day; the fall of swarms of flies, in autumn,
from combats high in the air, pattering down on the leaves like rain; the an-
gry hiss of the wood-birds; the pine throwing out its pollen for the benefit
of the next century; the turpentine exuding from the tree;--and, indeed,
any vegetation; any animation; any and all, are alike unattempted.
The man
who stands on the seashore, or who rambles in the woods, seems to be the
first man that ever stood on the shore, or entered a grove, his sensations and
his world are so novel and strange. Whilst I read the poets, I think that no-
thing new can be said about morning and evening. But when I see the day-
break, I am not reminded of these Homeric, or Shakspearian, or Miltonic, or
Chaucerian pictures. No; but
I feel perhaps the pain of an alien world; a world
not yet subdued by the thought; or, I am cheered by the moist, warm, glittering,
budding, melodious hour, that takes down the narrow walls of my soul, and
extends its life and pulsation to the very horizon. That is morning, to cease
for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body, and to become as large
as nature.

The noonday darkness of the American forest, the deep, echoing, aboriginal
woods, where the living columns of the oak and fir tower up from the ruins
of the trees of the last millennium; where, from year to year, the eagle and
the crow see no intruder; the pines, bearded with savage moss, yet touched
with grace by the violets at their feet; the broad, cold lowland, which forms
its coat of vapor with the stillness of subterranean crystallization; and where
the traveller, amid the repulsive plants that are native in the swamp, thinks
with pleasing terror of the distant town; this beauty,--haggard and desert bea-
uty, which the sun and the moon, the snow and the rain, repaint and vary, has
never been recorded by art, yet is not indifferent to any passenger. All men are
poets at heart. They serve nature for bread, but her loveliness overcomes them
What mean these journeys to Niagara; these pilgrims to the White
Hills? Men believe in the adaptations of utility, always: in the mountains, they
may believe in the adaptations of the eye.
Undoubtedly, the changes of geology
have a relation to the prosperous sprouting of the corn and peas in my kitchen
garden; but not less is there a relation of beauty between my soul and the dim
crags of Agiocochook
10 up there in the clouds. Every man, when this is told,
hearkens with joy, and yet his own conversation with nature is still unsung.

Is it otherwise with civil history? Is it not the lesson of our experience
that every man, were life long enough, would write history for himelf?
What else
do these volumes of extracts and manuscript commentaries, that every scholar
writes, indicate? Greek history is one thing to me; another to you. Since the
birth of Niebuhr and Wolf, Roman and Greek History have been written anew.
Since Carlyle wrote French History, we see that no history, that we have, is
safe, but a new classifier shall give it new and more philosophical arrangement.
Thucydides, Livy, have only provided materials. The moment a man of genius
pronounces the name of the Pelasgi, of Athens, of the Etrurian, of the Roman
people, we see their state under a new aspect. As in poetry and history, so in
the other departments. There are few masters or none. Religion is yet to be
settled on its fast foundations in the breast of man; and politics, and
philosophy, and letters, and art. As yet we have nothing but tendency and

This starting,
this warping of the best literary works from the adamant of
, is especially observable in philosophy. Let it take what tone of
pretension it will, to this complexion must it come, at last. Take, for example,
the French Eclecticism, which Cousin esteems so conclusive; there is an op-
tical illusion in it. It avows great pretensions.
It looks as if they had all truth,
in taking all the systems, and had nothing to do, but to sift and wash and
strain, and the gold and diamonds would remain in the last colander. But, Truth
is such a flyaway, such a slyboots, so untransportable and unbarrelable a
commodity, that it is as bad to catch as light. Shut the shutters never so
quick, to keep all the light in, it is all in vain; it is gone before you can
cry, Hold. And so it happens with our philosophy. Translate, collate, distil all
the systems, it steads you nothing; for truth will not be compelled, in any
mechanical manner. But the first observation you make, in the sincere act of
your nature, though on the veriest trifle, may open a new view of nature and of
man, that, like a menstruum,
11 shall dissolve all theories in it; shall take up
Greece, Rome, Stoicism, Eclecticism, and what not, as mere data and food for
analysis, and dispose of your world-containing system, as a very little unit. A
profound thought, anywhere, classifies all things: a profound thought will lift
The book of philosophy is only a fact, and no more inspiring fact than
another, and no less; but a wise man will never esteem it anything final and
transcending. Go and talk with a man of genius, and the first word he utters,
sets all your so-called knowledge afloat and at large.
Then Plato, Bacon, Kant,
and the Eclectic Cousin, condescend instantly to be men and mere facts.

I by no means aim, in these remarks, to disparage the merit of these or of
any existing compositions; I only say that any particular portraiture does not
in any manner exclude or fore-stall a new attempt, but, when considered by the
soul, warps and shrinks away.
The inundation of the spirit sweeps away before it
all our little architecture of wit and memory, as straws and straw-huts before
the torrent. Works of the intellect are great only by comparison with each
other; Ivanhoe and Waverley compared with Castle Radcliffe and the Porter
novels; but nothing is great,--not mighty Homer and Milton,--beside the
infinite Reason. It carries them away as a flood. They are as a sleep.

Thus is justice done to each generation and individual,--wisdom teaching man
that he shall not hate, or fear, or mimic his ancestors; that
he shall not
bewail himself, as if the world was old, and thought was spent, and he was born
into the dotage of things; for, by virtue of the Deity, thought renews itself
inexhaustibly every day, and the thing whereon it shines, though it were dust
and sand, is a new subject with countless relations.

III. Having thus spoken of the resources and the subject of the scholar, out
of the same faith proceeds also the rule of his ambition and life. Let him know
that the world is his, but he must possess it by putting himself into harmony
with the constitution of things.
He must be a solitary, laborious, modest, and
charitable soul.

He must embrace solitude as a bride. He must have his glees and his glooms
His own estimate must be measure enough, his own praise reward enough
for him. And why must the student be solitary and silent? That he may become
acquainted with his thoughts. If he pines in a lonely place, hankering for the
crowd, for display, he is not in the lonely place; his heart is in the market; he
does not see; he does not hear; he does not think.
But go cherish your soul;
expel companions; set your habits to a life of solitude; then, will the faculties
rise fair and full within, like forest trees and field flowers;
you will have results,
which, when you meet your fellow-men, you can communicate, and they will
gladly receive. Do not go into solitude only that you may presently come
into public. Such solitude denies itself; is public and stale.
The public can
get public experience, but they wish the scholar to replace to them those
private, sincere, divine experiences, of which they have been defrauded by
dwelling in the street.
It is the noble, manlike, just thought, which is the su-
periority demanded of you, and not crowds but solitude confers this elevation.
Not insulation of place, but independence of spirit is essential, and it is only
as the garden, the cottage, the forest, and the rock, are a sort of mechanical
aids to this, that they are of value. Think alone, and all places are friendly
and sacred.
The poets who have lived in cities have been hermits still.
Inspiration makes solitude anywhere. Pindar, Raphael, Angelo, Dryden, De Stael,
dwell in crowds, it may be, but the instant thought comes, the crowd grows dim
to their eye; their eye fixes on the horizon,--on vacant space; they forget
the bystanders; they spurn personal relations; they deal with abstractions, with
verities, with ideas. They are alone with the mind.

Of course, I would not have any superstition about solitude. Let the youth
study the uses of solitude and of society. Let him use both, not serve either.
The reason why an ingenious soul shuns society, is to the end of finding
society. It repudiates the false, out of love of the true. You can very soon
learn all that society can teach you for one while.
Its foolish routine, an
indefinite multiplication of balls, concerts, rides, theatres, can teach you no
more than a few can. Then accept the hint of shame, of spiritual emptiness and
waste, which true nature gives you, and retire, and hide; lock the door; shut
the shutters; then welcome falls the imprisoning rain,--dear hermitage of
nature. Re-collect the spirits. Have solitary prayer and praise. Digest and
correct the past experience; and blend it with the new and divine life.

You will pardon me, Gentlemen, if I say, I think that we have need of a more
rigorous scholastic rule; such an asceticism, I mean, as only the hardihood
and devotion of the scholar himself can enforce.
We live in the sun and on
the surface,--a thin, plausible, superficial existence, and talk of muse and
prophet, of art and creation. But out of our shallow and frivolous way of life,
how can greatness ever grow? Come now, let us go and be dumb. Let us sit
with our hands on our mouths, a long, austere, Pythagorean lustrum.
12 Let us
live in corners, and do chores, and suffer, and weep, and drudge, with eyes
and hearts that love the Lord. Silence, seclusion, austerity, may pierce deep
into the grandeur and secret of our being, and so diving, bring up out of sec-
ular darkness, the sublimities of the moral constitution. How mean to go blazing,
a gaudy butterfly, in fashionable or political saloons, the fool of society, the
fool of notoriety, a topic for newspapers, a piece of the street, and forfeiting
the real prerogative of the russet coat, the privacy, and the true and warm
heart of the citizen!

Fatal to the man of letters, fatal to man, is the lust of display, the seeming
that unmakes our being. A mistake of the main end to which they labor, is
incident to literary men, who, dealing with the organ of language,--the sub-
tlest, strongest, and longest-lived of man's creations, and only fitly used as
the weapon of thought and of justice,--learn to enjoy the pride of playing
with this splendid engine, but rob it of its almightiness by failing to work
with it. Extricating themselves from the tasks of the world, the world
revenges itself by exposing, at every turn, the folly of these incomplete,
pedantic, useless, ghostly creatures. The scholar will feel, that the richest
romance,--the noblest fiction that was ever woven,--the heart and soul of
beauty,--lies enclosed in human life. Itself of surpassing value, it is also
the richest material for his creations. How shall he know its secrets of
tenderness, of terror, of will, and of fate? How can he catch and keep the
strain of upper music that peals from it?
Its laws are concealed under the
details of daily action. All action is an experiment upon them. He must bear his
share of the common load. He must work with men in houses, and not with their
names in books.
His needs, appetites, talents, affections, accomplishments, are
keys that open to him the beautiful museum of human life. Why should he read it
as an Arabian tale, and not know, in his own beating bosom, its sweet and smart?
Out of love and hatred, out of earnings, and borrowings, and lendings, and
losses; out of sickness and pain; out of wooing and worshipping; out of
travelling, and voting, and watching, and caring; out of disgrace and contempt,
comes our tuition in the serene and beautiful laws. Let him not slur his lesson;
let him learn it by heart.
Let him endeavor exactly, bravely, and cheerfully, to
solve the problem of that life which is set before him. And this, by punctual
action, and not by promises or dreams.
Believing, as in God, in the presence and
favor of the grandest influences, let him deserve that favor, and learn how to
receive and use it, by fidelity also to the lower observances.

