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masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our opinion from another.
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance ; that 30 imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or for worse as his portion ; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil on that plot of ground which is given him to till. The power which 35 resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good 40 issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best ; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance 45 which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him : no muse befriends ; no invention, no hope.
Trust thyself ; every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has 50 found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through 55 their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids
in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying 60 the Almighty effort and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text in the face and behavior of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a senti-65 ment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look into their faces we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody; all conform to it; so 70 that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself. Do 75 you think the youth has no force because he cannot speak to you and me? Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. Bashful or bold then, he will know how to make his seniors very unnecessary.
The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlor what the pit is in the playhouse : independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner 85 on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He encumbers himself never about consequences, about interests ; he gives an independent, genuine ver- 90 dict. You must court him ; he does not court you.
But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with éclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections 95 must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges and, having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, — must 100 always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men and put them in fear.
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but 105 they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to 110 surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. 115 He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. No law can 120 be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution ; the only wrong is what is against it. A man is to carry
himself in the presence of all opposition as if every-125 thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and 130 speak the rude truth in all ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass ? angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him : “Go love thy infant ; 135 love thy woodchopper ; be good-natured and modest ; have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.” Rough and graceless would be such a greet-140 ing, but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love.
Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in 145 expiation of daily nonappearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world. Their virtues are penances.
I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should 150 be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual
and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think 160 they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion ; it is easy in solitude to live after our own ; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible society, vote with a great party either for 170 the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers - under all these screens I have
difficulty to detect the precise man you are : and of course so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do 175 your work, and you shall reënforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman's buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his 180 church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word ? Do I not know that with all his ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution he will do no such thing ? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself to look 185 but at one side, the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of 190