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ompensaiion

Georae G.Hat^rap &^C9


COMPENSATION


Compensation

EVER

was a boy

since I

I

have wished to

write a discourse on Compensation; for

seemed

me when

to

ject Life

was ahead

knew more than

of theology

and the people

my

The docu-

the preachers taught.

drawn endless variety, and

ments too from which the doctrine

charmed

it

very young that on this sub-

fancy by their

is

to be

lay always before me, even in sleep; for they are

the tools in our hands, the bread in our basket,

the transactions of the street, the farm

dwelhng-house

and the

the greetings, the relations, the

;

debts and credits, the influence of character, the

nature and

me

endowment

also that in

it

of all

men.

might be shown

divinity, the present action of the

world, clean from the heart of

all

It

seemed to

men

a ray of

Soul of this

vestige of tradition;

man might

and so

be bathed by an inunda-

tion of eternal love, conversing with that

which

he knows was always and always must be, because it

really is

now.

this doctrine could

It

appeared moreover that

if

be stated in terms with any

[3]

458


— Compensation resemblance to those bright intuitions in which this truth is

sometimes revealed to

be a star in

many dark

us,

would

it

hours and crooked pas-

sages in our journey, that would not suffer us to lose

our way.

was lately confirmed in these desires by hearing a sermon at church. The preacher, a man I

esteemed for his orthodoxy, unfolded in the ordi-

nary manner the doctrine of the Last Judgment.

He assumed

that

judgment

is

not executed in this

world; that the wicked are successful; that the

good are miserable; and then urged from reason

and from Scripture a compensation to both parties in the next

life.

No

to be

made

offence ap-

peared to be taken by the congregation at

this

when

the

doctrine.

As

far as I could observe

meeting broke up they separated without remark

on the sermon.

Yet what was the import

What

did the preacher

good are miserable

of this

mean by

teaching?

saying that the

in the present life?

Was

it

and lands, offices, wine, horses, dress, luxury, are had by unprincipled men, whilst the saints are poor and despised; and that a compensation is to be made to these last hereafter, by

that houses

giving

them the

like gratifications

another day,

bank-stock and doubloons, venison and cham-

[4]


Compensation This must be the compensation intended; what else? Is it that they are to have leave to pray and praise to love and serve men ? Why, that they can do now. The legitimate inference the disciple would draw was, " We are to have such a good time as the sinners have now " or, to push it to its extreme import, " You sin now, we shall sin by-and-by; we would sin now, if we

pagne ?

for

;

;

—

could not being successful ;

we

—

expect our revenge

to-morrow."

The the

The

immense concession

fallacy lay in the

bad are

successful; that justice

is

that

not done now.

blindness of the preacher consisted in defer-

ring to the base estimate of the constitutes a

manly

market of what

success, instead of confronting

and convicting the world from the truth; announcing the Presence of the Soul; the omnipotence of the Will and so establishing the standard ;

of

good and

ill,

of success

moning the dead

to

its

and falsehood, and sum-

present tribunal.

I find a similar base tone in the popular religious

works of the day and the same doctrines assumed

by the

literary

men when

the related topics.

ogy has gained

in

occasionally they treat

I think that

our popular theol-

decorum, and not in principle,

over the superstitions

it

has displaced.

are better than this theology.

[5]

But men

Their daily

life


Compensation gives

it

the

Every ingenuous and aspiring soul

lie.

leaves the doctrine behind

and

ence,

all

men

feel

him

in his

own

experi-

sometimes the falsehood

For men are That which they hear in

which they cannot demonstrate. wiser than they know.

and

schools

pulpits without afterthought,

if

said

would probably be questioned in If a man dogmatize in a mixed company silence. on Providence and the divine laws, he is answered in conversation

by a

silence

which conveys well enough

to

an ob-

server the dissatisfaction of the hearer, but his in-

capacity to

make

own

his

statement.

attempt in this and the following chapter

I shall to record

some

facts that indicate the path of the

my

expec-

draw the smallest arc

of this

law of Compensation; happy beyond tation

if

I shall truly

circle.

Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature in darkness and ;

and

cold; in the

in the centrifugal tricity,

heat

and expiration of and diastole of the undulations of fluids and of sound;

and female; in the plants and animals the heart; in

light, in

ebb and flow of waters; in male inspiration

;

in the systole

and

centripetal gravity; in elec-

galvanism, and chemical

aflinity.

Super-

induce magnetism at one end of a needle, the opIf posite magnetism takes place at the other end.

[6]


Compensation

To empty

the south attracts, the north repels.

you must condense

here,

there.

An

inevitable

dualism bisects nature, so that each thing

a half,

is

and suggests another thing to make it whole: as, spirit, matter; man, woman; subjective, objective; in,

out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.

Whilst the world parts.

its

The

is

thus dual, so

is

every one of

entire system of things gets repre-

There

sented in every particle.

is

somewhat that

resembles the ebb and flow of the sea, day and night,

man and woman,

pine, in a kernel of

animal

tribe.

ments,

is

in each individual of every

reaction, so

grand

in the ele-

repeated within these small boundaries.

