Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston on May 25, , to William and Ruth Ralph Waldo Emerson died quietly on April 27, , and was buried at. The Project Gutenberg EBook of Essays, First Series, by Ralph Waldo Emerson This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no. PDF | Ralph Waldo Emerson's book, The Conduct of Life is among the gems of his mature works. First published in the year of Abraham Lincoln's election.
|Language:||English, Spanish, Hindi|
|Genre:||Politics & Laws|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Registration Required]|
There are advantages in having a wife smarter than you. I could 'Oh that Chetan Bhagat,' he said, like he knew a milli The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo. Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Ne te quaesiveris extra.” “Man is his own star; and the soul that can. Render an honest and a perfect man,. Commands all light, all. Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Por- table Document file is furnished free and without any charge of.
With regard to the contempt for charity, while you can celebrate that you are the product of your own hard work, you forget that's never really true in a society where we don't all start life with the same level of nutrition, warmth, care, location, education or skin. The track is rockier and longer for some, shorter and smoother for others. While we know charities are inefficient, and putting a dollar in the hand of a beggar won't teach them how to make more purposefully, I'd sooner hand over the dollar than pretend I wasn't the benefactor of circumstance.
That doesn't mean you have to self-flagellate for being fortunate and dedicate yourself to others, it's just honesty. Emerson's essay was more about being the best version of yourself you can be. Yes, someone has to mend your shoes and bake bread, however, if that's your profession, you should strive to be the best at the given task.
If you pride yourself in your work, then being the best baker isn't an insult, nor being the best car driver, chef, or construction worker. And if you yearn to be the best at a particular task, all the better for those who use your services and perhaps society at large. But you're not your job.
In a small amount of time you won't even be a memory.
The universe doesn't care how well you brewed that coffee, nor does it care about your electric car company. Even as the people of the future and their artificial aides stand on the collective shoulders of giants past, finally encapsulating the sun with the greatest megastructure ever known to harness its vast power, the universe stares back silently, carelessly. You are the universe looking at itself. If you want to make something, make it.
Make it as good as you want to make it. But more than anything, celebrate your existence. Emerson applied himself to the task, though with heavy heart, partly from a feeling of repugnance at being forced into an enterprise which he had not intended, but still more perhaps from a sense of inability, Edition: orig; Page: [ii] more real than he knew, which was beginning to make itself felt.
He made, accordingly, but slow progress, so that in the summer of he had got ready little more than the first piece, Poetry and Imagination, the proof-sheets of which were in his hands,—indeed had been for some time in his hands,—when on the 24th of July his house was burned and all possibility of work put an end to for the time, not merely by the confusion of his papers and the destruction of his wonted surroundings, but yet more effectually by an illness resulting from the shock.
The proof-sheets showed that already before this accident his loss of memory and of mental grasp had gone so far as to make it unlikely that he would in any case have been able to accomplish what he had undertaken.
Sentences, even whole pages, were repeated, and there was a confusion of order beyond what even he would have tolerated. Now, at any rate, nothing was to be thought of but rest and the attempt to restore the tone of his mind by some diversion. The Nile-tour was suggested and made feasible by kind friends, and he wrote to England explaining the necessity for some delay. Soon after his return home he heard of the death of the English publisher, and supposed himself free.
But in he was informed that the claim had passed on to the successors of the London firm, Edition: orig; Page: [iii] and that they were asking what had become of their book. The old proof-sheets were again taken in hand, but again with a painful sense of incapacity to deal with them.
By degrees and with much reluctance he admitted the necessity of some assistance. It was known to his family that he intended to make me his literary executor, and he now acceded to their asking me to help him with the book.
Before long he had committed the business of selection and preparation for the press, almost entirely to me. Of course he was constantly consulted, and he would sometimes, upon urging, supply a needed word or sentence, but he was quite content to do as little as possible, and desired to leave everything in my hands. This will appear to be of the more consequence in view of the fact that with the exception of four, viz.
Emerson was in the habit of repeating, on different occasions, what was nominally the same lecture, in Edition: orig; Page: [iv] reality often varied by the introduction of part of some other, or of new matter. This, with his freedom of transition and breadth of scope, which were apt in any case to render the boundaries of the subject somewhat indistinct, made it often difficult or impossible for any one to determine with confidence to what particular lecture a given sheet or scrap originally belonged.
