Emerson Photo Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journals 1819-1874

Journals 1819-1874 Edited by Peter Y. Chou

Emerson's Journals:

I dedicate my book to the Spirit of America. I dedicate it to that living soul, which doth exist somewhere beyond the Fancy, to whom the Divinity hath assigned the care of this bright corner of the Universe. I bring my little offering, in this month, which covers the continent with matchless beauty, to the shrine, which distant ages shall admire afar off. With a spark of prophetic devotion, I hasten to hail the Genius, who yet counts the tardy years of childhood, but who is increasing unawares in the twilight, and swelling into strength, until the hour, when he shall break the cloud, to shew his colossal youth, and cover the firmament with the shadow of his wings.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Journal, July 11, 1822

Who is he that shall control me? Why may not I act & speak & write & think with entire freedom? What am I to the Universe, or, the Universe, what is it to me? Who hath forged the chains of Wrong & Right, of Opinion & Custom? And must I wear them? Is Society my anointed King? Or is there any mightier community or any man or more than man, whose slave I am? I am solitary in the vast society of beings; I consort with no species; I indulge no sympathies. I see the world, human, brute & inanimate nature; I am in the midst of them, but not of them; I hear the song of the storm— the Winds & warring Elements sweep by me— but they mix not with my being. I see cities & nations & witness passions— the roar of their laughter— but I partake it not;— the yell of their grief— it touches no chord in me; their fellowships & fashions, lusts & virtues, the words & deeds they call glory & shame— I disclaim them all. I say to the Universe, Mighty one! thou art not my mother; Return to chaos, if thou wilt, I shall still exist. I live. If I owe my being, it is to a destiny greater than thine. Star by Star, world by world, system by system shall be crushed— but I shall live.

Journal, Dec. 21, 1823

I come with mended eyes to my ancient friend & consoler. Has the interval of silence made the writer wiser? Does his mind teem with well weighed judgments? the moral & intellectual universe has not halted because the eye of the observer was closed... Since I wrote before, I know something more of the grounds of hope & fear for what is to come. But if my knowledge is greater so is my courage. I know that I know next to nothing but I know too that the amount of probablities is vast, both in mind & in morals. It is not certain that God exists but that he does not is a most bewildering & improbable chimera.

Journal, Jan. 8, 1826

My external condition may to many seem comfortable, to some enviable but I think that few men ever suffered* more genuine misery than I have suffered. (*in degree not in amount [RWE])

Journal, March 16, 1826

Health, action, happiness. How they ebb from me! Poor Sisyphus saw his stone stop once at least when Orpheus chaunted. I must roll mine up & up & up how high a hill... It would give me very great pleasure to be well.

Journal, Sept. 23, 1826

Who is he that has seen God of whom so much is known or where is one that has risen from the dead?... change that imperfect to perfect evidence & I too will be a Christian. But now it must be admitted I am not certain that any of these things are true. The nature of God may be different from what he is represented. I never beheld him. I do not know that he exists.

Journal, Jan. 1827, St. Augustine, E. Florida

Let the glory of the world go where it will, the mind has its own glory. what it doth, endures. No man can serve many masters. And often the choice is not given you between greatness in the world & greatness of soul which you will choose, but both advantages are not compatible. The night is fine; the stars shed down their severe influences upon me and I feel a joy in my solitude that the merriment of vulgar society can never communicate. There is a pleasure in the thought that the particular tone of my mind at this moment may be new in the Universe; that the emotions of this hour may be peculiar & unexampled in the whole eternity of moral being. I lead a new life. I occupy new ground in the world of spirits, untenanted before. I commerce a career of thought & action which is expanding before me into a distant & dazzling infinity. Strange thoughts start up like angels in my way & beckon me onward. I doubt not I tread on the highway that leads to the Divinity. And why shall I not be content with these thoughts & this being which give a majesty to my nature & forego the ambition to shine in the frivolous assemblies of men where the genuine objects of my ambition are not revered or known?

Journal, April 17, 1827, Charleston, S.C.

