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Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

The American Scholar

An Oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August
31, 1837

Mr. President and Gentlemen,

I greet you on the re-commencement of our literary year. Our anniversary is
one of hope, and, perhaps, not enough of labor. We do not meet for games of
strength or skill, for the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like
the ancient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the Troubadours; nor
for the advancement of science, like our cotemporaries in the British and
European 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. Perhaps
the time is already come, when it ought to be, and will be, something else; when
the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids, and
fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the
exertions of mechanical skill. Our day of dependence, our 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 harvests.
Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can
doubt, that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the
constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall
one day be the pole-star for a thousand years?

In this hope, I accept the topic which not only usage, but the nature of our
association, seem to prescribe to this day, — the AMERICAN SCHOLAR. Year by
year, we come up hither to read one more chapter of his biography. Let us
inquire what light new days and events have thrown on his character, and his
hopes.

It is one of those fables, which, out of an unknown antiquity, convey an
unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that
he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided 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 society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer,
or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and
statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these
functions are parcelled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of
the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies, that the
individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to
embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original 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, and cannot be
gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered
amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters, — a good
finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.

Man is thus metamorphosed into a thing, into many things. The planter, who is
Man sent out into the field to gather food, is seldom cheered by any idea of the
true dignity of his ministry. He 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 is ridden by the routine of
his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars. The priest becomes a form; the
attorney, a statute-book; the mechanic, a machine; the sailor, a rope of a ship.

In this distribution of functions, the scholar is the delegated intellect. In
the right state, he is, Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim
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 Thinking, the theory of his office is contained.
Him nature solicits with all her placid, all her monitory pictures; him the past
instructs; him the future invites. Is not, indeed, every man a student, and do
not all things exist for the student’s behoof? And, finally, is not the true
scholar the only true master? But the old oracle said, `All things have two
handles: beware of the wrong one.’ In life, too often, the scholar errs with
mankind and forfeits his privilege. Let us see him in his school, and consider
him in reference to the main influences he receives.

I. The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the
mind is that of nature. Every day, the sun; and, after sunset, night and her
stars. Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows. Every day, men and women,
conversing, beholding and beholden. The scholar is he of all men whom this
spectacle most engages. He must settle its value in his mind. What is nature to
him? There is never a beginning, there is never an end, to the inexplicable
continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning into itself.
Therein it resembles his own spirit, whose beginning, whose ending, he never can
find, — so entire, so boundless. Far, too, as her splendors shine, system on
system shooting like rays, upward, downward, without centre, without
circumference, — in the mass and in the particle, nature hastens to render
account of herself to the mind. Classification begins. To 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; then three, then three thousand; and so,
tyrannized over by its own unifying instinct, it 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 dawn of history, there has been a constant accumulation and
classifying of facts. But what is classification but the perceiving that these
objects are not chaotic, and are not foreign, but have a law which is also a law
of the human mind? The astronomer discovers that geometry, a pure abstraction of
the human mind, is the measure of planetary motion. The chemist finds
proportions and intelligible method throughout matter; and science is nothing
but the finding of analogy, identity, in the most remote parts. The ambitious
soul sits down before each refractory fact; one after another, reduces all
strange constitutions, all new powers, to their class and their law, and goes on
for ever to animate the last fibre of organization, the outskirts of nature, by
insight.

Thus to him, to this school-boy under the bending dome of day, is suggested,
that he and it proceed from one root; one is leaf and one is flower; relation,
sympathy, stirring in every vein. And what is that Root? Is not that the soul of
his soul? — A thought too bold, — a dream too wild. Yet when this spiritual
light shall have revealed the law of more earthly natures, — when he has
learned to worship the soul, and to see that the natural philosophy that now is,
is only the first gropings of its gigantic hand, he shall look forward to an
ever expanding knowledge as to a becoming creator. He shall see, that nature is
the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part. One is seal, and one is
print. Its beauty is the beauty of his own mind. Its laws are the laws 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 modern precept,
“Study nature,” become at last one maxim.

II. The next great influence into the spirit of the scholar, is, the mind of
the Past, — in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, of institutions,
that mind is inscribed. Books are the best type of the influence of the past,
and perhaps we shall get at the truth, — learn the amount of this influence
more conveniently, — by considering their value alone.

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him
the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind,
and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It
came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It
came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is
quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now
inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so
high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Or, I might say, it depends on how far the process had gone, of transmuting
life into truth. In proportion to the completeness of the distillation, so will
the purity and imperishableness of the product be. But none is quite perfect. As
no air-pump can by any means make a perfect vacuum, so neither can any artist
entirely exclude the conventional, the local, the perishable from his book, or
write a book of pure thought, that shall be as efficient, in all respects, to a
remote posterity, as to cotemporaries, or rather to the second age. Each age, it
is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next
succeeding. The books of an older period will not fit this.

Yet hence arises a grave mischief. The sacredness which attaches to the act
of creation, — the act of thought, — is transferred to the record. The poet
chanting, was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The
writer was a just and wise spirit: henceforward it is settled, the book is
perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue. Instantly, the
book becomes noxious: the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted mind of
the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of Reason, having once so opened,
having once received this book, stands upon it, and makes an outcry, if it is
disparaged. Colleges are built on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, not
by Man Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out from
accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles. Meek young men 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 Man Thinking, we have the bookworm. Hence, the book-learned
class, who value books, as such; not as related to nature and the human
constitution, but as making a sort of Third Estate with the world and the soul.
Hence, the restorers of readings, the emendators, the bibliomaniacs of all
degrees.

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the
right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for
nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its
attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system.
The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every man is
entitled to; this every man contains within him, although, in almost all men,
obstructed, and as yet unborn. The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters
truth, or creates. In this action, it is genius; not the privilege of here and
there a favorite, but the sound estate of every man. In its essence, it is
progressive. The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any
kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they, — let us
hold by this. They pin me down. They look backward and not forward. But genius
looks forward: the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead: man
hopes: genius creates. Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure
efflux of the Deity is not his; — cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet
flame. There are creative manners, there are creative actions, and creative
words; manners, actions, words, that is, indicative of no custom or authority,
but springing spontaneous from the mind’s own sense of good and fair.

On the other part, instead of being its own seer, let it receive from another
mind its truth, though it were in torrents of light, without periods of
solitude, inquest, and self-recovery, and a fatal disservice is done. Genius is
always sufficiently the enemy of genius by over influence. The literature of
every nation bear me witness. The English dramatic poets have Shakspearized now
for two hundred years.

Undoubtedly there is a right way of 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. But when the intervals of darkness
come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their
shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our
steps to the East again, where the dawn is. We hear, that we may speak. The
Arabian proverb says, “A fig tree, looking on a fig tree, becometh fruitful.”

It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive from the best
books. They impress us with the conviction, that one nature wrote and the same
reads. We read the verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, of
Marvell, of Dryden, with the most modern joy, — with a pleasure, I mean, which
is in great part caused by the abstraction of all time from their verses. There
is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in
some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to
my own soul, that which I also had wellnigh thought and said. But for the
evidence thence afforded to the philosophical doctrine of the identity of all
minds, we should suppose some preestablished harmony, some foresight of souls
that were to be, and some preparation of stores for their future wants, like the
fact observed in insects, who lay up food before death for the young grub they
shall never see.

I 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
the human mind can be fed by any knowledge. And great and heroic men have
existed, who had almost no other information than by the printed page. I only
would say, that it needs a strong head to bear that diet. One must be an
inventor to read well. As the proverb says, “He that would bring home the wealth
of the Indies, must carry out the wealth of the Indies.” There is then creative
reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and
invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold
allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is
as broad as the world. We then see, what is always true, that, as the seer’s
hour of vision is short and rare among heavy days and months, so is its record,
perchance, the least part of his volume. The discerning will read, in his Plato
or Shakspeare, only that least part, — only the authentic utterances of the
oracle; — all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato’s and
Shakspeare’s.

Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man.
History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in like
manner, have their indispensable office, — to teach elements. But they can only
highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather
from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the
concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and
knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns,
and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never countervail the
least sentence or syllable of wit. Forget this, and our American colleges will
recede in their public importance, whilst they grow richer every year.

III. There goes in the world a notion, that the scholar should be a recluse,
a valetudinarian, — as unfit for any handiwork or public labor, as a penknife
for an axe. The so-called `practical men’ sneer at speculative men, as if,
because they speculate or see, they could do nothing. I have heard it said that
the clergy, — who are always, more universally than any other class, 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.
They are often virtually disfranchised; and, indeed, there are advocates for
their celibacy. As far as this is true of the studious classes, it is not just
and wise. Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without
it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst
the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its
beauty. Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic
mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes 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, or other me, lies wide around. Its
attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with
myself. I run eagerly into this resounding tumult. I grasp the hands of those
next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an
instinct, that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech. I pierce its order;
I dissipate its fear; I dispose of it within the circuit of my expanding life.
So much only of life as I know by experience, so much of the wilderness have I
vanquished and planted, or so far have I extended my being, my dominion. I do
not see 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 to his discourse.
Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructers in eloquence and wisdom.
The true scholar grudges every opportunity of action past by, as a loss of
power.

It is the raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid
products. A strange process too, this, by which experience is converted into
thought, as a mulberry leaf is converted into satin. The manufacture goes
forward at all hours.

The actions and events of our childhood and youth, are now matters of calmest
observation. They lie like fair pictures in the air. Not so with our recent
actions, — with the business which we now have in hand. On this we are quite
unable to speculate. Our affections as yet circulate through it. We no more feel
or know it, than we feel the feet, or the hand, or the brain of our body. The
new deed is yet a part of life, — remains for a time immersed in our
unconscious life. In some contemplative hour, it detaches itself from the life
like a ripe fruit, to become a thought of the mind. Instantly, it is raised,
transfigured; the corruptible has put on incorruption. Henceforth it is an
object of beauty, however base its origin and neighborhood. Observe, too, the
impossibility of antedating this act. In its grub state, it cannot fly, it
cannot shine, it is a dull grub. But suddenly, without observation, the selfsame
thing unfurls beautiful wings, and is an angel of wisdom. So is there no fact,
no event, in our private history, which shall not, sooner or later, lose 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 berries, and many another fact that
once filled the whole sky, are gone already; friend and relative, profession and
party, town and country, nation and world, must also soar and sing.

Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the
richest return of wisdom. 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, much like those
Savoyards, who, getting their livelihood by carving shepherds, shepherdesses,
and smoking Dutchmen, for all Europe, went out one day to the mountain to find
stock, and discovered that they had whittled up the last of their pine-trees.
Authors we have, in numbers, who have written out their vein, and who, moved by
a commendable prudence, sail for Greece or Palestine, follow the trapper into
the prairie, or ramble round Algiers, to replenish their merchantable stock.

If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action.
Life is our dictionary. Years are well spent in country labors; in town, — in
the insight into trades and manufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and
women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in all their facts a
language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions. I learn immediately
from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the
splendor of his speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get
tiles and copestones for the masonry of to-day. This is the way to learn
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 books, is,
that it is a resource. That great principle of Undulation in nature, that shows
itself in the inspiring and expiring of the breath; in desire and satiety; in
the ebb and flow of the sea; in day and night; in heat and cold; and as yet more
deeply ingrained in every atom and every fluid, is known to us under the name of
Polarity, — these “fits of easy transmission and reflection,” as Newton called
them, are the law of nature because they are the law of spirit.

The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other. When the
artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when
thoughts are no longer apprehended, and books are a weariness, — he has always
the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the
function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great
soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or
medium to impart his truths? He can still fall back on this elemental force of
living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act. Let the grandeur of
justice shine in his affairs. Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof.
Those ‘far from fame,’ who dwell and act with him, will feel the force of his
constitution in the doings and passages of the day better than it can be
measured by any public and designed display. Time shall teach him, that the
scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of
his instinct, screened from influence. What is lost in seemliness is gained in
strength. Not out of those, on 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 terrible Druids and Berserkirs, come at
last Alfred and Shakspeare.

