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;

of "The American Scholar" is limited to ^JO of which 2^, numbered I to 2^, are printed on Japan Vellum

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edition

140, numbered 26 to l6^, on Brown's hand-made paper ; and 34^, numbered 166 to ÂŁ10, on Ruisdael hand-made paper.

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this

copy is..^.LuS—.


THE AMERICAN SCHOLAK

^^

iJelivered hy^

RALPH

WALDO EMERSON 'Se/oir» {he ^BK SOCIETY

^ ^

AT CA2VIBRIDGE

(,

LAURENTLVN PRESS ri


and Gen-

R President

tlemen

I

:

greet you on

recommencement of our literary year. Our an-

the

niversary

is

one of hope,

and, perhaps, not enough of labor.

do not meet skill,

tragedies,

Greeks

;

games of strength or

for

the

for

recitation

and odes, for

We

like

of

histories,

the

ancient

parliaments of love and

poesy, like the

Troubadours

;

nor for

the advancement of science, like our

contemporaries in the British and Eu-

ropean

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.

haps the time

is

already

ought to be, and

vv^ill

Per-

come when be,

it

something


else

when

;

this continent will

iron lids and tation

intellect

of

look from under

its

the sluggard

fill

the postponed expec-

of the world with something

better than the exertions of mechanical

Our day of dependence, our

skill.

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 actions, arise that

harvests.

Events,

must be sung, that

will sing themselves.

Who

can doubt

and lead in a

that poetry will revive

new

age, as the star in the constella-

tion

Harp, which

now

flames in our

zenith, astronomers announce, shall one

day be the years

pole-star

for

a

thousand

?

In the light of this hope I accept the topic which

not only usage

but


the nature of our association seem to prescribe to this day,

Scholar.

Year by year

hither to read one

biography. lights,

new

thrown on

—the American

we come up

more chapter of

his

Let us inquire what new events and

more days have

his character, his duties

and

his hopes. It is

of an

one of those

unknown

fables

which out

antiquity convey an

unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided

Man

into

men,

he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided

that

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 so-


ciety to find the

not

a

Man

whole man.

or a professor, or

farmer,

engineer, but he

is all.

Man

is

is

an

priest,

and scholar, and statesman, and proIn the divided or ducer, and soldier. social state these functions ar#-parceled

out to individuals, each of

do

to

each

his stint

whom

aims

of the joint work, whilst

other performs his.

Tlfe fable

implies that the individual, to possess

must sometimes return from own labor to embrace all the other

himself, his

laborers.

But, unfortunately, this orig-

inal 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,

not be gathered. is

state

of society

one in which the members have

strut

about so

suf-

from the trunk, and many walking monsters,

fered amputation

4

The

and can-


—

a gdlld finger, a neck, a stomach, an

elbow, but never a man.

Man

thus metamorphosed into a

is

thing, into

who

is

many

Man

gather food,

The

things.

planter,

sent out into the field to

seldom cheered by any

is

idea of the true dignity of his minis-

He

try.

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

by the routine of his is

craft,

subject to dollars.

is

ridden

and the soul

The

priest

be-

comes a form the attorney a statutebook the mechanic a machine the ;

;

;

sailor a

rope of the ship.

In this distribution of functions the scholar

is

the delegated intellect.

In

Man

In

the right state he

the degenerate

is

state,

Thinking.

when

the victim 5


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 Think-

whole theory of his office is Him Nature solicits with contained.

ing, the

all

her placid,

Him

all

her monitory pictures.

Him

the future

not indeed every

man a stu-

the past instructs. Is

invites.

dent, and do not student's

all

things exist for the

behoof? And,

finally, is

true scholar the only true master as

the old oracle said,

two handles: one." errs

In

life,

?

But

" All things have

Beware of the wrong too often, the scholar

with mankind and

ilege.

not the

forfeits his priv-

Let us see him in his school,

and consider him in reference to the

main influences he

receives.


HE

first

in

first

time and the

in

importance of the

influences

upon the mind

that of Nature.

is

day, the sun

and her

sunset, night

winds

blow^

Every day, ing,

must

What

is

Ever the

stars.

the

and

beholding

admiring

and, after

grows.

grass

men and women,

scholar must

He

ever

;

;

Every

convers-

The

beholden.

needs stand wistful and

before

settle its

Nature

great

this

value in his mind.

him

to

a beginning, there

spectacle.

is

?

There

is

never

never an end, to

the inexplicable continuity of this web of

God, but always ing into his

own

itself.

spirit,

circular

power return-

Therein

resembles

whose beginning, whose

ending, he never can find, boundless.

it

—

so entire, so

Far, too, as her splendors

shine, system

on system shooting

like 7


upward, downward, without cen-

rays, tre,

without

circumference,

—

in

the

mass and in the particle. Nature hastens to render account of herself to the mind.