For example, ogist

com,

The

in a single needle of the

in the

animal kingdom the physiol-

has observed that no creatures are favorites,

but a certain compensation balances every

and every is

A

defect.

gift

surplusage given to one part

paid out of a reduction from another part of

same

If the head and neck are and extremities are cut short. The theory of the mechanic forces is another example. What we gain in power is lost in time, and

the

creature.

enlarged, the trunk

the converse.

The

rors of the planets

fluences of

are another.

periodic or compensating eris

another instance.

cHmate and

The

soil

in political

The

cold climate invigorates.

[7]

in-

history

The


Compensation barren

does not breed fevers, crocodiles, tigers,

soil

or scorpions.

The same dualism of

dition

underlies the nature

Every sweet hath

every defect an excess. every evil

its

good.

Every faculty which

ceiver of pleasure has

abuse.

It is to

its

sour;

is

a re-

an equal penalty put on

its

moderation with

its

answer for

For every grain

life.

and con-

Every excess causes a defect;

man.

its

of wit there

is

a grain of

For every thing you have missed, you have else; and for every thing you

folly.

gained something gain,

are

you

lose something.

If riches increase,

increased that use them.

If

gathers too much, nature takes out of the

what she puts kills

man

into his chest; swells the estate, but

Nature hates monopolies and

the owner.

exceptions.

they

the gatherer

The waves

of the sea

do not more

speedily seek a level from their loftiest tossing than

the varieties of condition tend to equalize themselves.

There

stance that puts

is

always some levelling circum-

down

the overbearing, the strong,

same ground with all others. Is a man too strong and fierce for society and by temper and position a bad the rich, the fortunate, substantially on the

citizen,

—a morose —

ruffian,

with a dash of the pirate

him ? nature sends him a troop of pretty sons and daughters who are getting along in the dame's

in

[8]


Compensation classes at the village school,

them smooths

his

and love and

grim scowl to courtesy.

fear for

Thus

she contrives to intenerate the granite and felspar, takes the boar out and puts the

lamb

in

and keeps

her balance true.

The farmer

imagines power and place are fine But the President has paid dear for his White House. It has commonly cost him all his peace, and the best of his manly attributes. To

things.

preserve for a short time so conspicuous an appear-

ance before the world, he before the real masters

who

content to eat dust

is

stand erect behind the

Or do men desire the more substantial and permanent grandeur of genius ? Neither has

throne.

this

He who by force of will or of and overlooks thousands, has the

an immunity.

thought

is

great

With every influx Has he light? he

responsibility of overlooking.

comes new danger.

of light

must bear witness to the light, and always outrun which gives him such keen satis-

that sjTnpathy faction,

by

his fidelity to

cessant soul.

wife

and

new

He must

child.

Has he

and admires and covets

him

all

that the world loves

—he

must cast behind and afflict them by faithfultruth and become a byword and a .f^

their admiration

ness to his

revelations of the in-

hate father and mother,

hissing.

[9]


Compensation This tions.

Law

writes the laws of the cities

not be baulked of

It will

smallest iota.

in the

vain to build or plot or com-

Things refuse to be mismanaged Res nolunt din male adminislrari. Though

bine against long.

no checks and

It is in

and na-

end

its

it.

to a

new

will appear.

governor's

life is

appear, the checks exist,

evil

If the

government

not safe.

If

is

cruel, the

you tax too high,

the revenue will yield nothing.

If

you make the

criminal code sanguinary, juries will not convict.

Nothing arbitrary, nothing

artificial

can endure.

The true life and satisfactions of man seem to elude the utmost rigors or

felicities of

condition and to

establish themselves with great indifferency all varieties

Under

of circumstance.

all

under

govern-

ments the influence of character remains the same,

—

in

Turkey and

New England

about

alike.

Un-

der the primeval despots of Egypt, history honestly confesses that

ure could

man must have

been as free as

These appearances indicate the universe

is

fact that the

represented in every one of

Every thing nature.

cult-

make him. its particles.

in nature contains all the

Every thing

is

made

powers of

of one hidden stuff;

as the naturalist sees one type under every meta-

morphosis, and regards a horse as a running man,

a

fish as

a swimming man, a bird as a flying man,

[10]


Compensation Each new form

a tree as a rooted man.

repeats

not only the main character of the type, but part for part all the details, all the aims, furtherances,

hindrances, energies and whole system of every

Every occupation, trade,

other. is

art, transaction,

a compend of the world and a correlative of

Each one

every other.

human mies,

life;

its

of

its

course and

its

somehow accommodate all his

an entire emblem of

is

good and

its

ill,

And

end.

ene-

trials, its

each one must

man and

recite

a drop of dew.

The

the whole

destiny.