This lesson is taught with emphasis in the life of the great actor of this age,
and affords the explanation of his success. Bonaparte represents truly a great
recent revolution, which we in this country, please God, shall carry to its farthest
consummation. Not the least instructive passage in modern history, seems to me
a trait of Napoleon, exhibited to the English when he became their prisoner. On
coming on board the Bellerophon, a file of English soldiers drawn up on deck,
gave him a military salute. Napoleon observed, that their manner of handling
their arms differed from the French exercise, and, putting aside the guns of
those nearest him, walked up to a soldier, took his gun, and himself went through
the motion in the French mode. The English officers and men looked on with a-
stonishment, and inquired if such familiarity was usual with the Emperor.

In this instance, as always, that man, with whatever defects or vices,
represented performance in lieu of pretension. Feudalism and Orientalism had
long enough thought it majestic to do nothing; the modern majesty consists in
work. He belonged to a class, fast growing in the world, who think, that what a
man can do is his greatest ornament, and that he always consults his dignity by
doing it.
He was not a believer in luck; he had a faith, like sight, in the
application of means to ends. Means to ends, is the motto of all his behavior.
He believed that the great captains of antiquity performed their exploits only
by correct combinations, and by justly comparing the relation between means and
consequences; efforts and obstacles. The vulgar call good fortune that which
really is produced by the calculations of genius.
But Napoleon, thus faithful to
facts, had also this crowning merit; that, whilst he believed in number and
weight, and omitted no part of prudence, he believed also in the freedom and
quite incalculable force of the soul. A man of infinite caution, he neglected
never the least particular of preparation, of patient adaptation; yet
nevertheless he had a sublime confidence, as in his all, in the sallies of the
courage, and the faith in his destiny, which, at the right moment, repaired all
losses, and demolished cavalry, infantry, king, and kaisar, as with irresistible
As they say the bough of the tree has the character of the leaf,
and the whole tree of the bough, so, it is curious to remark, Bonaparte's army
partook of this double strength of the captain;
for, whilst strictly supplied in
all its appointments, and everything expected from the valor and discipline of
every platoon, in flank and centre, yet always remained his total trust in the
prodigious revolutions of fortune, which his reserved Imperial Guard were
capable of working, if, in all else, the day was lost. Here he was sublime. He
no longer calculated the chance of the cannon-ball. He was faithful to tactics
to the uttermost,--and
when all tactics had come to an end, then, he dilated,
and availed himself of the mighty saltations of the most formidable soldiers in

Let the scholar appreciate this combination of gifts, which, applied to better
purpose, make true wisdom. He is a revealer of things. Let him first learn the
things. Let him not, too eager to grasp some badge of reward, omit the work
to be done. Let him know, that, though the success of the market is in the
reward, true success is the doing; that, in the private obedience to his mind;
in the sedulous inquiry, day after day, year after year, to know how the thing
stands; in the use of all means, and most
in the reverence of the humble
commerce and humble needs of life,--to hearken what they say, and so, by
mutual reaction of thought and life, to make thought solid, and life wise; and
in a contempt for the gabble of to-day's opinions, the secret of the world is
to be learned, and the skill truly to unfold it is acquired. Or, rather, is it not,
that, by this discipline, the usurpation of the senses is overcome, and the
lower faculties of man are subdued to docility; through which, as an
unobstructed channel, the soul now easily and gladly flows?

The good scholar will not refuse to bear the yoke in his youth; to know, if he
can, the uttermost secret of toil and endurance; to make his own hands ac-
quainted with the soil by which he is fed, and the sweat that goes before com-
fort and luxury. Let him pay his tithe, and serve the world as a true and noble
man; never forgetting to worship the immortal divinities, who whisper to the poet,
and make him the utterer of melodies that pierce the ear of eternal time. If he
have this twofold goodness,--the drill and the inspiration,--then he has health;
then he is a whole, and not a fragment;
and the perfection of his endowment will
appear in his compositions. Indeed, this twofold merit characterizes ever the pro-
ductions of great masters.
The man of genius should occupy the whole space be-
tween God or pure mind, and the multitude of uneducated men. He must draw from
the infinite Reason, on one side; and he must penetrate into the heart and sense
of the crowd, on the other.
From one, he must draw his strength; to the other, he
must owe his aim. The one yokes him to the real; the other, to the apparent. At
one pole, is Reason; at the other, Common Sense. If he be defective at either
extreme of the scale, his philosophy will seem low and utilitarian; or it will
appear too vague and indefinite for the uses of life.

The student, as we all along insist, is great only by being passive to the su-
perincumbent spirit.
Let this faith, then, dictate all his action. Snares and bribes
abound to mislead him; let him be true nevertheless. His success has its perils
too. There is somewhat inconvenient and injurious in his position. They whom
his thoughts have entertained or inflamed, seek him before yet they have learn-
ed the hard conditions of thought.
They seek him, that he may turn his lamp on
the dark riddles whose solution they think is inscribed on the walls of their being.
They find that he is a poor, ignorant man, in a white-seamed, rusty coat, like
themselves, no wise emitting a continuous stream of light, but now and then a
jet of luminous thought, followed by total darkness; moreover, that he cannot
make of his infrequent illumination a portable taper to carry whither he would,
and explain now this dark riddle, now that. Sorrow ensues. The scholar regrets
to damp the hope of ingenuous boys; and the youth has lost a star out of his new
flaming firmament. Hence the temptation to the scholar to mystify; to hear the
question; to sit upon it; to make an answer of words, in lack of the oracle of
things. Not the less let him be cold and true, and wait in patience, knowing
that truth can make even silence eloquent and memorable.
Truth shall be policy
enough for him. Let him open his breast to all honest inquiry, and be an artist
superior to tricks of art. Show frankly as a saint would do, your experience,
methods, tools, and means. Welcome all comers to the freest use of the same.
And out of this superior frankness and charity, you shall learn higher secrets
of your nature, which gods will bend and aid you to communicate.

If, with a high trust, he can thus submit himself, he will find that ample returns
are poured into his bosom, out of what seemed hours of obstruction and loss.
Let him not grieve too much on account of unfit associates. When he sees how
much thought he owes to the disagreeable antagonism of various persons who
pass and cross him, he can easily think that in a society of perfect sympathy,
no word, no act, no record, would be.
He will learn, that it is not much matter
what he reads, what he does. Be a scholar, and he shall have the scholar's part
of every thing. As, in the counting-room, the merchant cares little whether the
cargo be hides or barilla; the transaction, a letter of credit or a transfer of stocks;
be it what it may, his commission comes gently out of it; so you shall get your
lesson out of the hour, and the object, whether it be a concentrated or a wasteful
employment, even in reading a dull book, or working off a stint of mechanical
day labor, which your necessities or the necessities of others impose.

Gentlemen, I have ventured to offer you these considerations upon the
scholar's place, and hope, because I thought, that, standing, as many of you now
do, on the threshold of this College, girt and ready to go and assume tasks,
public and private, in your country, you would not be sorry to be admonished of
those primary duties of the intellect, whereof you will seldom hear from the
lips of your new companions. You will hear every day the maxims of a low
prudence. You will hear, that the first duty is to get land and money, place and
name. `What is this Truth you seek? what is this Beauty?' men will ask, with
derision. If, nevertheless, God have called any of you to explore truth and
beauty, be bold, be firm, be true.
When you shall say, `As others do, so will I:
I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land,
and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient sea-
son;'--then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and
poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand thousand men.
The hour of that choice is the crisis of your history; and see that you hold
yourself fast by the intellect. It is this domineering temper of the sensual
world, that creates the extreme need of the priests of science; and it is the
office and right of the intellect to make and not take its estimate. Bend to the
persuasion which is flowing to you from every object in nature, to be its tongue
to the heart of man, and to show the besotted world how passing fair is wisdom.

Forewarned that the vice of the times and the country is an excessive pre-
tension, let us seek the shade, and find wisdom in neglect. Be content with a
little light, so it be your own. Explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flat-
tered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatize, nor accept
another's dogmatism.
Why should you renounce your right to traverse the
star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and
barn? Truth also has its roof, and bed, and board. Make yourself necessary to
the world, and mankind will give you bread, and if not store of it, yet such as
shall not takeaway your property in all men's possessions, in all men's
affections, in art, in nature, and in hope.

You will not fear, that I am enjoining too stern an asceticism. Ask not, Of
what use is a scholarship that systematically retreats? or, Who is the better
for the philosopher who conceals his accomplishments, and hides his thoughts
from the waiting world?
Hides his thoughts! Hide the sun and moon. Thought is
all light, and publishes itself to the universe. It will speak, though you were
dumb, by its own miraculous organ. It will flow out of your actions, your
manners, and your face. It will bring you friendships. It will impledge you to
truth by the love and expectation of generous minds. By virtue of the laws of
that Nature, which is one and perfect, it shall yield every sincere good that is
in the soul, to the scholar beloved of earth and heaven.

The Method of Nature

An Oration delivered before the Society of the Adelphi, in
Waterville College, Maine, August 11, 1841


Let us exchange congratulations on the enjoyments and the promises of this literary
anniversary. The land we live in has no interest so dear, if it knew its want, as the fit
consecration of days of reason and thought. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
The scholars are the priests of that thought which establishes the foundations of the
earth. No matter what is their special work or profession, they stand for the spiritual
interest of the world, and it is a common calamity if they neglect their post in a country
where the material interest is so predominant as it is in America. We hear something too
much of the results of machinery, commerce, and the useful arts.
We are a puny and a
fickle folk. Avarice, hesitation, and following, are our diseases. The rapid wealth which
hundreds in the community acquire in trade, or by the incessant expansions of our
population and arts, enchants the eyes of all the rest; the luck of one is the hope of
thousands, and the bribe acts like the neighborhood of a gold mine to impoverish the
farm, the school, the church, the house, and the very body and feature of man.