To

begins.

Classification

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

sand

own

;

;

then three, then three thou-

and

so,

tyrannized over by

unifying instinct,

it

its

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

there has been a constant

of history

accumulation and classifying of

But what

dawn

is

classification

facts.

but the per-

ceiving that these objects are not chaotic,

and are not foreign, but have a


;

law which

mind

is

The

?

also a

law of the human

astronomer discovers that

geometry, a pure abstraction of the hu-

man mind, is the measure of planetary The chemist finds propormotion. tions

and

intelligible

out matter

;

method through-

and science

is

nothing but

the finding of analogy, identity, in the

most soul fact

remote sits

down

one

;

The

parts.

ambitious

before each refractory

after

reduces

another,

strange constitutions,

all

new

all

powers,

to their class and their law, and goes

on forever

to animate the

organization, the

by

last fibre

of

of nature,

outskirts

insight.

Thus

to

him, to

der the bending

;

one

relation,

is

school-boy un-

dome of

gested that he and

Root

this

it

day,

sug-

proceed from one

leaf and one

sympathy,

is

stirring

is

flower

in

every 9


And what

vein.

is

Root

that

that the soul of his soul

too

bold,

when

this spiritual light shall

—when

have

re-

earthly natures,

and to see that the natural phil-

gropings of

look

now its

forward

knowledge

only the

gigantic hand, he

an

to

to a

as

is

is,

becoming

shall see that nature

part.

One

beauty

mind.

Its

is

is

seal

the

first

shall

ever-expanding

is

of the soul, answering to

Its

Yet

?

he has learned to worship the

osophy that

He

more

not

thought

dream too wild

a

vealed the law of

soul,

—A

?

Is

?

the opposite it

and one

beauty

creator.

part for print.

is

of his

laws are the laws

own

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 mod" Study nature," become at ern precept, last

one maxim.


HE

next great influence the

into

spirit

of

mind of the

scholar

is

the

Past,

in

whatever form,

whether of

literature,

of institutions, that mind

art,

Books are the

scribed.

the

of in-

is

best type

of

the influence of the past, and perhaps

we

shall

get at the truth,

amount of veniently,

this

—by

influence

learn the

more con-

considering their value

alone.

The

theory of books

scholar of the

the world around

on

gave

his

it

the

The

;

brooded there-

new arrangement of

own mind, and

came

noble.

age received into

first

him ;

is

uttered

it

again.

It

went out from him, truth. It came to himj shortlived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him. into him, life

;

it


went from him, poetry. was dead fact now, it is quick

business It

;

it

;

thought. It

now

can stand, and

It

endures,

it

now

flies, it

now

in-

Precisely in proportion to the

spires.

depth of mind from which

high does

so

can go.

it

it

it

issued,

long does

soar, so

it

sing.

Or,

I

might

far the process

ing

life

depends on

say, it

how

had gone, of transmut-

into truth.

In proportion to

the completeness of the

distillation, so

will the purity and imperishableness of

But none

the product be.

is

quite per-

fect.

As no air-pump can by any means

make

a perfect

any

artist entirely

tional, the

his

vacuum,

exclude the conven-

local, the

book, or

a

perishable

write a book

thought, that shall be respects, to

so neither can

remote

from

of pure

as efficient, in all

posterity, as to 13


contemporaries, or rather to the second

Each

age. its

age,

own books

tion

for

found, must write

it is

or rather, each genera-

;

The

next succeeding.

the

books of an older period will not

fit

this.

Yet hence

The

arises

sacredness

grave mischief.

a

which attaches

to the act

of creation, the act of thought,

is

poet chanting was

man

to be a divine

felt

henceforth the chant

;

The

also.

is

divine

writer was a just and wise

spirit

;

henceforward

book

is

perfect

;

it

as love

is

settled the

of the hero cor-

rupts into worship of his statue. stantly the

guide

and

is

book becomes noxious

a tyrant.

lo, a

in-

The

stantly transferred to the record.

In;

the

We sought a brother,

governor.

The

sluggish and

mind of the multitude, always slow to open to the incursions of Reaperverted

14


;

son, having once

once received

this

on

w^ritten

it

having

book, stands upon

and makes an outcry Colleges are

opened,

so

it,

if it is disparaged.

on

Books are by thinkers, not by Man built

it.

Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own

Meek young men

sight of principles.

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 have the bookworm. learned

class,

who

Man Thinking, we Hence

the book-

value books, as such

not as related to nature and the constitution, but as

making

;

human

a sort of

Third Estate with the world and the IS


Hence the

soul.

restorers

of readings,

the emendators, the bibliomaniacs of all

This

degrees.

than

it

is

among

the right use

which

is

all

?

the worst.

