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sies yesterday after dinner which disgusted me
somewhat. The man will not be much better
than the beast he eats.

Conformity is the ape of harmony.


I have supped with Gods to-night,

Shall I come under wooden roofs ?

As I walked on the hills

The great stars did not shine aloof,

But they hurried down from their deep abodes

And hemmed me in their glittering troop. 1

All spontaneous thought is irrespective of all

i From 1838 for many years Mr. Emerson s longings to
express himself in verse resulted in fragments (scattered through
some journals, and in his special Verse-books) which he never
published, but which were collected after his death, forming a
fairly connected whole called " The Poet," and printed in the
Appendix to the Poems. The lines given here occur in better
form in "The Poet " (Poems, p. 314).


else. It is for those who come after to find its
relation to other thoughts.

The Soul. I think whenever we are addressed
greatly we greet the brave speaker, and are by him
instantly admonished how we ought to speak.

It is the highest power of divine moments that
they abolish even our contritions. 1 . . .

Can we never extract this maggot of Europe
out of the brains of our countrymen ? 2 Plato and
Pythagoras may travel, for they carry the world
with them and are always at home, but our trav
ellers are moths and danglers. 3

Wordsworth has done as much as any living
man to restore sanity to cultivated society.

Beware when the great God lets loose a new
thinker on this planet. 4 . . .

1 Here follows the passage thus beginning in ft Circles "
(Essays, First Series, p. 317).

2 These lines are in " Culture" (Conduct of Life}.

3 This passage is followed by that in " Friendship " on
European travel (Essays, First Series, p. 214). This is fol
lowed by the sentences about the brook in " Nature " (Essays,
Second Series, p. 178).

4 The rest of the passage is printed in " Circles" (Essays,
First Series, pp. 308, 309).


But ah, we impute the virtues to our friends,
and afterwards worship the face and feature to
which we ascribe these divine tenants.

Labor with the hands that you may have an
imal spirits. Be not an opium-eater. Cold water
has no repentance. But do not let debt and the
bondage of housekeeping fret you out of the
knowledge of the value of house, husbandry,
property. Suppose you have reformed, and live
on grains and black-birch bark and muddy water,
that you may have leisure. Well, what then ?
What will you do with the long day ? Think ?
What ! All day? Do you not see that instantly
taste and arithmetic and power will plan planta
tions and build summer-houses and carve gods ?
We must have a basis for our delicate entertain
ments of poetry and philosophy in our handi
craft. We must have an antagonism in the tough
world for all the variety of our spiritual faculties
or they will not be born.

In regard to this Goethe I have to add that
a man as gifted as he should not leave the world
as he found it. 1 . . .

I Much of what follows may be found in "Thoughts on
Modern Literature," originally printed in the Dial (Lectures
and Biographical Sketches, p. 333).


Yet how is the world better for Goethe ? What
load has he lifted from men or from women?
There is Austria, and England, the old and the
new, full of old effete institutions and usages, full
of men born old, and the question still incessantly
asked by the young, " What shall I do ? " with
forlorn aspect. But let some strong Zeno, some
nervous Epaminondas, Moses or Isaiah come
into our society, and see how he defies it, and
enables us to brave it, to come out of it, and re
make it from the corner-stone. There is hardly
a life in Plutarch that does not infuse a new cour
age and prowess into the youth and make him
gladder and bolder for his own work.

(From E)

May 17.

In architecture, height and mass have a won
derful effect because they suggest immediately
a relation to the sphere on which the structure
stands, and so to the gravitating system. The
tower which with such painful solidity soars like
an arrow to heaven apprizes me in an unusual
manner of that law of gravitation, by its truth to
which it can rear aloft into the atmosphere those
dangerous masses of granite, and keep them there
for ages as easily as if it were a feather or a scrap

396 JOURNAL [A GE 3 6

of down. Then, great mass, especially in height,
has some appreciable proportion to the size of
the globe, and so appears to us as a splinter of
the orb itself.