The world

globes

itself in

microscope cannot find the animalcule which less

perfect for being

little.

is

Eyes, ears, taste,

smell, motion, resistance, appetite,

and organs of

reproduction that take hold on eternity,

—

room

So do we

to consist in the small creature.

put our

life

into every act.

omnipresence parts in every

is

that

God

The

If the

moss and cobweb.

afiinity, so

good

is

The

;

if

all his

value of

itself into

there, so is the evil;

the repulsion

find

true doctrine of

reappears \\ath

the universe contrives to throw point.

all

every if

the

the force, so the limi-

tation.

Thus is the universe alive. All things are moral. That soul which within us is a sentiment, outside of us

is

a law.

We

feel its inspirations;

[11]

out there


Compensation in history

we can

almighty.

All nature feels

see

Justice

it

enacts

A

justs its balance in all parts of del

The

eiyiriTTTovcn,

made by

It

is

is

in

It is

it."

time and space.

in

itself

not postponed.

is

"It

grasp.

its

the world, and the world was eternal but

strength.

fatal

its

perfect equity ad-

01 kv^oi

life.

God

dice of

A to?

are always

loaded.

The world

table, or

a mathematical equation, which, turn

how you

will,

you

will, its

Every

secret

told, every

is

crime

punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong

and

redressed, in silence retribution

is

What we

certainty.

call

the universal necessity by which the

whole appears wherever a part appears. see smoke, there

must be

fire.

If

you

you see a hand or

If

a limb, you know that the trunk to which is

it

balances itself. Take what figure exact value, nor more nor less, still

returns to you. is

looks like a multipHcation-

it

belongs

there behind.

Every act rewards grates

itself,

itself,

in a twofold

or in other words inte-

manner

:

first in

the thing,

or in real nature; and secondly in the circumstance, or in apparent nature. the retribution.

thing and

is

Men

is

call the

circumstance

casual retribution

seen by the soul.

the circumstance is

The

The

is

in the

retribution in

seen by the understanding;

inseparable from the thing, but

[12]

is

it

often spread


Compensation over a long time and so does not become distinct until after

many

The

years.

specific stripes

may

follow late after the offence, but they follow be-

cause they accompany

grow out

Crime and punishment

it.

Punishment

of one stem.

is

a

fruit that

unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleas-

Cause and

means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end ure which concealed

it.

effect,

preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.

Whilst thus the world will be whole and refuses to be disparted,

we

seek to act partially, to sunder,

to appropriate; for example,

we

—

to gratify the senses

sever the pleasure of the senses from the needs

man

has been

dedicated to the solution of one problem,

—how to

The

of the character.

ingenuity of

detach the sensual sweet, the sensual strong, the sensual bright,

from the moral sweet, the

etc.,

moral deep, the moral

fair; that is, again, to

upper surface so thin as

trive to cut clean off this

to leave

it

bottomless to get a one end, without an

other end. feast.

be one

;

The

soul says. Eat; the

body would

The man and woman

The

soul says.

flesh

and one soul the body would join the

flesh only. all

con-

shall

;

The

soul says.

Have dominion over

things to the ends of virtue; the

have the power over things to

[13]

its

own

body would ends.


— Compensation The

amain to live and work through would be the only fact. All things be added unto it, power, pleasure, knowlsoul strives

all things.

shall

It

edge, beauty.

somebody; to

The

set

particular

man

aims to be

up for himself; to truck and higgle

for a private good; and, in particulars, to ride that

he

may

ride; to dress that

eat that he seen. offices,

he

may

may eat; and to govern,

Men

They

wealth, power, and fame. is

is this

dividing

Up

jector has

think

to get only one side of nature,

the sweet, without the other side, Steadily

may be

that he

seek to be great; they would have

that to be great

acted.

be dressed; to

—the

bitter.

and detaching countermust be owned no pro-

to this day it had the smallest

The

success.

water reunites behind our hand.

Pleasure

parted

is

taken

out of pleasant things, profit out of profitable things,

power out

of strong things, the

moment we

We can no

seek to separate them from the whole.

more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself, than we can get an inside that shall have no " Drive out

outside, or a light without a shadow.

nature with a fork, she comes running back." Life invests

itself

with inevitable conditions,

which the unwise seek

to dodge,

which one and

another brags that he does not know, brags that they do not touch him;

—but the brag [14]

is

on

his lips,


— Compensation the conditions are in his soul. in

If

he escapes them

one part they attack him in another more

part.

appearance,

and

it is

because he has resisted his

from himself, and the retribution

fled

much

vital

he has escaped them in form and in the

If

death.

So signal

make

is

the failure of

is

all

life

so at-

the tax, that the experiment

good from would not be tried,

mad,

—but for the circum-

tempts to

this separation of the

since to try

it is

stance that

when

to be

the disease began in the will, of

rebelHon and separation, the intellect infected, so that the in

each object, but

ment

is

man

ceases to see

is

at once

God whole

able to see the sensual allure-

an object and not see the sensual hurt; he

of

mermaid's head but not the dragon's tail, and thinks he can cut off that which he would have from that which he would not have. " How secret sees the

art thou silence,

who

dwellest in the highest heavens in

O thou only great God, sprinkling with an

unwearied providence certain penal blindnesses

upon such

!

as have unbridled desires "

The human

soul

^

true to these facts in the

is

painting of fable, of history, of law, of proverbs, of conversation.