What

means go

is

to effect

own

orbit,

its

book than

attraction clean out of

my

and made

a satellite instead

The one

world, of value,

is

thing in the

the active soul,

soul, free, sovereign, active.

man

is

entitled to

men The

all

born. truth

;

and

this action 16

—

the

This ev-

this every

;

contains within him,

most

had

I

be

of a system.

ery

They

.?

to

never see a

warped by

What

the one end

are for nothing but to inspire. better

worse

of things, well

are the best

abused,

;

this

;

seems.

Books used

bad

is

man

although in

al-

obstructed, and as yet unsoul

active

sees

absolute

utters truth, or creates. it is

genius

;

In

not the privi-


lege of here and there a favorite, but

the sound estate of every man. essence

it is

college, the school

In

The book,

progressive.

of

its

the

the institu-

art,

tion of any kind, stop with

some

utterance of genius.

good, say

they,

me

let us

hold by

is

They

this.

not forward.

But genius always looks

The

eyes of

man

are set in

his forehead, not in his hindhead.

Genius

hopes.

to create,

man

is

To

Man

create,

the proof of a divine prestalents

may

be, if the

create not, the pure efflux of the

Deity there

creates.

Whatever

ence.

pin

They look backward and

dow^n.

forward.

This

past

is

not his

may

;

cinders and

be, but not yet flame.

smoke There

are creative manners, there are creative actions,

and creative words

actions, words, that

is,

;

manners,

indicative of

no

custom or authority, but springing spon17


own

taneous from the mind's

good and

On its

fair.

the other part, instead of being

own

another

seer, let it receive

mind

its

solitude,

is

inquest,

always from

though

truth,

in torrents of light,

and

sense of

it

were

without periods of

and

a fatal disservice

self-recovery

done.

is

enemy of ge-

always sufficiently the

The

nius by over-influence.

of every nation bear

;

Genius

me

literature

witness.

The

English dramatic poets have Shakespear-

now

two hundred years. Undoubtedly there is a right way of

ized

for

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. i8

But when the inter-


vals

come they seeth not, when

of darkness come,

—when the the sun hid and —we must,

soul

is

their shining,

the

as

stars

repair to

which were kindled by

withdraw the lamps

their

ray, to

guide our steps to the East again, where the

dawn

We

is.

hear, that

speak.

The

fig-tree,

looking on a

Arabian proverb fig-tree,

we may says,

"A

becometh

fruitful." It is

remarkable, the character of the

pleasure

They

we

derive

from the

best books.

impress us ever with the convic-

tion that one nature wrote and the

We

reads.

read the verses

same of one of

the great English poets, of Chaucer, of Marvell, of Dry den, with the most ern joy, is

—with

a pleasure,!

in great part caused

modmean, which

by the abstraction

from their verses. There is some awe mixed with the joy of our of

all

time

19


surprise,

some

when

this poet,

who

lived in

two or three hundred that which lies close to that which I also had

past world,

years ago, says

my own

soul,

well-nigh thought and

said.

But for

the evidence thence afforded to the philosophical doctrine of the identity of all

we

should suppose some pre-

established

harmony, some foresight of

minds,

souls that

were

to be,

and some prepa-

ration of stores for^their

future wants,

like the fact observed in insects,

lay

up food before death

grub they

for the

who

young

shall never see.

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 I

the

human mind

can be fed by any


knowledge. have existed

And great and heroic men who had almost no other

information than by the printed page. I

only would say that

head to bear that

needs a strong

it

One must be

diet.

As the prov-

an inventor to read well. erb says, "

He

that

would bring home

the wealth of the Indies must carry out

There

the wealth of the Indies."

then creative reading writing.

When

the

as

is

well as creative

mind

braced by

is

labor and invention, the page of what-

book we read becomes luminous

ever

with manifold is

doubly

significant,

our author

We as

see,

and the sense of

broad

as

what

is

as

among heavy

its

the world.

always true, that

the seer's hour of vision

rare is

then

is

Every sentence

allusion.

is

short and

days and months, so

record, perchance, the least part

of his volume.

The

discerning will


read, in his Plato or Shakespeare, only

that least part,

—only

terances of the oracle rejects,

were

it

the authentic ut;

the rest he

all

many

never so

times

Plato's and Shakespeare's.

Of course

there

a portion

is

of read-

ing quite indispensable to a wise man.

History and exact science he must learn

by laborious reading.

Colleges, in like

manner, have their indispensable

to

teach elements.