There's a great difference between good poetry & everlasting poetry. Shakespeare alludes to himself nowhere in his drama. The sonnets. Homer keeps out of sight except in two places. A grand trait. It is like Providence... A different age. In antiquity nature towered above all man had done: it sunk the personal importance of man. The bard taught as the Minister preaches & felt an impertinence in introducing self. Now Man has grown bigger, a commercial, political, canalling, writing animal. Philosophy inverts itself & poetry grows egotistical. Shakespeare immortalizes his characters. They live to evey age.

Journal, 1827

The main difficulty of life is to strike the balance betwixt contending claims. I am embarrassed by doubts in all my purposes, & in all my opinions... For me I fear I lose days in determining how hours should be spent. A scholar is perplexed by the necessity of choosing between many books & many studies and a shade of sorrow thrown over his meditation by the comparison between the magnitude of the work to be done & the shortness of life. I regard them all, these doubts of ours, as hints God has interwoven in our condition to remind us of the temper that becomes us; that diffidence & candor suit us better than arrogance & dogmatism & to quicken our curiosity to know the secrets of the other world.

Journal, Jan. 16, 1828

It is a peculiarity of humour in me, my strong propensity for strolling. I deliberately shut up my books in a cloudy July noon, put on my old clothes & old hat & slink away to the whortleberry bushes & slip with the greatest satisfaction into a little cowpath where I am sure I can defy observation. This point gained, I solace myself for hours with picking blue berries & other trash of the woods far from fame behind the birch trees. I seldom enjoy hours as I do these. I remember them in winter; I expect them in spring. I do not know a creature that I think has the same humour or would think it respectable.

Journal, July 1828

I have now been four days engaged to Ellen Louisa Tucker. Will my Father in Heaven regard us with kindness, and as he hath, as we trust, made us for each other, will he be pleased to strengthen & purify & prosper & eternize our affection! Sunday Morning.

Journal, Dec. 21, 1828, Concord, N.H.

She has the purity & confiding religion of an angel. Are the words common? the words are true. Will God forgive me my sins & aid me to deserve this gift of his mercy.

Journal, Jan. 17, 1829

My weight is 144 lb.

Journal, July 3, 1829

The way for us to be wise is to foresee the great tendencies & currents of the universe in the leanings & motions of the little straws which our eyes can see. We live among eggs, embryos, & seminal principles & the wisest is the most prophetic eye.

Journal, October 15, 1829

We must beware of the nature of the spiritual world. It has this terrible power of self change, self accommodation to whatsoever we do that Ovid's Metamorphoses take place continually. The nymph who wept became a fountain; the nymph who pined became an echo. they who do good become angels. They who do deformities become deformed.

Journal, October 31, 1829

A man is known by the books he reads, by the company he keeps, by the praise he gives, by his dress, by his tastes, by his distastes, by the stories he tells, by his gait, by the motion of his eye, by the look of his house, of his chamber; for nothing on earth is solitary but every thing hath affinities infinite.

Journal, June 1830

We never ask the reason of what is good. The sun shines & warms & lights us & we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, & hunger, & musquitoes, & silly people.

Journal, Aug. 18, 1830

It is my purpose to methodize my days. I wish to study the scriptures, in a part of every day, that I may be able to explain them to others & that their light may flow into my life. I wish not to be strait laced in my own rules but to wear them easily & to make wisdom master of them. It is a resolving world, but God grant me persistency enough, so soon as I leave Brookline & come to my books, to do as I intend.

Journal, Sept. 10, 1830

Ellen Tucker Emerson died 8th February. Tuesday morning. 9 o'clock.

Journal, Feb. 13, 1831

Will the eye that was closed on Tuesday ever beam again in the fulness of love on me? Shall I ever again be able to connect the face of outward nature, the mists of the morn, the star of eve, the flowers, & all poetry, with the heart & life of an enchanting friend? No. There is one birth & one baptism & one first love and the affections cannot keep their youth any more than men... Never any one spake with greater simplicity or cheerfulness of dying. She said, 'I pray for sincerity & that I may not talk, but may realize what I say.'... One of the last things she said after much rambling & inarticulate expression was 'I have not forgot the peace & joy.' and at nine o'clock she died. Farewell blessed Spirit who hast made me happy in thy life & in thy death make me yet happy in thy disembodied state.