I do not wish to look with sour aspect at the industrious manufacturing village, or the mart
of commerce. I love the music of the water-wheel; I value the railway; I feel the pride
which the sight of a ship inspires; I look on trade and every mechanical craft as education
also. But let me discriminate what is precious herein. There is in each of these works an
act of invention, an intellectual step, or short series of steps taken; that act or step is
the spiritual act;
all the rest is mere repetition of the same a thousand times. And I will
not be deceived into admiring the routine of handicrafts and mechanics, how splendid so-
ever the result, any more than I admire the routine of the scholars or clerical class. That
splendid results ensue from the labors of stupid men, is the fruit of higher laws than their
will, and the routine is not to be praised for it. I would not have the laborer sacrificed to
the result,--I would not have the laborer sacrificed to my convenience and pride, nor to
that of a great class of such as me.
Let there be worse cotton and better men. The weaver
should not be bereaved of his superiority to his work, and his knowledge that the product
or the skill is of no value, except so far as it embodies his spiritual prerogatives. If
I see nothing to admire in the unit, shall I admire a million units? Men stand in awe of the
city, but do not honor any individual citizen; and are continually yielding to this dazzling
result of numbers, that which they would never yield to the solitary example of any one.

Whilst the multitude of men degrade each other, and give currency to desponding
doctrines, the scholar must be a bringer of hope,
and must reinforce man against himself.
I sometimes believe that our literary anniversaries will presently assume a greater
importance, as the eyes of men open to their capabilities. Here, a new set of distinctions,
a new order of ideas, prevail. Here, we set a bound to the respectability of wealth, and a
bound to the pretensions of the law and the church. The bigot must cease to be a bigot
Into our charmed circle, power cannot enter; and the sturdiest defender of existing
institutions feels the terrific inflammability of this air which condenses heat in every
corner that may restore to the elements the fabrics of ages. Nothing solid is secure; every
thing tilts and rocks. Even the scholar is not safe; he too is searched and revised. Is his
learning dead? Is he living in his memory? The power of mind is not mortification, but life.
But come forth, thou curious child! hither, thou loving, all-hoping poet! hither, thou tender,
doubting heart, who hast not yet found any place in the world’s market fit for thee;
wares which thou couldst buy or sell,--so large is thy love and ambition,--thine and
not theirs is the hour. Smooth thy brow, and hope and love on, for the kind heaven
justifies thee, and the whole world feels that thou art in the right.

We ought to celebrate this hour by expressions of manly joy. Not thanks, not prayer seem
quite the highest or truest name for our communication with the infinite,--but glad and
conspiring reception,--reception that becomes giving in its turn, as the receiver is only
the All-Giver in part and in infancy. I cannot,--nor can any man,--speak precisely of
things so sublime, but it seems to me, the wit of man, his strength, his grace, his
tendency, his art, is the grace and the presence of God. It is beyond explanation.
all is said and done, the rapt saint is found the only logician. Not exhortation, not
argument becomes our lips, but paeans of joy and praise. But not of adulation: we are
too nearly related in the deep of the mind to that we honor. It is God in us which checks
the language of petition by a grander thought.
In the bottom of the heart, it is said;
`I am, and by me, O child! this fair body and world of thine stands and grows. I am; all
things are mine: and all mine are thine.’

The festival of the intellect, and the return to its source, cast a strong light on the
always interesting topics of Man and Nature. We are forcibly reminded of the old want.
There is no man; there hath never been. The Intellect still asks that a man may be born.
The flame of life flickers feebly in human breasts. We demand of men a richness and uni-
versality we do not find. Great men do not content us. It is their solitude, not their
force, that makes them conspicuous. There is somewhat indigent and tedious about them.

They are poorly tied to one thought. If they are prophets, they are egotists; if polite
and various, they are shallow. How tardily men arrive at any result! how tardily they
pass from it to another!
The crystal sphere of thought is as concentrical as the geolo-
gical structure of the globe. As our soils and rocks lie in strata, concentric strata,
so do all men’s thinkings run laterally, never vertically. Here comes by a great in-
quisitor with auger and plumb-line, and will bore an Artesian well through our conven-
tions and theories, and pierce to the core of things. But as soon as he probes the crust,
behold gimlet, plumb-line, and philosopher take a lateral direction, in spite of all
resistance, as if some strong wind took everything off its feet, and if you come month
after month to see what progress our reformer has made,--not an inch has he pierced,--
you still find him with new words in the old place, floating about in new parts of the
same old vein or crust. The new book says, `I will give you the key to nature,’ and
we expect to go like a thunderbolt to the centre. But the thunder is a surface pheno-
menon, makes a skin-deep cut, and so does the sage.
The wedge turns out to be a rocket.
Thus a man lasts but a very little while, for his monomania becomes insupportably te-
dious in a few months. It is so with every book and person:
and yet--and yet--we do
not take up a new book, or meet a new man, without a pulse-beat of expectation. And
this invincible hope of a more adequate interpreter is the sure prediction of his

In the absence of man, we turn to nature, which stands next. In the divine order, in-
tellect is primary; nature, secondary; it is the memory of the mind.
That which once
existed in intellect as pure law, has now taken body as Nature. It existed already in
the mind in solution; now, it has been precipitated, and the bright sediment is the
world. We can never be quite strangers or inferiors in nature. It is flesh of our flesh,
and bone of our bone. But we no longer hold it by the hand; we have lost our miraculous
power; our arm is no more as strong as the frost; nor our will equivalent to gravity
and the elective attractions.
Yet we can use nature as a convenient standard, and the
meter of our rise and fall. It has this advantage as a witness, it cannot be debauched.
When man curses, nature still testifies to truth and love.
We may, therefore, safely
study the mind in nature, because we cannot steadily gaze on it in mind; as we explore
the face of the sun in a pool, when our eyes cannot brook his direct splendors.

It seems to me, therefore, that it were some suitable paean, if we should piously cel-
ebrate this hour by exploring the method of nature. Let us see that, as nearly as we
can, and try how far it is transferable to the literary life. Every earnest glance we give
to the realities around us, with intent to learn, proceeds from a holy impulse, and is
really songs of praise. What difference can it make whether it take the shape of exhort-
ation, or of passionate exclamation, or of scientific statement?
These are forms merely.
Through them we express, at last, the fact, that God has done thus or thus.

In treating a subject so large, in which we must necessarily appeal to the intuition,
and aim much more to suggest, than to describe, I know it is not easy to speak with the
precision attainable on topics of less scope.
I do not wish in attempting to paint a man,
to describe an air-fed, unimpassioned, impossible ghost. My eyes and ears are revolted by
any neglect of the physical facts, the limitations of man.
And yet one who conceives the
true order of nature, and beholds the visible as proceeding from the invisible, cannot
state his thought, without seeming to those who study the physical laws, to do them
some injustice.
There is an intrinsic defect in the organ. Language overstates.
Statements of the infinite are usually felt to be unjust to the finite, and blasphemous.
Empedocles undoubtedly spoke a truth of thought, when he said, "I am God; but the
moment it was out of his mouth, it became a lie to the ear; and the world revenged itself
for the seeming arrogance,
by the good story about his shoe. How can I hope for better
hap in my attempts to enunciate spiritual facts?
Yet let us hope, that as far as we re-
ceive the truth, so far shall we be felt by every true person to say what is just.

The method of nature: who could ever analyze it? That rushing stream will not stop to
be observed. We can never surprise nature in a corner; never find the end of a thread;
never tell where to set the first stone. The bird hastens to lay her egg: the egg hast-
ens to be a bird. The wholeness we admire in the order of the world, is the result of
infinite distribution. Its smoothness is the smoothness of the pitch of the cataract. Its
permanence is a perpetual inchoation. Every natural fact is an emanation, and that from
which it emanates is an emanation also, and from every emanation is a new emanation.
If anything could stand still, it would be crushed and dissipated by the torrent it re-
sisted, and if it were a mind, would be crazed; as insane persons are those who hold fast
to one thought, and do not flow with the course of nature. Not the cause, but an ever
noveleffect, nature descends always from above. It is unbroken obedience. The beauty of
these fair objects is imported into them from a metaphysical and eternal spring.
In all
animal and vegetable forms, the physiologist concedes that no chemistry, no mechanics,
can account for the facts, but a mysterious principle of life must be assumed, which not
only inhabits the organ, but makes the organ.

How silent, how spacious, what room for all, yet without place to insert an atom,--in
graceful succession, in equal fulness, in balanced beauty, the dance of the hours goes
forward still. Like an odor of incense, like a strain of music, like a sleep, it is in-
exact and boundless. It will not be dissected, nor unravelled, nor shown.
Away profane
philosopher! seekest thou in nature the cause? This refers to that, and that to the next,
and the next to the third, and everything refers. Thou must ask in another mood, thou
must feel it and love it, thou must behold it in a spirit as grand as that by which it
exists, ere thou canst know the law. Known it will not be, but gladly beloved and en-

The simultaneous life throughout the whole body, the equal serving of innumerable ends
without the least emphasis or preference to any, but the steady degradation of each to
the success of all, allows the understanding no place to work. Nature can only be
conceived as existing to a universal and not to a particular end, to a universe of ends,
and not to one,--a work of ecstasy, to be represented by a circular movement, as inten-
tion might be signified by a straight line of definite length.
Each effect strengthens
every other. There is no revolt in all the kingdoms from the commonweal: no detachment
of an individual.
Hence the catholic character which makes every leaf an exponent of the
world. When we behold the landscape in a poetic spirit, we do not reckon individuals.
Nature knows neither palm nor oak, but only vegetable life, which sprouts into forests,
and festoons the globe with a garland of grasses and vines.