But

office,

they

can

when they aim create when th«y

only highly serve us not to

drill,

but to

;

gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and by the concentrated their

fires set

youth on flame.

the hearts of

Thought and in which ap-

knowledge are natures paratus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never


countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit.

Korget

this,

and our Amer-

ican colleges will recede in their public

importance, whilst every year.

they

grow

richer


HERE

goes in the world

a notion that the scholar

should be a recluse, a valetudinarian,

as unfit for

any handiwork or public

The

labor as a penknife for an axe. so-called

" practical

speculative ulate or

see,

have heard are

always,

other

class,

men,

as

men "

if,

sneer

at

because they spec-

they could do nothing. it

said that the clergy

more

I

—who

universally than any

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. ally disfranchised

They ;

are often virtu-

and, indeed, there are

As

advocates for their celibacy. this

is

true of the studious classes,

not just and wise.

Action

scholar subordinate, but 24

far as

it

is is

it is

with the essential.


Without out

it

truth.

it

he

is

With-

not yet man.

thought can never ripen into Whilst the world hangs before

the eye as a cloud of beauty,

even see

its

beauty.

ardice, but

there

we

Inaction

cannot

is

cow-

be no scholar

can

without the heroic mind.

The pream-

ble of thought, the transition through

which

from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know, as I have lived. Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not. The world this shadow of the soul, Its ator other me, lies wide around. it

passes

—

tractions are the keys

thoughts and myself.

I

which unlock

make me

acquainted with

launch eagerly 'into

sounding tumult.

my

I grasp

those next me, and take

this re-

the hands of

my

place in

the ring to suffer and to work, taught 25


by an

abyss be vocal with speech. its

order

of

it

ing

I dissipate its fear

;

within the circuit of

So

life.

much

dumb

shall the

so

instinct that

I

pierce

I dispose

;

my

only of

expandlife

as

I

know by experience, so much of the wilderness have I vanquished and planted,

or so far have I extended

dominion.

I

do not see

my being, my 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 Drudgery, calamity,

to his discourse.

exasperation, want, are instructors in elo-

The

quence and wisdom. grudges

every

true scholar

opportunity

of action

passed by, as a loss of power. It

is

the raw material out of

which

the intellect moulds her splendid products.

which 26

A

strange process too, this by

experience

is

converted into


thought, as

a

verted

satin.

into

goes forward

The

mulberry-leaf

The

con-

is

manufacture

at all hours.

actions and events of our child-

hood and youth

are now^

They lie like Not so with

calmest observation. pictures in the

recent actions,

we now

air.

—with

matters

fair

our

the business which

On

have in hand.

quite unable to speculate. tions as yet circulate

of

this

we are

Our

affec-

through

know

it.

we

We

no more

feel or

the

or the hand, or the brain of

feet,

our body.

than

it

The new deed

—remains

is

feel

yet a part

immersed in our unconscious life. In some contemplative hour it detaches itself from of

the

life,

life like

for a time

a ripe fruit, to

thought of the mind. raised, transfigured

;

put on incorruption.

become

Instantly

it

a is

the corruptible has

Henceforth

it is

27


;

an object of beauty, however base origin and neighborhood.

its

Observe, too,

the impossibility of antedating this act. its

grub

shine,

it is

In

state it

cannot

fly, it

cannot

But suddenly,

a dull grub.

w^ithout observation, the selfsame thing unfurls beautiful w^ings, and gel of

wisdom.

So

is

an an-

there no fact, no

event, in our private history, not, sooner or

is

later, lose

which shall

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, the love

of

little

maids and ber-

and many another fact that once filled the whole sky, are gone already ries,

friend and relative, profession

and party,

town and country, nation and world, must

also soar

and

sing.

Of course, he who 38

has put forth his


total

strength

in

richest return of

fit

actions

wisdom.

has the

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, those

Savoyards,

who,

much

getting

like

their

livelihood by carving shepherds, shepherdesses, all

and smoking Dutchmen, for

Europe, went out one day to the

mountain to find stock, and discovered that they had whittled up the last of Authors we have, their pine-trees. in numbers, who have written out and who, moved by a commendable prudence, sail for Greece or

their vein,

Palestine, follow the trapper prairie, or

into the

ramble round Algiers, to re-

plenish their merchantable stock. If

it

were only

for a vocabulary, the 29


;

scholar

Life

is

would be covetous of our dictionary.

spent in country labors

the tures

insight ;

into

in

;

trades

;

town

in science

one end of mastering in

facts a

language by which to

in art

;

all

their

illustrate

and embody our perceptions.

much he

in

with many

to the

immediately

;

and manufac-

in frank intercourse

men and women

action.