The earth is gay in these days with the blos
soming of all fruit-trees. An apple-tree near at
hand is a great awkward flower, but seen at some
distance it gives a wonderful softness to the

There are many things which teach that high
lesson that success depends on the Aim, not on
the means. Look at the mark, not on your ar
row. And herein is my hope for all reform in
our vicious modes of living. Let a man direct
his inquiry on details in attempting an ameliora
tion, and he will be met at every step by unan
swerable objections, insoluble difficulties. But let
him propose to himself a grand Aim, to live a
Prophet, a Helper, a member of the Morning
and of Nature, one whom the flowering tree and
the summer wind and the sovereign stars shall
recal to the remembrance of men, and be the
newborn child of absolute Love, a pure Power,
a calm and happy Genius through whom, as
through a lens, the rays of the universe converge

i8 4 o] AIMS. SIMPLE LIFE 397

to the joy of the eye that seeth, and I think
he shall be floated into his place of activity and
happiness by might and mind sublime over all
these rocks and shoals that now look insuperable.
Fix his heart on magnificent life, and he need not
know the economical methods: he shall be him
self astonished at the great solution of the prob
lem of means. 1

Living has got to be too ponderous than that
the poor spirit can drag any longer this unneces
sary baggage-train. Let us cut the traces. The


bird and the fox can get their food and house
without lies, and why not we ? A great Aim
shall bring it, as if ravens brought it, the bread
of love, apples, pomegranates, berries and corn,
not stolen from nature, not polluted nor pollut

There is this plea always considerable when
it is said, Let the bard, the priesthood, receive
no contributions, but be rather tent-makers and
ploughmen as others are ; namely, that in the
experience of all sedentary men that degree of

I Compare "The Poet " (Poems, Appendix):

Means, dear Brother ? Ask them not j
Soul s desire is means enow ;
Pure content is angels lot,
Thine own Theatre art thou.

398 JOURNAL [AGE 3 6

manual labor which is necessary for the main
tenance of a family indisposes and disqualifies
for intellectual exertion. 1 . . .

Latent heat performs a great office in nature.
Not less does latent joy in life. You may have
your stock of well-being condensed into extasies,
trances of good fortune and delight, preceded
and followed by blank or painful weeks and
months; or, you may have your joy spread over
all the days in a bland, vague, uniform sense of
power and hope.

Yet is this figure of a stock of well-being only
rhetorical, or rather relative to certain limitations.
For the latent heat of an ounce of wood or stone
is inexhaustible, and the power of happiness of
any soul is not to be computed or drained.

May 1 8.

Criticism must be transcendental, that is, must
consider literature ephemeral, and easily enter
tain the supposition of its entire disappearance.
In our ordinary states of mind, we deem not
only letters in general, but most famous books

i The rest of the paragraph is found in " Man the Re
former " (p. 241 ), and is followed by much of the matter on
the next two pages of that lecture.


parts of a preestablished harmony, fatal, unalter
able, and do not go behind Dante and Shaks-
pear, much less behind Moses, Ezekiel, and
St. John. But man is critic of all these also, and
should treat the entire extant product of the
human intellect as only one age, revisable, cor
rigible, reversible by him.

We have more traditions than the most reso
lute skeptic has yet interrogated or even guessed.
How few cosmogonies have we. A few have got
a kind of classical character, and we let them
stand, for a world-builder is a rare man. And
yet what ghosts and hollow, formless, dream-gear
these theories are; how crass and inapplicable;
how little they explain; what a poor handful of
facts in this plentiful universe they touch. Let
me see. Moses, Hesiod, Egyptian lore of Isis
and Osiris, Zoroaster, Menu with these few
rude poems, or extracts from rude poems, the
nations have been content when any clever boy,
black or white, has anywhere interrupted the
stupid uproar by a sharp question, "Would
any one please to tell me whence I came hither ? "
To be sure that question is contrary to the rules
of good society in all countries. For society is
always secondary, not primary, and delights in


secondaries. It is gregarious and parasitic and
loves to lay its egg like the cow-troopial in a
nest which other birds have built, and to build
no nest itself. Absolute truths, previous ques
tions, primary natures, Society loathes the sound
of and the name of. " Can you not as well say
Christ as say truth?" it asks. "Who are you,
child, that you must needs ask so many ques
tions? See what a vast procession of your uncles
and aunts who never asked any. Can t you eat
your dinner and read in the books? besides, I
hate conversation, it makes my head ache." But
if the urchin has wild eyes, and can neither be
coaxed nor chidden into silence, and cares not a
pin for the Greeks and Romans, for art or anti
quity, for Bible or Government, for politics or
money, and keeps knocking soundly all night
at the gate, then at last the good world conde
scends to unroll for him these solemn scrolls as
the reports of the Commissioners from the East,
from the South, from the North and the West,
to whom his question had been formerly referred.
If the poor lad got no answer before, he has got
none now. What birth do these famous books
of Genesis reveal? Do they explain so much as
the nest of a bluebird or the hum of a fly? Can
they tell him the pedigree of the smallest effect?

