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LONDON
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS

BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL
NEW YORK: 9, LAFAYETTE PLACE

1883
270. 2

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WORKS

OF

RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

ESSAYS. FIRST SERIES.

HISTORY.

This human mind wrote history, and this must read it.

The Sphinx must solve her There is no great and no small

own riddle. If the whole of history is in To the Soul that maketh all : And where it cometh, all things are ;

one man, it is all to be explained from And cometh everywhere.

individual experience. There is a relation

between the hours of our life and the cenJ am owner of the sphere,

turies of time. As the air I breathe is Of the seven stars and the solar year,

drawn from the great repositories of nature, Of Cæsar's hand, and Plato's brain, Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakspeare's strain.

as the light on my book is yielded by a star

a hundred millions of miles distant, as the THERE is one mind common to all indi- poise of my body depends on the equilibrium vidual men. Every man is an inlet to the of centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the same and to all of the same. He that is hours should be instructed by the ages, and once admitted to the right of reason is the ages explained by the hours. Of the made a freeman of the whole estate. What universal mind each individual man is one Plato has thought he may think ; what a more incarnation. All its properties consist saint has felt he may feel ; what at any in him. Each new fact in his private extime has befallen any man, he can under- perience flashes a light on what great bodies stand. Who hath access to this universal of men have done, and the crises of his mind is a party to all that is or can be done, life refer to national crises. Every revolufor this is the only and sovereign agent. tion was first a thought in one man's mind,

Of the works of this mind history is the and when the same thought occurs to record. Its genius is illustrated by the another man, it is the key to that era. entire series of days. Man is explicable by Every reform was once a private opinion, nothing less than all his history. Without and when it shall be a private opinion again, hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes it will solve the problem of the age. The forth from the beginning to embody every fact narrated must correspond to something faculty, every thought, every emotion, which in me to be credible or intelligible.

We as belongs to it in appropriate events. But we read must become Greeks, Romans, the thought is always prior to the fact ; all Turks, priest and king, martyr and executhe facts of history pre-exist in the mind as tioner, must fasten these images to some laws. Each law in turn is made by circum- reality in our secret experience, or we shall stances predominant, and the limits of learn nothing rightly. What befell Asdrubal nature give power to but one at a time. A or Cæsar Borgia is as much an illustration man is the whole encyclopædia of facts. of the mind's powers and deprivations as The creation of a thousand forests is in what has befallen us. Each new law and one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, political movement has meaning for you. Britain, America, lie folded already in the Stand before each of its tablets and say, first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, king- Under this mask did my Proteus nature dom, empire, republic, democracy, are hide itself.' This remedies the defect of merely the applications of his manifold our too great nearness to ourselves. This spirit to the manifold world.

throws our actions into perspective : and as

B

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