Nor indeed did I attempt, in preparing the copy for the press, to adhere always to a single manuscript.
To have attempted this would have been contrary to Mr. Emerson's wishes. What he desired was simply to bring together under the particular heading whatever could be found that seemed in place there, without regard to the connection in which it was found.
This had been his own practice, and all his suggestions to me were to this effect. Most of the time that he spent which was not very much over the work, was spent in searching his note-books, new and old, for fresh matter that might be introduced with advantage. In this way it happened sometimes that writing of very different dates was brought together: e. Then, as to the selection of the essays, there were, it is true, lists pre-pared by Mr.
Emerson with a view to future volumes, Edition: orig; Page: [v] but many of the papers had been lying by him for years unpublished, and it is open to any one to say that he never really decided upon publishing them, and, if he had been left to himself, never would have published them.
There is nothing here that he did not write, and he gave his full approval to whatever was done in the way of selection and arrangement; but I cannot say that he applied his mind very closely to the matter. He was pleased, in a general way, that the work should go on, but it may be a question exactly how far he sanctioned it. The perception of matter is made the common sense, and for cause.
This was the cradle, this the go-cart, of the human child. We must learn the homely laws of fire and water; we must feed, wash, plant, build. These are ends of necessity, and first in the order of nature. Poverty, frost, famine, disease, debt, are the beadles and guardsmen that hold us to common-sense. The intellect, yielded up to itself, cannot supersede this tyrannic necessity. The common-sense which does not meddle with the absolute, but takes things at their word,—things as they appear,—believes in the existence of matter, not because we can touch it or conceive of it, but because it agrees with ourselves, and the universe does not jest with us, but is in earnest, is the house of health and life.
In spite of all the joys of poets and the joys of saints, the most imaginative and abstracted person never Edition: orig; Page:  makes with impunity the least mistake in this particular,—never tries to kindle his oven with water, nor carries a torch into a powder-mill, nor seizes his wild charger by the tail.
We should not pardon the blunder in another, nor endure it in ourselves. But whilst we deal with this as finality, early hints are given that we are not to stay here; that we must be making ready to go;—a warning that this magnificent hotel and conveniency we call Nature is not final.
First innuendoes, then broad hints, then smart taps are given, suggesting that nothing stands still in nature but death; that the creation is on wheels, in transit, always passing into something else, streaming into something higher; that matter is not what it appears;—that chemistry can blow it all into gas.
Faraday, the most exact of natural philosophers, taught that when we should arrive at the monads, or primordial elements the supposed little cubes or prisms of which all matter was built up , we should not find cubes, or prisms, or atoms, at all, but spherules of force. It was whispered that the globes of the universe were precipitates of something more subtle; nay, somewhat was murmured in our ear that dwindled astronomy into a toy;—that too was no finality; only provisional, a makeshift; that under chemistry was power and purpose: power and purpose ride Edition: orig; Page:  on matter to the last atom.
It was steeped in thought, did everywhere express thought; that, as great conquerors have burned their ships when once they were landed on the wished-for shore, so the noble house of Nature we inhabit has temporary uses, and we can afford to leave it one day. The ends of all are moral, and therefore the beginnings are such.
Thin or solid, everything is in flight. I believe this conviction makes the charm of chemistry,—that we have the same avoirdupois matter in an alembic, without a vestige of the old form; and in animal transformation not less, as in grub and fly, in egg and bird, in embryo and man; everything undressing and stealing away from its old into new form, and nothing fast but those invisible cords which we call laws, on which all is strung. Then we see that things wear different names and faces, but belong to one family; that the secret cords or laws show their well-known virtue through every variety, be it animal, or plant, or planet, and the interest is gradually transferred from the forms to the lurking method.
This hint, however conveyed, upsets our politics, trade, customs, marriages, nay, the common-sense side of religion and literature, which are all founded on low nature,—on the clearest and most economical mode of administering the material world, considered as final. But whilst the man is startled by this closer inspection of the laws of matter, his attention is called to the independent action of the mind; its strange suggestions and laws; a certain tyranny which springs up in his own thoughts, which have an order, method, and beliefs of their own, very different from the order which this common-sense uses.