I hear therefore with joy whatever is 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 well as for unlearned hands. And labor is everywhere
welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a
man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the
popular judgments and modes of action.

I have now spoken of the education of the scholar by nature, by books, and by
action. It remains to say somewhat of his duties.

They are such as become Man Thinking. They may all be comprised in
self-trust. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by
showing them facts amidst appearances. He plies the slow, unhonored, and unpaid
task of observation. Flamsteed and Herschel, in their glazed observatories, may
catalogue the stars with the praise of all men, and, the results being splendid
and useful, honor is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing
obscure and nebulous stars of the human mind, which as yet no man has thought of
as such, — watching days and months, sometimes, for a few facts; correcting
still his old records; — must relinquish display and immediate fame. In the
long period of his preparation, he must betray often an ignorance and
shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able who shoulder
him aside. Long he must stammer in his speech; often forego the living for the
dead. Worse yet, he must accept, — how often! poverty and solitude. For the
ease 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 heart, the frequent uncertainty and
loss of time, which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the
self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hostility in which he
seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society. For all this loss
and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest
functions of human nature. He is one, who raises himself from private
considerations, and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is
the world’s eye. He is the world’s heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity
that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic
sentiments, noble biographies, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history.
Whatsoever oracles the human heart, in all emergencies, in all solemn hours, has
uttered as its commentary on the world of actions, — these he shall receive and
impart. And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on
the passing men and events of to-day, — this he shall hear and promulgate.

These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all confidence in himself,
and to defer never to the popular cry. He and he only knows the world. The world
of any moment is the merest appearance. Some great decorum, some fetish of a
government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried 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 to the controversy. Let him not quit his
belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable of the earth
affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe
abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of
neglect, patient of reproach; and bide his own time, — happy enough, if he can
satisfy himself alone, that this day he has seen something truly. Success treads
on every right step. For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his
brother what he thinks. He then learns, that in going down into the secrets of
his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds. He learns that he
who has mastered any law in his private thoughts, is master to that extent of
all men whose language he speaks, and of all into whose language his own can be
translated. The poet, in utter solitude remembering his spontaneous thoughts and
recording them, is found to have recorded that, which men in crowded cities find
true for them also. The orator distrusts at first 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; — that they drink his words
because he fulfils for them their own nature; the deeper he dives into his
privatest, secretest presentiment, to his wonder he finds, this is the most
acceptable, most public, and universally true. The people delight in it; the
better part of every man feels, This is my music; this is myself.

In self-trust, all the virtues are comprehended. Free should the scholar be,
— free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, “without any
hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution.” Brave; for fear is a
thing, which a scholar by his very function puts behind him. Fear always springs
from ignorance. It is a shame to him if his tranquillity, amid dangerous times,
arise from the presumption, that, like children and women, his is a protected
class; or if he seek a temporary peace by the diversion of his thoughts from
politics or vexed questions, hiding his head like an ostrich in the flowering
bushes, peeping into microscopes, and turning rhymes, 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 him look into its eye and search its nature,
inspect its origin, — see the whelping of this lion, — which lies no great way
back; he will then find in himself a perfect comprehension of its nature and
extent; he will have made his hands meet on the other side, and can henceforth
defy it, and pass on superior. The world is his, who can see through its
pretension. What deafness, what stone-blind custom, what overgrown error you
behold, is there only by sufferance, — by your sufferance. See it to be a lie,
and you have already dealt it its mortal blow.

Yes, we are the cowed, — we the trustless. It is a mischievous notion that
we are come late into nature; that the world was finished a long time ago. As
the world was plastic and fluid in the hands of God, so it is ever to so much of
his attributes as we bring to it. To ignorance and sin, it is flint. They adapt
themselves to it as they may; but in proportion as a man has any thing in him
divine, the firmament flows before him and takes his signet and form. Not he is
great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind. They are the
kings of the world who give the color of their present thought to all nature and
all art, and persuade men by the cheerful serenity of their carrying the matter,
that this thing which they do, is the apple which the ages have desired to
pluck, now at last ripe, and inviting nations to the harvest. The great man
makes the great thing. Wherever Macdonald sits, there is the head of the table.
Linnaeus makes botany the most alluring of studies, and wins it from the farmer
and the herb-woman; Davy, chemistry; and Cuvier, fossils. The day is always his,
who works in it with serenity and great aims. The unstable estimates of men
crowd to him whose mind is filled with a truth, as the heaped waves of the
Atlantic follow the moon.

For this self-trust, the reason is deeper than can be fathomed, — darker
than can be enlightened. I might not carry with me the feeling of my audience in
stating my own belief. But I have already shown the ground of my hope, in
adverting to the doctrine that man is one. I believe man has been wronged; he
has wronged himself. He has almost lost the light, that can lead him back to his
prerogatives. Men are become of no account. Men in history, men in the world of
to-day are bugs, are spawn, and are called `the mass’ and `the herd.’ In a
century, in a millennium, one or two men; that is to say, — one or two
approximations to the right state of every man. All the rest behold in the hero
or the poet their own green and crude being, — ripened; yes, and are content to
be less, so that may attain to its full stature. What a testimony, — full of
grandeur, full of pity, is borne to the demands of his own nature, by the poor
clansman, the poor partisan, who rejoices in the glory of his chief. The poor
and the low find some amends to their immense moral capacity, for their
acquiescence in a political and social inferiority. They are content to be
brushed like flies from the path of a great person, so that justice shall be
done by him to that common nature which it is the dearest desire of all to see
enlarged and glorified. They sun themselves in the great man’s light, and feel
it to be their own element. They cast the dignity of man from their downtrod
selves upon the shoulders of a hero, and will perish to add one drop of blood to
make that great heart beat, those giant sinews combat and conquer. He lives for
us, and we live in him.

Men such as they are, very naturally seek money or power; and power because
it is as good as money, — the “spoils,” so called, “of office.” And why not?
for they aspire to the highest, and this, in their sleep-walking, they dream is
highest. Wake them, and they shall quit the false good, and leap to the true,
and leave governments to clerks and desks. This revolution is to be wrought by
the gradual domestication of the idea of Culture. The main enterprise of the
world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of a man. Here are the
materials strown along the ground. The private life of one man shall be a more
illustrious monarchy, — more formidable to its enemy, more sweet and serene in
its influence to its friend, than any kingdom in history. For a man, rightly
viewed, comprehendeth the particular natures of all men. Each philosopher, each
bard, each actor, has only done for me, as by a delegate, what one day I can do
for myself. The books which once we valued more than the apple of the eye, we
have quite exhausted. What is 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. First, one; then, another; we drain all
cisterns, and, waxing greater by all these supplies, we crave a better and more
abundant food. The man has never lived that can feed us ever. The human mind
cannot be enshrined in a person, who shall set a barrier on any one side to this
unbounded, unboundable empire. It is one central fire, which, flaming now out of
the lips of Etna, lightens the capes of Sicily; and, now out of the throat of
Vesuvius, illuminates the towers and vineyards of Naples. It is one light which
beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men.

But I have dwelt perhaps tediously upon this abstraction of the Scholar. I
ought not to delay longer to add what I have to say, of nearer reference to the
time and to this country.

Historically, there is thought to be a difference in the ideas which
predominate over successive epochs, and there are data for marking the genius of
the Classic, of the Romantic, and now of the Reflective or Philosophical age.
With the views I have intimated of the oneness or the identity of the mind
through all individuals, I do not much dwell on these differences. In fact, I
believe each individual passes through all three. The boy is a Greek; the youth,
romantic; the adult, reflective. I deny not, however, that a revolution in the
leading idea may be distinctly enough traced.

Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. Must that needs be evil? We,
it seems, are critical; we are embarrassed with second thoughts; we cannot enjoy
any thing for hankering to know whereof the pleasure consists; we are lined with
eyes; we see with our feet; the time is infected with Hamlet’s unhappiness, —

“Sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.”

Is it so bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied. Would we be blind?
Do we fear lest we should outsee nature and God, and drink truth dry? I look
upon the discontent of the literary class, as a mere announcement of the fact,
that they find themselves not in the state of mind of their fathers, and regret
the coming state as untried; as a boy dreads the water before he has learned
that he can swim. If there is any period one would desire to be born in, — is
it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and
admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and
by hope; when the historic glories of the old, can be compensated by the rich
possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very 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 art, through philosophy and science, through
church and state.

One of these signs is the fact, that the same movement which effected the
elevation of what was called the lowest class in 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 explored and poetized. That, which
had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and
provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found
to be richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of
the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the
topics of the time. It is a great stride. It is a sign, — is it not? of new
vigor, when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into
the hands and the feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what
is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I
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 worlds. What
would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the
pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the
form and the gait of the body; — show me the ultimate reason of these matters;
show me the sublime 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 with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law;
and the shop, the plough, and the leger, referred to the like cause by which
light undulates and poets sing; — and 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 Gibbon, looks cold and pedantic. This writing is
blood-warm. Man is surprised to find that things near are not less beautiful and
wondrous than things remote. The near explains the far. The drop is a small
ocean. A man is related to all nature. This perception of the worth of the
vulgar is fruitful in discoveries. Goethe, in this very thing the most modern of
the moderns, has shown 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. He pierced the emblematic or
spiritual character of the visible, audible, tangible world. Especially did his
shade-loving muse hover over and interpret the lower parts of nature; he showed
the mysterious bond that allies moral evil to the foul material forms, and has
given in epical parables a theory of isanity, of beasts, of unclean and fearful
things.

Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous political movement,
is, the new importance given to the single person. Every thing that tends to
insulate the individual, — to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so
that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a
sovereign state with a sovereign state; — tends to true union as well as
greatness. “I learned,” said the melancholy Pestalozzi, “that no man in God’s
wide earth is either willing or able to help any other man.” Help must come from
the bosom alone. The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the
ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the
future. He must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than
another, which should pierce his ear, it is, The world is nothing, the man is
all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of
sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know
all, it is for you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentlemen, this confidence in
the unsearched might of man belongs, by all motives, by all prophecy, by all
preparation, to the American Scholar. We have listened too long to the courtly
muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be
timid, imitative, tame. Public and private avarice make the air we breathe thick
and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the tragic
consequence. The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon
itself. There is no work for any but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men
of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain
winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not in unison
with these, — but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles
on 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 the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and
there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience, — patience; —
with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace, the
perspective of your own infinite life; and for work, the study and the
communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the
conversion of the world. Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be an
unit; — not to be reckoned one character; — not to yield that peculiar fruit
which each man was created to bear, but to be reckoned in the gross, in the
hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to which we belong; and our
opinion predicted geographically, as the north, or the south? Not so, brothers
and friends, — please God, ours shall not be so. We will walk on our own feet;
we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds. The study of
letters shall be no longer a name for pity, for doubt, and for sensual
indulgence. The dread of man and the love of man shall be a wall of defence and
a wreath of joy around all. A nation of men will for the first time exist,
because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires
all men.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Glossary for Emerson’s Nature

Aeolian Harp
{ee-oh'-lee-uhn}
The aeolian harp is a shallow box
zither about 1-1.5 m (3-5 ft) long, strung with multiple strings of the same
length but of different thicknesses and tuned in unison. The harp is suspended
where the wind will set the strings in motion; the wind force and the different
diameters of the strings cause the eddies of air immediately downwind to vary
considerably, which in turn causes variations in tone. Thus, the harp produces
strange, ghostly sequences of harmonies, swelling and diminishing with the
strength of the wind. Named for AEOLUS, god of the winds, the aeolian harp
originated in the 17th century and achieved its greatest popularity in the
romantic era. ROBERT A. WARNER

 

Allegheny Mountains
The Allegheny Mountains, extending more than
800 km (500 mi) from central Pennsylvania to central West Virginia and
southwestern Virginia, mark the eastern edge of the high Allegheny Plateau,
which is the western part of the Appalachian mountain system. The highest peak
is Spruce Knob in West Virginia (1,481 m/4,860 ft). The ridges are covered with
forests of conifers and hardwoods, including oak, maple, and hickory. Huge
deposits of coal are mined in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The barrier of the
Alleghenies delayed westward expansion of the early North American coastal
settlements, and the region was not occupied until late in the 18th
century.
University of Texas at Austin on-line encyclopedia

Angel
An angel (Greek: angelos, "messenger") is a celestial being
believed to function as a messenger or agent of God in CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM,
JUDAISM, and ZOROASTRIANISM. In the Near Eastern antecedents to Judaism, angels
were often understood to be gods or lesser divinities. Their existence was taken
for granted by the biblical authors. The use of the word angel may have been a
way of describing what was believed to be an appearance of God himself in human
form.
In the Old Testament, angels are called "messengers," "men," "powers,"
"princes," "sons of God," and the "heavenly host." They either have no body or
one that is only apparent. They come as God's messengers to aid or punish, are
assigned to individual persons or nations, and often have a name (Michael,
Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel). New Testament statements about angels reflect Jewish
views of these beings. Angels, for example, announced Christ's birth (Luke 2)
and resurrection (Matt. 28).