Journal, Feb. 13, 1831

After a fortnight's wandering to the Green Mountains & Lake Champlain yet finding you dear Ellen nowhere & yet everywhere I come again to my own place, & would willingly transfer some of the pictures that the eyes saw, in living language to my page; yea translate the fair & magnificent symbols into their own sentiments. But this were to antedate knowledge. It grows into us, say rather, we grow wise & not take wisdom; and only in God's own order & by my concurrent effort can I get the abstract sense of which mountains, sunshine, thunder, night, birds, & flowers are the sublime alphabet.

Journal, June 15, 1831

No love without sympathy. Mind must be alike. All love a seeking in another what is like self. Difference of opinion separates, common thought ties us. If we find a person esteems excellence that we have loved we love him. No bond of kindness to me that A is a keen hunter or B fond of horses or C a great driver of business but if D is fond of flowers or of books, of oems, of De Stael, of Platonism, then I find a tie nearer & nearer as his tastes approach or unite with mine. And the higher is the principle on which we sympathize the more the love. The fact that we both drink hyson tea or both walk before breakfast— or delight in swimming are low points of union that do not create any permanent kindness but that we are both admirers of a great & good man is a very strong bond. If we both love God we shall be wholly alike & wholly love each other.

Journal, June 25, 1831

The things taught in schools & colleges are not an education but the means of education.

Journal, July 15, 1831

God cannot be intellectually discerned.

Journal, July 21, 1831

Suicidal is this distrust of reason; this fear to think; this doctrine that 'tis pious to believe on others' words, impious to trust entirely to yourself. To think is to receive... To reflect is to receive truth immediately from God without any medium. That is living faith.

Journal, July 29, 1831

Yesterday I heard John Quincy Adams deliver an Eulogy upon President Monroe. But he held his notes so close to his mouth that he could be ill heard. There was nothing heroic in the subject, & not much in the feelings of the orator, so it proved rather a spectacle than a speech.

Journal, August 26, 1831

Education is the drawing out the Soul.

Journal, September 13, 1831

The year hastens to its close. What is it to me? What I am that is all that affects me. That I am 28 or 8 or 58 years old is as nothing. Should I mourn that the spring flowers are gone, that the summer fruit has ripened, that the harvest is reaped, that the snow has fallen?

Journal, Dec. 28, 1831

I visited Ellen's tomb & opened the coffin.

Journal, March 29, 1832

I will not live out of me
I will not see with others' eyes
My good is good, my evil ill
I would be free— I cannot be
While I take things as others please to rate them
I dare attempt to lay out my own road
That which myself delights in shall be Good
That which I do not want— indifferent
That which I hate is Bad. That's flat
Henceforth, please God, forever I forego
The yoke of men's opinions. I will be
Lighthearted as a bird & live with God.

Journal, October 9, 1832

All true greatness must come from internal growth.

Journal, October 17, 1832

Blessed is the day when the youth discovers that Within and Above are synonyms.

Journal, Dec. 21, 1834

I like that poetry which without aiming to be allegorical, is so. Which sticking close to its subject & that perhaps trivial can yet be applied to the life of man & the government of God & be found to hold.

Journal, October 5, 1835

The philosopher should explain to us the laws of redeeming the the time. The universal fact, says Goethe, is that which takes place once. Well, let us read in the same faith, that the sentence now under the eye is one of universal application, and the volume in our hand is for us the voice of God & Time. Many are the paths that lead to wisdom & honor: nay, every man hath a private lane thereto from his own door. Raphael pains wisdom, Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespear writes it, Washington enacts it, Columbus sails it, Wren builds it, Watt mechanizes it, Luther preaches it. Let us take Duty this serving angel for a God in disguise. Without telling us why, he bids us ever do this & that irksomeness. What if it should prove that these very injunctions so galling & unflattering are precisely the redemptions of time for us? These books thrust into our hands are books selected for us, & the persons who take up our time are picked out to accompany us. I at least fully believe that God is in every place, & that, if the mind is excited, it may see him, & in him an infinite wisdom in every object that passes before us.