It finds

a tongue in literature un-

awares. Thus the Greeks called Jupiter, Supreme Mind; but having traditionally ascribed to him ^

St.

Augustine, Confessions, B.

[15]

I.


Compensation many

base

actions,

they

involuntarily

made

amends to Reason by tying up the hands of so bad a god. He is made as helpless as a king of England. Prometheus knows one secret which Jove must bargain for; Minerva, another. He cannot get his own thunders; Minerva keeps the key of them: Of

all

the gods, I only

know

the keys

That ope the sohd doors within whose His thunders

vaults

sleep.

A plain confession of the in-working of the All and of

its

moral aim.

The Indian mythology ends

in

same ethics; and indeed it would seem impossible for any fable to be invented and get any currency which was not moral. Aurora forgot to ask youth for her lover, and though so Tithonus is imthe

mortal, he

is old.

Achilles

is

not quite invulner-

him by the heel when she the Styx and the sacred waters did

able; for Thetis held

dipped him in

not wash that part.

Siegfried, in the Nibelungen,

fell on his back was bathing in the Dragon's blood, and And so it that spot which it covered is mortal. thing God is. crack in every always There is a has made. Always it would seem there is this vindictive circumstance stealing in at unawares is

not quite immortal, for a leaf

whilst he

[16]


Compensation even into the wild poesy in which the

attempted to itself free

make bold

human

fancy

holiday and to shake

of the old laws,

—

this back-stroke, this

kick of the gun, certifying that the law that in nature nothing can be given,

all

is

fatal;

things are

sold.

This

is

that ancient doctrine of Nemesis,

keeps watch in the Universe and unchastised.

on

Justice,

The

and

if

that

who

no offence go

Furies they said are attendants

the sun in heaven should trans-

gress his path they related

lets

The

would punish him.

poets

stone walls and iron swords and

had an occult sympathy with the belt which Ajax Trojan hero over the field dragged the gave Hector at the wheels of the car of Achilles, and the sword which Hector gave Ajax was that on whose point Ajax fell. They recorded that when the Thasleathern thongs

wrongs of their owners; that the

ians erected a statue to Theogenes, a victor in the

games, one of his

rivals

deavored to throw at last

he moved

it

went to

it

it

from

crushed to death beneath

This voice of fable has

its

in

it

came from thought above the That is the best part of each it;

that

blows, until

pedestal

and was

its fall.

It

nothing private in

by night and en-

down by repeated

is

[171

somewhat \^^ll

divine.

of the writer.

writer which has

the best part of each


Compensation which he does not know; that which flowed out of and not from his too active in-

his constitution

vention; that which in the study of a single artist

you might not

easily find, but in the study of

you would abstract as the ias

it is

not, but the

Hellenic world that

and circumstance

of Phidias,

We

highest criticism.

you

if

all.

many Phid-

however convenient

when we come

to the

are to see that which

man

in

a given period, and was hin-

will,

modified in doing, by the in-

do

to

dered, or,

them

work of man in that early I would know. The name

for history, embarrasses

was tending

spirit of

terfering volitions of Phidias, of Dante, of Shak-

speare, the organ

whereby man

at the

moment

wrought. Still

more

striking

the proverbs of literature of

all

is

the expression of this fact in

nations,

which are always the

Reason, or the statements of an absoProverbs, like

lute truth without qualification.

the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the Intuitions.

That which

the droning world,

chained to appearances, will not allow the to say in his

own

words,

it

will suffer

And

proverbs without contradiction. laws,

deny,

which the is

pulpit, the senate

hourly preached in

languages by

all

flights of proverbs,

ri8i

him

realist

to say in

this

law of

and the

college

markets and

all

whose teaching


Compensation is

as true

and as omnipresent as that

of birds

and

flies.

All things are double, one against another.

—Tit

for tat; an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; blood for blood; measure for measure; love for love.

—Give, and

it

shall

—He that —^What you and take —Noth-

be given you.

watereth shall be watered himself.

have? quoth God; pay

for

it

ing venture, nothing have.

will

it.

—Thou

shalt be paid

what thou hast done, no more, no less. Who doth not work shall not eat. Harm watch, harm catch. Curses always recoil on the head of him who imprecates them. If you put a chain exactly for

around the neck of a itself

around your own.

the adviser.

—The devil

It is thus written,

action

our

slave, the other

is

will

end fastens

—Bad counsel confounds is

an

because

ass.

it is

thus in

life.

Our

overmastered and characterized above

by the law

of nature.

We

aim

at

a petty

end quite aside from the public good, but our act arranges itself by irresistible magnetism in a line with the poles of the world.