Ancient and medieval peoples widely accepted the influence of good spirits,
or angels, and evil spirits, or fallen angels (see DEMON; SATAN). During the
Middle Ages, theologians developed a hierarchy of angels. They were classified
in the following nine ranks (beginning with the lowest): angels, archangels,
principalities, powers, virtues, dominations, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim.
Angels are a popular subject in folklore, literature, and art. ANTHONY J.
SALDARINI

Bibliography: Davidson, Gustav, A Dictionary of Angels (1967); Field, M. J.,
Angels and Ministers of Grace (1972); Heidt, W. G., Angelology of the Old
Testament (1949); Regamey, Raymond, What Is an Angel?, trans. by Mark Pontifex
(1960).

 

Apollo
In Greek mythology, Apollo and his twin sister, ARTEMIS,
were the children of ZEUS and LETO and were born on the island of DELOS. Hence,
Apollo was often called the Delian god, and Delos long remained a center of his
worship. He was also identified closely with DELPHI, in central Greece, where he
killed the serpent PYTHON and founded the most renowned center for prophecy in
the ancient world, the shrine of the Delphic Oracle. Areas of special concern to
Apollo were prophecy, medicine, the fine arts, archery, beauty, flocks and
herds, law, courage, and wisdom. Associated with him were the tripod, omphalos
(a beehive-shaped stone at Delphi, designating that spot as the center or navel
of the Earth), lyre, bow and arrows, laurel wreath, palm tree, wolf, hawk, crow,
and fawn. Although Apollo was not Greek in origin, he became, next to Zeus, the
god most revered by the Greeks and the god who best embodied the Greek spirit.
Later he became confused with the sun-god HELIOS and was considered the god of
light. Of Apollo's many loves, one of the best known was DAPHNE, who fled his
embraces and was turned into his tree, the laurel. From that time on, Apollo
wore a laurel wreath. Laurel wreaths became the prize awarded in athletic and
musical competitions. ASCLEPIUS, a son of Apollo, became the god of medicine;
another son, Linus, was a renowned music teacher. In Roman mythology, Apollo
represented the literary and fine arts, culture, and the law. Augustus (r. 31
BC-AD 14) built a magnificent temple to him and included in it two public
libraries, one for Greek works and another for Latin works. Apollo was a
favorite subject for artists of every medium. The walls of his temple at Delphi
bore two Greek maxims, "Know Thyself" and "Nothing in Excess."
ROBERT E.
WOLVERTON

 

Campagna di Roma
(or Roman Campagna)
Region of central Italy
around Rome.
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Como, Lake
Lake Como, part of Italy's scenic Lake District, is located in
Lombardy, in northern Italy. Covering 145 sq km (56 sq mi), Como–Italy's third
largest lake–is about 50 km (30 mi) long but only 5 km (3 mi) wide. The lake is
of glacial origin and is nestled in a basin surrounded by Alpine ranges. The
southern half of Como splits into two arms separated by Bellagio Promontory.
Como is fed principally by the Adda River, which enters from the northeast. Long
famous as a tourist center, the lake is ringed by resorts including Como and
Lecco.
University of Texas at Austin on-line encyclopedia

Ctesiphon
{tes'-i-fahn}
The ancient Parthian and Sassanian city
of Ctesiphon, now bisected by the Tigris, lies about 32 km (20 mi) southeast of
Baghdad, Iraq. The site became important during the 1st century BC as the winter
residence of the Parthian ARSACID dynasty, but before that time had been no more
than an army camp on the east bank of the river, opposite the Greek city of
Seleucia. Both cities were sacked (AD 165) by the Romans, but Ctesiphon survived
to become the great winter capital of the SASSANIANS. The city was conquered by
the Arabs in 637 and remained occupied until at least the 13th century.

The most important surviving monument is the Taq-Kisra, the great vaulted
hall of the Sassanian palace, now under restoration. Probably built by KHOSRU I
(r. 531-79), the hall, 37 m (121 ft) high and over 25 m (82 ft) wide, is open at
one end and originally faced a large courtyard of which only one of the adjacent
facades remains. Its huge single-span vault of unreinforced brickwork, known as
the Arch of Ctesiphon, is among the finest architectural achievements of the
Sassanians. German investigations were carried out between 1928 and 1932;
ongoing Italian excavations were begun in 1964. KATE FIELDEN

Bibliography: Lloyd, Seton, Twin Rivers, 3d ed. (1961).

 

Diana
In Roman mythology, Diana was originally a forest and
woodland deity to whom the hind and the cypress were sacred. Later, she was
identified with the Greek goddess ARTEMIS and was known as an ardent huntress,
patron of women, and chaste goddess of the moon. The temples of Diana at Nemi
and Ephesus were important centers of her cult. In art she is represented as a
huntress with a quiver and bow, accompanied by a deer or a hound.
University
of Texas at Austin on-line encyclopedia

Dorians
{dor'-ee-uhnz}
The Dorians were a Greek-speaking people,
classified by their dialect, who migrated into Greece sometime after 1200 BC by
way of ancient Illyria, Epirus, and northeastern Macedonia. Their use of the
iron sword may have helped to bring an end to the AEGEAN CIVILIZATION of the
Mycenaeans, which otherwise was far superior to their own.

The Dorians consisted of three tribal groups: Hylleis, Dymanes, and
Pamphyloi. They settled in Crete and in much of the Peloponnesus, principally
Messenia, Laconia, and the Argolid. Later they colonized some of the Aegean
islands, southeastern Asia Minor, and the island of Rhodes. The Dorians
themselves considered Doris, north of modern Amfissa in central Greece, their
homeland, and they claimed descent from the sons of Hercules.

Charles W. Fornara

Bibliography: Fine, John V., The Ancient Greeks (1983); Huxley, G. L., Early
Sparta (1962).

Emerson, Ralph Waldo
The American lecturer, essayist, and poet,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, b. May 25, 1803, d. Apr. 27, 1882, is generally considered
the leading exponent of American TRANSCENDENTALISM. The son of a Boston
Unitarian minister, Emerson followed in his father's footsteps by attending the
Boston Latin School (1812-17) and Harvard College (1817-21). After running a
school for young women, Emerson returned (1825) to Harvard to study divinity and
was licensed to preach the next year. Suffering from tuberculosis, he sailed to
Charleston, S.C., and St. Augustine, Fla., in late 1826. When he returned to
Boston, he preached from various pulpits before being ordained (1829) pastor of
the prestigious Second Unitarian Church in Boston. In September 1829 he married
Ellen Louisa Tucker. After Ellen's death in February 1831, Emerson underwent a
religious and personal crisis, and the next year he resigned his pulpit and
sailed for Europe. There he met William Wordsworth and Thomas Carlyle, forming a
lifelong friendship with the latter.
After his return to the United States in
1833, Emerson moved (1834) to Concord, Mass. In 1835 he married Lydia Jackson
and began a successful career as a lecturer. He soon became one of the leaders
of the transcendental movement, questioning the established views of literature,
philosophy, and religion. He helped to start the Transcendental Club in 1836 and
published Nature (1836), a book showing the organicism of all life and the
function of nature as a visible manifestation of invisible spiritual truths. In
1837 he delivered his address, "The AMERICAN SCHOLAR," often called America's
literary declaration of independence, before Harvard's Phi Beta Kappa Society;
in 1838 his address before the Harvard Divinity School challenged the very
foundations of conservative UNITARIANISM. He cofounded (1840) the
transcendentalists' periodical, the Dial, and edited it from 1842 until its
collapse in 1844. Emerson established himself during the next decade with the
publication of Essays (2 vols., 1841, 1844), Poems (1847), Nature: Addresses and
Lectures (1849), and Representative Men (1850). By 1850 he was becoming known as
the "sage of Concord," and his ensuing lectures and books met with public
success. English Traits (1856) analyzed English society and compared it to
American society, and The Conduct of Life (1860) showed his growing
conservatism, as he balanced his earlier belief in freedom against the
"beautiful necessity" of fate. Emerson died a famous and honored man.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo–ESSAYS
A seminal figure in American literary
history, Emerson exerted great influence on his contemporaries, both by his
financial support of them, as of A. Bronson Alcott, and by his intellectual
companionship, as with his Concord neighbor, Henry David THOREAU. Emerson's
essays contain his most famous writing. In "Self-Reliance" he tells man to trust
himself against a society that "everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood
of every one of its members." He holds that "nothing can bring you peace but
yourself." In "Compensation" Emerson asserts that in the nature of the soul is
"the compensation for the inequalities of condition." In "Friendship" Emerson
recommends truth and tenderness as the basis of genuine friendship.
Emerson
shows the interconnectedness of all life in an almost pantheistic view of
god-in-matter in "The Over-Soul." "The Poet" lists Emerson's qualifications for
the artist who is "the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty." "Experience"
describes the "lords of Life" that form man's existence: illusion, temperament,
succession, surface, surprise, reality, and subjectiveness. These optimistic
early essays are balanced by conservatism in Emerson's later work, best
illustrated in "Fate" (1860). Here, Emerson warns of a "pistareen-Providence"
that keeps man from seeing and facing "the terror of life." He says, "Nature is
no sentimentalist,–does not cosset or pamper us. We must see that the world is
rough and surly, and will not mind drowning a man or a woman, but swallows your
ship like a grain of dust. . . . The way of Providence is a little rude. We
cannot whitewash this fact." Emerson also balances his earlier belief in
absolute freedom by tempering it with fate or necessity, now holding that the
natural order of things, which once served merely to guide man, now limits him
and prevents him from destroying it as well: "If we thought man were free in the
sense that in a single exception one fantastical will could prevail over the law
of things, it were all one as if a child's hand could pull down the sun."