That no single end may be selected, and nature judged thereby, appears from this, that
if man himself be considered as the end, and it be assumed that the final cause of the
world is to make holy or wise or beautiful men, we see that it has not succeeded. Read
alternately in natural and in civil history, a treatise of astronomy, for example,
with a volume of French Memoires pour servir.
When we have spent our wonder in compu-
ting this wasteful hospitality with which boon nature turns off new firmaments without
end into her wide common, as fast as the madrepores
13 make coral,--suns and planets
hospitable to souls,--and then shorten the sight to look into this court of Louis
Quatorze, and see the game that is played there,--duke and marshal, abbe and madame,
-- a gambling table where each is laying traps for the other, where the end is ever by
some lie or fetch to outwit your rival and ruin him with this solemn fop in wig and
stars,--the king; one can hardly help asking if this planet is a fair specimen of the
so generous astronomy, and if so, whether the experiment have not failed, and whether
it be quite worth while to make more, and glut the innocent space with so poor an ar-

I think we feel not much otherwise if, instead of beholding foolish nations, we take
the great and wise men, the eminent souls, and narrowly inspect their biography.
of them seen by himself--and his performance compared with his promise or idea, will
justify the cost of that enormous apparatus of means by which this spotted and defect-
ive person was at last procured.

To questions of this sort, nature replies, `I grow.’ All is nascent, infant. When we
are dizzied with the arithmetic of the savant toiling to compute the length of her line,
the return of her curve, we are steadied by the perception that a great deal is doing;
that all seems just begun; remote aims are in active accomplishment. We can point no-
where to anything final; but tendency appears on all hands:
planet, system, constellation,
total nature is growing like a field of maize in July; is becoming somewhat else; is in
rapid metamorphosis. The embryo does not more strive to be man, than yonder burr of light
we call a nebula tends to be a ring, a comet, a globe, and parent of new stars.
Why should
not then these messieurs of Versailles strut and plot for tabourets
14 and ribbons, for a
season, without prejudice to their faculty to run on better errands by and by?

But nature seems further to reply, `I have ventured so great a stake as my success, in no
single creature. I have not yet arrived at any end.
The gardener aims to produce a fine
peach or pear, but my aim is the health of the whole tree,--root, stem, leaf, flower, and
seed,--and by no means the pampering of a monstrous pericarp
15 at the expense of all
the other functions.’

In short, the spirit and peculiarity of that impression nature makes on us, is this, that
it does not exist to any one or to any number of particular ends, but to numberless and
endless benefit; that there is in it no private will, no rebel leaf or limb, but the whole
is oppressed by one superincumbent tendency, obeys that redundancy or excess of life
which in conscious beings we call ecstasy.

With this conception of the genius or method of nature, let us go back to man. It is true,
he pretends to give account of himself to himself, but, at last, what has he to recite but
the fact that there is a Life not to be described or known otherwise than by possession?
What account can he give of his essence more than so it was to be? The royal reason,
the Grace of God seems the only description of our multiform but ever identical fact. There
is virtue, there is genius, there is success, or there is not. There is the incoming or
the receding of God:
that is all we can affirm; and we can show neither how nor why.
Self-accusation, remorse, and the didactic morals of self-denial and strife with sin, is a
view we are constrained by our constitution to take of the fact seen from the platform of
action; but seen from the platform of intellection, there is nothing for us but praise and

The termination of the world in a man, appears to be the last victory of intelligence.
The universal does not attract us until housed in an individual. Who heeds the waste
abyss of possibility? The ocean is everywhere the same, but it has no character until
seen with the shore or the ship. Who would value any number of miles of Atlantic brine
bounded by lines of latitude and longitude? Confine it by granite rocks, let it wash
a shore where wise men dwell, and it is filled with expression; and the point of great-
est interest is where the land and water meet. So must we admire in man, the form of
the formless, the concentration of the vast, the house of reason, the cave of memory.
See the play of thoughts! what nimble gigantic creatures are these! what saurians, what
palaiotheria shall be named with these agile movers? The great Pan of old, who was clothed
in a leopard skin to signify the beautiful variety of things, and the firmament, his coat
of stars, -- was but the representative of thee, O rich and various Man! thou palace of sight
and sound, carrying in thy senses the morning and the night and the unfathomable galaxy; in
thy brain, the geometry of the City of God; in thy heart, the bower of love and the realms
of right and wrong. An individual man is a fruit which it cost all the foregoing ages to form
and ripen. The history of the genesis or the old mythology repeats itself in the experience
of every child. He too is a demon or god thrown into a particular chaos, where he strives
ever to lead things from disorder into order. Each individual soul is such, in virtue of its
being a power to translate the world into some particular language of its own; if not into a
picture, a statue, or a dance,--why, then, into a trade, an art, a science, a mode of living,
a conversation, a character, an influence. You admire pictures, but it is as impossible for
you to paint a right picture, as for grass to bear apples. But when the genius comes, it
makes fingers: it is pliancy, and the power of transferring the affair in the street into
oils and colors. Raphael must be born, and Salvator must be born.

There is no attractiveness like that of a new man. The sleepy nations are occupied with
their political routine. England, France and America read Parliamentary Debates, which
no high genius now enlivens; and nobody will read them who trusts his own eye: only
they who are deceived by the popular repetition of distinguished names. But when
Napoleon unrolls his map, the eye is commanded by original power. When Chatham
leads the debate, men may well listen, because they must listen. A man, a personal
ascendency is the only great phenomenon. When nature has work to be done, she
creates a genius to do it. Follow the great man, and you shall see what the world has
at heart in these ages. There is no omen like that.

But what strikes us in the fine genius is that which belongs of right to every one. A man
should know himself for a necessary actor. A link was wanting between two craving parts
of nature, and he was hurled into being as the bridge over that yawning need, the
mediator betwixt two else unmarriageable facts. His two parents held each of one of the
wants, and the union of foreign constitutions in him enables him to do gladly and
gracefully what the assembled human race could not have sufficed to do. He knows his
materials; he applies himself to his work; he cannot read, or think, or look, but he unites
the hitherto separated strands into a perfect cord. The thoughts he delights to utter are
the reason of his incarnation. Is it for him to account himself cheap and superfluous, or
to linger by the wayside for opportunities? Did he not come into being because something
must be done which he and no other is and does? If only he "sees, the world will be
visible enough. He need not study where to stand, nor to put things in favorable lights;
in him is the light, from him all things are illuminated, to their centre. What patron
shall he ask for employment and reward? Hereto was he born, to deliver the thought of his
heart from the universe to the universe, to do an office which nature could not forego, nor
he be discharged from rendering, and then immerge again into the holy silence and eternity
out of which as a man he arose. God is rich, and many more men than one he harbors in
his bosom, biding their time and the needs and the beauty of all. Is not this the theory of
every man’s genius or faculty? Why then goest thou as some Boswell or listening
worshipper to this saint or to that? That is the only lese-majesty. Here art thou with whom
so long the universe travailed in labor; darest thou think meanly of thyself whom the
stalwart Fate brought forth to unite his ragged sides, to shoot the gulf, to reconcile the

Whilst a necessity so great caused the man to exist, his health and erectness consist in
the fidelity with which he transmits influences from the vast and universal to the point
on which his genius can act. The ends are momentary: they are vents for the current of
inward life which increases as it is spent. A man’s wisdom is to know that all ends are
momentary, that the best end must be superseded by a better. But there is a mischievous
tendency in him to transfer his thought from the life to the ends, to quit his agency and
rest in his acts: the tools run away with the workman, the human with the divine. I con-
ceive a man as always spoken to from behind, and unable to turn his head and see the
speaker. In all the millions who have heard the voice, none ever saw the face. As chil-
dren in their play run behind each other, and seize one by the ears and make him walk
before them, so is the spirit our unseen pilot. That well-known voice speaks in all lan-
guages, governs all men, and none ever caught a glimpse of its form. If the man will ex-
actly obey it, it will adopt him, so that he shall not any longer separate it from himself
in his thought, he shall seem to be it, he shall be it. If he listen with insatiable ears,
richer and greater wisdom is taught him, the sound swells to a ravishing music, he is borne
away as with a flood, he becomes careless of his food and of his house, he is the fool of
ideas, and leads a heavenly life. But if his eye is set on the things to be done, and not
on the truth that is still taught, and for the sake of which the things are to be done, then
the voice grows faint, and at last is but a humming in his ears. His health and greatness
consist in his being the channel through which heaven flows to earth, in short, in the ful-
ness in which an ecstatical state takes place in him. It is pitiful to be an artist, when,
by forbearing to be artists, we might be vessels filled with the divine overflowings, en-
riched by the circulations of omniscience and omnipresence. Are there not moments in the
history of heaven when the human race was not counted by individuals, but was only the
Influenced, was God in distribution, God rushing into multiform benefit? It is sublime to
receive, sublime to love, but this lust of imparting as from "us, this desire to be loved,
the wish to be recognized as individuals,--is finite, comes of a lower strain.

Shall I say, then, that, as far as we can trace the natural history of the soul, its health
consists in the fulness of its reception,--call it piety, call it veneration--in the fact,
that enthusiasm is organized therein. What is best in any work of art, but that part which
the work itself seems to require and do; that which the man cannot do again, that which flows
from the hour and the occasion, like the eloquence of men in a tumultuous debate? It was
always the theory of literature, that the word of a poet was authoritative and final. He
was supposed to be the mouth of a divine wisdom. We rather envied his circumstance than
his talent. We too could have gladly prophesied standing in that place. We so quote our
Scriptures; and the Greeks so quoted Homer, Theognis, Pindar, and the rest. If the
theory has receded out of modern criticism, it is because we have not had poets.
Whenever they appear, they will redeem their own credit.