Journal, April 8, 1836 (Salem)

Make your own Bible. Select & Collect all those words & sentences that in all your reading have been to you like the blast of trumpet out of Shakspear, Seneca, Moses, John, & Paul.

Journal, July 1836

As History's best use is to enhance our estimate of the present hour, so the value of such an observer as Goethe who draws out of our consciousness some familiar fact & makes it glorious by showing it in the light of thought is this, that he makes us prize all our being by suggesting its inexhaustible wealth; for we feel that all our experience is thus convertible into jewels. He moves our wonder at the mystery of our life.

Journal, October 21, 1836

The love that is in me, the justice, the truth can never die & that is all of me that will not die. All the rest of me is so much death— my ignorance, my vice, my corporeal pleasure. But I am nothing else than a capacity for justice, truth, love, freedom, power. I can inhale, imbibe them forevermore. They shall be so much to me that I am nothing, they all. Then shall God be all in all. Herein is my Immortality.

Journal, October 24, 1836

When the mind is braced by the weighty expectations of a prepared work, the page of whatever book we read, becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant & the sense of our author is as broad as the world. There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

Journal, October 29-30, 1836

life is our inexhaustible treasure of language for thought... I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has really learned, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech. My garden is my dictionary. There are three degrees of proficiency in this lesson of life. The one class live to the utility of the symbol as the majority of men do, regarding health & wealth as the chief good. Another class live above this mark, to the beauty of the symbol; as the poet & artist, and the Sensual school in philosophy. A third class live above the beauty of the symbol, to the beauty of the thing signified; and these are wise men. The first class have common sense; the second, taste; and the third spiritual perfection... the perfect man— one to a millennium— if so many, traverses the whole scale & sees & enjoys the symbol solidly; then also has a clear eye for its beauty; & lastly wears it lightly as a robe which he can easily throw off, for he sees the reality & divine splendor of the inmost nature bursting through each chink & cranny.

Journal, May 8, 1837

I bask in beauty. But I may be inspired with a greater ambition & taught to conquer in my own person every calamity by understanding it & its cause. When I see an evil, it is unmanly to hide my head in the flowering bushes & say I will hunt the humble bee & behold the stars & leave this sorrow for those whom it concerns. I ought rather to live towards it, grasping firm in one hand the hand of the Invisible Guide until gradually a perfect insight of the disaster is an everlasting deliverance from its fear.

Journal, May 19, 1837

A man should behave himself as a guest of Nature but not as a drone. God never cants. And the charm of Plutarch & Plato & Thucydides for me I believe, is that there I get ethics without cant. I am struck with the splendor of the sentences I meet in books, especially in Plutarch taken from Pindar, Plato, & Heraclitus, these three.

Journal, August 5, 1837

I said when I awoke, After some more sleepings & wakings I shall lie on this mattress sick; then dead; and through my glad entry they will carry these bones. Where shall I be then? I lift my head and beheld the spotless orange light of the morning beaming up from the dark hills into the wide Universe.

Journal, October 21, 1837

Beauty is a ticket of admission to all spectacles, to all hospitality. Beauty is welcome as the sun wherever it please to shine, & pleases every body with it & with themselves.

A friendship is good which begins on sentiment & proceeds into all mutual convenience and alternation of great benefits. Less good that which begins in commodity & proceeds to sentiment.