Emerson, Ralph Waldo–INFLUENCE
Emerson's discussions of organic
form (everything proceeds from a natural order that is followed but not imposed
by man), self-reliance, optimism (evil does not exist as an actual force, being
merely the absence of good), compensation, universal unity (or the Over-Soul),
and the importance of individual moral insight were all influential in forming
the literature and philosophy of 19th-century America. In poetry too Emerson was
an important force. His organic theory of poetry ("it is not meters, but a
meter-making argument that makes a poem") and his view of poets as "liberating
gods" or prophets did much to counteract the poetic conservatism of his day. It
led to the experimental verse of Walt Whitman, who once hailed Emerson as his
master.
Emerson was the most important figure of the American romantic
period. He inspired optimistic transcendentalists such as Thoreau and provided a
challenge to authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, who
believed in the "power of blackness." JOEL MYERSON

Bibliography: Allen, Gay., Waldo Emerson (1981); Bishop, Jonathan, Emerson on
the Soul (1964); Burkholder, R.E., and Myerson, Joel, eds., Critical Essays on
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1983); Cabot, James Elliott, A Memoir of Ralph Waldo
Emerson, 2 vols. (1887; repr. 1969); Cady, E.H., and Budd, L.J., eds., On
Emerson (1988); Derleth, August, Emerson, Our Contemporary (1970); Ellison, J.,
Emerson's Romantic Style (1984); Emerson, Edward W., ed., The Complete Works of
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 12 vols. (1903-04); Hodder, A.D., Emerson's Rhetoric of
Revelation (1989); Hopkins, Vivian C., Spires of Form: A Study of Emerson's
Aesthetic Theory (1951; repr. 1980); Matthiessen, F.O., American Renaissance
(1941; repr. 1968); Paul, Sherman, Emerson's Angle of Vision (1952; repr. 1980);
Poirier, Richard, The Renewal of Literature (1988); Porte, Joel, Emerson (1982);
Robinson, David, Apostle of Culture (1982); Rosenwald, Lawrence, Emerson and the
Art of Diary (1988); Staebler, Warren, Ralph Walso Emerson (1973); Van Leer,
David, Emerson's Epistemology (1986); Whicher, Stephen, Freedom and Fate: An
Inner Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2d ed. (1953); Yannella, Donald, Ralph Waldo
Emerson (1982).

 

Gabriel (angel)
The angel Gabriel, an important figure in the
Bible, appears first in the Book of Daniel (chapters 8 and 9) as a messenger and
revealer. In the New Testament he announces the births of John the Baptist and
Jesus Christ (Luke 1), and in the Book of Enoch, part of the pseudepigrapha, he
is one of the seven archangels who stand close to God. Later Christian tradition
made him the trumpeter of the Last Judgment. A popular figure in art, Gabriel is
often pictured appearing to Mary or with trumpet raised. In Islam he is Jibril,
the principal of many tales, who revealed the Koran to Muhammad. ANTHONY J.
SALSARINI
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Madeira Islands
{muh-dir'-uh}
The Madeira Islands, a volcanic
archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean 645 km (400 mi) west of Morocco, constitute
the Madeira Autonomous Region of Portugal. They comprise the inhabited islands
of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens, having a
total land area of 798 sq km (308 sq mi) and a population of 273,200 (1989
est.). FUNCHAL, the capital and largest town, is on Madeira.

Madeira, the largest and most important island, is mountainous with a
subtropical climate. Sugarcane and tropical fruits are grown. The island is
famous for its wine and for the embroidery and wickerwork produced; it is also a
popular resort. On Porto Santo Island, northeast of Madeira, wheat, barley, and
grapes are cultivated.

Explored by Phoenicians and Genoese, the islands were colonized in 1420 by
Portuguese sponsored by Prince Henry the Navigator.

 

Eden, Garden of
In the Bible, the Garden of Eden was the original
home of ADAM and EVE. It was a well-watered garden with beautiful trees. Also
called Paradise, Eden symbolized the unbroken harmony between God and humankind
before the first sin, after which, according to Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were
expelled from the garden.

Novitiate
The period or state of being a novice
NOVICE
A
house where novices are trained
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Paphos
Town in southwest Cyprus on coast 10 mi (16 km)
west-northwest of site of ancient city of Paphos.
Webster's Ninth New
Collegiate Dictionary

Tempe
Valley (Vale of Tempe) in northeast Thessaly between mounts
Olympus and Ossa.
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Thessaly
{thes'-uh-lee}
Thessaly is a historic region of Greece.
It occupies the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula and is bounded by
Macedonia to the north, the Aegean Sea to the east, ancient Aetolia to the
south, and the upland Epirus to the west. The major city is Larisa. Thessaly
encompasses the two largest plains of Greece, where fertile soils support grain,
tobacco, and vegetable crops.

Thessaly's name comes from the Thessali, a Dorian people from Epirus who
conquered the region before 1000 BC and ruled through powerful military
families. From the 6th century BC these families joined in a loose military
confederation. Philip II of Macedonia entered Thessaly in 353 BC and gradually
subjugated the region. Thessaly became a Roman protectorate in 197 BC and part
of the province of Macedonia in 146 BC. Slavs, Arabs, Bulgarians, Normans, and
Walachians invaded and settled Byzantine Thessaly between the 7th and 13th
centuries. The region was ruled by the Turks from the end of the 14th century to
1881, when most of it was ceded to Greece. Thessaly roughly corresponds to the
modern Greek departments of Karditsa, Larisa, Magnisia, and Trikala.

Bibliography: Hansen, Hazel D., Early Civilization in Thessaly (1933).

 

Uriel
One of the four archangels named in Hebrew
tradition.
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Versailles, Palace of
The Palace of Versailles, for more than 100 years
(1682-1790) the official residence of the kings of France, was in its heyday the
most elegant and sumptuous palace in Europe, one that was envied and imitated by
many foreign rulers. Originally a royal hunting lodge, the Versailles complex
was rebuilt and greatly expanded (from 1669) by King Louis XIV, who commissioned
Louis LE VAU to create a great palace that would provide a suitable setting for
the ceremonies of the royal court. Le Vau's splendid monument to the French
classical style of the mid-17th century is complemented by the extraordinary
formal GARDENS laid out by Andre Le Notre, who arranged innumerable statues,
vases, and fountains throughout the grounds. The gardens also contain subsidiary
palaces, including the Grand Trianon (1687) and the PETIT TRIANON (1762-70). The
classicist Charles LE BRUN supervised the decoration of the palace's interior,
which retains its sumptuous and grandiose appearance despite the melting down
(1689) of the original silver furniture to pay for Louis XIV's wars. Typical of
the lavishness of the interior decoration is the dazzling and hugely expensive
Hall of Mirrors (begun 1678).
Le Vau's original design was expanded by Jules
HARDOUIN-MANSART, who, with Robert de COTTE, designed the impressive Royal
Chapel (1689-1710) and added rooms in a lighter baroque style. During the 18th
century many other interiors were redecorated in the rococo and Louis XVI
styles. The last major addition (1757-70) to the palace was Ange Jacques
Gabriel's (see GABRIEL family) enchanting opera house, which is famous for its
illusionistic mirrors. After the French Revolution, during which the palace was
stripped of most of its furnishings, Versailles gave way to the Tuileries in
Paris as the royal residence. Louis Philippe designated Versailles a national
museum, and intensive restoration work during this century has re-created some
of the palace's former grandeur.

Bibliography: Dunlop, Ian, Versailles (1950; repr. 1970); Van der Kamp,
Gerald, Versailles: Palace of the Sun King (1978).

 

Zither
In the broadest sense a zither is a stringed instrument
consisting basically of a string or strings stretched over a bar, board, tube,
half-tube, or box. Its history spans the history of civilization in all eras and
most regions of the world. Near-Eastern prototypes furnished important art
instruments in both the East and West, notably the qanon, chin, koto, PSALTERY,
and DULCIMER. Generically, the zither includes the CLAVICHORD, HARPSICHORD, and
PIANO.
The term is now customarily applied to folk box-zithers of the
Alps–long, generally rectangular resonance boxes with a large center
sound-hole, supporting, over a fretted fingerboard, melody strings played with a
ring plectrum on the right thumb, and up to 37 accompanying strings plucked by
the second, third, and fourth fingers. The instrument is placed horizontally in
front of the player. Typically its music is folk melody accompanied by simple
chords. Many related forms are found in northern Europe. ROBERT A. WARNER

Bibliography: Baines, Anthony, ed., Musical Instruments through the Ages,
rev. ed. (1975); Marcuse, Sybil, Survey of Musical Instruments (1975); Panum,
Hortense, Stringed Instruments of the Middle Ages, ed. by Jeffrey Pulver (1939).

From University
of Texas at Austin on-line encyclopedia

——————————————————————————–
Chris
W. Johnson

Categories
Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter VIII. Prospects

In inquiries respecting the laws of the world and the frame of things,
the highest reason is always the truest. That which seems faintly
possible — it is so refined, is often faint and dim because it is
deepest seated in the mind among the eternal verities. Empirical
science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of
functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly
contemplation of the whole. The savant becomes unpoetic. But the best
read naturalist who lends an entire and devout attention to truth, will
see that there remains much to learn of his relation to the world, and
that it is not to be learned by any addition or subtraction or other
comparison of known quantities, but is arrived at by untaught sallies
of the spirit, by a continual self-recovery, and by entire humility. He
will perceive that there are far more excellent qualities in the
student than preciseness and infallibility; that a guess is often more
fruitful than an indisputable affirmation, and that a dream may let us
deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.

For, the problems to be solved are precisely those which the
physiologist and the naturalist omit to state. It is not so pertinent
to man to know all the individuals of the animal kingdom, as it is to
know whence and whereto is this tyrannizing unity in his constitution,
which evermore separates and classifies things, endeavoring to reduce
the most diverse to one form. When I behold a rich landscape, it is
less to my purpose to recite correctly the order and superposition of
the strata, than to know why all thought of multitude is lost in a
tranquil sense of unity. I cannot greatly honor minuteness in details,
so long as there is no hint to explain the relation between things and
thoughts; no ray upon the _metaphysics_ of conchology, of botany, of
the arts, to show the relation of the forms of flowers, shells,
animals, architecture, to the mind, and build science upon ideas. In a
cabinet of natural history, we become sensible of a certain occult
recognition and sympathy in regard to the most unwieldly and eccentric
forms of beast, fish, and insect. The American who has been confined,
in his own country, to the sight of buildings designed after foreign
models, is surprised on entering York Minster or St. Peter’s at Rome,
by the feeling that these structures are imitations also, — faint
copies of an invisible archetype. Nor has science sufficient humanity,
so long as the naturalist overlooks that wonderful congruity which
subsists between man and the world; of which he is lord, not because he
is the most subtile inhabitant, but because he is its head and heart,
and finds something of himself in every great and small thing, in every
mountain stratum, in every new law of color, fact of astronomy, or
atmospheric influence which observation or analysis lay open. A
perception of this mystery inspires the muse of George Herbert, the
beautiful psalmist of the seventeenth century. The following lines are
part of his little poem on Man.

“Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
And to all the world besides.
Each part may call the farthest, brother;
For head with foot hath private amity,
And both with moons and tides.

“Nothing hath got so far
But man hath caught and kept it as his prey;
His eyes dismount the highest star;
He is in little all the sphere.
Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they
Find their acquaintance there.

“For us, the winds do blow,
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow;
Nothing we see, but means our good,
As our delight, or as our treasure;
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.

“The stars have us to bed:
Night draws the curtain; which the sun withdraws.
Music and light attend our head.
All things unto our flesh are kind,
In their descent and being; to our mind,
In their ascent and cause.

“More servants wait on man
Than he’ll take notice of. In every path,
He treads down that which doth befriend him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him.”

The perception of this class of truths makes the attraction which draws
men to science, but the end is lost sight of in attention to the means.
In view of this half-sight of science, we accept the sentence of Plato,
that, “poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.” Every surmise
and vaticination of the mind is entitled to a certain respect, and we
learn to prefer imperfect theories, and sentences, which contain
glimpses of truth, to digested systems which have no one valuable
suggestion. A wise writer will feel that the ends of study and
composition are best answered by announcing undiscovered regions of
thought, and so communicating, through hope, new activity to the torpid
spirit.

I shall therefore conclude this essay with some traditions of man and
nature, which a certain poet sang to me; and which, as they have always
been in the world, and perhaps reappear to every bard, may be both
history and prophecy.

`The foundations of man are not in matter, but in spirit. But the
element of spirit is eternity. To it, therefore, the longest series of
events, the oldest chronologies are young and recent. In the cycle of
the universal man, from whom the known individuals proceed, centuries
are points, and all history is but the epoch of one degradation.

`We distrust and deny inwardly our sympathy with nature. We own and
disown our relation to it, by turns. We are, like Nebuchadnezzar,
dethroned, bereft of reason, and eating grass like an ox. But who can
set limits to the remedial force of spirit?