This ecstatical state seems to direct a regard to the whole and not to the parts; to the
cause and not to the ends; to the tendency, and not to the act. It respects genius and not
talent; hope, and not possession: the anticipation of all things by the intellect, and not
the history itself; art, and not works of art; poetry, and not experiment; virtue, and not

There is no office or function of man but is rightly discharged by this divine method, and
nothing that is not noxious to him if detached from its universal relations. Is it his work
in the world to study nature, or the laws of the world? Let him beware of proposing to
himself any end. Is it for use? nature is debased, as if one looking at the ocean can
remember only the price of fish. Or is it for pleasure? he is mocked: there is a certain
infatuating air in woods and mountains which draws on the idler to want and misery.
There is something social and intrusive in the nature of all things; they seek to penetrate
and overpower, each the nature of every other creature, and itself alone in all modes and
throughout space and spirit to prevail and possess. Every star in heaven is discontented
and insatiable. Gravitation and chemistry cannot content them. Ever they woo and court
the eye of every beholder. Every man who comes into the world they seek to fascinate
and possess, to pass into his mind, for they desire to republish themselves in a more
delicate world than that they occupy. It is not enough that they are Jove, Mars, Orion, and
the North Star, in the gravitating firmament: they would have such poets as Newton,
Herschel and Laplace, that they may re-exist and re-appear in the finer world of rational
souls, and fill that realm with their fame. So is it with all immaterial objects. These
beautiful basilisks set their brute, glorious eyes on the eye of every child, and, if they
can, cause their nature to pass through his wondering eyes into him, and so all things are

Therefore man must be on his guard against this cup of enchantments, and must look at
nature with a supernatural eye. By piety alone, by conversing with the cause of nature,
is he safe and commands it. And because all knowledge is assimilation to the object of
knowledge, as the power or genius of nature is ecstatic, so must its science or the
description of it be. The poet must be a rhapsodist: his inspiration a sort of bright
casualty: his will in it only the surrender of will to the Universal Power, which will
not be seen face to face, but must be received and sympathetically known. It is remark-
able that we have out of the deeps of antiquity in the oracles ascribed to the half fab-
ulous Zoroaster, a statement of this fact, which every lover and seeker of truth will
recognize. "It is not proper, said Zoroaster, "to understand the Intelligible with vehe-
mence, but if you incline your mind, you will apprehend it: not too earnestly, but bring-
ing a pure and inquiring eye. You will not understand it as when understanding some par-
ticular thing, but with the flower of the mind. Things divine are not attainable by mor-
tals who understand sensual things, but only the light-armed arrive at the summit.

And because ecstasy is the law and cause of nature, therefore you cannot interpret it
in too high and deep a sense. Nature represents the best meaning of the wisest man. Does
the sunset landscape seem to you the palace of Friendship,--those purple skies and
lovely waters the amphitheatre dressed and garnished only for the exchange of thought
and love of the purest souls? It is that. All other meanings which base men have put on
it are conjectural and false. You cannot bathe twice in the same river, said Heraclitus;
and I add, a man never sees the same object twice: with his own enlargement the object
acquires new aspects.

Does not the same law hold for virtue? It is vitiated by too much will. He who aims at
progress, should aim at an infinite, not at a special benefit. The reforms whose fame
now fills the land with Temperance, Anti-Slavery, Non-Resistance, No Government, Equal
Labor, fair and generous as each appears, are poor bitter things when prosecuted for
themselves as an end. To every reform, in proportion to its energy, early disgusts are
incident, so that the disciple is surprised at the very hour of his first triumphs, with
chagrins, and sickness, and a general distrust: so that he shuns his associates, hates the
enterprise which lately seemed so fair, and meditates to cast himself into the arms of
that society and manner of life which he had newly abandoned with so much pride and hope.
Is it that he attached the value of virtue to some particular practices, as, the denial of
certain appetites in certain specified indulgences, and, afterward, found himself still as
wicked and as far from happiness in that abstinence, as he had been in the abuse? But
the soul can be appeased not by a deed but by a tendency. It is in a hope that she feels
her wings. You shall love rectitude and not the disuse of money or the avoidance of trade:
an unimpeded mind, and not a monkish diet; sympathy and usefulness, and not hoeing or co-
opering. Tell me not how great your project is, the civil liberation of the world, its
conversion into a Christian church, the establishment of public education, cleaner diet,
a new division of labor and of land, laws of love for laws of property;--I say to you
plainly there is no end to which your practical faculty can aim, so sacred or so large,
that, if pursued for itself, will not at last become carrion and an offence to the nostril.
The imaginative faculty of the soul must be fed with objects immense and eternal. Your end
should be one inapprehensible to the senses: then will it be a god always approached, --
never touched; always giving health. A man adorns himself with prayer and love, as an
aim adorns an action. What is strong but goodness, and what is energetic but the presence
of a brave man? The doctrine in vegetable physiology of the presence, or the general in-
fluence of any substance over and above its chemical influence, as of an alkali or a
living plant, is more predicable of man. You need not speak to me, I need not go where
you are, that you should exert magnetism on me. Be you only whole and sufficient, and I
shall feel you in every part of my life and fortune, and I can as easily dodge the gra-
vitation of the globe as escape your influence.

But there are other examples of this total and supreme influence, besides Nature and the
conscience. "From the poisonous tree, the world, say the Brahmins, "two species of fruit
are produced, sweet as the waters of life, Love or the society of beautiful souls, and
Poetry, whose taste is like the immortal juice of Vishnu. What is Love, and why is it
the chief good, but because it is an overpowering enthusiasm? Never self-possessed or
pruudent, it is all abandonment. Is it not a certain admirable wisdom, preferable to all
other advantages, and whereof all others are only secondaries and indemnities, because
this is that in which the individual is no longer his own foolish master, but inhales an
odorous and celestial air, is wrapped round with awe of the object, blending for the time
that object with the real and only good, and consults every omen in nature with tremulous
interest. When we speak truly,--is not he only unhappy who is not in love? his fancied
freedom and self-rule--is it not so much death? He who is in love is wise and is becom-
ing wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with
his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses. Therefore if the object be not
itself a living and expanding soul, he presently exhausts it. But the love remains in
his mind, and the wisdom it brought him; and it craves a new and higher object. And the
reason why all men honor love, is because it looks up and not down; aspires and not

And what is Genius but finer love, a love impersonal, a love of the flower and perfection
of things, and a desire to draw a new picture or copy of the same? It looks to the cause
and life: it proceeds from within outward, whilst Talent goes from without inward. Talent
finds its models, methods, and ends, in society, exists for exhibition, and goes to the soul
only for power to work. Genius is its own end, and draws its means and the style of its
architecture from within, going abroad only for audience, and spectator, as we adapt our
voice and phrase to the distance and character of the ear we speak to. All your learning
of all literatures would never enable you to anticipate one of its thoughts or expressions,
and yet each is natural and familiar as household words. Here about us coils forever the
ancient enigma, so old and so unutterable. Behold! there is the sun, and the rain, and the
rocks: the old sun, the old stones. How easy were it to describe all this fitly; yet no word
can pass. Nature is a mute, and man, her articulate speaking brother, lo! he also is a
mute. Yet when Genius arrives, its speech is like a river; it has no straining to describe,
more than there is straining in nature to exist. When thought is best, there is most of it.
Genius sheds wisdom like perfume, and advertises us that it flows out of a deeper source
than the foregoing silence, that it knows so deeply and speaks so musically, because it is
itself a mutation of the thing it describes. It is sun and moon and wave and fire in music,
as astronomy is thought and harmony in masses of matter.

What is all history but the work of ideas, a record of the incomputable energy which his
infinite aspirations infuse into man? Has any thing grand and lasting been done? Who did
it? Plainly not any man, but all men: it was the prevalence and inundation of an idea.
What brought the pilgrims here? One man says, civil liberty; another, the desire of
founding a church; and a third, discovers that the motive force was plantation and trade.
But if the Puritans could rise from the dust, they could not answer. It is to be seen in what
they were, and not in what they designed; it was the growth and expansion of the human
race, and resembled herein the sequent Revolution, which was not begun in Concord, or
Lexington, or Virginia, but was the overflowing of the sense of natural right in every clear
and active spirit of the period. Is a man boastful and knowing, and his own master?--we
turn from him without hope: but let him be filled with awe and dread before the Vast and
the Divine, which uses him glad to be used, and our eye is riveted to the chain of events.
What a debt is ours to that old religion which, in the childhood of most of us, still dwelt
like a sabbath morning in the country of New England, teaching privation, self-denial and
sorrow! A man was born not for prosperity, but to suffer for the benefit of others, like the
noble rock-maple which all around our villages bleeds for the service of man. Not praise,
not men’s acceptance of our doing, but the spirit’s holy errand through us absorbed the
thought. How dignified was this! How all that is called talents and success, in our noisy
capitals, becomes buzz and din before this man-worthiness! How our friendships and the
complaisances we use, shame us now! Shall we not quit our companions, as if they were
thieves and pot-companions, and betake ourselves to some desert cliff of mount
Katahdin, some unvisited recess in Moosehead Lake, to bewail our innocency and to
recover it, and with it the power to communicate again with these sharers of a more
sacred idea?

And what is to replace for us the piety of that race? We cannot have theirs: it glides away
from us day by day, but we also can bask in the great morning which rises forever out of
the eastern sea, and be ourselves the children of the light. I stand here to say, Let us
worship the mighty and transcendent Soul. It is the office, I doubt not, of this age to annul
that adulterous divorce which the superstition of many ages has effected between the intel-
lect and holiness. The lovers of goodness have been one class, the students of wisdom an-
other, as if either could exist in any purity without the other. Truth is always holy,
holiness always wise. I will that we keep terms with sin, and a sinful literature and
society, no longer, but live a life of discovery and performance. Accept the intellect, and
it will accept us. Be the lowly ministers of that pure omniscience, and deny it not before
men. It will burn up all profane literature, all base current opinions, all the false powers
of the world, as in a moment of time. I draw from nature the lesson of an intimate divinity.
Our health and reason as men needs our respect to this fact, against the heedlessness
and against the contradiction of society. The sanity of man needs the poise of this
immanent force. His nobility needs the assurance of this inexhaustible reserved power.
How great soever have been its bounties, they are a drop to the sea whence they flow. If
you say, `the acceptance of the vision is also the act of God:’--I shall not seek to
penetrate the mystery, I admit the force of what you say. If you ask, `How can any rules
be given for the attainment of gifts so sublime?’ I shall only remark that the solicitations
of this spirit, as long as there is life, are never forborne. Tenderly, tenderly, they woo and
court us from every object in nature, from every fact in life, from every thought in the
mind. The one condition coupled with the gift of truth is its use. That man shall be learned
who reduceth his learning to practice. Emanuel Swedenborg affirmed that it was opened
to him, "that the spirits who knew truth in this life, but did it not, at death shall lose their
knowledge. "If knowledge, said Ali the Caliph, "calleth unto practice, well; if not, it goeth
away. The only way into nature is to enact our best insight. Instantly we are higher
poets, and can speak a deeper law. Do what you know, and perception is converted into
character, as islands and continents were built by invisible infusories, or, as these forest
leaves absorb light, electricity, and volatile gases, and the gnarled oak to live a thousand
years is the arrest and fixation of the most volatile and ethereal currents. The doctrine of
this Supreme Presence is a cry of joy and exultation. Who shall dare think he has come
late into nature, or has missed anything excellent in the past, who seeth the admirable
stars of possibility, and the yet untouched continent of hope glittering with all its
mountains in the vast West? I praise with wonder this great reality, which seems to drown
all things in the deluge of its light. What man seeing this, can lose it from his thoughts, or
entertain a meaner subject? The entrance of this into his mind seems to be the birth of
man. We cannot describe the natural history of the soul, but we know that it is divine. I
cannot tell if these wonderful qualities which house to-day in this mortal frame, shall ever
reassemble in equal activity in a similar frame, or whether they have before had a natural
history like that of this body you see before you; but this one thing I know, that these
qualities did not now begin to exist, cannot be sick with my sickness, nor buried in any
grave; but that they circulate through the Universe: before the world was, they were.
Nothing can bar them out, or shut them in, but they penetrate the ocean and land, space
and time, form and essence, and hold the key to universal nature. I draw from this faith
courage and hope. All things are known to the soul. It is not to be surprised by any
communication. Nothing can be greater than it. Let those fear and those fawn who will.
The soul is in her native realm, and it is wider than space, older than time, wide as hope,
rich as love. Pusillanimity and fear she refuses with a beautiful scorn: they are not for her
who putteth on her coronation robes, and goes out through universal love to universal