Journal, October 27, 1837

At the "teachers' meeting" last night my good Edmund [Hosmer] after disclaiming any wish to difference Jesus from a human mind suddenly seemed to alter his tone & said that Jesus made the world & was the Eternal God. Henry Thoreau merely remarked that "Mr Hosmer had kicked the pail over." I delight much in my young friend, who seems to have as free & erect a mind as any I have ever met. He told as we walked this afternoon a good story about a boy who went to school with him, Wentworth, who resisted the school mistress' command that the children should bow to Dr Heywood & other gentlemen as they went by, and when Dr Heywood stood waiting & cleared his throat with a Hem! Wentworth said, "You need not hem, Doctor; I shan't bow."

Journal, February 11, 1838

My good Henry Thoreau made this else solitary afternoon sunny with his simplicity & clear perception. How comic is simplicity in this doubledealing quacking world. Every thing that boy says makes merry with society though nothing can be graver than his meaning. I told him he should write out the history of his College life as Carlyle has his tutoring. We agreeed that the seeing the stars through a telescope would be worth all the Astronomical lectures. Then he described Mr. Quimby's electrical lecture here & the experiment of the shock & added that "College Corporations are very blind to the fact that that twinge in the elbow is worth all the lecturing." Tonight I walked under the stars through the snow & stopped & looked at my far sparklers & heard the voice of the wind so slight & pure & deep as if it were the sound of the stars themselves revolving.

Journal, February 17, 1838

Every body, I think, has sublime thoughts sometimes. At times they lie parallel with the world or the axes coincide so that you can see through them the great laws. Then be of their side. Let your influence be so true & simple as to bring them into these frames

Journal, June 6, 1838

Today at the Cliff we held our villegiatura. I saw nothing better than the passage of the river by the dark clump of trees that line the bank in one spot for a short distance. There nature charmed the eye with her distinct & perfect painting. As the flowing silver reached that point, it darkened, & yet every wave celebrated its passage through the shade by one sparkle. But ever the direction of the sparkles was onward, onward. Not one receded. At one invariable pace like marchers in a procession to solemn music, in perfect time, in perfect order, they move onward, onward, & I saw the Warning of their eternal flow. Then the rock seemed good to me. I think we can never afford to part with Matter. How dear & beautiful it is to us! As water to our thirst, so is this rock to our eyes & hands & feet. It is firm water; it is cold flame. What refreshment, what health, what magic affinity! ever an old friend, ever like a dear friend or brother when we chat affectedly with strangers comes in this honest face whilst we prattle with men & takes a grave liberty with us & shames us out of our nonsense.

Journal, June 29, 1840

We are all boarders at one table— White man, black man, ox and eagle, bee, & worm.

Journal, July 13-14, 1840

I do not give you my time, but I give you that which I have put my time into, namely my letter or my poem, the expression of my opinion, or better yet an act which in solitude I have learned to do.

Journal, Oct. 1840

Away with your prismatics, I want a spermatic book. Plato, Plotinus, & Plutarch are such.

Journal, March 1841

For this was I born & came into the world to deliver the self of myself to the Universe from the Universe; to do a certain benefit which Nature could not forego, nor I be discharged from rendering, & then immerge again into the holy silence & eternity, out of which as a man I arose. God is rich & many more men than I, he harbors in his bosom, biding their time & the needs & the beauty of all. Or, when I wish, it is permitted me to say, these hands, this body, this history of Waldo Emerson are profane & wearisome, but I, I descend not to mix myself with that or with any man. Above his life, above all creatures, I flow down forever a sea of benefit into races of individuals. Nor can the stream ever roll backward or the sin or death of a man taint the immutable energy which distributes itself into men as the sun into rays or the sea into drops.

