Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say 195 chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime, nature is not slow to equip us in the prison uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a 200 mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail to wreak itself in the general history ; I mean “the foolish face of praise,” the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease, in answer to conversation which does not interest us.

The mus- 205 cles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low, usurping willfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face, with the disagreeable sensation.

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to 210 estimate a sour face. The bystanders look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlor. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance ; but the sour faces of the multitude, like 215 their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook 220 the rage of the cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are timid, as being very vulnerable themselves. But when to their feminine rage

It is easy

[ocr errors]

the indignation of the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent 225 brute force that lies at bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word 230 because others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.

But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, 235 lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or hat public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into 240 the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the 245 wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day.

• Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.” Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood ? Pythagoras 250 was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

I hope in these days we have heard the last of con-255 formity and consistency. Let us affront and reprimand

66

INTROD. LESS. IN ENG. LIT. - - 15

the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working 260 wherever a man works ; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the center of things. He measures you and all men and events. Ordinarily, everybody in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you 265 of nothing else; it takes the place of the whole creation. The man must be so much that he makes all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age ; requires infinite spaces, and numbers, and time, fully to accomplishi his design ; — and 270 posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Cæsar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire ; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.

Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity boy, or an interloper in the world which exists for him. But the man in the street, finding no worth in himself which corre-280 sponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air, much like a gay equipage, and seem to say, like that, " Who are you, Sir?” Yet they are all 285 his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. The picture waits for my verdict; it is not to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular

275

fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the 290 street, carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who 295 is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason and finds himself a true prince.

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history our imagination plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary 300 than private John and Edward in a small house and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred and Scanderbeg and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous ; did they wear 305 out virtue ? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day as followed their renowned and public footsteps. When private men shall act with original views, the luster will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.

The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom 315 as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom and 320 which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes

310

[ocr errors]

us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity.
When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we
do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its 325
beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to
pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault.
Its presence or absence is all that we can affirm. Every
man distinguishes between the voluntary acts of his
mind and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that 330
to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due.
He may err in the expression of them, but he knows
that these things are so, like day and night, not to be
disputed. My willful actions and acquisitions are but
roving ; — the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, 335
command my curiosity and respect.

The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so
pure that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It
must be that when God speaketh he should communicate,
not one thing, but all things ; should fill the world with 340
his voice ; should scatter forth light, nature, time,
souls, from the center of the present thought ; and new
date and new create the whole. If, therefore,
claims to know and speak of God and carries you back-
ward to the phraseology of some old moldered nation 345
in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better
than the oak which is its fullness and completion ?
Whence then this worship of the past? The centuries
are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the
soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which 350
the eye makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is
day; where it was, is night ; and history is an imper-
tinence and an injury if it be anything more than a
cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright ; 335

man

« AnteriorContinuar »