Man the Reformer

A Lecture read before the Mechanics' Apprentices' Library Association,
Boston, January 25, 1841

Mr. President, and Gentlemen,

I wish to offer to your consideration some thoughts on the particular and
general relations of man as a reformer. I shall assume that the aim of each
young man in this association is the very highest that belongs to a rational
mind. Let it be granted, that our life, as we lead it, is common and mean; that
some of those offices and functions for which we were mainly created are grown
so rare in society, that the memory of them is only kept alive in old books and
in dim traditions; that prophets and poets, that beautiful and perfect men, we
are not now, no, nor have even seen such; that some sources of human instruction
are almost unnamed and unknown among us; that the community in which we live
will hardly bear to be told that every man should be open to ecstasy or a divine
illumination, and his daily walk elevated by intercourse with the spiritual
world. Grant all this, as we must, yet I suppose none of my auditors will deny
that we ought to seek to establish ourselves in such disciplines and courses as
will deserve that guidance and clearer communication with the spiritual nature.
And further, I will not dissemble my hope, that each person whom I address has
felt his own call to cast aside all evil customs, timidities, and limitations,
and to be in his place a free and helpful man, a reformer, a benefactor, not
content to slip along through the world like a footman or a spy, escaping by his
nimbleness and apologies as many knocks as he can, but a brave and upright man,
who must find or cut a straight road to everything excellent in the earth, and
not only go honorably himself, but make it easier for all who follow him, to go
in honor and with benefit.

In the history of the world the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as at
the present hour. Lutherans, Hernhutters, Jesuits, Monks, Quakers, Knox, Wesley,
Swedenborg, Bentham, in their accusations of society, all respected something,
? church or state, literature or history, domestic usages, the market town, the
dinner table, coined money. But now all these and all things else hear the
trumpet, and must rush to judgment, ? Christianity, the laws, commerce,
schools, the farm, the laboratory; and not a kingdom, town, statute, rite,
calling, man, or woman, but is threatened by the new spirit.

What if some of the objections whereby our institutions are assailed are
extreme and speculative, and the reformers tend to idealism; that only shows the
extravagance of the abuses which have driven the mind into the opposite extreme.
It is when your facts and persons grow unreal and fantastic by too much
falsehood, that the scholar flies for refuge to the world of ideas, and aims to
recruit and replenish nature from that source. Let ideas establish their
legitimate sway again in society, let life be fair and poetic, and the scholars
will gladly be lovers, citizens, and philanthropists.

It will afford no security from the new ideas, that the old nations, the laws
of centuries, the property and institutions of a hundred cities, are built on
other foundations. The demon of reform has a secret door into the heart of every
lawmaker, of every inhabitant of every city. The fact, that a new thought and
hope have dawned in your breast, should apprize you that in the same hour a new
light broke in upon a thousand private hearts. That secret which you would fain
keep, ? as soon as you go abroad, lo! there is one standing on the doorstep, to
tell you the same. There is not the most bronzed and sharpened money-catcher,
who does not, to your consternation, almost, quail and shake the moment he hears
a question prompted by the new ideas. We thought he had some semblance of ground
to stand upon, that such as he at least would die hard; but he trembles and
flees. Then the scholar says, `Cities and coaches shall never impose on me
again; for, behold every solitary dream of mine is rushing to fulfilment. That
fancy I had, and hesitated to utter because you would laugh, ? the broker, the
attorney, the market-man are saying the same thing. Had I waited a day longer to
speak, I had been too late. Behold, State Street thinks, and Wall Street doubts,
and begins to prophesy!'

It cannot be wondered at, that this general inquest into abuses should arise
in the bosom of society, when one considers the practical impediments that stand
in the way of virtuous young men. The young man, on entering life, finds the way
to lucrative employments blocked with abuses. The ways of trade are grown
selfish to the borders of theft, and supple to the borders (if not beyond the
borders) of fraud. The employments of commerce are not intrinsically unfit for a
man, or less genial to his faculties, but these are now in their general course
so vitiated by derelictions and abuses at which all connive, that it requires
more vigor and resources than can be expected of every young man, to right
himself in them; he is lost in them; he cannot move hand or foot in them. Has he
genius and virtue? the less does he find them fit for him to grow in, and if he
would thrive in them, he must sacrifice all the brilliant dreams of boyhood and
youth as dreams; he must forget the prayers of his childhood; and must take on
him the harness of routine and obsequiousness. If not so minded, nothing is left
him but to begin the world anew, as he does who puts the spade into the ground
for food. We are all implicated, of course, in this charge; it is only necessary
to ask a few questions as to the progress of the articles of commerce from the
fields where they grew, to our houses, to become aware that we eat and drink and
wear perjury and fraud in a hundred commodities. How many articles of daily
consumption are furnished us from the West Indies; yet it is said, that, in the
Spanish islands, the venality of the officers of the government has passed into
usage, and that no article passes into our ships which has not been fraudulently
cheapened. In the Spanish islands, every agent or factor of the Americans,
unless he be a consul, has taken oath that he is a Catholic, or has caused a
priest to make that declaration for him. The abolitionist has shown us our
dreadful debt to the southern negro. In the island of Cuba, in addition to the
ordinary abominations of slavery, it appears, only men are bought for the
plantations, and one dies in ten every year, of these miserable bachelors, to
yield us sugar. I leave for those who have the knowledge the part of sifting the
oaths of our custom-houses; I will not inquire into the oppression of the
sailors; I will not pry into the usages of our retail trade. I content myself
with the fact, that the general system of our trade, (apart from the blacker
traits, which, I hope, are exceptions denounced and unshared by all reputable
men,) is a system of selfishness; is not dictated by the high sentiments of
human nature; is not measured by the exact law of reciprocity; much less by the
sentiments of love and heroism, but is a system of distrust, of concealment, of
superior keenness, not of giving but of taking advantage. It is not that which a
man delights to unlock to a noble friend; which he meditates on with joy and
self-approval in his hour of love and aspiration; but rather what he then puts
out of sight, only showing the brilliant result, and atoning for the manner of
acquiring, by the manner of expending it. I do not charge the merchant or the
manufacturer. The sins of our trade belong to no class, to no individual. One
plucks, one distributes, one eats. Every body partakes, every body confesses,
?with cap and knee volunteers his confession, yet none feels himself
accountable. He did not create the abuse; he cannot alter it. What is he? an
obscure private person who must get his bread. That is the vice, ? that no one
feels himself called to act for man, but only as a fraction of man. It happens
therefore that all such ingenuous souls as feel within themselves the
irrepressible strivings of a noble aim, who by the law of their nature must act
simply, find these ways of trade unfit for them, and they come forth from it.
Such cases are becoming more numerous every year.

But by coming out of trade you have not cleared yourself. The trail of the
serpent reaches into all the lucrative professions and practices of man. Each
has its own wrongs. Each finds a tender and very intelligent conscience a
disqualification for success. Each requires of the practitioner a certain
shutting of the eyes, a certain dapperness and compliance, an acceptance of
customs, a sequestration from the sentiments of generosity and love, a
compromise of private opinion and lofty integrity. Nay, the evil custom reaches
into the whole institution of property, until our laws which establish and
protect it, seem not to be the issue of love and reason, but of selfishness.
Suppose a man is so unhappy as to be born a saint, with keen perceptions, but
with the conscience and love of an angel, and he is to get his living in the
world; he finds himself excluded from all lucrative works; he has no farm, and
he cannot get one; for, to earn money enough to buy one, requires a sort of
concentration toward money, which is the selling himself for a number of years,
and to him the present hour is as sacred and inviolable as any future hour. Of
course, whilst another man has no land, my title to mine, your title to yours,
is at once vitiated. Inextricable seem to be the twinings and tendrils of this
evil, and we all involve ourselves in it the deeper by forming connections, by
wives and children, by benefits and debts.

Considerations of this kind have turned the attention of many philanthropic
and intelligent persons to the claims of manual labor, as a part of the
education of every young man. If the accumulated wealth of the past generations
is thus tainted, ? no matter how much of it is offered to us, ? we must begin
to consider if it were not the nobler part to renounce it, and to put ourselves
into primary relations with the soil and nature, and abstaining from whatever is
dishonest and unclean, to take each of us bravely his part, with his own hands,
in the manual labor of the world.