Years are well

I

learn

from any speaker

how

has already lived, through the

poverty or the splendor of his speech. Life

lies

behind us

whence we

get

tiles

as the

quarry from

and copestones for

the

masonry of to-day.

way

to learn

This

is

the

grammar. 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 is

30

that

it

is

a resource.

books,

That great


— ;

principle of Undulation in nature, that

shows

itself in

the inspiring and expir-

ing of the breath tiety

in the ebb

;

in day

and night

;

in

desire

and

and flow of the ;

sa-

sea

in heat and cold

more deeply ingrained

and, as yet

every atom and every

fluid, is

in

known

under the name of Polarity, these " fits of easy transmission and re-

to us

flection," as

Newton

called them, are

the law of nature because they are the

law of spirit.

The mind now thinks now acts and ;

;

each the

fit

reproduces the other.

artist

when

When

has exhausted his materials,

the fancy no longer paints,

when

no longer apprehended and books are a weariness, he has always the resource to live. Character is Thinking is the higher than intellect.

thoughts

function.

are

Living

—

is

the

functionary. 31


The

stream retreats to

source.

its

A

great soul will be strong to live, as well

Does he lack

as strong to think.

or-

gan or medium to impart his truths ? He can still fall back on this elemental force of living them.

Thinking

act.

is

a

This partial

is

Let

act.

of justice shine

the grandeur

a total

in

his

Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof. Those " far from affairs.

fame,"

who

dwell and act with him,

will feel the force of his

constitution

in the doings

and passages of the day

better than

can be measured by any

public

it

and designed

shall teach

him

display.

Time

that the scholar loses

no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of his instinct, is

lost in seemliness is

Not 32

screened from influence.

out of those on

What

gained in strength.

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 terri-

;

come

ble Druids and Berserkers

Alfred and Shakspeare. fore with joy whatever

hear there-

I is

at last

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

And

well as for unlearned hands.

labor

we

is

everywhere welcome

are invited to

limitation

always

work; only be

observed, that

not for the sake of wider fice

;

a

man

this shall

activity sacri-

any opinion to the popular judg-

ments and modes of action.


HAVE now spoken of the education of the scholar

by nature, by books, and by action.

It

remains to

somewhat of his duties. They are such as become Man They may all be comThinking. say

prised in

scholar

self-trust.

cheer, to

to

is

The

of the

office raise,

and to

men by showing them

guide

amidst appearances.

He plies

facts

the slow,

unhonored, and unpaid task of observation.

their

Flamsteed and Herschel,

glazed

logue the

observatories,

stars

may

in

cata-

with the praise of

all

men, and, the results being splendid and useful, honor is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing ob-

human man has

scure and nebulous stars of the

mind, which thought 34

of

as

as

yet

such,

no

—watching

days


and months sometimes correcting

still

for a

few

his old records,

facts;

—must

relinquish display and immediate fame.

In the long period of his preparation

he must betray often an ignorance and shiftlessness in

popular

arts,

the disdain of the able

him

;

the dead.

—how

For the

who

shoulder

Long he must stammer

aside.

his speech

incurring

in

often forego the living for

Worse

often ease

!

yet,

he must accept

—poverty

and

solitude.

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

and

heart, loss

the frequent

uncertainty

of time, which are the

nettles

and tangling vines in the way of the and the self-relying and self-directed state of virtual hostility in which he ;

35


seems

cially to loss

stand

to

to

society,

For

educated society.

and scorn, what

and espe-

offset

?

all this

He

is

to

find consolation in exercising the highest

one

functions of

human

nature.

He

is

who raises himself from private con-

siderations,

and breathes and

lives

on

He is He is the world's heart.

public and illustrious thoughts.

the world's eye.

He

is

to resist the vulgar prosperity that

retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and

communicating heroic sen-

timents, noble verse,

biographies, melodious

and the conclusions of history.

Whatsoever oracles the human heart, in all emergencies, in all

has uttered as

world of

its

actions,

ceive and impart.

solemn hours,

commentary on the

—

these he shall

And

whatsoever

re-

new

Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on the passing men and verdict

36


events

of to-day,

—

this

he

shall

hear

and promulgate.

These being

him

his functions,

it

to feel all confidence in

becomes himself,

and to defer never to the popular cry. He, and he only, knows the world.

