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Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Volume 5) online

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i For the rest of the passage, see " Character" (Essays,
Second Series, pp. 104, 105).


I value my welfare too much to pay you any
longer the compliment of attentions. I shall not
draw the thinnest veil over my defects, but if you
are here, you shall see me as I am. You will then
see that, though I am full of tenderness, and
born with as large hunger to love and to be loved
as any man can be, yet its demonstrations are
not active and bold, but are passive and tena
cious. My love has no flood and no ebb, but is
always there under my silence, under displeasure,
under cold, arid, and even weak behavior.

I think not of mean ages, but of Chaldaean,
Egyptian, or Teutonic ages, when man was not
featherbrained, or French, or servile, but, if he
stooped, he stooped under Ideas : times when
the earth spoke and the heavens glowed, when
the actions of men indicated vast conceptions,
and men wrote histories of the world in prison,
and builded like Himmaleh and the Alleghany
chains. I think that only is real which men love
and rejoice in. 1 . . .

Men do not to-day believe in one who ascribes
to man the attributes of the soul : even they who

i Most of what follows is in the " Lecture on the Times "
(Nature, Addresses, etc., p. 264).


speak that speech will scarcely stick to it, and
if a man assert that great mystery, every little
scribbler in the newspaper shall make great eyes,
and point at his own little brain, and say, He
is mad ; and it may and does happen that the man
who spoke it shall flee before the word of this
newspaper written by some shallow boy in the
dark, who wrote he knew not what, dipping his
pen in mire and darkness. And yet night and
morning, earth and heaven, and the soul of man
are not to be so easily disposed of. It is true
that there is another side to man. The other
side, of fugitiveness, of frailty, that man is moth,
or bubble, or gossamer, they readily hear and
say : but that man is necessary and eternal they
unwillingly hear. A man must reach the whole
extent from Heaven to Earth. But it is possible
that a man may come to subsist in some other
way than that which the prudent think of. Hate
ful it is that transcendent men should only come
to us in obscure and lurid forms, and not like
sunshine and blue sky. Yet when they come,
they will not be reported : they will affect men in
a rapturous and extraordinary way, and the last
thing they will think of will be to take notes.

The Age once more should appear capacious,
undefinable, far retreating, still renewing, as the


depths of the horizon do when seen from the

You have many coats in your wardrobe, for you
are rich. You need many for your conversation ;

and your action I am heartily tired of, old,

musty, and stale. But Godfrey, who has but one
coat to his back, has as many to his thought as
Nature has days or plants or transformations.

; " July 6.

Ah, ye old ghosts ! Ye builders of dungeons
in the air ! Why do I ever allow you to encroach
on me a moment ; a moment, to win me to your
hapless company ? In every week there is some
hour when I read my commission in every cipher
of Nature, and know that I was made for another
office, a professor of the Joyous Science, a de
tector and delineator of occult harmonies and
unpublished beauties, a herald of civility, nobility,
learning, and wisdom ; an affirmer of the One
Law, yet as one who should affirm it in music
or dancing. A priest of the Soul, yet one who
would better love to celebrate it through the
beauty of health and harmonious power.

My trees teach me the value of our circum
stance or limitation. I have a load of manure,

568 JOURNAL [AGE 3 8

and it is mine to say whether I shall turn it into
strawberries, or peaches, or carrots. I have a tree
which produces these golden delicious cones
called Bartlett pears, and I have a plant of strong
common-sense called a Potato. The pear tree
is certainly a fine genius, but with all that won
derful constructive power it has, of turning air
and dust, yea, the very dung to Hesperian fruit,
it will very easily languish and bear nothing, if I
starve it, give it no southern exposure, and no
protecting neighborhood of other trees. How
differs it with the tree-planter? He too may have
a rare constructive power to make poems, or
characters, or nations, perchance, but though his
power be new and unique, if he be starved of
his needful influences,if he have no love, no book,
no critic, no external call, no need or market for
that faculty of his, then he may sleep through
dwarfish years and die at last without fruit.

Colombe prefers to take work of Edmund
Hosmer by the job, " for the days are damn
long. "

I A French-Canadian laborer. Edmund Hosmer was a
neighbor and friend of Mr. Emerson s, a farmer of the old-
fashioned thrifty type. His virtues are told by Mr. Emerson in
"Agriculture in Massachusetts," first printed in the Dia/, now
included in the Works (Natural History of Intellect, p. 358).



If I were a preacher, I should carry straight
to church the remark Lidian made to-day, that
" she had been more troubled by piety in her help
than with any other fault. The girls that are not
pious, she finds kind and sensible, but the church
members are scorpions, too religious to do their
duties, and full of wrath and horror at her if
she does them."

Every man has had one or two moments of
extraordinary experience, has met his soul, has
thought of something which he never afterwards
forgot, and which revised all his speech, and
moulded all his forms of thought.

I resent this intrusion of alterity. That which
is done, and that which does, is somehow, I know,
part of me. The Unconscious works with the
Conscious, tells somewhat which I consciously
learn to have been told. What I am has been
conveyed secretly from me to another whilst I
was vainly endeavoring to tell him it. He has
heard from me what I never spoke.

If I should or could record the true experi
ence of my late years, I should have to say that
I skulk and play a mean, shiftless, subaltern part


much the largest part of the time. Things are
to be done which I have no skill to do, or are
to be said which others can say better, and I lie
by, or occupy my hands with something which
is only an apology for idleness, until my hour
comes again. 1

But woe to him who is always successful, who
still speaks the best word, and does the hand
iest thing, for that man has no heavenly mo

I find an analogy also in the Asiatic sentences
to this fact of life. The Oriental genius has no
dramatic or epic turn, but ethical, contempla
tive, delights in Zoroastrian oracles, in Vedas,
and Menu and Confucius. These all embracing
apophthegms are like these profound moments
of the heavenly life. 8

Lidian says that the only sin which people
never forgive in each other is a difference of

1 The rest of the passage, in an impersonal form, is found in
" The Transcendentalist " (Nature, Addresses, etc., pp. 353,


2 The Dial was printing, under the title "Ethnical Scrip
tures," sentences from the above sources.

i8 4 i] CARLYLE 571

Carlyle with his inimitable ways of saying the
thing is next best to the inventor of the thing.
" I King Saib built this pyramid. I, when I had
built it, covered it with satin. Let him that com-
eth after me and says he is equal to me cover it
with mats."


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