`A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer,
and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.
Now, the world would be insane and rabid, if these disorganizations
should last for hundreds of years. It is kept in check by death and
infancy. Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of
fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise.

`Man is the dwarf of himself. Once he was permeated and dissolved by
spirit. He filled nature with his overflowing currents. Out from him
sprang the sun and moon; from man, the sun; from woman, the moon. The
laws of his mind, the periods of his actions externized themselves into
day and night, into the year and the seasons. But, having made for
himself this huge shell, his waters retired; he no longer fills the
veins and veinlets; he is shrunk to a drop. He sees, that the structure
still fits him, but fits him colossally. Say, rather, once it fitted
him, now it corresponds to him from far and on high. He adores timidly
his own work. Now is man the follower of the sun, and woman the
follower of the moon. Yet sometimes he starts in his slumber, and
wonders at himself and his house, and muses strangely at the
resemblance betwixt him and it. He perceives that if his law is still
paramount, if still he have elemental power, if his word is sterling
yet in nature, it is not conscious power, it is not inferior but
superior to his will. It is Instinct.’ Thus my Orphic poet sang.

At present, man applies to nature but half his force. He works on the
world with his understanding alone. He lives in it, and masters it by a
penny-wisdom; and he that works most in it, is but a half-man, and
whilst his arms are strong and his digestion good, his mind is
imbruted, and he is a selfish savage. His relation to nature, his power
over it, is through the understanding; as by manure; the economic use
of fire, wind, water, and the mariner’s needle; steam, coal, chemical
agriculture; the repairs of the human body by the dentist and the
surgeon. This is such a resumption of power, as if a banished king
should buy his territories inch by inch, instead of vaulting at once
into his throne. Meantime, in the thick darkness, there are not wanting
gleams of a better light, –occasional examples of the action of man
upon nature with his entire force, — with reason as well as
understanding. Such examples are; the traditions of miracles in the
earliest antiquity of all nations; the history of Jesus Christ; the
achievements of a principle, as in religious and political revolutions,
and in the abolition of the Slave-trade; the miracles of enthusiasm, as
those reported of Swedenborg, Hohenlohe, and the Shakers; many obscure
and yet contested facts, now arranged under the name of Animal
Magnetism; prayer; eloquence; self-healing; and the wisdom of children.
These are examples of Reason’s momentary grasp of the sceptre; the
exertions of a power which exists not in time or space, but an
instantaneous in-streaming causing power. The difference between the
actual and the ideal force of man is happily figured by the schoolmen,
in saying, that the knowledge of man is an evening knowledge,
_vespertina cognitio_, but that of God is a morning knowledge,
_matutina cognitio_.

The problem of restoring to the world original and eternal beauty, is
solved by the redemption of the soul. The ruin or the blank, that we
see when we look at nature, is in our own eye. The axis of vision is
not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not
transparent but opake. The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies
broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself. He
cannot be a naturalist, until he satisfies all the demands of the
spirit. Love is as much its demand, as perception. Indeed, neither can
be perfect without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words,
thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep. But
in actual life, the marriage is not celebrated. There are innocent men
who worship God after the tradition of their fathers, but their sense
of duty has not yet extended to the use of all their faculties. And
there are patient naturalists, but they freeze their subject under the
wintry light of the understanding. Is not prayer also a study of truth,
— a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed
heartily, without learning something. But when a faithful thinker,
resolute to detach every object from personal relations, and see it in
the light of thought, shall, at the same time, kindle science with the
fire of the holiest affections, then will God go forth anew into the
creation.

It will not need, when the mind is prepared for study, to search for
objects. The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the
common. What is a day? What is a year? What is summer? What is woman?
What is a child? What is sleep? To our blindness, these things seem
unaffecting. We make fables to hide the baldness of the fact and
conform it, as we say, to the higher law of the mind. But when the fact
is seen under the light of an idea, the gaudy fable fades and shrivels.
We behold the real higher law. To the wise, therefore, a fact is true
poetry, and the most beautiful of fables. These wonders are brought to
our own door. You also are a man. Man and woman, and their social life,
poverty, labor, sleep, fear, fortune, are known to you. Learn that none
of these things is superficial, but that each phenomenon has its roots
in the faculties and affections of the mind. Whilst the abstract
question occupies your intellect, nature brings it in the concrete to
be solved by your hands. It were a wise inquiry for the closet, to
compare, point by point, especially at remarkable crises in life, our
daily history, with the rise and progress of ideas in the mind.

So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer
the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the
affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated
Will. Then shall come to pass what my poet said; `Nature is not fixed
but fluid. Spirit alters, moulds, makes it. The immobility or bruteness
of nature, is the absence of spirit; to pure spirit, it is fluid, it is
volatile, it is obedient. Every spirit builds itself a house; and
beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know then,
that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect. What
we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could,
you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven and earth; Caesar
called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler’s trade; a
hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar’s garret. Yet line for
line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though
without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you
conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its
great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the
influx of the spirit. So fast will disagreeable appearances, swine,
spiders, snakes, pests, madhouses, prisons, enemies, vanish; they are
temporary and shall be no more seen. The sordor and filths of nature,
the sun shall dry up, and the wind exhale. As when the summer comes
from the south; the snow-banks melt, and the face of the earth becomes
green before it, so shall the advancing spirit create its ornaments
along its path, and carry with it the beauty it visits, and the song
which enchants it; it shall draw beautiful faces, warm hearts, wise
discourse, and heroic acts, around its way, until evil is no more seen.
The kingdom of man over nature, which cometh not with observation, — a
dominion such as now is beyond his dream of God, — he shall enter
without more wonder than the blind man feels who is gradually restored
to perfect sight.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter VII. Spirit

It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted or that may be, and facts that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and endless exercise. And all the uses of nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope. Through all its kingdoms, to the suburbs and outskirts of things, it is faithful to the cause whence it had its origin. It always speaks of Spirit. It suggests the absolute. It is a perpetual effect. It is a great shadow pointing always to the sun behind us.

The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.

Of that ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that thinks most, will say least. We can foresee God in the coarse, and, as it were, distant phenomena of matter; but when we try to define and describe himself, both language and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and savages. That essence refuses to be recorded in propositions, but when man has worshipped him intellectually, the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.

When we consider Spirit, we see that the views already presented do not include the whole circumference of man. We must add some related thoughts.

Three problems are put by nature to the mind; What is matter? Whence is it? and Whereto? The first of these questions only, the ideal theory answers. Idealism saith: matter is a phenomenon, not a substance. Idealism acquaints us with the total disparity between the evidence of our own being, and the evidence of the world’s being. The one is perfect; the other, incapable of any assurance; the mind is a part of the nature of things; the world is a divine dream, from which we may presently awake to the glories and certainties of day. Idealism is a hypothesis to account for nature by other principles than those of carpentry and chemistry. Yet, if it only deny the existence of matter, it does not satisfy the demands of the spirit. It leaves God out of me. It leaves me in the splendid labyrinth of my perceptions, to wander without end. Then the heart resists it, because it balks the affections in denying substantive being to men and women. Nature is so pervaded with human life, that there is something of humanity in all, and in every particular. But this theory makes nature foreign to me, and does not account for that consanguinity which we acknowledge to it.

Let it stand, then, in the present state of our knowledge, merely as a useful introductory hypothesis, serving to apprize us of the eternal distinction between the soul and the world.

But when, following the invisible steps of thought, we come to inquire, Whence is matter? and Whereto? many truths arise to us out of the recesses of consciousness. We learn that the highest is present to the soul of man, that the dread universal essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power, but all in one, and each entirely, is that for which all things exist, and that by which they are; that spirit creates; that behind nature, throughout nature, spirit is present; one and not compound, it does not act upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or through ourselves: therefore, that spirit, that is, the Supreme Being, does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new branches and leaves through the pores of the old. As a plant upon the earth, so a man rests upon the bosom of God; he is nourished by unfailing fountains, and draws, at his need, inexhaustible power. Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man? Once inhale the upper air, being admitted to behold the absolute natures of justice and truth, and we learn that man has access to the entire mind of the Creator, is himself the creator in the finite. This view, which admonishes me where the sources of wisdom and power lie, and points to virtue as to  

“The golden key/Which opes the palace of eternity,”

carries upon its face the highest certificate of truth, because it animates me to create my own world through the purification of my soul.

The world proceeds from the same spirit as the body of man. It is a remoter and inferior incarnation of God, a projection of God in the unconscious. But it differs from the body in one important respect. It is not, like that, now subjected to the human will. Its serene order is inviolable by us. It is, therefore, to us, the present expositor of the divine mind. It is a fixed point whereby we may measure our departure. As we degenerate, the contrast between us and our house is more evident. We are as much strangers in nature, as we are aliens from God. We do not understand the notes of birds. The fox and the deer run away from us; the bear and tiger rend us. We do not know the uses of more than a few plants, as corn and the apple, the potato and the vine. Is not the landscape, every glimpse of which hath a grandeur, a face of him? Yet this may show us what discord is between man and nature, for you cannot freely admire a noble landscape, if laborers are digging in the field hard by. The poet finds something ridiculous in his delight, until he is out of the sight of men.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter VI. Idealism

Thus is the unspeakable but intelligible and practicable meaning of the world conveyed to man, the immortal pupil, in every object of sense. To this one end of Discipline, all parts of nature conspire.

A noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, whether this end be not the Final Cause of the Universe; and whether nature outwardly exists. It is a sufficient account of that Appearance we call the World, that God will teach a human mind, and so makes it the receiver of a certain number of congruent sensations, which we call sun and moon, man and woman, house and trade. In my utter impotence to test the authenticity of the report of my senses, to know whether the impressions they make on me correspond with outlying objects, what difference does it make, whether Orion is up there in heaven, or some god paints the image in the firmament of the soul? The relations of parts and the end of the whole remaining the same, what is the difference, whether land and sea interact, and worlds revolve and intermingle without number or end, — deep yawning under deep, and galaxy balancing galaxy, throughout absolute space, — or, whether, without relations of time and space, the same appearances are inscribed in the constant faith of man? Whether nature enjoy a substantial existence without, or is only in the apocalypse of the mind, it is alike useful and alike venerable to me. Be it what it may, it is ideal to me, so long as I cannot try the accuracy of my senses.

The frivolous make themselves merry with the Ideal theory, if its consequences were burlesque; as if it affected the stability of nature. It surely does not. God never jests with us, and will not compromise the end of nature, by permitting any inconsequence in its procession. Any distrust of the permanence of laws, would paralyze the faculties of man. Their permanence is sacredly respected, and his faith therein is perfect. The wheels and springs of man are all set to the hypothesis of the permanence of nature. We are not built like a ship to be tossed, but like a house to stand. It is a natural consequence of this structure, that, so long as the active powers predominate over the reflective, we resist with indignation any hint that nature is more short-lived or mutable than spirit. The broker, the wheelwright, the carpenter, the toll-man, are much displeased at the intimation.

But whilst we acquiesce entirely in the permanence of natural laws, the question of the absolute existence of nature still remains open. It is the uniform effect of culture on the human mind, not to shake our faith in the stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote; but to lead us to regard nature as a phenomenon, not a substance; to attribute necessary existence to spirit; to esteem nature as an accident and an effect.

To the senses and the unrenewed understanding, belongs a sort of instinctive belief in the absolute existence of nature. In their view, man and nature are indissolubly joined. Things are ultimates, and they never look beyond their sphere. The presence of Reason mars this faith. The first effort of thought tends to relax this despotism of the senses, which binds us to nature as if we were a part of it, and shows us nature aloof, and, as it were, afloat. Until this higher agency intervened, the animal eye sees, with wonderful accuracy, sharp outlines and colored surfaces. When the eye of Reason opens, to outline and surface are at once added, grace and expression. These proceed from imagination and affection, and abate somewhat of the angular distinctness of objects. If the Reason be stimulated to more earnest vision, outlines and surfaces become transparent, and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best moments of life are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential withdrawing of nature before its God.