1840] THE GOLDEN AGE 401

Can they detect the virtue of the feeblest Cause?
Can they give him the least hint of the history
of the eyes he has worshipped, or disclose his
relations to the summer brook and the waving
corn? And yet every man is master of the whole
Fact, and shall one day find himself so.

May 25.*

In the golden age men did not lay up prop
erty for their children, for the marriages were
equal and the children abler than their parents.
In the golden age men did not study the song
of the bird by writing down, with Nuttall, the
notes in awkward syllables, cbe, cbe y cbe, etc.,
but the chaste and simple hermit found himself
intelligent of the song by the love in his own
heart. Neither did they know too much of bird
or beast, and peep after them ; but treating them
brotherly and greatly, they without pains saw
through their being.

In the golden age a brave pleasure was not
purchased too dearly, like a poet s day, by many
leaden days; but every joy was embosomed in
joys like a lupine in the woods.

People wish to be settled. It is only as far
i Mr. Emerson s birthday.


as they are unsettled that there is any hope for
them. You admire this tower of eternal granite
defying the assault of ages. Yet a little waving
hand built this huge wall. 1 . . .

Criticism is timid. . . . When shall we dare
to say, only that is poetry which cleanses and
mans me?

Hate this childish haste to print and publish;
for the hours of light come like Days of Judg
ment at last, and cast their glory backward, for
ward, above, below. Then, poor child, all the
folly stands confessed in thy scrolls and detaches
itself from the true words.

By help of tea, tea was renounced.

I went to the circus. . . . One horse brought
a basket in his teeth, picked up a cap, and se
lected a card out of four. All wonder comes of
showing an effect at two or three removes from
the cause. Show us the two or three steps by
which the horse was brought to fetch the basket,

i The rest of the passage occurs in " Circles " (Essays,
First Series, pp. 302, 303), and is followed by the passage be
ginning, " In the thought of tomorrow," etc. (p. 305).


and the wonder would cease. But I and Waldo
were of one mind when he said, " It makes me
want to go home."

A pleasant walk and sail this fine afternoon
with George Bradford. I threatened by way of
earnest-penny in this absorbing Reform to re
nounce beef and the Daily Advertiser. There is
ever a slight suspicion of the burlesque about
earnest, good men. It is very strange, but we
flee to the speculative reformer to escape that
same slight ridicule.

I think it ought to be remembered in every
essay after the Absolute Criticism that one cir
cumstance goes to modify every work of liter
ature, this, namely, that books are written gen
erally by the unmagnetic class of mankind, by
those who have not the active faculties, and who
describe what they have never done. This cir
cumstance must certainly color what they say
of character and action.

May 28.

At BartoFs, our club was enriched by Ed-

I The story is not all told here. It was when the painted
clown began his fooleries that the little boy said, " Papa, the
funny man makes me want to go home," and Mr. Emerson
always cherished this evidence of his refinement.


ward Taylor s presence. I felt in a higher de
gree the same happiness I have formerly owed
to that man s public discourses, the exhilaration
and cheer of so much love poured out through
so much imagination. For the time, his exceed
ing life throws all other gifts into deep shade,
"philosophy speculating on its own breath,"
taste, learning and all, and yet how willingly
every man is willing to be nothing in his pres
ence, to share this surprising emanation, and be
steeped and ennobled by the new wine of this
eloquence. He gives sign every moment of a
certain prodigious nature. No man instructs like
him in the power of man over men. Instantly
you behold that a man is a Mover, to the
extent of his being, a Power, and in contrast
with the efficiency thus suggested, our actual life
and society appears a dormitory. We are taught
that earnest, impassioned action is most our own,
and invited to try the deeps of love and wisdom,
-we who have been players and paraders so
long. And yet I think I am most struck with
the beauty of his nature. This hard-featured,
scarred and wrinkled Methodist, whose face is
a system of cordage, becomes whilst he talks a
gentle, a lovely creature the Amore Greco is
not more beautiful.