Suppose there were in the ocean certain strong currents which drove a ship, caught in them, with a force that no skill of sailing with the best wind, and no strength of oars, or sails, or steam, could make any head against, any more than against the current of Niagara.
Such currents, so tyrannical, exist in thoughts, those finest and subtilest of all waters, that as soon as once thought begins, it refuses to remember whose brain it belongs to; what country, tradition, or religion; and goes whirling off—swim we merrily—in a direction self-chosen, by law of thought and not by law of kitchen clock or county committee.
It has its own polarity. One Edition: orig; Page:  of these vortices or self-directions of thought is the impulse to search resemblance, affinity, identity, in all its objects, and hence our science, from its rudest to its most refined theories. The electric word pronounced by John Hunter a hundred years ago, arrested and progressive development, indicating the way upward from the invisible protoplasm to the highest organisms, gave the poetic key to Natural Science, of which the theories of Geoffroy St.
The hardest chemist, the severest analyzer, scornful of all but dryest fact, is forced to keep the poetic curve of nature, and his result is like a myth of Theocritus. All multiplicity rushes to be resolved into unity. Anatomy, osteology, exhibit arrested or progressive ascent in each kind; the lower pointing to the higher forms, the higher to the highest, from the fluid in an elastic sack, from radiate, mollusk, articulate, vertebrate, up to man; as if the whole animal world were only a Hun-terian museum to exhibit the genesis of mankind.
Identity of law, perfect order in physics, perfect parallelism between the laws of Nature and the Edition: orig; Page:  laws of thought exist. In botany we have the like, the poetic perception of metamorphosis,—that the same vegetable point or eye which is the unit of the plant can be transformed at pleasure into every part, as bract, leaf, petal, stamen, pistil, or seed.
In geology, what a useful hint was given to the early inquirers on seeing in the possession of Professor Playfair a bough of a fossil tree which was perfect wood at one end and perfect mineral coal at the other. Natural objects, if individually described and out of connection, are not yet known, since they are really parts of a symmetrical universe, like words of a sentence; and if their true order is found, the poet can read their divine significance orderly as in a Bible.
Each animal or vegetable form remembers the next inferior and predicts the next higher. There is one animal, one plant, one matter, and one force. The laws of light and of heat translate each other;—so do the laws of sound and of color; and so galvanism, electricity, and magnetism are varied forms of the selfsame energy. While the student ponders this immense unity, he observes that all things in Nature, the animals, the mountain, the river, the seasons, wood, iron, stone, vapor, have a mysterious relation to his thoughts and his life; their growths, decays, quality and use so curiously resemble himself, in parts and in wholes, Edition: orig; Page:  that he is compelled to speak by means of them.
His words and his thoughts are framed by their help. Every noun is an image. Nature gives him, sometimes in a flattered likeness, sometimes in caricature, a copy of every humor and shade in his character and mind.
The world is an immense picture-book of every passage in human life. Every object he beholds is the mask of a man. Every correspondence we observe in mind and matter suggests a substance older and deeper than either of these old nobilities.
We see the law gleaming through, like the sense of a half-translated ode of Hafiz. The poet who plays with it with most boldness best justifies himself; is most profound and most devout. Passion adds eyes; is a magnifying-glass. Sonnets of lovers are mad enough, but are valuable to the philosopher, as are prayers of saints, for their potent symbolism.
Science was false by being unpoetical. It assumed to explain a reptile or mollusk, and isolated it,—which is hunting for life in graveyards. Reptile or mollusk or man or angel only exists in system, in relation. The metaphysician, the poet, only sees each animal form as an inevitable step in the Edition: orig; Page:  path of the creating mind.
The Indian, the hunter, the boy with his pets, have sweeter knowledge of these than the savant. We use semblances of logic until experience puts us in possession of real logic.
The poet knows the missing link by the joy it gives. The poet gives us the eminent experiences only,—a god stepping from peak to peak, nor planting his foot but on a mountain. Science does not know its debt to imagination. Goethe did not believe that a great naturalist could exist without this faculty. He was himself conscious of its help, which made him a prophet among the doctors. First the fact; second its impression, or what I think of it.