A man With

cannot speak but he judges himself.

his will or against his will

trait to

he draws his por-

the eye of his companions

Every opinion reacts on him who

by every word.

utters

it.

It is

a

thread-ball thrown at a mark, but the other end

[19]


Compensation remains in the thrower's bag.

harpoon thrown flies, is

a

coil of

Or, rather,

it is

at the whale, unwinding, as

cord in the boat, and,

not good, or not well thrown,

it

if

a it

the harpoon

will

go nigh to

cut the steersman in twain or to sink the boat.

You

cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.

"No man had

ever a point of pride that was not

The

injurious to him," said Burke.

fashionable self

life

from enjoyment,

The

it.

exclusive in

does not see that he excludes himin the

attempt to appropriate

exclusionist in religion does not see that

he shuts the door of heaven on himself, in striving to shut out others.

Treat

men

as

pawns and

pins and you shall suffer as well as they.

leave out their heart, you shall lose your own.

senses

will get

it

from

The

vulgar proverb, " I

his purse or get

it

from

his skin,"

sound philosophy. All infractions of love

and equity

relations are speedily punished.

ished by Fear. to

in our social

They

are pun-

Whilst I stand in simple relations

my fellow-man, I have no displeasure in meeting

him.

We

meet as water meets water, or as two

currents of air mix, with perfect diffusion

and

in-

But as soon as there any departure from simplicity and attempt at

terpenetration of nature. is

you

The

would make things of all persons; of women,

of children, of the poor.

is

nine-

If

[20]


Compensation halfness, or

my

good for

neighbor

me

seek mine; there

him and

is

fear in

is

not good for him,

wrong; he shrinks from

feels the

as far as I have shrunk

in

that

from him

;

his eyes

war between

us; there

is

hate

me.

All the old abuses in society, the great

and the petty and

versal

me

no longer

and uni-

particular, all unjust ac-

cumulations of property and power, are avenged

same manner. Fear is an instructor of great One sagacity and the herald of all revolutions.

in the

thing he always teaches, that there

where he appears.

He

rottenness

is

a carrion crow, and

is

though you see not well what he hovers is

Our

death somewhere.

property

is

for, there

timid, our

laws are timid, our cultivated classes are timid.

Fear for ages has boded and

mowed and

over government and property. bird

is

not there for nothing.

wrongs which must be

Of

the like nature

He

indicates great

revised.

is

that expectation of change

which instantly follows the suspension untary

activity.

The

gibbered

That obscene

of our vol-

terror of cloudless noon, the

emerald of Polycrates, the awe of prosperity, the instinct

on

which leads every generous soul to impose

itself

tasks of a noble asceticism

and vicarious

virtue, are the tremblings of the balance of justice

through the heart and mind of man.

[-1]


Compensation Experienced that

it is

men

best to

pay

of the world scot

and

and that a man often pays dear

The borrower

gality.

a

man

runs in his

gained any thing

know

lot as

who has

very well

they go along,

for a small fru-

own

Has

debt.

received a hun-

dred favors and rendered none.^ Has he gained by borrowing, through indolence or cunning, his

arises

money

There on the deed the instant acknowledgment of

neighbor's wares, or horses, or

.'^

benefit

on the one part and of debt on the other;

that

of superiority

is,

action remains in the

neighbor; and every

cording to

He may

its

and

inferiority.

The

trans-

memory of himself and new transaction alters

his

ac-

nature their relation to each other.

soon come to see that he had better have

broken his own bones than to have ridden

in his

neighbor's coach, and that "the highest price he

can pay for a thing

is

to ask for it."

A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of and know that it is always the part of prudence and pay every just demand on your time, your talents, or your heart. Always pay; for first or last you must pay your entire debt. life,

to face every claimant

Persons and events

you and

justice,

You must pay

may

but

at last

it

stand for a time between is

only a postponement.

your own debt.

If

you are

wise you will dread a prosperity which only loads

[22]


Compensation you with more.

But

He

levied.

He

Benefit

is

base,

universe,

is

who

great

—and that

is

end of nature.

the

receive, a tax

those from

the one base thing in the

we cannot render

whom we receive them,

benefit

line for line,

we

receive

Beware

hand.

It

or only seldom.

must be rendered again,

will

much good

staying in your

corrupt and

worm worms.

of too fast

Pay it away quickly in some sort. Labor is watched over by the same Cheapest, says the prudent,

What we buy

in a

is

pitiless laws.

the dearest labor.

broom, a mat, a wagon, a knife,

some appUcation

want.

In

benefits to

deed for deed, cent for cent, to some-

body.

is

is

confers the most benefits.

—to receive favors and render none.

the order of nature

But the

is

which you

for every benefit

of

It is best to

good sense to a common

pay

in

your land a

skillful

gardener, or to buy good sense applied to garden-

good sense applied

ing; in your sailor, tion; in the house,

good sense applied

to naviga-

to cooking,

sewing, serving; in your agent, good sense applied to accounts

and

affairs.