1840] AGE. IDEALISM 405

In conversation we pluck up the eternal Ter
mini which bound the common of Silence. 1

Old Age. Sad spectacle that a man should
live and be fed that he may fill a paragraph
every year in the newspapers for his wonderful
age, as we record the weight and girth of the
Big Ox or Mammoth Girl. We do not count
a man s years until he has nothing else to count.

What can we do in dark hours ? We can ab
stain. In the bright hours we can impart.

Reform. The world accuses the Scholar of
a tendency to idealism. And why tends he
thither ? he loves the warm sun and the mag
netic person as well as they, but finding that
your facts and persons are grown unreal and
phantastic by reason of the vice in them, he nears
that most real world of Ideas within him, and
aims to recruit and replenish nature from that
source. Let ideas obtain and establish their
sway again in society, let life again be fair and
poetic, and we shall gladly be objective, lovers,
citizens and philanthropists.

I The rest of this long passage on this subject is printed in
"Circles" (Essays, First Series, pp. 310, 311).


The books of men of genius are divers or
dippers. When they alight on the water, they
soon disappear, but after some space they emerge
again. 1 Other books are land-birds which, fall
ing in the water, know well that their own safety
is in keeping at the top, they flutter and chirp
and scream, but if they once get their heads
under they are drowned forever.

May 30.

Wrote letters yesterday by "British Queen"
to John Sterling and Richard Monckton
Milnes. 2

Was it ^Esop or Epictetus who, being sold
for a slave at the market, cried out to all comers,
" Who 11 buy a master ? " I should like to buy or
hire that article. My household suffers from too
many servants. My cow milks me. A rope of
sand for Asmodeus to spin I cannot find. 3 Now
if so many dollars as I could amass would fetch
the good husband or gardener who would tell

1 This thought appears in verse in "The Poet" (see
Poems, Appendix, pp. 309, 310).

2 Who was reviewing Mr. Emerson s writings in England.

3 Asmodeus is mentioned in the book of Tobit in the Apoc
rypha, and in the Talmud. This image, the keeping a trouble
some demon occupied with sand-ropes, occurs in " Behavior *
( Conduct of Life), and in "Resources " {Letters and Social
Aims) .


me what I ought to do in garden and barnyard,
would summon me out to do it, even with a
little compulsion, when I resisted, that would

put me well.

May 31.

We can never see Christianity from Christen
dom ; but from the pastures, from a boat in the
pond, from the song of a starling, we possibly
may. Cleansed by the elemental light and wind,
steeped in the sea of beautiful forms which the
field offers us, we may chance to cast a right
glance back upon biography. We must be great
to see anything truly. Our weak eyes make gob
lins and monsters. But man thyself, and all
things unfix, dispart, and flee. Nothing will stand
the eye of a man, neither lion, nor person,
nor planet, nor time, nor condition. Each bul
lies us for a season ; but gaze, and it opens that
most solid seeming wall, yields its secret, re
ceives us into its depth and advances our front
so much farther on into the recesses of being,
to some new frontier as yet unvisited by the
elder voyagers. And yet alas for this infirm faith,
this will, not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast
flow! I am God in nature, I am a weed by the


Has the naturalist and the chemist learned his
craft who has explored the gravity of atoms and
the elective affinities ? . . .

The use of literature is to afford us a platform
whence we may command a view of our present
life. 2 . . .

June i.

The Buddhist expresses the true law of hospi
tality when he says, " Do not flatter your bene
factors." The bread that you give me is not
thine to give, but mine when the great order of
nature has seated me today at your table. Do
not let me deceive you by my thanks into the
notion that you are aught but the moderator of
the company for the hour, though you call your
self rich man and great benefactor, perhaps.

The capital or stock of man our estimates al
ways overlook; it is not set down in any invoice.
Ruined! are you? Have you not earth and water?
Have you not gravity, chemistry, love, cause
and effect, time, fate, men? Do not all these

1 Here follows the analogy that all that belongs to men
comes to them. See " Circles " (Essays, First Series, p. 314;
also end of second motto to "Compensation").