The world merest

of

any

appearance.

moment is Some great

the de-

corum, some fetich of a government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man,

up by half mankind and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down. The odds are that the whole question is not worth the poorest thought which the scholar has lost in listening is

cried

to the controversy. his belief that a

Let him not quit

popgun

is

a

popgun,

though the ancient and honorable of the earth affirm

doom.

it

to be the crack of

In silence, in steadiness, in

se37


;

vere abstraction, self;

add

let

him hold by himobservation,

observation to

patient of neglect, patient of reproach

and bide his if

he can

this

own

time,

—happy enough

himself

satisfy

alone

that

day he has seen something truly.

on

Success

treads

For the

instinct

is

every

right

sure that prompts

him

to tell his brother

He

then learns that in going

into the

what he

thinks.

down

own mind he

of his

secrets

step.

has descended into the secrets of

minds.

mastered thoughts all

He

learns

any is

that

law

in

he his

all

has

private

master to that extent of

men whose

language he speaks, and

of all into whose language his

be translated.

who

The

own

poet in utter

can soli-

remembering his spontaneous thoughts and recording them, is found tude

to have recorded 38

that

which men

in


crowded

The

cities find true for

orator distrusts at

first

them

also.

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

;

—

words because he

own

nature

that they drink his

fulfils

for

them

their

the deeper he dives into

;

his privatest, secretest presentiment, to

wonder he

his

this is the

finds

most

acceptable, most public, and universally

The

true.

people delight in

better part of every

my

music

In

;

this

is

self-trust all

prehended.

—

man

feels.

it

;

the

This

is

myself.

the virtues are

com-

Free should the scholar be,

and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, " without any hinfree

drance that does not constitution."

which

arise

out of his

Brave for fear

a scholar

;

by

is

own

a thing

his very function 39


puts behind him.

from ignorance.

Fear always springs

shame

It is a

if his tranquillity,

him

to

amid dangerous times,

from the presumption that like children and women his is a protected arise

class

or if

;

he seek a temporary peace

by the diversion of politics or

his thoughts

from

vexed questions, hiding his

head like an ostrich in the flowering bushes, peeping into microscopes, and 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

turning rhymes,

;

him look nature,

into

its

inspect

whelping of

its

eye and search origin,

this lion,

way back

—

—

see

^which

lies

its

the

no

he will then find in himself a perfect comprehension of its nature and extent he will have made great

;

;

his 40

hands meet on the other

side,

and


;

can henceforth

through

and pass on

it,

The world

superior. see

defy

who can pretension. What

its

his

is

what stone-blind custom, what overgrown error you behold, is there only by sufferance, by your deafness,

—

See

sufferance.

to

it

you have already dealt

be a

we

are

trustless.

It

we

are

that

is

the a

cowed,

and

mortal

its

it

blow. Yes,

lie,

—

^we

the

mischievous notion

come

late

into

nature

that the world was finished a long time

As the world was

ago.

fluid in the

much

to so to

it.

They may ;

To

hands of God, so of his attributes

-in

proportion

it is

we

as

ignorance and sin

adapt themselves to

but

plastic

ever

bring

it is flint.

it

as a

and

as

man

they has

him divine, the firmament before him and takes his signet

anything in flows

41


and form.

Not he

is

alter matter,

but he

who

of the world

who

art,

all

who

can

alter

my

can

the kings

are

give the

thought to

present

their

and

They

of mind.

state

great

color of

all

nature

and persuade men, by the

cheerful serenity of their carrying the matter, that this thing is

which they do

the apple which the ages have depluck,

sired to

now

at

last ripe,

The

inviting nations to the harvest.

great

man makes

the

great

Wherever Macdonald

sits,

head

Linnseus

there

and

thing. is

the

makes botany the most alluring of studies, and wins it from the farmer and the herbwoman Davy, chemistry and Cuvier, of the

table.

;

;

fossils.

The

works in

it

day

is

always his

with serenity and

who great

The unstable estimates of men crowd to him whose mind is filled aims.

42


with a truth,

as

the heaped waves of

the Atlantic follow the moon.

For

this

the

self-trust,

reason

deeper than can be fathomed,

than can be enlightened. carry with

me

I

my own

—darker

might not

the feeling of

ence in stating

is

my

audi-

But

belief.

have already shown the ground of

I

my

hope, in adverting to the doctrine that

man

is

one.

wronged

He

;

believe

I

he

has

man

wronged

has been himself.

has almost lost the light that can

lead

him back

Men

are

to

his

prerogatives.

become of no account.

in history,

men

in the

Men

world of to-day,

spawn, and are called " the mass " and " the herd." In a are

bugs,

are

century, in a millennium, one or two

men

;

that

is

proximations every man.

to

say,

to

the

one or two apright

state

of

All the rest behold in the 43


hero or the poet their

own

crude

;

being,

content to be

—ripened less,

What

stature.

its full

of grandeur,

so that

yes,

and are

may

attain to

a testimony, full

of pity,

full

the demands of his

green and

own

is

borne to

nature, by the

who

poor clansman, the poor partisan, in

rejoices

The

the

and

poor

of his

glory

chief!

low find some immense moral capacthe

amends

to their

ity, for

their acquiescence in a politi-

and

cal

social

inferiority.

content to be brushed like

They flies

are

from

the path of a great person, so that justice shall

mon sire

be done by him to that com-

nature

of

all

which

is

it

the dearest de-

to see enlarged

and

glorified.