Journal, April 23, 1841

I am sometimes discontented with my house because it lies on a dusty road and with its sills & cellar almost in the water of the meadow. But when I creep out of it into the Night or the Morning and see what majestic & what tender beauties daily wrap me in their bosom, how near to me is every transcendendant secret of Nature's love & religion, I see how indifferent it is where I eat & sleep. This very street of hucksters & taverns the moon will transform to a Palmyra, for she is the apologist of all apologists & will kiss the elm-trees alone & hides every meannesss in a silver edged darkness. Then the good river-god has taken the form of my valiant Henry Thoreau here & introduced me to the riches of his shaowy strarlit, moonlit stream, a lovely new world lying as close & yet as unknown to this vulgar trite one of streets & shops as death to life or poetry to prose. Through one field only we went to the boat & then left all time, all science, all history behind us and entered into Nature with one stroke of a paddle. Take care, good friend! I said, as I looked west into the sunset overhead & underneath, & he with his face toward me rowed towards it— take care; you know not what you do, dipping your wooden oar into this enchanted liquid, painted with all reds & purples & yellows which glows under & behind you. Presently this glory faded & the stars came & said “Here we are,” & began to cast such private & ineffable beams as to stop all conversation.

Journal, June 6, 1841

The Metamorphosis of nature shows itself in nothing more than this that there is no word in our language that cannot become typical to us of nature by giving it emphasis. The world is a Dancer; it is a Rosary; it is a Torrent; it is a Boat; a Mist; a Spider's Snare; it is what you will; and the metaphor will hold, & it will give the imagination keen pleasure. Swifter than light the World converts itself into that thing you name & all things find their right place under this new & capricious classificaiton. There is no thing small or mean to the soul. It derives as grand a joy from symbolizing the Godhead or his Universe under the form of a moth or a gnat as of a Lord of Hosts. Must I call the heaven & the earth a maypole & country fair with booths or an anthill or an old coat in order to give you the shock of pleasure which the imagination loves and the sense of spiritual greatness? Call it a blossom, a rod, a wreath of parsley, a tamarisk-crown, a cock, a sparrow, the ear instantly hears & the spirit leaps to the trope; and hence it is that men of eloquence like Chatham have found a Dictionary very suggestive reading when they were disposed to speak.

We all know enough to be endless writers. Those who have written best are not those who have known most, but those to whom writing was natural & necessary. Let us answer a book of ink with a book of flesh & blood. All writing comes by the grace of God.

Journal,July-August 1841

We are all of us very near to sublimity. As one step freed Wordsworh's Recluse on the mountains from the blinding mist & brought him to the view of “Glory beyond all glory ever seen” so near are we all to a vision of which Homer & Shakspeare are only hints & types and yet cannot we take that one step. It does not seem worth our while to toil for anything so pitiful as skill to do one of the little feats we magnify so much, when presently the dream will scatter & we shall burst into universal power. The reason of all idleness & of all crime is the same. Whilst we are waiting we beguile the time, one with jokes, one with sleep, one with eating, one with crimes.

Journal, Sept. 12-20, 1841

I would have my book read as I have read my favorite books not with explosion & astonishment, a marvel and a rocket, but a friendly & agreeable influence stealing like the scent of a flower or the sight of a new landscape on a traveller. I neither wish to be hated & deified by such as I startle, nor to be kissed and hugged by the young whose thoughts I stimulate. Plutarch's heroes are my friends & relatives.

Journal, October 1841

In short there ought to be no such thing as Fate. As long as we use this word, it is a sign of our impotence & that we are not yet ourselves. There is now a sublime revelation in each of us which makes us so strangely aware & certain of our riches that although I have never since I was born for so much as one moment expressed the truth, and although I have never heard the expression of it from any other, I know that the whole is here— the wealth of the Universe is for me. Every thing is explicable & practicable for me. And yet whilst I adore this ineffable life which is at my heart, it will not condescent to gossip with me, it will not announce to me any particulars of science, it will not enter into the details of my biography, & say to me why I have a son & daughters born to me, or why my son dies in his sixth year of joy. Herein then I have this latent omniscience coexistent with omnigorance. Moreover, whilst this Deity glows at the heart, & by his unlimited presentiments gives me all power, I know that tomorrow will be as this day, I am a dwarf, & I remain a dwarf. That is to say, I believe in Fate. As long as I am weak, I shall talk of Fate; whenever the God fills me with his fulness, I shall see the disappearance of Fate. I am Defeated all the time; yet to Victory I am born.

