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high dogmas I had supposed were the rare and late fruit of a cumulative culture, and only now possible to some recent Kant or Fichte,- were the prompt improvisations of the earliest inquirers; of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Xenophanes. In view of these students, the soul seems to whisper, “ There is a better way than this indolent learning of another. Leave me alone; do not teach me out of Leibnitz or Schelling, and I shall find it all out myself.”
Still more do we owe to biography the fortification of our hope. If you would know the power of character, see how much you would impoverish the world, if you could take clean out of history the life of Milton, of Shakspeare, of Plato,—these three, and cause them not to be.See you not, instantly, how much less the power of man would be! I console myself in the poverty of my present thoughts, in the scarcity of great men, in the malignity and dulness of the nations, by falling back on these sublime recollections, and seeing what the prolific soul could beget on actual nature;- seeing that Plato was, and Shakspeare, and Milton,-three-irrefragable facts. Then I dare; I also will essay to be. The humblest, the most hopeless, in view of these radiant facts, may now theorise and hope. In spite of all the rueful abortions that squeak and gibber in the street, in spite of slumber and guilt, in spite of the army, the bar-room, and the jail, have been these glorious manifestations of the mind; and I will thank my great brothers so truly for the admonition of their being, as to endeavour also to be just and bold, to aspire and to speak. Plotinus too, and Spinoza, and the immortal bards of philosophy,—that which they have written out with patient courage, makes me bold. No more will I dismiss, with haste, the visions which flash and sparkle across my sky; but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them, and thus draw out of the past, genuine life for the present hour.
To feel the full value of these facts, of these lives, as occasions of hope and provocation, one must rightly ponder
the mystery of our common soul. You must come to know, that each admirable genius is but a successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own. The impoverishing philosophy of ages has laid stress on the distinctions of the individual, and not on the universal attributes of man. The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see that it is only a projection of his own soul which he admires. In solitude, in a remote village, the ardent youth loiters and mourns. With inflamed eye, in this sleeping wilderness, he has read the story of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, until his fancy has brought home to the surrounding woods the faint roar of cannonades in the Milanese, and marches in Germany. He is curious concerning that man's day. What filled it?-the crowded orders, the stern decisions, the foreign despatches, the Castilian etiquette ? The soul answers—Behold his day here! In the sighing of these woods, in the quiet of these gray fields, in the cool breeze that sings out of these northern mountains; in the workmen, the boys, the maidens, you meet,-in the hopes of the morning, the ennui of noon, and sauntering of the afternoon; in the disquieting comparisons, in the regrets at want of vigour, in the great idea, and the puny execution,-behold Charles the Fifth's day: another yet the same; behold Chatham's, Hampden's, Bayard's, Alfred's, Scipio's, Pericles's day,-day of all that are born of women. The difference of circumstance is merely costume. I am tasting the selfsame life,- its sweetness, its greatness, its pain, which I so admire in other men. Do not foolishly ask of the inscrutable, obliterated past, what it cannot tell,—the details of that nature, of that day called Byron, or Burke; but ask it of the enveloping Now! The more quaintly you inspect its evanescent beauties, its wonderful details, its spiritual causes, its astounding whole, --so much the more you master the biography of this hero, and that, and every hero. Be lord of a day, through wisdom and justice, and you can put up your history-books.
An intimation of these broad rights is familiar in the
sense of injury which men feel in the assumption of any man to limit their possible progress. We resent all criticism which denies us anything that lies in our line of advance. Say to the man of letters, that he cannot paint a Transfiguration, or build a steam-boat, or be a grand-marshal, and he will not seem to himself depreciated; but deny to him any quality of literary or metaphysical power, and he is piqued. Concede to him genius, which is a sort of Stoical plenum annulling the comparative, and he is content; but concede him talents never so rare, denying him genius, and he is aggrieved. What does this mean? Why, simply that the soul has assurance, by instincts and presentiments, of all power in the direction of its ray, as well as of the special skills it has already acquired.