But it is said, `What! will you give up the immense advantages reaped from
the division of labor, and set every man to make his own shoes, bureau, knife,
wagon, sails, and needle? This would be to put men back into barbarism by their
own act.' I see no instant prospect of a virtuous revolution; yet I confess, I
should not be pained at a change which threatened a loss of some of the luxuries
or conveniences of society, if it proceeded from a preference of the
agricultural life out of the belief, that our primary duties as men could be
better discharged in that calling. Who could regret to see a high conscience and
a purer taste exercising a sensible effect on young men in their choice of
occupation, and thinning the ranks of competition in the labors of commerce, of
law, and of state? It is easy to see that the inconvenience would last but a
short time. This would be great action, which always opens the eyes of men. When
many persons shall have done this, when the majority shall admit the necessity
of reform in all these institutions, their abuses will be redressed, and the way
will be open again to the advantages which arise from the division of labor, and
a man may select the fittest employment for his peculiar talent again, without

But quite apart from the emphasis which the times give to the doctrine, that
the manual labor of society ought to be shared among all the members, there are
reasons proper to every individual, why he should not be deprived of it. The use
of manual labor is one which never grows obsolete, and which is inapplicable to
no person. A man should have a farm or a mechanical craft for his culture. We
must have a basis for our higher accomplishments, our delicate entertainments of
poetry and philosophy, in the work of our hands. We must have an antagonism in
the tough world for all the variety of our spiritual faculties, or they will not
be born. Manual labor is the study of the external world. The advantage of
riches remains with him who procured them, not with the heir. When I go into my
garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health, that
I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do
for me what I should have done with my own hands. But not only health, but
education is in the work. Is it possible that I who get indefinite quantities of
sugar, hominy, cotton, buckets, crockery ware, and letter paper, by simply
signing my name once in three months to a cheque in favor of John Smith and Co.
traders, get the fair share of exercise to my faculties by that act, which
nature intended for me in making all these far-fetched matters important to my
comfort? It is Smith himself, and his carriers, and dealers, and manufacturers,
it is the sailor, the hidedrogher, the butcher, the negro, the hunter, and the
planter, who have intercepted the sugar of the sugar, and the cotton of the
cotton. They have got the education, I only the commodity. This were all very
well if I were necessarily absent, being detained by work of my own, like
theirs, work of the same faculties; then should I be sure of my hands and feet,
but now I feel some shame before my wood-chopper, my ploughman, and my cook, for
they have some sort of self-sufficiency, they can contrive without my aid to
bring the day and year round, but I depend on them, and have not earned by use a
right to my arms and feet.

Consider further the difference between the first and second owner of
property. Every species of property is preyed on by its own enemies, as iron by
rust; timber by rot; cloth by moths; provisions by mould, putridity, or vermin;
money by thieves; an orchard by insects; a planted field by weeds and the inroad
of cattle; a stock of cattle by hunger; a road by rain and frost; a bridge by
freshets. And whoever takes any of these things into his possession, takes the
charge of defending them from this troop of enemies, or of keeping them in
repair. A man who supplies his own want, who builds a raft or a boat to go a
fishing, finds it easy to caulk it, or put in a thole-pin, or mend the rudder.
What he gets only as fast as he wants for his own ends, does not embarrass him,
or take away his sleep with looking after. But when he comes to give all the
goods he has year after year collected, in one estate to his son, house,
orchard, ploughed land, cattle, bridges, hardware, wooden-ware, carpets, cloths,
provisions, books, money, and cannot give him the skill and experience which
made or collected these, and the method and place they have in his own life, the
son finds his hands full, ? not to use these things, ? but to look after them
and defend them from their natural enemies. To him they are not means, but
masters. Their enemies will not remit; rust, mould, vermin, rain, sun, freshet,
fire, all seize their own, fill him with vexation, and he is converted from the
owner into a watchman or a watch-dog to this magazine of old and new chattels.
What a change! Instead of the masterly good humor, and sense of power, and
fertility of resource in himself; instead of those strong and learned hands,
those piercing and learned eyes, that supple body, and that mighty and
prevailing heart, which the father had, whom nature loved and feared, whom snow
and rain, water and land, beast and fish seemed all to know and to serve, we
have now a puny, protected person, guarded by walls and curtains, stoves and
down beds, coaches, and men-servants and women-servants from the earth and the
sky, and who, bred to depend on all these, is made anxious by all that endangers
those possessions, and is forced to spend so much time in guarding them, that he
has quite lost sight of their original use, namely, to help him to his ends, ?
to the prosecution of his love; to the helping of his friend, to the worship of
his God, to the enlargement of his knowledge, to the serving of his country, to
the indulgence of his sentiment, and he is now what is called a rich man, ? the
menial and runner of his riches.

Hence it happens that the whole interest of history lies in the fortunes of
the poor. Knowledge, Virtue, Power are the victories of man over his
necessities, his march to the dominion of the world. Every man ought to have
this opportunity to conquer the world for himself. Only such persons interest
us, Spartans, Romans, Saracens, English, Americans, who have stood in the jaws
of need, and have by their own wit and might extricated themselves, and made man

I do not wish to overstate this doctrine of labor, or insist that every man
should be a farmer, any more than that every man should be a lexicographer. In
general, one may say, that the husbandman's is the oldest, and most universal
profession, and that where a man does not yet discover in himself any fitness
for one work more than another, this may be preferred. But the doctrine of the
Farm is merely this, that every man ought to stand in primary relations with the
work of the world, ought to do it himself, and not to suffer the accident of his
having a purse in his pocket, or his having been bred to some dishonorable and
injurious craft, to sever him from those duties; and for this reason, that labor
is God's education; that he only is a sincere learner, he only can become a
master, who learns the secrets of labor, and who by real cunning extorts from
nature its sceptre.

Neither would I shut my ears to the plea of the learned professions, of the
poet, the priest, the lawgiver, and men of study generally; namely, that in the
experience of all men of that class, the amount of manual labor which is
necessary to the maintenance of a family, indisposes and disqualifies for
intellectual exertion. I know, it often, perhaps usually, happens, that where
there is a fine organization apt for poetry and philosophy, that individual
finds himself compelled to wait on his thoughts, to waste several days that he
may enhance and glorify one; and is better taught by a moderate and dainty
exercise, such as rambling in the fields, rowing, skating, hunting, than by the
downright drudgery of the farmer and the smith. I would not quite forget the
venerable counsel of the Egyptian mysteries, which declared that "there were two
pairs of eyes in man, and it is requisite that the pair which are beneath should
be closed, when the pair that are above them perceive, and that when the pair
above are closed, those which are beneath should be opened." Yet I will suggest
that no separation from labor can be without some loss of power and of truth to
the seer himself; that, I doubt not, the faults and vices of our literature and
philosophy, their too great fineness, effeminacy, and melancholy, are
attributable to the enervated and sickly habits of the literary class. Better
that the book should not be quite so good, and the bookmaker abler and better,
and not himself often a ludicrous contrast to all that he has written.

But granting that for ends so sacred and dear, some relaxation must be had, I
think, that if a man find in himself any strong bias to poetry, to art, to the
contemplative life, drawing him to these things with a devotion incompatible
with good husbandry, that man ought to reckon early with himself, and,
respecting the compensations of the Universe, ought to ransom himself from the
duties of economy, by a certain rigor and privation in his habits. For
privileges so rare and grand, let him not stint to pay a great tax. Let him be a
caenobite, a pauper, and if need be, celibate also. Let him learn to eat his
meals standing, and to relish the taste of fair water and black bread. He may
leave to others the costly conveniences of housekeeping, and large hospitality,
and the possession of works of art. Let him feel that genius is a hospitality,
and that he who can create works of art needs not collect them. He must live in
a chamber, and postpone his self-indulgence, forewarned and forearmed against
that frequent misfortune of men of genius, ? the taste for luxury. This is the
tragedy of genius, ? attempting to drive along the ecliptic with one horse of
the heavens and one horse of the earth, there is only discord and ruin and
downfall to chariot and charioteer.

The duty that every man should assume his own vows, should call the
institutions of society to account, and examine their fitness to him, gains in
emphasis, if we look at our modes of living. Is our housekeeping sacred and
honorable? Does it raise and inspire us, or does it cripple us instead? I ought
to be armed by every part and function of my household, by all my social
function, by my economy, by my feasting, by my voting, by my traffic. Yet I am
almost no party to any of these things. Custom does it for me, gives me no power
therefrom, and runs me in debt to boot. We spend our incomes for paint and
paper, for a hundred trifles, I know not what, and not for the things of a man.
Our expense is almost all for conformity. It is for cake that we run in debt; 't
is not the intellect, not the heart, not beauty, not worship, that costs so
much. Why needs any man be rich? Why must he have horses, fine garments,
handsome apartments, access to public houses, and places of amusement? Only for
want of thought. Give his mind a new image, and he flees into a solitary garden
or garret to enjoy it, and is richer with that dream, than the fee of a county
could make him. But we are first thoughtless, and then find that we are
moneyless. We are first sensual, and then must be rich. We dare not trust our
wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, and so we buy ice-creams. He is
accustomed to carpets, and we have not sufficient character to put floor-cloths
out of his mind whilst he stays in the house, and so we pile the floor with
carpets. Let the house rather be a temple of the Furies of Lacedaemon,
formidable and holy to all, which none but a Spartan may enter or so much as
behold. As soon as there is faith, as soon as there is society, comfits and
cushions will be left to slaves. Expense will be inventive and heroic. We shall
eat hard and lie hard, we shall dwell like the ancient Romans in narrow
tenements, whilst our public edifices, like theirs, will be worthy for their
proportion of the landscape in which we set them, for conversation, for art, for
music, for worship. We shall be rich to great purposes; poor only for selfish

Now what help for these evils? How can the man who has learned but one art,
procure all the conveniences of life honestly? Shall we say all we think? ?
Perhaps with his own hands. Suppose he collects or makes them ill; ? yet he has
learned their lesson. If he cannot do that. ? Then perhaps he can go without.
Immense wisdom and riches are in that. It is better to go without, than to have
them at too great a cost. Let us learn the meaning of economy. Economy is a
high, humane office, a sacrament, when its aim is grand; when it is the prudence
of simple tastes, when it is practised for freedom, or love, or devotion. Much
of the economy which we see in houses, is of a base origin, and is best kept out
of sight. Parched corn eaten to-day that I may have roast fowl to my dinner on
Sunday, is a baseness; but parched corn and a house with one apartment, that I
may be free of all perturbations, that I may be serene and docile to what the
mind shall speak, and girt and road-ready for the lowest mission of knowledge or
goodwill, is frugality for gods and heroes.