Their value to the intellect appears only when I hear their meaning made plain in the spiritual truth they cover. The mind, penetrated with its sentiment or its thought, projects it outward on whatever it beholds. The lover sees re- Edition: orig; Page:  minders of his mistress in every beautiful object; the saint, an argument for devotion in every natural process; and the facility with which Nature lends itself to the thoughts of man, the aptness with which a river, a flower, a bird, fire, day or night, can express his fortunes, is as if the world were only a disguised man, and, with a change of form, rendered to him all his experience.
We cannot utter a sentence in sprightly conversation without a similitude. It is ever enlivened by inversion and trope.
God himself does not speak prose, but communicates with us by hints, omens, inference, and dark resemblances in objects lying all around us. Nothing so marks a man as imaginative expressions. A figurative statement arrests attention, and is remembered and repeated. How often has a phrase of this kind made a reputation. Genius thus makes the transfer from one part of Nature to a remote part, and betrays the rhymes and echoes that pole makes with pole.
Imaginative minds cling to their images, and do not wish them Edition: orig; Page:  rashly rendered into prose reality, as children resent your showing them that their doll Cinderella is nothing but pine wood and rags; and my young scholar does not wish to know what the leopard, the wolf, or Lucia, signify in Dante's Inferno, but prefers to keep their veils on.
Mark the deligh of an audience in an image. When some familiar truth or fact appears in a new dress, mounted as on a fine horse, equipped with a grand pair of ballooning wings, we cannot enough testify our surprise and pleasure. It is like the new virtue shown in some unprized old property, as when a boy finds that his pocket-knife will attract steel filings and take up a needle; or when the old horse-block in the yard is found to be a Torso Hercules of the Phidian age.
A happy symbol is a sort of evidence that your thought is just. I had rather have a good symbol of my thought, or a good analogy, than the suffrage of Kant or Plato. If you agree with me, or if Locke or Montesquieu agree, I may yet be wrong; but if the elm-tree thinks the same thing, if running water, if burning coal, if crystals, if alkalies, in their several fashions say what I say, it must be true. Thus a good symbol Edition: orig; Page:  is the best argument, and is a missionary to persuade thousands.
The Vedas, the Edda, the Koran, are each remembered by their happiest figure. There is no more welcome gift to men than a new symbol. That satiates, transports, converts them. They assimilate themselves to it, deal with it in all ways, and it will last a hundred years. Then comes a new genius, and brings another. Youth, age, property, condition, events, persons,—self, even,—are successive maias deceptions through which Vishnu mocks and instructs the soul.
I think Hindoo books the best gymnastics for the mind, as showing treatment. All European libraries might almost be read without the swing of this gigantic arm being suspected.
But these Orientals deal with worlds and pebbles freely. For the value of a trope is that the hearer is one: and indeed Nature itself is a vast trope, and all particular natures are tropes. As the bird alights on the bough, then plunges into the air again, so the thoughts of God pause but for a moment in any form. All thinking is analogizing, and it is the use of life to learn metonymy. The endless passing of one element into new forms, the incessant metamorphosis, explains the rank which the imagination holds in our catalogue of mental powers.
The imagination is the reader of these forms. The poet accounts all productions and changes of Nature as the nouns of language, uses them representatively, too well pleased with their ulterior to value much their primary meaning. Every new object so seen gives a shock of agreeable surprise. The impressions on the imagination make the great days of life: the book, the landscape, or the personality which did not stay on the surface of the Edition: orig; Page:  eye or ear but penetrated to the inward sense, agitates us, and is not forgotten.
Walking, working, or talking, the sole question is how many strokes vibrate on this mystic string,—how many diameters are drawn quite through from matter to spirit; for whenever you enunciate a natural law you discover that you have enunciated a law of the mind.
Chemistry, geology, hydraulics, are secondary science. The atomic theory is only an interior process produced, as geometers say, or the effect of a foregone metaphysical theory. Swedenborg saw gravity to be only an external of the irresistible attractions of affection and faith.
Mountains and oceans we think we understand;—yes, so long as they are contented to be such, and are safe with the geologist,—but when they are melted in Promethean alembics and come out men, and then, melted again, come out words, without any abatement, but with an exaltation of power!