They

sun themselves in the great man's

light,

and

ment.

from 44

feel it to

They their

be their

own

cast the dignity

downtrod

selves

of

ele-

man

uDon the


shoulders of a hero, and will perish to

add one drop of blood great

heart beat, those

Men cause

it

is

or as

power good

est,

sinews

lives for us,

and power beas money, the

;

—

" spoils," so called, " of

why

that

such as they are, very naturally

money

seek

giant

He

combat and conquer. and we live in him.

make

to

not

their

sleep-walking,

highest.

Wake them

in

this,

they dream

and they

And

for they aspire to the high-

?

and

office."

is

shall quit the false

good, and

leap to the true, and leave governments to clerks is

to

and desks.

be wrought by the gradual do-

mestication

The main

of the

man.

idea

of Culture.

enterprise of the world for

splendor, for extent,

of a

This revolution

Here

is

the upbuilding

are

strewn along the ground.

the materials

The

private 45


life

of one

man

shall

be a more

illustri-

more formidable

ous monarchy,

to

its

enemy, more sweet and serene in its influence to its friend, than any king-

dom

For a man, rightly viewed, comprehendeth the particular Each philosopher, natures of all men. each bard, each actor, has only done for I

history.

in

me,

as

by a delegate, what one day

can do for myself.

once

we

valued

more than the apple

we

have quite exhausted.

of the eye,

What

is

The books which

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. then another,

we

drain

waxing greater by

we

crave a better and

food. 46

all

The man

First one,

all cisterns,

and

these supplies,

more abundant

has never lived

that


can feed us ever.

The human mind who

cannot be enshrined in a person shall set a barrier

on any one

side to

unbounded, unboundable empire. is one central fire, which, flaming

this It

now

out of the

lips

of Etna, lightens

the capes of Sicily, and throat

of

Vesuvius,

now

out of the

illuminates

towers and vineyards of Naples.

the It

is

one light which beams out of a thousand

mates

stars. all

It

men.

is

one soul which ani-


UT

have dwelt perhaps

I

tediously

upon

ab-

this

straction of the Scholar. I

ought not to delay longer

what

to add

I

have to say

of nearer reference to the time and to this country. is

thought to be

a difference in the ideas

which predom-

Historically, there

inate over successive epochs, are data for Classic,

marking the genius of the

of the Romantic, and

the Reflective

With

and there

the views

now

Philosophical

or I

of

age.

have intimated of

the oneness or the identity of the

mind

through

much

all

dwell on I believe all

three.

individuals, I

these

48

differences.

In

fact,

each individual passes through

The boy

youth, romantic; I

do not

is

a

Greek; the

the adult, reflective.

deny not, however, that a revolution


—

in the

leading idea

enough

traced.

Our age

is

bewailed

Must

Introversion. evil

We,

?

it

may be as

the age of

needs

that

seems, are

distinctly

be

We

critical.

are embarrassed w^ith second thoughts.

We

cannot enjoy anything for hanker-

ing to

know whereof the

sists.

We

are

lined

see with our feet.

pleasure con-

with

We

eyes.

The time

is

infected

with Hamlet's unhappiness, Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.

Is

it

so

bad then

thing to be pitied.

Do we

fear lest

we

?

Sight

is

the

Would we be

last

blind

?

should outsee nature

and God, and drink truth dry

?

I

look

upon the discontent of the literary as a mere announcement of the

class

that they find themselves not in

the

state

fact

of mind of their fathers, and re49


gret the

coming

state as untried;

as a

boy dreads the water before he has If there is learned that he can swim. any period one would desire to be born in,

it

is

when by

new

the old and the

side

when

not the age of Revolution; stand side

and admit of being compared; the

men are and by hope when

energies

searched by fear

of

all

;

the historic glories of the old can be

compensated by the rich the

new era ?

possibilities

This time, like

all

of

times,

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

is

a very

art,

through

philosophy and

through church and

One 50

state.

of these signs

the same

science,

is

the fact that

movement which

effected the


;

elevation of class in

what was

called the lowest

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

ex-

That which had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and provisplored and poetized.

ioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is

richer than

all

suddenly found to be

foreign parts.

The

lit-

erature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the

meaning of household ics

of the time.

It is a sign

when when

—

is

It it

life,

a great stride.

is

not

—of new vigor

?

the extremities are currents of

the hands and the

are the top-

made

warm

life

feet.