Journal, April 6-12, 1842

If I should write an honest diary what should I say? Alas that Life has halfness, shallowness. I have almost completed thirty nine years and I have not yet adjusted my relation to my fellows on the planet, or to my own work. Always too young or too old, I do not satisfy myself; how can I satisfy others?

Journal, April 14, 1842

A highly endowed man with good intellect & good conscience is a Man-woman & does not so much need the complement of Woman to his being, as another. Hence his relations to the sex are somewhat dislocated & unsatisfactory. He asks in Woman, sometimes the Woman, sometimes the Man.

Journal, June 14, 1842

Cheerfulness is so much the order of nature that the superabundant glee of a child lying on its back & not yet strong enough to get up or to sit up, yet cooing, warbling, laughing, screaming with joy is an image of independence which makes power no part of independence. Queenie looks at Edie kicking up both feet into the air, & thinks that Edie says "The world was made on purpose to carry round the little baby; and the world goes round the sun only to bring titty-time and creeping-on-the-floor-time to the Baby."

Journal, October 1842

You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God, you shall not have both.

Journal, October 1842

Extremes meet: there is no straight line. Machinery & Transcendentalism agree well... We have too much freedom, need an austerity, need some iron girth... But why go to Europe? Best swallow this pill of America which Fate brings you & sing a land unsung. Here stars, here birds, here trees, here hills abound and the vast tendencies concur of a new Order. The poets, the great, have been illustrious wretches who have beggared the world which has beggared them. The young men complain that here in America is no past, no traditions; only shopkeeping, no ghost, no god in the landscape, no stimulus.

Journal, May 18, 1843

Nothing is dead. Men & things feign themselves dead and endure mock funerals & mournful obituarites and there they are looking out of the window hale & hearty in some new strange disguise. Plato is not dead. I know well the eyes through which he still looks; Jesus is not dead, he is very well alive; nor Rabelais, nor Montaigne, nor Swift, not Scaliger, nor Calvin, nor Becket; I have seen them all, & they have seen me, & I could easily tell the names under which they now pass. O aye, he takes my cat for a griffin. The Sky is the daily bread of the eyes. What sculpture in these hard clouds; what expression of immense amplitude in this dotted & rippled rack, here firm & continental, there vanishing into plumes & auroral gleams. No crowding; boundless, cheerful, & strong.

Journal, May 25, 1843 (on his 40th birthday)

The only straight line in nature that I remember is the spider swinging down from a twig.
The rainbow & the horizon seen at sea are good curves.
The hair on a cat's back is a straight line...

My divine Thomas Taylor in his translation of Cratylus... calls Christianity “a certain most irrational & gigantic impiety.”

Journal, Sept.-Nov. 1843

H.D.T. said he knew but one secret, which was to do one thing at a time, and though he has his evenings for study, if he was in the day inventing machines for sawing his plumbago, he invents wheels all the evening & night also; and if this week he has some good reading & thoughts before him, his brain runs on that all day, whilst pencils pass through his hands. I find in me an opposite facility or perversity, that I never seem well to do a particular work, until another is due. I cannot write the poem though you give me a week, but if I promise to read a lecture day after tomorrow, at once the poem comes into my head & now the rhymes will flow. And let the proofs of the Dial be crowding on me from the printer, and I am full of faculty how to make the Lecture.

Journal, Jan.-March 1844

The greatest man underlies the human nature. The longest wave quickly is lost in the sea. No individualism can make any head against the swallowing universality. Plato would willingly have a Platonism, a know & accurate expression for the world, and it shoud be adequate: it shall be — the world passed through the mind of Plato— nothing less; every atom shall have the Platonic tinge. Every atom, every relation, every quality you knew before, you shall know again, & find here, but now, ordered; not nature, but art, & you shall feel that Alexander indeed overran with some men & horses some countries of the planet— but countries, & things of which countries are composed— elements— planet itself, & laws of planet, & of men, thoughts, truths, all actual & possible things, have passed through this man as bread into his body & become no longer bread but body; so all this mammoth mouthful has become Plato....