So do you multiply your

presence, or spread yourself throughout your estate.

But because

of the dual constitution

things, in labor as in life there can be ing.

The

thief steals

swindles himself.

from himself.

For the

[23]

of

no cheat-

The

swindler

real price of labor is


Compensation knowledge and

whereof wealth and credit

virtue,

These

are signs.

signs, like

paper money,

may be

counterfeited or stolen, but that which they repre-

namely, knowledge and virtue, cannot be

sent,

These ends

counterfeited or stolen.

of labor can-

not be answered but by real exertions of the mind,

and

The

in obedience to pure motives.

cheat, the

defaulter, the gambler, cannot extort the benefit,

cannot extort the knowledge of material and moral nature which his honest care and pains yield to

The law

the operative.

and you

shall

of nature

Do the

is.

thing,

have the power; but they who do not

the thing have not the power.

Human

labor, through all

its

forms, from the

sharpening of a stake to the construction of a city or an epic, fect

is

one immense

illustration of the per-

compensation of the universe.

and always

this

law

is

sublime.

Every^vhere

The

absolute

balance of Give and Take, the doctrine that every thing has

its price,

and

if

that price

that thing but something else it is

is

is

is

not paid, not

obtained, and that

impossible to get any thing without

not

less

sublime in

its

price,

the columns of a ledger than

in the budgets of states, in the laws of light

and

and reaction of nature. I cannot doubt that the high laws which each man sees ever implicated in those processes with which

darkness, in

all

the action

[24]


Compensation he

is

conversant, the stern ethics which sparkle on

which are measured out by

his chisel-edge,

plumb and

foot-rule,

his

which stand as manifest

in

the footing of the shop-bill as in the history of

a

state,

—do

recommend

him

to

and

his trade,

though seldom named, exalt his business to his imagination.

The all

league between virtue and nature engages

beautiful laws

cute and

and substances

whip the

of the world perse-

He

traitor.

are arranged for truth

and

finds that things

benefit,

but there

den in the wide world to hide a rogue. crime,

and

the earth

is

made

seems as

if

a coat of snow

of glass.

Commit a

such thing as concealment. it

The

things to assume a hostile front to vice.

fell

is

no

Commit a There

no and

is

crime,

on the ground, such

woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the foottrack, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to Always some damning cirleave no inlet or clew. cumstance transpires. The laws and substances as reveals in the

water,

of nature,

come

On

snow, wind, gravitation, be-

penalties to the thief.

the other

sureness for

be loved.

all

hand the law holds with equal Love, and you shall

right action.

All love

is

mathematically just, as

[25]

much


Compensation as the two sides of an algebraic equation. The good man has absolute good, which like fire turns

every thing to its own nature, so that you cannot do him any harm; but as the royal armies sent against Napoleon, when he approached cast down their colors

do

and from enemies became

friends, so

disasters of all kinds, as sickness, offence, pov-

erty,

prove benefactors. Winds blow and waters

roll

Strength to the brave and power and deity.

Yet in themselves are nothing.

The good

are befriended even by weakness and As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man had ever a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him. defect.

The stag in the fable admired liis horns and blamed when the hunter came, his feet saved

his feet, but

him, and afterwards, caught in the thicket, his

horns destroyed him. needs to thank his

man in his lifetime As no man thoroughly

Every

faults.

understands a truth until against

it,

so

first

he has contended

no man has a thorough acquaintance

with the hindrances or talents of

men

until

suffered from the one and seen the triumph

other over his

own want

of the same.

defect of temper that unfits

[26]

him

he has of the

Has he a

to live in society?


Compensation Thereby he

is

driven to entertain himself alone and

acquire habits of self-help; and thus, like the

wounded

oyster,

he mends his

shell

with pearl.

Our strength grows out of our weakness. Not until we are pricked and stung and sorely shot at, awakens the indignation which arms secret forces.

Whilst he

little.

he goes to

itself

with

A great man is always willing to be

sleep.

sits

on the cushion of advantages,

When

he

is

pushed, tormented,

defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he

has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has

gained facts; learns his ignorance;

is

cured of the

insanity of conceit; has got moderation

side of his assailants. it

is

and

real

The wise man always throws himself on the

skill.

theirs to find his

more his interest than weak point. The wound from him like a dead skin It is

and falls off and when they would triumph, lo! he has passed on invulnerable. Blame is safer than praise. I hate to be defended in a newspaper. As long as cicatrizes

all

that

is

said

is

said against me, I feel a certain

assurance of success.

But as soon as honied

words of praise are spoken lies

for

me I feel as one that

unprotected before his enemies.

every evil to which

we do

In general,

not succumb

is

a bene-

As the Sandwich Islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes factor.