Let us proceed to indicate the effects of culture. 1. Our first institution in the Ideal philosophy is a hint from nature herself.

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. Certain mechanical changes, a small alteration in our local position apprizes us of a dualism. We are strangely affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least change in our point of view, gives the whole world a pictorial air. A man who seldom rides, needs only to get into a coach and traverse his own town, to turn the street into a puppet-show. The men, the women, — talking, running, bartering, fighting, — the earnest mechanic, the lounger, the beggar, the boys, the dogs, are unrealized at once, or, at least, wholly detached from all relation to the observer, and seen as apparent, not substantial beings. What new thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quite familiar, in the rapid movement of the rail-road car! Nay, the most wonted objects, (make a very slight change in the point of vision,) please us most. In a camera obscura, the butcher’s cart, and the figure of one of our own family amuse us. So a portrait of a well-known face gratifies us. Turn the eyes upside down, by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable is the picture, though you have seen it any time these twenty years!

In these cases, by mechanical means, is suggested the difference between the observer and the spectacle, — between man and nature. Hence arises a pleasure mixed with awe; I may say, a low degree of the sublime is felt from the fact, probably, that man is hereby apprized, that, whilst the world is a spectacle, something in himself is stable.

2. In a higher manner, the poet communicates the same pleasure. By a few strokes he delineates, as on air, the sun, the mountain, the camp, the city, the hero, the maiden, not different from what we know them, but only lifted from the ground and afloat before the eye. He unfixes the land and the sea, makes them revolve around the axis of his primary thought, and disposes them anew. Possessed himself by a heroic passion, he uses matter as symbols of it. The sensual man conforms thoughts to things; the poet conforms things to his thoughts. The one esteems nature as rooted and fast; the other, as fluid, and impresses his being thereon. To him, the refractory world is ductile and flexible; he invests dust and stones with humanity, and makes them the words of the Reason. The Imagination may be defined to be, the use which the Reason makes of the material world. Shakspeare possesses the power of subordinating nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any caprice of thought that is upper-most in his mind. The remotest spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together, by a subtle spiritual connection. We are made aware that magnitude of material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet. Thus, in his sonnets, the lays of birds, the scents and dyes of flowers, he finds to be the shadow of his beloved; time, which keeps her from him, is his chest; the suspicion she has awakened, is her ornament;

The ornament of beauty is Suspect,
A crow which flies in heaven’s sweetest air.

His passion is not the fruit of chance; it swells, as he speaks, to a city, or a state.

No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the brow of thralling discontent;
It fears not policy, that heretic,
That works on leases of short numbered hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic.

In the strength of his constancy, the Pyramids seem to him recent and transitory. The freshness of youth and love dazzles him with its resemblance to morning.

Take those lips away
Which so sweetly were forsworn;
And those eyes, — the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn.

The wild beauty of this hyperbole, I may say, in passing, it would not be easy to match in literature.

This transfiguration which all material objects undergo through the passion of the poet, — this power which he exerts to dwarf the great, to magnify the small, — might be illustrated by a thousand examples from his Plays. I have before me the Tempest, and will cite only these few lines.

ARIEL. The strong based promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up
The pine and cedar.

Prospero calls for music to soothe the frantic Alonzo, and his companions;

A solemn air, and the best comforter
To an unsettled fancy, cure thy brains
Now useless, boiled within thy skull.

Again;

The charm dissolves apace,
And, as the morning steals upon the night,
Melting the darkness, so their rising senses
Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle
Their clearer reason.
Their understanding
Begins to swell: and the approaching tide
Will shortly fill the reasonable shores
That now lie foul and muddy.

The perception of real affinities between events, (that is to say, of ideal affinities, for those only are real,) enables the poet thus to make free with the most imposing forms and phenomena of the world, and to assert the predominance of the soul.

3. Whilst thus the poet animates nature with his own thoughts, he differs from the philosopher only herein, that the one proposes Beauty as his main end; the other Truth. But the philosopher, not less than the poet, postpones the apparent order and relations of things to the empire of thought. “The problem of philosophy,” according to Plato, “is, for all that exists conditionally, to find a ground unconditioned and absolute.” It proceeds on the faith that a law determines all phenomena, which being known, the phenomena can be predicted. That law, when in the mind, is an idea. Its beauty is infinite. The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both. Is not the charm of one of Plato’s or Aristotle’s definitions, strictly like that of the Antigone of Sophocles? It is, in both cases, that a spiritual life has been imparted to nature; that the solid seeming block of matter has been pervaded and dissolved by a thought; that this feeble human being has penetrated the vast masses of nature with an informing soul, and recognised itself in their harmony, that is, seized their law. In physics, when this is attained, the memory disburthens itself of its cumbrous catalogues of particulars, and carries centuries of observation in a single formula.

Thus even in physics, the material is degraded before the spiritual. The astronomer, the geometer, rely on their irrefragable analysis, and disdain the results of observation. The sublime remark of Euler on his law of arches, “This will be found contrary to all experience, yet is true;” had already transferred nature into the mind, and left matter like an outcast corpse.

4. Intellectual science has been observed to beget invariably a doubt of the existence of matter. Turgot said, “He that has never doubted the existence of matter, may be assured he has no aptitude for metaphysical inquiries.” It fastens the attention upon immortal necessary uncreated natures, that is, upon Ideas; and in their presence, we feel that the outward circumstance is a dream and a shade. Whilst we wait in this Olympus of gods, we think of nature as an appendix to the soul. We ascend into their region, and know that these are the thoughts of the Supreme Being. “These are they who were set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When he prepared the heavens, they were there; when he established the clouds above, when he strengthened the fountains of the deep. Then they were by him, as one brought up with him. Of them took he counsel.”

Their influence is proportionate. As objects of science, they are accessible to few men. Yet all men are capable of being raised by piety or by passion, into their region. And no man touches these divine natures, without becoming, in some degree, himself divine. Like a new soul, they renew the body. We become physically nimble and lightsome; we tread on air; life is no longer irksome, and we think it will never be so. No man fears age or misfortune or death, in their serene company, for he is transported out of the district of change. Whilst we behold unveiled the nature of Justice and Truth, we learn the difference between the absolute and the conditional or relative. We apprehend the absolute. As it were, for the first time, we exist. We become immortal, for we learn that time and space are relations of matter; that, with a perception of truth, or a virtuous will, they have no affinity.

5. Finally, religion and ethics, which may be fitly called, — the practice of ideas, or the introduction of ideas into life, — have an analogous effect with all lower culture, in degrading nature and suggesting its dependence on spirit. Ethics and religion differ herein; that the one is the system of human duties commencing from man; the other, from God. Religion includes the personality of God; Ethics does not. They are one to our present design. They both put nature under foot. The first and last lesson of religion is, “The things that are seen, are temporal; the things that are unseen, are eternal.” It puts an affront upon nature. It does that for the unschooled, which philosophy does for Berkeley and Viasa. The uniform language that may be heard in the churches of the most ignorant sects, is,——“Contemn the unsubstantial shows of the world; they are vanities, dreams, shadows, unrealities; seek the realities of religion.” The devotee flouts nature. Some theosophists have arrived at a certain hostility and indignation towards matter, as the Manichean and Plotinus. They distrusted in themselves any looking back to these flesh-pots of Egypt. Plotinus was ashamed of his body. In short, they might all say of matter, what Michael Angelo said of external beauty, “it is the frail and weary weed, in which God dresses the soul, which he has called into time.”

It appears that motion, poetry, physical and intellectual science, and religion, all tend to affect our convictions of the reality of the external world. But I own there is something ungrateful in expanding too curiously the particulars of the general proposition, that all culture tends to imbue us with idealism. I have no hostility to nature, but a child’s love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons. Let us speak her fair. I do not wish to fling stones at my beautiful mother, nor soil my gentle nest. I only wish to indicate the true position of nature in regard to man, wherein to establish man, all right education tends; as the ground which to attain is the object of human life, that is, of man’s connection with nature. Culture inverts the vulgar views of nature, and brings the mind to call that apparent, which it uses to call real, and that real, which it uses to call visionary. Children, it is true, believe in the external world. The belief that it appears only, is an afterthought, but with culture, this faith will as surely arise on the mind as did the first.

The advantage of the ideal theory over the popular faith, is this, that it presents the world in precisely that view which is most desirable to the mind. It is, in fact, the view which Reason, both speculative and practical, that is, philosophy and virtue, take. For, seen in the light of thought, the world always is phenomenal; and virtue subordinates it to the mind. Idealism sees the world in God. It beholds the whole circle of persons and things, of actions and events, of country and religion, not as painfully accumulated, atom after atom, act after act, in an aged creeping Past, but as one vast picture, which God paints on the instant eternity, for the contemplation of the soul. Therefore the soul holds itself off from a too trivial and microscopic study of the universal tablet. It respects the end too much, to immerse itself in the means. It sees something more important in Christianity, than the scandals of ecclesiastical history, or the niceties of criticism; and, very incurious concerning persons or miracles, and not at all disturbed by chasms of historical evidence, it accepts from God the phenomenon, as it finds it, as the pure and awful form of religion in the world. It is not hot and passionate at the appearance of what it calls its own good or bad fortune, at the union or opposition of other persons. No man is its enemy. It accepts whatsoever befalls, as part of its lesson. It is a watcher more than a doer, and it is a doer, only that it may the better watch.

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Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter V. Discipline

In view of the significance of nature, we arrive at once at a new This use of
the world includes the preceding uses, as parts of itself.

Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals, the
mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day by day, whose meaning is
unlimited. They educate both the Understanding and the Reason. Every property of
matter is a school for the understanding, — its solidity or resistance, its
inertia, its extension, its figure, its divisibility. The understanding adds,
divides, combines, measures, and finds nutriment and room for its activity in
this worthy scene. Meantime, Reason transfers all these lessons into its own
world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind.

1. Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths. Our
dealing with sensible objects is a constant exercise in the necessary lessons of
difference, of likeness, of order, of being and seeming, of progressive
arrangement; of ascent from particular to general; of combination to one end of
manifold forces. Proportioned to the importance of the organ to be formed, is
the extreme care with which its tuition is provided, — a care pretermitted in
no single case. What tedious training, day after day, year after year, never
ending, to form the common sense; what continual reproduction of annoyances,
inconveniences, dilemmas; what rejoicing over us of little men; what disputing
of prices, what reckonings of interest, — and all to form the Hand of the mind;
— to instruct us that “good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless
they be executed!”

The same good office is performed by Property and its filial systems of debt
and credit. Debt, grinding debt, whose iron face the widow, the orphan, and the
sons of genius fear and hate; — debt, which consumes so much time, which so
cripples and disheartens a great spirit with cares that seem so base, is a
preceptor whose lessons cannot be forgone, and is needed most by those who
suffer from it most. Moreover, property, which has been well compared to snow,
— “if it fall level to-day, it will be blown into drifts to-morrow,” — is the
surface action of internal machinery, like the index on the face of a clock.
Whilst now it is the gymnastics of the understanding, it is hiving in the
foresight of the spirit, experience in profounder laws.

The whole character and fortune of the individual are affected by the least
inequalities in the culture of the understanding; for example, in the perception
of differences. Therefore is Space, and therefore Time, that man may know that
things are not huddled and lumped, but sundered and individual. A bell and a
plough have each their use, and neither can do the office of the other. Water is
good to drink, coal to burn, wool to wear; but wool cannot be drunk, nor water
spun, nor coal eaten. The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation,
and his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The foolish have
no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man. What is
not good they call the worst, and what is not hateful, they call the best.

In like manner, what good heed, nature forms in us! She pardons no mistakes.
Her yea is yea, and her nay, nay.

The first steps in Agriculture, Astronomy, Zoology, (those first steps which
the farmer, the hunter, and the sailor take,) teach that nature’s dice are
always loaded; that in her heaps and rubbish are concealed sure and useful
results.