In poetry we say we require the miracle. The bee flies among the flowers, and gets mint and marjoram, and generates a new product, which is not mint and marjoram, but honey; the chemist mixes hydrogen and oxygen to yield a new product, which is not these, but water; and the poet listens to conversation and beholds all objects in nature, to give back, not them, but a new and transcendent whole.
Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the Edition: orig; Page:  spirit of the thing, to pass the brute body and search the life and reason which causes it to exist;—to see that the object is always flowing away, whilst the spirit or necessity which causes it subsists. Its essential mark is that it betrays in every word instant activity of mind, shown in new uses of every fact and image, in preternatural quickness or perception of relations.
All its words are poems. It is a presence of mind that gives a miraculous command of all means of uttering the thought and feeling of the moment.
The poet squanders on the hour an amount of life that would more than furnish the seventy years of the man that stands next him. A deep insight will always, like Nature, ultimate its thought in a thing. As soon as a man masters a principle and sees his facts in relation to it, fields, waters, skies, offer to clothe his thoughts in images. For he can now find symbols of universal significance, which are readily rendered into any dialect; as a painter, a sculptor, a musician, can in their several ways express the same sentiment of anger, or love, or religion.
The thoughts are few, the forms many; the large Edition: orig; Page:  vocabulary or many-colored coat of the indigent unity.
The savans are chatty and vain, but hold them hard to principle and definition, and they become mute and near-sighted. What is motion? Push them hard and they will not be loquacious. They will come to Plato, Proclus, and Swedenborg. The invisible and imponderable is the sole fact. I do not know what are the stoppages, but I see that a devouring unity changes all into that which changes not. The act of imagination is ever attended by pure delight. It infuses a certain volatility and intoxication into all nature.
It has a flute which sets the atoms of our frame in a dance. Our indeterminate size is a delicious secret which it reveals to us.
The mountains begin to dislimn, and float in the air. In the presence and conversation of a true poet, teeming with images to express his enlarging thought, his person, his form, grows larger to our fascinated eyes. And thus begins that deification which all nations have made of their heroes in every kind,—saints, poets, lawgivers, and warriors.
Imagination,—Whilst common-sense looks at Edition: orig; Page:  things or visible nature as real and final facts, poetry, or the imagination which dictates it, is a second sight, looking through these, and using them as types or words for thoughts which they signify. Or is this belief a metaphysical whim of modern times, and quite too refined?
On the contrary, it is as old as the human mind. The very design of imagination is to domesticate us in another, in a celestial nature. This power is in the image because this power is in nature.
It so affects, because it so is. All that is wondrous in Swedenborg is not his invention, but his extraordinary perception;—that he was necessitated so to see. The world realizes the mind. Better than images is seen through them. The selection of the image is no more arbitrary than the power and significance of the image.
The selection must follow fate. Poetry, if perfected, is the only verity; is the speech of man after the real, and not after the apparent. Or shall we say that the imagination exists by sharing the ethereal currents? The poet contemplates the central identity, sees it undulate and roll this way and that, with divine Flowings, through remotest things; and, following it, can detect essential resemblances in natures never before compared.
He can class them so audaciously because he is sensible of the sweep of the celestial stream, from which nothing is exempt. His own body is a fleeing apparition,—his personality as fugitive as the trope he employs. In certain hours we can almost pass our hand through our own body. I Edition: orig; Page:  think the use or value of poetry to be the suggestion it affords of the flux or fugaciousness of the poet.
The mind delights in measuring itself thus with matter, with history, and flouting both. A thought, any thought, pressed, followed, opened, dwarfs matter, custom, and all but itself. But this second sight does not necessarily impair the primary or common sense. Pindar, and Dante, yes, and the gray and timeworn sentences of Zoroaster, may all be parsed, though we do not parse them.
The poet has a logic, though it be subtile. He observes higher laws than he transgresses. Men are imaginative, but not overpowered by it to the extent of confounding its suggestions with external facts. We live in both spheres, and must not mix them. Genius certifies its entire possession of its thought, by translating it into a fact which perfectly represents it, and is hereby education. He wishes to be rich, to be old, to be young, that things may obey him.