2 The rest of the paragraph is found in "Circles" (p.

3 12 )-


circulate through you, and you through them?
What in God do you whimper for? What else
wouldst thou have, O child?

A personal influence is an ignis fatuus. 1 . . .

Our American letters are, we confess, in the
optative mood. 2 . . .

The swallow over my window ought to weave
that straw in his bill through all my web also of

Standing. All men have learned one use of
their feet, to go; but another use, to stand,
few have learned. We lean upon a wall, on a
book, on a man. Is it not strange, too, that, in
French, there should be no word for stand? Is it
that the Frenchman knows only a leaning and
referred existence, and cannot stand ?

1 This paragraph is found in "Nominalist and Realist"
(Essays, Second Series, p. 229), except that there the names
of Washington and Franklin are substituted for Dr. Channing
and Garrison in the Journal.

The next entry is that on the Greek sculpture having all
melted away (" Circles/ p. 302).

2 The rest of the passage occurs in The Transcendentalist
(Nature, Addresses, and Lectures, p. 342).


All great men have written proudly, nor
cared to explain. They knew that the intelli
gent reader would come at last, and would thank
them. So did Dante, so did Machiavel. What
else has Goethe done in this hated Meister ? l . . .

Bat and Ball. Toys, no doubt, have their
philosophy, and who knows how deep is the
origin of a boy s delight in a spinning top? In
playing with bat-balls, perhaps he is charmed
with some recognition of the movement of the
heavenly bodies, and a game of base or cricket
is a course of experimental astronomy, and my
young master tingles with a faint sense of being
a tyrannical Jupiter driving spheres madly from
their orbit.

June 4.

Self-reliance sanctifies the character, for whoso
is of that habit does not gossip or gad ; is not
betrayed by excess of sympathy into trifles, but
ignores what he should ignore.

In looking at pictures, you must stop soon.
You may see one or two, but, after turning over

i The long criticism of Goethe follows, first printed in the
Dial, which may be found in "Thoughts on Modern Litera
ture " (Natural History of Intellect, pp. 329-333).


seven or eight, you see no more. And when
you do chance to see one, bid it good-bye, you
will never see it again.

Waldo says, " The flowers talk when the wind
blows over them." My little boy grows thin in
the hot summer, and runs all to eyes and eye

"June 1 1 .

Who has more self-repose than I masters me
by eye and manner, though he should not move
a finger ; who has less is mastered by me with
the like facility.

I finish this morning transcribing my old
essay on Love, but I see well its inadequate-
ness. I, cold because I am hot, cold at the
surface only as a sort of guard and compensa
tion for the fluid tenderness of the core, have
much more experience than I have written there,
more than I will, more than I can write. In
silence we must wrap much of our life, because
it is too fine for speech, because also we cannot
explain it to others, and because somewhat we
cannot yet understand. We do not live as
angels, eager to introduce each other to new
perfections in our brothers and sisters, and
frankly avowing our delight in each new trait


of character, in the magic of each new eyebeam,
but that which passes for love in the world gets
official, and instead of embracing, hates all the
divine traits that dare to appear in other per
sons. A better and holier society will mend this
selfish cowardice, and we shall have brave ties
of affection, not petrified by law, not dated or
ordained by law to last for one year, for five
years, or for life ; but drawing their date, like
all friendship, from itself only ; brave as I said,
because innocent, and religiously abstinent from
the connubial endearments, being a higher league
on a purely spiritual basis. This nobody be
lieves possible who is not good. The good
know it is possible. Cows and bulls and pea
cocks think it nonsense.

Sunday, June 14.

Tranquil and great sailed or slept the clouds
today in the northeastern horizon as I walked
and mused on my friends. I thought, why
should I play with the young people this game
of idolatry ? x . . .

The great man will not be prudent in the
popular sense. 2 . . .

1 The rest of the passage is found in Circles" (Essays,
First Series, p. 307).

2 The rest is found in " Circles " (pp. 314, 315).


Our countrymen love intoxication of some
sort. One is drunk with whiskey, and one with
party, and one with music, and one with tem
per. Many of them fling themselves into the
excitement of business until their heads whirl
and they become insane. But ambition is for
strong heads, not for weak ones. It is droll that

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