How calmly and genially the mind apprehends one after another the laws of
physics! What noble emotions dilate the mortal as he enters into the counsels of
the creation, and feels by knowledge the privilege to BE! His insight refines
him. The beauty of nature shines in his own breast. Man is greater that he can
see this, and the universe less, because Time and Space relations vanish as laws
are known.

Here again we are impressed and even daunted by the immense Universe to be
explored. “What we know, is a point to what we do not know.” Open any recent
journal of science, and weigh the problems suggested concerning Light, Heat,
Electricity, Magnetism, Physiology, Geology, and judge whether the interest of
natural science is likely to be soon exhausted.

Passing by many particulars of the discipline of nature, we must not omit to
specify two.

The exercise of the Will or the lesson of power is taught in every event.
From the child’s successive possession of his several senses up to the hour when
he saith, “Thy will be done!” he is learning the secret, that he can reduce
under his will, not only particular events, but great classes, nay the whole
series of events, and so conform all facts to his character. Nature is
thoroughly mediate. It is made to serve. It receives the dominion of man as
meekly as the ass on which the Saviour rode. It offers all its kingdoms to man
as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful. Man is never weary
of working it up. He forges the subtile and delicate air into wise and melodious
words, and gives them wing as angels of persuasion and command. One after
another, his victorious thought comes up with and reduces all things, until the
world becomes, at last, only a realized will, — the double of the man.

2. Sensible objects conform to the premonitions of Reason and reflect the
conscience. All things are moral; and in their boundless changes have an
unceasing reference to spiritual nature. Therefore is nature glorious with form,
color, and motion, that every globe in the remotest heaven; every chemical
change from the rudest crystal up to the laws of life; every change of
vegetation from the first principle of growth in the eye of a leaf, to the
tropical forest and antediluvian coal-mine; every animal function from the
sponge up to Hercules, shall hint or thunder to man the laws of right and wrong,
and echo the Ten Commandments. Therefore is nature ever the ally of Religion:
lends all her pomp and riches to the religious sentiment. Prophet and priest,
David, Isaiah, Jesus, have drawn deeply from this source. This ethical character
so penetrates the bone and marrow of nature, as to seem the end for which it was
made. Whatever private purpose is answered by any member or part, this is its
public and universal function, and is never omitted. Nothing in nature is
exhausted in its first use. When a thing has served an end to the uttermost, it
is wholly new for an ulterior service. In God, every end is converted into a new
means. Thus the use of commodity, regarded by itself, is mean and squalid. But
it is to the mind an education in the doctrine of Use, namely, that a thing is
good only so far as it serves; that a conspiring of parts and efforts to the
production of an end, is essential to any being. The first and gross
manifestation of this truth, is our inevitable and hated training in values and
wants, in corn and meat.

It has already been illustrated, that every natural process is a version of a
moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the
circumference. It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and
every process. All things with which we deal, preach to us. What is a farm but a
mute gospel? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects,
sun, — it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack
which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields. But the sailor, the shepherd,
the miner, the merchant, in their several resorts, have each an experience
precisely parallel, and leading to the same conclusion: because all
organizations are radically alike. Nor can it be doubted that this moral
sentiment which thus scents the air, grows in the grain, and impregnates the
waters of the world, is caught by man and sinks into his soul. The moral
influence of nature upon every individual is that amount of truth which it
illustrates to him. Who can estimate this? Who can guess how much firmness the
sea-beaten rock has taught the fisherman? how much tranquillity has been
reflected to man from the azure sky, over whose unspotted deeps the winds
forevermore drive flocks of stormy clouds, and leave no wrinkle or stain? how
much industry and providence and affection we have caught from the pantomime of
brutes? What a searching preacher of self-command is the varying phenomenon of
Health!

Herein is especially apprehended the unity of Nature, — the unity in
variety, — which meets us everywhere. All the endless variety of things make an
identical impression. Xenophanes complained in his old age, that, look where he
would, all things hastened back to Unity. He was weary of seeing the same entity
in the tedious variety of forms. The fable of Proteus has a cordial truth. A
leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes
of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully
renders the likeness of the world.

Not only resemblances exist in things whose analogy is obvious, as when we
detect the type of the human hand in the flipper of the fossil saurus, but also
in objects wherein there is great superficial unlikeness. Thus architecture is
called “frozen music,” by De Stael and Goethe. Vitruvius thought an architect
should be a musician. “A Gothic church,” said Coleridge, “is a petrified
religion.” Michael Angelo maintained, that, to an architect, a knowledge of
anatomy is essential. In Haydn’s oratorios, the notes present to the imagination
not only motions, as, of the snake, the stag, and the elephant, but colors also;
as the green grass. The law of harmonic sounds reappears in the harmonic colors.
The granite is differenced in its laws only by the more or less of heat, from
the river that wears it away. The river, as it flows, resembles the air that
flows over it; the air resembles the light which traverses it with more subtile
currents; the light resembles the heat which rides with it through Space. Each
creature is only a modification of the other; the likeness in them is more than
the difference, and their radical law is one and the same. A rule of one art, or
a law of one organization, holds true throughout nature. So intimate is this
Unity, that, it is easily seen, it lies under the undermost garment of nature,
and betrays its source in Universal Spirit. For, it pervades Thought also. Every
universal truth which we express in words, implies or supposes every other
truth. Omne verum vero consonat. It is like a great circle on a sphere,
comprising all possible circles; which, however, may be drawn, and comprise it,
in like manner. Every such truth is the absolute Ens seen from one side. But it
has innumerable sides.

The central Unity is still more conspicuous in actions. Words are finite
organs of the infinite mind. They cannot cover the dimensions of what is in
truth. They break, chop, and impoverish it. An action is the perfection and
publication of thought. A right action seems to fill the eye, and to be related
to all nature. “The wise man, in doing one thing, does all; or, in the one thing
he does rightly, he sees the likeness of all which is done rightly.”

Words and actions are not the attributes of brute nature. They introduce us
to the human form, of which all other organizations appear to be degradations.
When this appears among so many that surround it, the spirit prefers it to all
others. It says, `From such as this, have I drawn joy and knowledge; in such as
this, have I found and beheld myself; I will speak to it; it can speak again; it
can yield me thought already formed and alive.’ In fact, the eye, — the mind,
— is always accompanied by these forms, male and female; and these are
incomparably the richest informations of the power and order that lie at the
heart of things. Unfortunately, every one of them bears the marks as of some
injury; is marred and superficially defective. Nevertheless, far different from
the deaf and dumb nature around them, these all rest like fountain-pipes on the
unfathomed sea of thought and virtue whereto they alone, of all organizations,
are the entrances.

It were a pleasant inquiry to follow into detail their ministry to our
education, but where would it stop? We are associated in adolescent and adult
life with some friends, who, like skies and waters, are coextensive with our
idea; who, answering each to a certain affection of the soul, satisfy our desire
on that side; whom we lack power to put at such focal distance from us, that we
can mend or even analyze them. We cannot choose but love them. When much
intercourse with a friend has supplied us with a standard of excellence, and has
increased our respect for the resources of God who thus sends a real person to
outgo our ideal; when he has, moreover, become an object of thought, and, whilst
his character retains all its unconscious effect, is converted in the mind into
solid and sweet wisdom, — it is a sign to us that his office is closing, and he
is commonly withdrawn from our sight in a short time.

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Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter IV. Language

Language is a third use which Nature subserves to man. Nature is the vehicle,
and threefold degree.

1. Words are signs of natural facts.

2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.

3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.

1. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us
aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language
for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to
express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be
borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means
twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line;
supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say the heart to express emotion,
the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from
sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process
by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when
language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children.
Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into
verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.

2. But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import, — so
conspicuous a fact in the history of language, — is our least debt to nature.
It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic.
Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in
nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can
only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An
enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned
man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to
us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for
knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before
us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux
of all things? Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate
themselves are the beautiful type of all influence. Man is conscious of a
universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament,
the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal
soul, he calls Reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are
its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the
sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason.
That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to
nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And
man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER.

It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these
analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade nature. These are not the
dreams of a few poets, here and there, but man is an analogist, and studies
relations in all objects. He is placed in the centre of beings, and a ray of
relation passes from every other being to him. And neither can man be understood
without these objects, nor these objects without man. All the facts in natural
history taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren, like a single sex.
But marry it to human history, and it is full of life. Whole Floras, all
Linnaeus’ and Buffon’s volumes, are dry catalogues of facts; but the most
trivial of these facts, the habit of a plant, the organs, or work, or noise of
an insect, applied to the illustration of a fact in intellectual philosophy, or,
in any way associated to human nature, affects us in the most lively and
agreeable manner. The seed of a plant, — to what affecting analogies in the
nature of man, is that little fruit made use of, in all discourse, up to the
voice of Paul, who calls the human corpse a seed, — “It is sown a natural body;
it is raised a spiritual body.” The motion of the earth round its axis, and
round the sun, makes the day, and the year. These are certain amounts of brute
light and heat. But is there no intent of an analogy between man’s life and the
seasons? And do the seasons gain no grandeur or pathos from that analogy? The
instincts of the ant are very unimportant, considered as the ant’s; but the
moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge
is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits,
even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime.

Because of this radical correspondence between visible things and human
thoughts, savages, who have only what is necessary, converse in figures. As we
go back in history, language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when
it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols. The
same symbols are found to make the original elements of all languages. It has
moreover been observed, that the idioms of all languages approach each other in
passages of the greatest eloquence and power. And as this is the first language,
so is it the last. This immediate dependence of language upon nature, this
conversion of an outward phenomenon into a type of somewhat in human life, never
loses its power to affect us. It is this which gives that piquancy to the
conversation of a strong-natured farmer or back-woodsman, which all men relish.

A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter
it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth,
and his desire to communicate it without loss. The corruption of man is followed
by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty
of ideas is broken up by the prevalence of secondary desires, the desire of
riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise, — and duplicity and falsehood
take place of simplicity and truth, the power over nature as an interpreter of
the will, is in a degree lost; new imagery ceases to be created, and old words
are perverted to stand for things which are not; a paper currency is employed,
when there is no bullion in the vaults. In due time, the fraud is manifest, and
words lose all power to stimulate the understanding or the affections. Hundreds
of writers may be found in every long-civilized nation, who for a short time
believe, and make others believe, that they see and utter truths, who do not of
themselves clothe one thought in its natural garment, but who feed unconsciously
on the language created by the primary writers of the country, those, namely,
who hold primarily on nature.

But wise men pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible
things; so that picturesque language is at once a commanding certificate that he
who employs it, is a man in alliance with truth and God. The moment our
discourse rises above the ground line of familiar facts, and is inflamed with
passion or exalted by thought, it clothes itself in images. A man conversing in
earnest, if he watch his intellectual processes, will find that a material
image, more or less luminous, arises in his mind, cotemporaneous with every
thought, which furnishes the vestment of the thought. Hence, good writing and
brilliant discourse are perpetual allegories. This imagery is spontaneous. It is
the blending of experience with the present action of the mind. It is proper
creation. It is the working of the Original Cause through the instruments he has
already made.

These facts may suggest the advantage which the country-life possesses for a
powerful mind, over the artificial and curtailed life of cities. We know more
from nature than we can at will communicate. Its light flows into the mind
evermore, and we forget its presence. The poet, the orator, bred in the woods,
whose senses have been nourished by their fair and appeasing changes, year after
year, without design and without heed, — shall not lose their lesson
altogether, in the roar of cities or the broil of politics. Long hereafter,
amidst agitation and terror in national councils, — in the hour of revolution,
— these solemn images shall reappear in their morning lustre, as fit symbols
and words of the thoughts which the passing events shall awaken. At the call of
a noble sentiment, again the woods wave, the pines murmur, the river rolls and
shines, and the cattle low upon the mountains, as he saw and heard them in his
infancy. And with these forms, the spells of persuasion, the keys of power are
put into his hands.

