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he dares not say, “I think," “ I am,” but quotes some saint or sage.
These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones ; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, 360 but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.
And now at last the highest truth on this subject 365 remains unsaid ; probably cannot be said ; for all that we say 'is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought by which I can now nearest approach to say it is this.
When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed 370 way; you shall not discern the footprints of any other ; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name ; – the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude example and experience. All persons that ever existed are its 375 forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike beneath
There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour of vision there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-exist-380 ence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well.
It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men ; in their religion ; in their education ; in their 385 pursuits; their modes of living; their association ; in their property ; in their speculative views.
1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That
which they call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly. Prayer that craves a particular commodity, 390 anything less than all good, is vicious. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the very highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private 395 end is meanness and theft. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are true prayers heard 400 throughout nature, though for cheap ends. Another sort of false prayers are our regrets.
Discontent is the want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities if you can thereby help the sufferer ; if not, attend your own work and already the 405 evil begins to be repaired. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.
For him all doors are flung wide ; him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and 410 embraces him because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. “To the persevering mortal,” said Zoroaster, “the blessed Immortals are swift.”
2. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Traveling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination, did so by sticking fast where they 420 were, like an axis of the earth. The soul is no trav
eler; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, or any occasion call him from his house or into foreign lands, he is at home still and shall make men sensible by the expression of his coun-425 tenance that he goes, the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.
I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe for the purposes of art, of study, and 430 benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth 435 among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.
Traveling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I 440 dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk,
I embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I 445 seek the Vatican and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
3. But the rage of traveling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual 450 action. The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate ; and what is imitation but the traveling of the mind ?
Our houses are built with foreign taste ; our shelves 455 are garnished with foreign ornaments ; our opinions, our tastes, our faculties lean and follow the Past and the Distant. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. It was an application of his 460 own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model ? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are as near to us as to any, and if the American artist will study 465 with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted ; and taste and senti- 470 ment will be satisfied also.
Insist on yourself ; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation ; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous 475 half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare ? Where is the master who could have instructed Frank-480 lin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton ? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too 485 much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colos
sal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses or Dante, but different from all of these. Not possibly will the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with 490 thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself ; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice ; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey 495 thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.
4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no 500 man improves.
Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes ; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is Christianized, it is rich, it is scientific ; but this change is not 505 amelioration. For everything that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of exchange in his pocket, and the 510 naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under!
But compare the health of the two men and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength.
The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the 520