[27]


Compensation we gain the strength of the temptawe resist. The same guards which protect us from disaster, defect and enmity, defend us, if we will, from selfinto himself, so

tion

ishness

Bolts and bars are not the best

and fraud.

of our institutions, nor

mark

of

Men

wisdom.

is

shrewdness in trade a

suffer all their life long

under the foolish superstition that they can be

But

cheated.

man

as impossible for a

it is

to

be

cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to

be and not to be at the same time. third silent party to

and

all

our bargains.

soul of things takes

on

itself

There

The

is

a

nature

the guaranty of

the fulfilment of every contract, so that honest service cannot

come

to loss.

him

grateful master, serve

your debt.

Every

you serve an un-

If

stroke shall

longer the payment

is

God in be repaid. The

the more.

Put

withholden, the better for

you; for compound interest on compound interest is

the rate

The

and usage

of this exchequer.

history of persecution

is

a history of en-

deavors to cheat nature, to

make water run up

to twist a rope of sand.

It

whether the actors be

mob.

A mob

is

many

makes no

hill,

difference

or one, a tyrant or a

a society of bodies voluntarily

bereaving themselves of reason and traversing

work.

The mob

is

man

its

voluntarily descending

[28]


Compensation to the nature of the beast. is

a right

fit

hour of

Its actions are insane, like its

night.

It

stitution.

ing

Its

persecutes a principle;

activity

whole con-

would whip

it

it would tar and feather justice, by inflictand outrage upon the houses and persons

;

fire

who have these. It resembles the prank of boys, who run with fire-engines to put out the ruddy aurora streaming to the stars. The invio-

of those

late spirit turns their spite against the

The martyr cannot be

wrongdoers.

Every lash

dishonored.

inflicted is

a tongue of fame; every prison a more

illustrious

abode every burned book or house en;

lightens the world; every suppressed or

expunged

word reverberates through the earth from side to side. The minds of men are at last aroused; reason looks out and justifies her own and malice finds all her work in vain. It is the whipper who is whipped and the tyrant who is undone.

Thus do

all

cumstances.

two

sides,

has

its

The man I learn to

compensation

differency.

The

representations, is

all.

Every thing has

evil.

Every advantage

is

a good and an

tax.

trine of

things preach the indifferency of cir-

be content. is

But the doc-

not the doctrine of in-

thoughtless say, on hearing these

—What boots

one event to good and

it

to

evil; if I

[29]

do

well.^ there

gain any good I


Compensation must pay

for

it; if

any good

I lose

some

I gain

other; all actions are indifferent.

There

a deeper fact in the soul than compen-

is

sation, to wit, its

own

compensation, but a this

The

nature.

life.

The

soul

soul

is.

is

not a

Under

all

running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb

and flow with

perfect balance, lies the aboriginal

abyss of real Being.

Existence, or God,

relation or a part, but the whole.

Being

not a

is

is

the vast

and and times within are the influx from

affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced,

swallowing up

all relations,

parts

Nature, truth, virtue,

itself.

thence.

Vice

is

the absence or departure of the

may

Nothing, Falsehood,

same.

indeed stand as

the great Night or shade on which as a back-

ground the

no

fact

not.

It

harm.

is

but

living universe paints itself forth;

begotten by

it; it

cannot work, for

cannot work any good; It is

harm inasmuch

it

as

it is

cannot work any

it is

worse not to

be than to be.

We acts,

feel

defrauded of the retribution due to

because the criminal adheres to

contumacy and does not come to a

ment anywhere

in visible nature.

liis

crisis

evil

and

vice

or judg-

There

is

stunning confutation of his nonsense before

no

men

and angels. Has he therefore outwitted the law? Inasmuch as he carries the malignity and the lie [30]


Compensation with him he so far decreases from nature.

manner

there will be a demonstration of the

to the understanding also; but, should it,

In some

we

wrong

not see

deadly deduction makes square the eternal

this

account.

Neither can

it

be said, on the other hand, that

the gain of rectitude must be bought by any

There

is

no penalty

dom; they

to virtue;

are proper additions of being.

virtuous action I properly

add

am;

loss.

no penalty to wisIn a

in a virtuous act I

to the world; I plant into deserts

conquered

from Chaos and Nothing and see the darkness receding on the limits of the horizon.

be no excess beauty,

to love,

when

these attributes are considered in

The

the purest sense. affirms in

man

There can none to knowledge, none to soul refuses

all limits.

It

always an Optimism, never a Pes-

simism.

His

life is

a progress, and not a

Our

instinct is trust.

instinct uses

" less " in application to

ence of the soul,

man

is

and not

station.

man, always of

its

His

"more" and of the pres-

absence; the brave

greater than the coward; the true, the be-

nevolent, the wise,

is

the fool and knave.

more a man and not less, than There is therefore no tax on

the good of virtue, for that

is

the incoming of

himself, or absolute existence, without

ÂŁ31]

God

any com-


Compensation All external good has its tax, and if it came without desert or sweat, has no root in me, and the next wind will blow it away. But all the good of nature is the soul's, and may be had if paid for in nature's lawful coin, that is, by labor which the heart and the head allow. I no longer wish to parative.

meet a good

I

do not earn,

for

example to find a

pot of buried gold, knowing that

new

responsibility.

goods, ers,

I

it

brings with

it

do not wish more external

—neither possessions, nor honors, nor powThe

nor persons.