It would be so easy to draw two pictures of the literary man, as of one possessed & led by muses, or, as of one ridden by some dragon, or dire distemper. A mechanic is driven by his work all day, but it ends at night; it has an end. But the scholar's work has none. That which he has learned is that there is much more to be learned. He feels only his incompetence. A thousand years, tenfold, a hundredfold his faculties, would not suffice: the demands of the task are such, that it becomes omnipresent; he studies in his sleep, in his walking, in his meals, in his pleasures. He is but a fly or a worm to this mountain. He becomes anxious: if one knocks at his door, he scowls: if one intimate the purpose of visiting him, he looks grave.

In Spenser (Book III Canto XI) is the Castle of Busyrane on whose gate is writ Be bold, on the second gate, Be bold, be bold, and the inner iron door, Be not too bold...

The worst day is good for something. All that is not love, is knowledge, and all that is not good today, is a store laid up for the wants of distant days...

People who live together grow alike & if they should live long enought we should not know them apart.

Every age has its objects & symbol, & every man. Why not then every epoch of our life its own; & a man should journey through his own zodiack of signs.

Journal, Sept.-Oct. 1845

The days come & go like muffled & veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, & if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.

Journal, May 24, 1847

Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.

Journal, August 1847

Symbolism. What I want to know, is, the meaning of what I do; believing that any of my current Mondays or Tuesdays is Fatebook for me; & believing that hints & telegraphic signals are arriving to me every moment out of the interior eternity, I am tormented with impatience to make them out. We meet people who seem to overlook our game, & read us with a smile, but they do not tell us what they read.

Journal, Oct.-Nov. 1849

Realism. We shall pass for what we are. Do not fear to die, because you have not done your task. Whenever a noble soul comes, the audience awaits. And he is not judged by his performance, but by the spirit of his performance. We shall pass for what we are. The world is a masked ball & every one hides his real character, & reveals it by hiding... People have the devil's-mark stamped on their faces, & do not know it, & join the church & talk virtue, and we are seeing the goat's foot all the time.

Journal, Feb. 1854

Would you know a man's thoughts— look at the circle of his friends, and you know all he likes to think of. Well, is the life of the Boston patrician so desireable, when you see the graceful fools who make all his company?

Journal, Feb. 1854

I am here to represent humanity: it is by no means necessary that I should live, but it is by all means that I should act rightly. If there is danger, I must face it.

Journal, August 1854

All the thoughts of a turtle are turtles.

Journal, Sept.-Oct. 1854

What occurred this morning touching the imagination? In meeting a new student, I incline to ask him, Do you know any deep man? Has any one furnished you with a new image? for to see the world representatively, implies high gifts.

Journal, Feb. 18, 1855, Rome, N.Y.

Resources or feats. I like people who can do things. When Edward & I struggled in vain to drag our big calf into the barn, the Irish girl put her finger into the calf's mouth, & led her in directly. When you find your boat full of water at the shore of the pond & strive to drag it ashore to empty it, Tom puts a round stick underneath, & 'tis on wheels directly.

Journal, May 25, 1862 (on his 59th birthday)

All the thoughts of a turtle are turtles.

Sensible men are very rare. A sensible man does not brag: avoids introducing the names of his creditable companions; drops out of his narrative every complimentary allusion to himself, omits himself as habitually as another man obtrudes himself in the discourse, and is content with putting his fact or theme simply on its own ground, & letting nature bear the expense of the conversation.

Journal, July 30, 1866

Be a little careful about your Library. Do you foresee what you will do with it? Very little to be sure. But the real question is, What it will do with you? You will come here & get books that will open your eyes, & your ears, & your curiosity, & turn you inside out or outside in.

Journal, July 1873

The secret of poetry is never explained— is always new. We have not got farther than mere wonder at the delicacy of the touch, & the eternity it inherits. In every house a child that in mere play utters oracles, & knows not that they are such, 'Tis as easy as breath. 'Tis like this gravity, which holds the Universe together, & none knows what it is.

Journal, Nov. 1874

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