In the ocean, in fire, in the sky, in the forest, he finds facts adequate and as large as he. As his thoughts are deeper than he can fathom, so also are these. It is easier to read Sanscrit, to decipher the arrowhead character, than to interpret these familiar sights. It is even much to name them. The poet discovers that what men value as substances have a higher value as symbols; that Nature is the immense shadow of man.
A man's action is only a picture-book of his creed. He does after what he believes. Your condition, your employment, is the fable of you. The world is thoroughly anthropomorphized, as if it had passed through the body and mind of man, and taken his mould and form.
Indeed, good poetry is always personification, and heightens every species of force in nature by giving it a human volition. We are advertised that there is nothing to which man is not related; that everything is convertible into every other.
The staff in his hand is the radius vector of the sun.
The chemistry of this is the chemistry Edition: orig; Page:  of that. Whatever one act we do, whatever one thing we learn, we are doing and learning all things,—marching in the direction of universal power.
Every healthy mind is a true Alexander or Sesostris, building a universal monarchy. The senses imprison us, and we help them with metres as limitary,—with a pair of scales and a foot-rule and a clock. How long it took to find out what a day was, or what this sun, that makes days! It cost thousands of years only to make the motion of the earth suspected. Slowly, by comparing thousands of observations, there dawned on some mind a theory of the sun,—and we found the astronomical fact.
But the astronomy is in the mind: the senses affirm that the earth stands still and the sun moves. The senses collect the surface facts of matter.
The intellect acts on these brute reports, and obtains from them results which are the essence or intellectual form of the experiences. It compares, distributes, generalizes and uplifts them into its own sphere.
It knows that these transfigured results are not the brute experiences, just as souls in heaven are not the red bodies they once animated. Many transfigurations have befallen them. It was sensation; when memory came, it was experience; when mind acted, it was knowledge; when mind acted on it as knowledge, it was thought.
This metonymy, or seeing the same sense in things so diverse, gives a pure pleasure. Every one of a million times we find a charm in the metamorphosis. It makes us dance and sing. All men are so far poets. When people tell me they do not relish poetry, and bring me Shelley, or Aikin's Poets, or I know not what volumes of rhymed English, to show that it has no charm, I am quite of their mind. But this dislike of the books only proves their liking of poetry.
They like to see statues; they like to name the stars; they like to talk and hear of Jove, Apollo, Minerva, Venus, and the Nine. See how tenacious we are of the Edition: orig; Page:  old names.
They like poetry without knowing it as such. They like to go to the theatre and be made to weep; to Faneuil Hall, and be taught by Otis, Webster, or Kossuth, or Phillips, what great hearts they have, what tears, what new possible enlargements to their narrow horizons. They like to see sunsets on the hills or on a lake shore. Now a cow does not gaze at the rainbow, or show or affect any interest in the landscape, or a peacock, or the song of thrushes.
Nature is the true idealist. When she serves us best, when, on rare days, she speaks to the imagination, we feel that the huge heaven and earth are but a web drawn around us, that the light, skies, and mountains are but the painted vicissitudes of the soul. Of course, when we describe man as poet, and credit him with the triumphs of the art, we speak of the potential or ideal man,—not found now in any one person. You must go through a city or a nation, and find one faculty here, one there, to build the true poet withal.
Yet all men know the portrait when it is drawn, and it is part of religion to believe its possible incarnation. Edition: orig; Page:  He is the healthy, the wise, the fundamental, the manly man, seer of the secret; against all the appearance he sees and reports the truth, namely that the soul generates matter.
And poetry is the only verity,—the expression of a sound mind speaking after the ideal, and not after the apparent. As a power it is the perception of the symbolic character of things, and the treating them as representative: as a talent it is a magnetic tenaciousness of an image, and by the treatment demonstrating that this pigment of thought is as palpable and objective to the poet as is the ground on which he stands, or the walls of houses about him.
And this power appears in Dante and Shakspeare. In some individuals this insight or second sight has an extraordinary reach which compels our wonder, as in Behmen, Swedenborg, and William Blake the painter. The painter of this work asserts that all his imaginations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more minutely organized than anything seen by his mortal eye.