I

the great, the remote, the

what

is

active,

run into

ask not for

romantic

doing in Italy or Arabia

;

what 51


;;

is

I

Greek art, or Proven9al minstrelsy; 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 w^orlds. What w^ould we really know the meaning of? The meal in th'e firkin; the milk street

in ;

the pan; the

ballad

the news of the boat

;

in

the

the glance

of the eye; the form and the gait of the body;

—show me the

son of these matters

;

ultimate rea-

show me the sub-

lime 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

polarity that ranges eternal

it

with the

instantly

on an

law; and the shop, the plow,

and the ledger referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing

—and 52

the world

lies

no longer a dull


miscellany 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 Gib-

bon, looks writing

cold

and pedantic.

Man

blood-warm.

is

This is

sur-

prised to find that things near are not less beautiful

remote.

The

drop

and wondrous than things

The is

near explains

is

This perception

of the worth of the vulgar discoveries.

far.

A man

a small ocean.

related to all nature.

the

Goethe, in

is

fruitful in

this very thing 53


the most

shown

modern of the moderns, has

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 difficulty which no genius could surmount. But he saw and showed the connection between nature and the affections of the soul.

emblematic or

He

pierced the

spiritual character

visible, audible, tangible

world.

cially did his shade-loving

of the Espe-

muse hover

over and interpret the lower parts of 54


he showed the mysterious bond that allies moral evil to the foul mate-

nature

rial

;

forms, and has given in epical para-

bles a theory of insanity, of beasts, of

unclean and fearful things.

Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous political movement, the

the

is

single

new importance

person.

tends to insulate the individual

round him with

given to

Everything

—

that

to sur-

barriers of natural re-

man shall feel the and man shall treat with

spect, so that each

world

man

as a

—

state

his,

is

sovereign state with a sovereign

tends to true union as well as

greatness.

"

I

learned," said the mel-

ancholy Pestalozzi, " that no

man

in

God's wide earth is either willing or Help able to help any other man."

must come from the bosom alone. The scholar is that man who must take up SS


;

into himself all the ability of the time,

the contributions of the past,

all

He

hopes of the future.

the

all

must be an If there be

university of knowledges.

one lesson more than another which should pierce his ear, is

is

man

nothing, the

the law of

not yet

how

all

it is

:

The world

is all

;

in yourself

nature, and

a globule of sap ascends

in yourself slumbers the

son

;

it is

for

you know

you

to

whole of Rea-

know all

;

for

it is

you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentlemen, this confidence in the unsearched might of motives, by

all

aration, to the

man

belongs,

prophecy, by

by

all

prep-

all

American Scholar.

We

have listened too long to the courtly

muses of Europe.

American freeman to be timid,

The is

spirit

already suspected

imitative, tame.

and private avarice make the S6

of the Public air

we


breathe thick and

The

fat.

scholar

decent, indolent, complaisant.

ready

the

See

al-

The

consequence.

tragic

is

mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no work for any one but the decorous

Young men of who begin life upon

and the complaisant. the

fairest

promise,

our shores, inflated by the mountain winds, shined upon by

God,

all

the stars of

below not in unison with these, but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on find the earth

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

self

the single

man

indomitably on his

plant

instincts,

himand 57


there abide, the huge world will

round

him.

to

Patience, all

the good and

company; and

for solace, the

with the shades of great for

own

perspective of your

and

for

—

come

patience;

infinite

life;

work, the study and the com-

munication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the conversion

of the world.

not the chief dis-

Is it

grace in the world, not to be an unit;

not to be reckoned one character; not

which each

to yield that peculiar fruit

man was

created

reckoned in the

to

but to

bear,

gross, in the

be

hundred,

or the thousand, of the party, the section,

to

opinion the

which we belong; predicted

north,

geographically,

brothers and friends, shall not

own 58

feet;

be

so.

we

south?

the

or

—

We

will

and

Not

our as so,

God, ours walk on our

please

will

work with our own


we

hands;

Then

will speak, our

shall

man be no

for pity, for doubt,

and

own

minds.

longer a

name

for sensual

in-

The dread of man and the man shall be a wall of defense

dulgence. love of

and

wreath of joy around

a

nation of exist,

men

will

for

the

all.

first

A time

because each believes himself in-

spired by the inspires

all

Divine Soul which

men.

also


BOOK WAS DESIGNED ARRANGED AND PRINTED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF ARTHUR H HAHLO AND GEORGE S HELLMAN AT THE LAURENTIAN PRESS 353 FIFTH AVENUE NEW YORK IN THE YEAR NINETEEN HUNDRED AND ONE THIS


Ralph Waldo Emerson - The American Scholar, an Address,  

delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge August 1837, 1901 Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Cont...

Ralph Waldo Emerson - The American Scholar, an Address,  

delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge August 1837, 1901 Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Cont...

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