3. We are thus assisted by natural objects in the expression of particular
meanings. But how great a language to convey such pepper-corn informations! Did
it need such noble races of creatures, this profusion of forms, this host of
orbs in heaven, to furnish man with the dictionary and grammar of his municipal
speech? Whilst we use this grand cipher to expedite the affairs of our pot and
kettle, we feel that we have not yet put it to its use, neither are able. We are
like travellers using the cinders of a volcano to roast their eggs. Whilst we
see that it always stands ready to clothe what we would say, we cannot avoid the
question, whether the characters are not significant of themselves. Have
mountains, and waves, and skies, no significance but what we consciously give
them, when we employ them as emblems of our thoughts? The world is emblematic.
Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole of nature is a metaphor of the
human mind. The laws of moral nature answer to those of matter as face to face
in a glass. “The visible world and the relation of its parts, is the dial plate
of the invisible.” The axioms of physics translate the laws of ethics. Thus,
“the whole is greater than its part;” “reaction is equal to action;” “the
smallest weight may be made to lift the greatest, the difference of weight being
compensated by time;” and many the like propositions, which have an ethical as
well as physical sense. These propositions have a much more extensive and
universal sense when applied to human life, than when confined to technical use.

In like manner, the memorable words of history, and the proverbs of nations,
consist usually of a natural fact, selected as a picture or parable of a moral
truth. Thus; A rolling stone gathers no moss; A bird in the hand is worth two in
the bush; A cripple in the right way, will beat a racer in the wrong; Make hay
while the sun shines; ‘T is hard to carry a full cup even; Vinegar is the son of
wine; The last ounce broke the camel’s back; Long-lived trees make roots first;
— and the like. In their primary sense these are trivial facts, but we repeat
them for the value of their analogical import. What is true of proverbs, is true
of all fables, parables, and allegories.

This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but
stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to
men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the
wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf;

—— “Can these things be,
And overcome us like a summer’s
cloud,
Without our special wonder?”

for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its
own, shines through it. It is the standing problem which has exercised the
wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of
the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of
Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to
age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle. There
seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day
and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, preexist in
necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding
affections, in the world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit.
The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible
world. “Material objects,” said a French philosopher, “are necessarily kinds of
scoriae of the substantial thoughts of the Creator, which must always preserve
an exact relation to their first origin; in other words, visible nature must
have a spiritual and moral side.”

This doctrine is abstruse, and though the images of “garment,” “scoriae,”
“mirror,” &c., may stimulate the fancy, we must summon the aid of subtler
and more vital expositors to make it plain. “Every scripture is to be
interpreted by the same spirit which gave it forth,” — is the fundamental law
of criticism. A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and of virtue,
will purge the eyes to understand her text. By degrees we may come to know the
primitive sense of the permanent objects of nature, so that the world shall be
to us an open book, and every form significant of its hidden life and final
cause.

A new interest surprises us, whilst, under the view now suggested, we
contemplate the fearful extent and multitude of objects; since “every object
rightly seen, unlocks a new faculty of the soul.” That which was unconscious
truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain
of knowledge, — a new weapon in the magazine of power.

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Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter III. Beauty

A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.

The ancient Greeks called the world {kosmos}, beauty. Such is the
constitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the
primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight
in and for themselves; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and
grouping. This seems partly owing to the eye itself. The eye is the best of
artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light,
perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what
character soever, into a well colored and shaded globe, so that where the
particular objects are mean and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose,
is round and symmetrical. And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the
first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make
beautiful. And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude
which it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its
own beauty. But besides this general grace diffused over nature, almost all the
individual forms are agreeable to the eye, as is proved by our endless
imitations of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the
wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion’s claw, the
serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms
of many trees, as the palm.

For better consideration, we may distribute the aspects of Beauty in a
threefold manner.

1. First, the simple perception of natural forms is a delight. The influence
of the forms and actions in nature, is so needful to man, that, in its lowest
functions, it seems to lie on the confines of commodity and beauty. To the body
and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal
and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and
craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In
their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a
horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

But in other hours, Nature satisfies by its loveliness, and without any
mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spectacle of morning from the hill-top
over against my house, from day-break to sun-rise, with emotions which an angel
might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of
crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I
seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my
dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind. How does Nature deify us
with a few and cheap elements! Give me health and a day, and I will make the
pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sun-set and moon-rise
my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of
the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic
philosophy and dreams.

Not less excellent, except for our less susceptibility in the afternoon, was
the charm, last evening, of a January sunset. The western clouds divided and
subdivided themselves into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable
softness; and the air had so much life and sweetness, that it was a pain to come
within doors. What was it that nature would say? Was there no meaning in the
live repose of the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shakspeare could
not reform for me in words? The leafless trees become spires of flame in the
sunset, with the blue east for their back-ground, and the stars of the dead
calices of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with frost,
contribute something to the mute music.

The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only
half the year. I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and
believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.
To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the
same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and
which shall never be seen again. The heavens change every moment, and reflect
their glory or gloom on the plains beneath. The state of the crop in the
surrounding farms alters the expression of the earth from week to week. The
succession of native plants in the pastures and roadsides, which makes the
silent clock by which time tells the summer hours, will make even the divisions
of the day sensible to a keen observer. The tribes of birds and insects, like
the plants punctual to their time, follow each other, and the year has room for
all. By water-courses, the variety is greater. In July, the blue pontederia or
pickerel-weed blooms in large beds in the shallow parts of our pleasant river,
and swarms with yellow butterflies in continual motion. Art cannot rival this
pomp of purple and gold. Indeed the river is a perpetual gala, and boasts each
month a new ornament.

But this beauty of Nature which is seen and felt as beauty, is the least
part. The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in
blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still water, and the like, if too eagerly
hunted, become shows merely, and mock us with their unreality. Go out of the
house to see the moon, and ‘t is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its
light shines upon your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow
afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? Go forth to find it, and it is
gone: ‘t is only a mirage as you look from the windows of diligence.

2. The presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual element is essential to
its perfection. The high and divine beauty which can be loved without
effeminacy, is that which is found in combination with the human will. Beauty is
the mark God sets upon virtue. Every natural action is graceful. Every heroic
act is also decent, and causes the place and the bystanders to shine. We are
taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in
it. Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate. It is his,
if he will. He may divest himself of it; he may creep into a corner, and
abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his
constitution. In proportion to the energy of his thought and will, he takes up
the world into himself. “All those things for which men plough, build, or sail,
obey virtue;” said Sallust. “The winds and waves,” said Gibbon, “are always on
the side of the ablest navigators.” So are the sun and moon and all the stars of
heaven. When a noble act is done, — perchance in a scene of great natural
beauty; when Leonidas and his three hundred martyrs consume one day in dying,
and the sun and moon come each and look at them once in the steep defile of
Thermopylae; when Arnold Winkelried, in the high Alps, under the shadow of the
avalanche, gathers in his side a sheaf of Austrian spears to break the line for
his comrades; are not these heroes entitled to add the beauty of the scene to
the beauty of the deed? When the bark of Columbus nears the shore of America; —
before it, the beach lined with savages, fleeing out of all their huts of cane;
the sea behind; and the purple mountains of the Indian Archipelago around, can
we separate the man from the living picture? Does not the New World clothe his
form with her palm-groves and savannahs as fit drapery? Ever does natural beauty
steal in like air, and envelope great actions. When Sir Harry Vane was dragged
up the Tower-hill, sitting on a sled, to suffer death, as the champion of the
English laws, one of the multitude cried out to him, “You never sate on so
glorious a seat.” Charles II., to intimidate the citizens of London, caused the
patriot Lord Russel to be drawn in an open coach, through the principal streets
of the city, on his way to the scaffold. “But,” his biographer says, “the
multitude imagined they saw liberty and virtue sitting by his side.” In private
places, among sordid objects, an act of truth or heroism seems at once to draw
to itself the sky as its temple, the sun as its candle. Nature stretcheth out
her arms to embrace man, only let his thoughts be of equal greatness. Willingly
does she follow his steps with the rose and the violet, and bend her lines of
grandeur and grace to the decoration of her darling child. Only let his thoughts
be of equal scope, and the frame will suit the picture. A virtuous man is in
unison with her works, and makes the central figure of the visible sphere.
Homer, Pindar, Socrates, Phocion, associate themselves fitly in our memory with
the geography and climate of Greece. The visible heavens and earth sympathize
with Jesus. And in common life, whosoever has seen a person of powerful
character and happy genius, will have remarked how easily he took all things
along with him, — the persons, the opinions, and the day, and nature became
ancillary to a man.

3. There is still another aspect under which the beauty of the world may be
viewed, namely, as it become s an object of the intellect. Beside the relation
of things to virtue, they have a relation to thought. The intellect searches out
the absolute order of things as they stand in the mind of God, and without the
colors of affection. The intellectual and the active powers seem to succeed each
other, and the exclusive activity of the one, generates the exclusive activity
of the other. There is something unfriendly in each to the other, but they are
like the alternate periods of feeding and working in animals; each prepares and
will be followed by the other. Therefore does beauty, which, in relation to
actions, as we have seen, comes unsought, and comes because it is unsought,
remain for the apprehension and pursuit of the intellect; and then again, in its
turn, of the active power. Nothing divine dies. All good is eternally
reproductive. The beauty of nature reforms itself in the mind, and not for
barren contemplation, but for new creation.

All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even
to delight. This love of beauty is Taste. Others have the same love in such
excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms.
The creation of beauty is Art.

The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity.
A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or
expression of nature, in miniature. For, although the works of nature are
innumerable and all different, the result or the expression of them all is
similar and single. Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A
leaf, a sun-beam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the
mind. What is common to them all, — that perfectness and harmony, is beauty.
The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, — the totality
of nature; which the Italians expressed by defining beauty “il piu nell’ uno.”
Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A
single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The
poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to
concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several
work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art,
a nature passed through the alembic of man. Thus in art, does nature work
through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.

The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty. This
element I call an ultimate end. No reason can be asked or given why the soul
seeks beauty. Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expression
for the universe. God is the all-fair. Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but
different faces of the same All. But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the
herald of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a solid and satisfactory
good. It must stand as a part, and not as yet the last or highest expression of
the final cause of Nature.

Categories
Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter II. Commodity

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of
uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following
classes; Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our
senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and
mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is
perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The
misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and
prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green
ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid
ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water
beneath, this firmament of earth between? this zodiac of lights, this tent of
dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts,
fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his
work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

“More servants wait on man
Than he’ll take notice of.” ——

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the
process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands
for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the
wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet,
condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal;
and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man. The useful
arts are reproductions or new combinations by the wit of man, of the same
natural benefactors. He no longer waits for favoring gales, but by means of
steam, he realizes the fable of Aeolus’s bag, and carries the two and thirty
winds in the boiler of his boat. To diminish friction, he paves the road with
iron bars, and, mounting a coach with a ship-load of men, animals, and
merchandise behind him, he darts through the country, from town to town, like an
eagle or a swallow through the air. By the aggregate of these aids, how is the
face of the world changed, from the era of Noah to that of Napoleon! The private
poor man hath cities, ships, canals, bridges, built for him. He goes to the
post-office, and the human race run on his errands; to the book-shop, and the
human race read and write of all that happens, for him; to the court-house, and
nations repair his wrongs. He sets his house upon the road, and the human race
go forth every morning, and shovel out the snow, and cut a path for him.

But there is no need of specifying particulars in this class of uses. The
catalogue is endless, and the examples so obvious, that I shall leave them to
the reader’s reflection, with the general remark, that this mercenary benefit is
one which has respect to a farther good. A man is fed, not that he may be fed,
but that he may work.

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Complete Works of RWE I - Nature, Addresses & Lectures

Chapter I. Nature

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood. When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title. To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, — he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, — master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population.