In order to a knowledge of the resources of the scholar, we must not rest in the use of slender accomplishments of faculties to do this and that other feat with words; but we must pay our vows to the highest power, and pass, if it be possible, by assiduous love and watching, into the visions of absolute truth. The growth of the intellect is strictly analogous in all individuals. It is larger reception of a common soul. Able men, in general, have good dispositions, and a respect for justice; because an able man is nothing else than a good, free, vascular organisation, whereinto the universal spirit freely flows; so that his fund of justice is not only vast but infinite. All men, in the abstract, are just and good; what hinders them in the particular is, the momentary predominance of the infinite and individual over the general truth. The condition of our incarnation in a private self seems to be a perpetual tendency to prefer the private law, to obey the private impulse, to the exclusion of the law of universal being. The great man is great by means of the predominance of the universal nature; he has only to open his mouth, and it speaks; he has only to be forced to act, and it acts. All men catch the word, or embrace the deed, with the heart, for it is verily theirs as much as his : but, in them,
this disease of an excess of organisation cheats them of equal issues. Nothing is more simple than greatness : indeed, to be simple, is to be great. All vision, all genius, comes by renouncing the too officious activity of the understanding, and giving leave and amplest privilege to the spontaneous sentiment. Out of this must all that is alive and genial in thought go. Men grind and grind in the mill of a truism, and nothing comes out but what was put in; but the moment they desert the tradition, and speak a spontaneous thought, instantly poetry, wit, hope, virtue, learning, anecdote,-all flock to their aid. Observe the phenomenon of extempore debate. A man of cultivated mind, but reserved habits, sitting silent, admires the miracle of free, impassioned, picturesque speech, in the man addressing an assembly ;-a state of being and power how unlike his own! Presently his own emotion rises to his lips, and overflows in speech. He must also rise and say somewhat. Once embarked, once having overcome the novelty of the situation, he finds it just as easy and natural to speak, to speak with thoughts, with pictures, with rhythmical balance of sentences, -as it was to sit silent; for, it needs not to do, but to suffer; he only adjusts himself to the free spirit which gladly utters itself through him, and motion is as easy as rest.
II. I pass now to consider the subject offered to the intellect of this country. The view I have taken of the resources of the scholar presupposes a subject as broad. We do not seem to have imagined its riches. We have not heeded the invitation it holds out. To be as good a scholar as Englishmen are,—to have as much learning as our contemporaries,—to have written a book that is read,-satisfies us. We assume, that all thought is already long ago adequately set down in books,-all imaginations in poems; and what we say, we only throw in as confirmatory of this supposed complete body of literature: a very shallow assumption. A true man will think rather all literature is yet to be written. Poetry has scarce chanted its first song. The perpetual admonition
of Nature to us is, “ The world is new, untried. Do not believe the past. I give you the universe a virgin to-day.”
By Latin and English poetry, we were born and bred in an oratorio of praises of nature,-flowers, birds, mountains, sun, and moon; yet the naturalist of this hour finds that he knows nothing, by all their poems, of any of these fine things; that he has conversed with the merest surface and show of them all; and of their essence, or of their history, knows nothing. Further inquiry will discover that nobody--that not these chanting poets themselves, knew anything sincere of these handsome natures they so commended ; that they contented themselves with the passing chirp of a bird that they saw one or two mornings, and listlessly looked at sunsets, and repeated idly these few glimpses in their song. But, go into the forest, you shall find all new and undescribed. The screaming of the wild geese, flying by night; the thin note of the companionable titmouse, in the winter day; the fall of swarms of flies in autumn, from combats high in the air, pattering down on the leaves like rain; the angry hiss of the wood-birds; the pine, throwing out its pollen for the benefit of the next century; the turpentine exuding from the tree, and, indeed, any vegetation any animation, any and all are alike unattempted. The man who stands on the sea-shore, or who rambles in the woods, seems to be the first man that ever stood on the shore, or entered a grove, his sensations and his world are so novel and strange. Whilst I read the poets, I think that nothing new can be said about morning and evening; but when I see the day break, I am not reminded of these Homeric, or Shakspearian, or Miltonic, or Chaucerian pictures. No; but I feel perhaps the pain of an alien world,-a world not yet subdued by the thought; or, I am cheered by the moist, warm, glittering, budding, melodious hour, that takes down the narrow walls of my soul, and extends its life and pulsation to the very horizon. That is morning, to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body, and to become as large as nature.