But there

is certain.

is

gain

is

no tax on the knowledge

and that

that the compensation exists desirable to dig

up

apparent; the tax

with a serene eternal peace.

it

is

not

Herein I rejoice

treasure.

I contract the

boun-

I learn the wisdom "Nothing can work me damage

daries of possible mischief. of St. Bernard:

except myself; the

harm

about with me, and never

by

my own

that I sustain I carry

am

a real sufferer but

fault."

In the nature of the soul

is

the inequalities of condition.

the compensation for

The

radical tragedy

More and how not malevolence towards More?

of nature seems to be the distinction of Less.

How

can Less not feel the pain;

feel indignation

Look

at those

or

who have

less faculty,

sad and knows not well what to

[32]

and one

make

of

it.

feels

Al-


Compensation most he shuns

What

God.

But

injustice.

he fears they

their eye;

should they do?

It

the facts nearly and these

see

Love reduces

mountainous inequalities vanish.

them

The

as the sun melts the iceberg in the sea.

heart and soul of of

upbraid

will

seems a great

all

His and Mine

brother and

men

being one, this bitterness

His

ceases.

my

brother

is

mine.

is

me.

I

am my

If I feel over-

shadowed and outdone by great neighbors, I can still receive; and he that loveth

get love; I can

maketh I

his

make

own

the discovery that

guardian, acting for signs,

my

and the

own.

me

appropriate and

my

brother

admired and envied

make

conscious domain. wit,

Such

—

if it

also

all

His

cannot be

is

is

the eternal nature of the soul to things

its

own.

and Shakspeare are fragments of the by love I conquer and incorporate them His

my

is

with the friendliest de-

estate I so

It is

Thereby

the grandeur he loves.

virtue,

—

is

Jesus

soul,

in

and

my own

not that mine ?

made mine,

it is

not wit.

the natural history of calamity.

The changes which break up at short intervals the prosperity of men are advertisements of a nature whose law

is

growth.

Evermore

nature to grow, and every soul necessity quitting friends

its

is

it is

by

the order of this intrinsic

whole system of things,

and home and laws and

[33]

its

faith, as the shell-


Compensation fish crawls

cause

it

out of

its

beautiful but stony case, be-

no longer admits

forms a new house.

of

its

growth, and slowly

In proportion to the vigor

of the individual these revolutions are frequent,

some happier mind they are incessant and all worldly relations hang very loosely about him, becoming as it were a transparent fluid membrane through which the living form is always seen, and not, as in most men, an indurated heterogeneous fabric of many dates and of no settled character, Then there can in which the man is imprisoned. be enlargement, and the man of to-day scarcely until in

man of yesterday. And such should outward biography of man in time, a put-

recognizes the

be the

ting off of

dead circumstances day by day, as he But to us, in our

renews his raiment day by day.

lapsed estate, resting, not advancing, resisting, not

cooperating with the divine expansion, this growth

comes by shocks.

We cannot part with our friends. We cannot let We do not see that they only go out that archangels may come in. We are idolaWe do not believe in the riches of tors of the old. our angels go.

the soul, in

its

proper eternity and omnipresence.

We do not believe that there is

any force

in to-day

to rival or re-create that beautiful yesterday. linger in the ruins of the old tent

[34]

We

where once we


;

Compensation had bread and

shelter

and organs, nor

believe that

We

the spirit can feed, cover, and nerve us again.

cannot again find aught so dear, so sweet, so grace-

But we sit and weep in vain. The voice of the Almighty saith, *' Up and onward forevermore!" We cannot stay amid the ruins. Neither will we rely on the New; and so we walk ever with reful.

verted eyes, like those monsters

who

look back-

wards.

And yet the

compensations of calamity are

apparent to the understanding

A

tervals of time.

also, after

made

long in-

a mutilation, a cruel

fever,

disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends,

seems at the moment unpaid

loss,

and unpayable.

But the sure years

reveal the deep remedial force

that underlies

facts.

all

The death

friend, wife, brother, lover,

of a dear

which seemed nothing

but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for

revolutions in our

way

of

of infancy or of youth

it

life,

commonly

operates

terminates an epoch

which was waiting

to

be

up a wonted occupation, or a houseand allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character.

closed, breaks

hold, or style of living,

It

permits or constrains the formation of

quaintances and the reception of that prove of the

first

new

new

ac-

influences

importance to the next years

[35]


Compensation and the man or woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for

its

roots

and too much sunshine for its head, by the faUing of the walls and the neglect of the gardener is

made

the banian of the forest, yielding shade and

fruit to

wide neighborhoods of men.

[36]


^HO^HIGI H


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Ralph Waldo Emerson - Compensation, an Essay, 1900  

Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Contributor: University of California Libraries

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Compensation, an Essay, 1900  

Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Contributor: University of California Libraries

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