Can we not learn the lesson of self-help? Society is full of infirm people,
who incessantly summon others to serve them. They contrive everywhere to exhaust
for their single comfort the entire means and appliances of that luxury to which
our invention has yet attained. Sofas, ottomans, stoves, wine, game-fowl,
spices, perfumes, rides, the theatre, entertainments, ? all these they want,
they need, and whatever can be suggested more than these, they crave also, as if
it was the bread which should keep them from starving; and if they miss any one,
they represent themselves as the most wronged and most wretched persons on
earth. One must have been born and bred with them to know how to prepare a meal
for their learned stomach. Meantime, they never bestir themselves to serve
another person; not they! they have a great deal more to do for themselves than
they can possibly perform, nor do they once perceive the cruel joke of their
lives, but the more odious they grow, the sharper is the tone of their
complaining and craving. Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants and to
serve them one's self, so as to have somewhat left to give, instead of being
always prompt to grab? It is more elegant to answer one's own needs, than to be
richly served; inelegant perhaps it may look to-day, and to a few, but it is an
elegance forever and to all.

I do not wish to be absurd and pedantic in reform. I do not wish to push my
criticism on the state of things around me to that extravagant mark, that shall
compel me to suicide, or to an absolute isolation from the advantages of civil
society. If we suddenly plant our foot, and say, ? I will neither eat nor drink
nor wear nor touch any food or fabric which I do not know to be innocent, or
deal with any person whose whole manner of life is not clear and rational, we
shall stand still. Whose is so? Not mine; not thine; not his. But I think we
must clear ourselves each one by the interrogation, whether we have earned our
bread to-day by the hearty contribution of our energies to the common benefit?
and we must not cease to tend to the correction of these flagrant wrongs, by
laying one stone aright every day.

But the idea which now begins to agitate society has a wider scope than our
daily employments, our households, and the institutions of property. We are to
revise the whole of our social structure, the state, the school, religion,
marriage, trade, science, and explore their foundations in our own nature; we
are to see that the world not only fitted the former men, but fits us, and to
clear ourselves of every usage which has not its roots in our own mind. What is
a man born for but to be a Reformer, a Remaker of what man has made; a renouncer
of lies; a restorer of truth and good, imitating that great Nature which
embosoms us all, and which sleeps no moment on an old past, but every hour
repairs herself, yielding us every morning a new day, and with every pulsation a
new life? Let him renounce everything which is not true to him, and put all his
practices back on their first thoughts, and do nothing for which he has not the
whole world for his reason. If there are inconveniences, and what is called ruin
in the way, because we have so enervated and maimed ourselves, yet it would be
like dying of perfumes to sink in the effort to reattach the deeds of every day
to the holy and mysterious recesses of life.

The power, which is at once spring and regulator in all efforts of reform, is
the conviction that there is an infinite worthiness in man which will appear at
the call of worth, and that all particular reforms are the removing of some
impediment. Is it not the highest duty that man should be honored in us? I ought
not to allow any man, because he has broad lands, to feel that he is rich in my
presence. I ought to make him feel that I can do without his riches, that I
cannot be bought, ? neither by comfort, neither by pride, ? and though I be
utterly penniless, and receiving bread from him, that he is the poor man beside
me. And if, at the same time, a woman or a child discovers a sentiment of piety,
or a juster way of thinking than mine, I ought to confess it by my respect and
obedience, though it go to alter my whole way of life.

The Americans have many virtues, but they have not Faith and Hope. I know no
two words whose meaning is more lost sight of. We use these words as if they
were as obsolete as Selah and Amen. And yet they have the broadest meaning, and
the most cogent application to Boston in . The Americans have no faith. They
rely on the power of a dollar; they are deaf to a sentiment. They think you may
talk the north wind down as easily as raise society; and no class more faithless
than the scholars or intellectual men. Now if I talk with a sincere wise man,
and my friend, with a poet, with a conscientious youth who is still under the
dominion of his own wild thoughts, and not yet harnessed in the team of society
to drag with us all in the ruts of custom, I see at once how paltry is all this
generation of unbelievers, and what a house of cards their institutions are, and
I see what one brave man, what one great thought executed might effect. I see
that the reason of the distrust of the practical man in all theory, is his
inability to perceive the means whereby we work. Look, he says, at the tools
with which this world of yours is to be built. As we cannot make a planet, with
atmosphere, rivers, and forests, by means of the best carpenters' or engineers'
tools, with chemist's laboratory and smith's forge to boot, ? so neither can we
ever construct that heavenly society you prate of, out of foolish, sick, selfish
men and women, such as we know them to be. But the believer not only beholds his
heaven to be possible, but already to begin to exist, ? not by the men or
materials the statesman uses, but by men transfigured and raised above
themselves by the power of principles. To principles something else is possible
that transcends all the power of expedients.

Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph
of some enthusiasm. The victories of the Arabs after Mahomet, who, in a few
years, from a small and mean beginning, established a larger empire than that of
Rome, is an example. They did they knew not what. The naked Derar, horsed on an
idea, was found an overmatch for a troop of Roman cavalry. The women fought like
men, and conquered the Roman men. They were miserably equipped, miserably fed.
They were Temperance troops. There was neither brandy nor flesh needed to feed
them. They conquered Asia, and Africa, and Spain, on barley. The Caliph Omar's
walking stick struck more terror into those who saw it, than another man's
sword. His diet was barley bread; his sauce was salt; and oftentimes by way of
abstinence he ate his bread without salt. His drink was water. His palace was
built of mud; and when he left Medina to go to the conquest of Jerusalem, he
rode on a red camel, with a wooden platter hanging at his saddle, with a bottle
of water and two sacks, one holding barley, and the other dried fruits.

But there will dawn ere long on our politics, on our modes of living, a
nobler morning than that Arabian faith, in the sentiment of love. This is the
one remedy for all ills, the panacea of nature. We must be lovers, and at once
the impossible becomes possible. Our age and history, for these thousand years,
has not been the history of kindness, but of selfishness. Our distrust is very
expensive. The money we spend for courts and prisons is very ill laid out. We
make, by distrust, the thief, and burglar, and incendiary, and by our court and
jail we keep him so. An acceptance of the sentiment of love throughout
Christendom for a season, would bring the felon and the outcast to our side in
tears, with the devotion of his faculties to our service. See this wide society
of laboring men and women. We allow ourselves to be served by them, we live
apart from them, and meet them without a salute in the streets. We do not greet
their talents, nor rejoice in their good fortune, nor foster their hopes, nor in
the assembly of the people vote for what is dear to them. Thus we enact the part
of the selfish noble and king from the foundation of the world. See, this tree
always bears one fruit. In every household, the peace of a pair is poisoned by
the malice, slyness, indolence, and alienation of domestics. Let any two matrons
meet, and observe how soon their conversation turns on the troubles from their
"help," as our phrase is. In every knot of laborers, the rich man does not
feel himself among his friends, ? and at the polls he finds them arrayed in a
mass in distinct opposition to him. We complain that the politics of masses of
the people are controlled by designing men, and led in opposition to manifest
justice and the common weal, and to their own interest. But the people do not
wish to be represented or ruled by the ignorant and base. They only vote for
these, because they were asked with the voice and semblance of kindness. They
will not vote for them long. They inevitably prefer wit and probity. To use an
Egyptian metaphor, it is not their will for any long time "to raise the nails of
wild beasts, and to depress the heads of the sacred birds." Let our affection
flow out to our fellows; it would operate in a day the greatest of all
revolutions. It is better to work on institutions by the sun than by the wind.
The state must consider the poor man, and all voices must speak for him. Every
child that is born must have a just chance for his bread. Let the amelioration
in our laws of property proceed from the concession of the rich, not from the
grasping of the poor. Let us begin by habitual imparting. Let us understand that
the equitable rule is, that no one should take more than his share, let him be
ever so rich. Let me feel that I am to be a lover. I am to see to it that the
world is the better for me, and to find my reward in the act. Love would put a
new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies too
long, and it would warm the heart to see how fast the vain diplomacy of
statesmen, the impotence of armies, and navies, and lines of defence, would be
superseded by this unarmed child. Love will creep where it cannot go, will
accomplish that by imperceptible methods, ? being its own lever, fulcrum, and
power, ? which force could never achieve. Have you not seen in the woods, in a
late autumn morning, a poor fungus or mushroom, ? a plant without any solidity,
nay, that seemed nothing but a soft mush or jelly, ? by its constant, total,
and inconceivably gentle pushing, manage to break its way up through the frosty
ground, and actually to lift a hard crust on its head? It is the symbol of the
power of kindness. The virtue of this principle in human society in application
to great interests is obsolete and forgotten. Once or twice in history it has
been tried in illustrious instances, with signal success. This great, overgrown,
dead Christendom of ours still keeps alive at least the name of a lover of
mankind. But one day all men will be lovers; and every calamity will be
dissolved in the universal sunshine.

Will you suffer me to add one trait more to this portrait of man the
reformer? The mediator between the spiritual and the actual world should have a
great prospective prudence. An Arabian poet describes his hero by saying,

"Sunshine was he
In the winter day;
And in the midsummer
and shade."

He who would help himself and others, should not be a subject of irregular
and interrupted impulses of virtue, but a continent, persisting, immovable
person, ? such as we have seen a few scattered up and down in time for the
blessing of the world; men who have in the gravity of their nature a quality
which answers to the fly-wheel in a mill, which distributes the motion equably
over all the wheels, and hinders it from falling unequally and suddenly in
destructive shocks. It is better that joy should be spread over all the day in
the form of strength, than that it should be concentrated into ecstasies, full
of danger and followed by reactions. There is a sublime prudence, which is the
very highest that we know of man, which, believing in a vast future, ? sure of
more to come than is yet seen, ? postpones always the present hour to the whole
life; postpones talent to genius, and special results to character. As the
merchant gladly takes money from his income to add to his capital, so is the
great man very willing to lose particular powers and talents, so that he gain in
the elevation of his life. The opening of the spiritual senses disposes men ever
to greater sacrifices, to leave their signal talents, their best means and skill
of procuring a present success, their power and their fame, ? to cast all
things behind, in the insatiable thirst for divine communications. A purer fame,
a greater power rewards the sacrifice. It is the conversion of our harvest into
seed. As the farmer casts into the ground the finest ears of his grain, the time
will come when we too shall hold nothing back, but shall eagerly convert more
than we now possess into means and powers, when we shall be willing to sow the
sun and the moon for seeds.

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