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Essays: First Series

Essays: First Series

First published in 1841, this is Emerson's first series of essays.

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History

There is no great and no smallTo the Soul that maketh all:And where it cometh, all things are;And it cometh everywhere. I am owner of the sphere,Of the seven stars and the solar year,Of Caesar's hand, and Plato's brain,Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakespeare's strain. There is one mind common to all individual men. Every…
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Self-Reliance

Ne te quaesiveris extra.1 Man is his own star; and the soul that canRender an honest and a perfect man,Commands all light, all influence, all fate;Nothing to him falls early or too late.Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.—Epilogue to Beaumont and John Fletcher's Honest Man's…
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Compensation

The wings of Time are black and white,Pied with morning and with night.Mountain tall and ocean deepTrembling balance duly keep.In changing moon, in tidal wave,Glows the feud of Want and Have.Gauge of more and less through spaceElectric star and pencil plays.The lonely Earth amid the ballsThat hurry through the eternal halls,A makeweight flying to the…
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Spiritual Laws

The living Heaven thy prayers respect,House at once and architect,Quarrying man's rejected hours,Builds therewith eternal towers;Sole and self-commanded works,Fears not undermining days,Grows by decays,And, by the famous might that lurksIn reaction and recoil,Makes flame to freeze, and ice to boil;Forging, through swart arms of Offense,The silver seat of Innocence. When the act of reflection takes…
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Love

I was as a gem concealed;Me my burning ray revealed.—Koran Every promise of the soul has innumerable fulfillment; each of its joys ripens into a new want. Nature, uncontainable, flowing, fore-looking, in the first sentiment of kindness anticipates already a benevolence which shall lose all particular regards in its general light. The introduction to this…
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Friendship

A ruddy drop of manly bloodThe surging sea outweighs,The world uncertain comes and goes,The lover rooted stays.I fancied he was fled,And, after many a year,Glowed unexhausted kindlinessLike daily sunrise there.My careful heart was free again—O friend, my bosom said,Through thee alone the sky is arched,Through thee the rose is red,All things through thee take nobler…
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Prudence

Theme no poet gladly sung,Fair to old and foul to young,Scorn not thou the love of parts,And the articles of arts.Grandeur of the perfect sphereThanks the atoms that cohere. What right have I to write ont of the negative sort? My prudence consists in avoiding and going without, not in the inventing of means and…
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Heroism

Paradise is under the shadow of swords.—Mahomet Ruby wine is drunk by knaves,Sugar spends to fatten slaves,Rose and vine-leaf deck buffoons;Thunderclouds are Jove's festoons,Drooping oft in wreaths of dreadLightning-knotted round his head;The hero is not fed on sweets,Daily his own heart he eats;Chambers of the great are jails,And headwinds right for royal sails. In the…
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The Over-Soul

But souls that of his own good life partake,He loves as his own self; dear as his eyeThey are to Him: He'll never them forsake:When they shall die, then God himself shall die:They live, they live in blest eternity.—Henry More Space is ample, east and west,But two cannot go abreast,Cannot travel in it two:Yonder masterful…
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Circles

Nature centers into balls,And her proud ephemerals,Fast to surface and outside,Scan the profile of the sphere;Knew they what that signified,A new genesis were here. The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the…
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Intellect

Go, speed the stars of ThoughtOn to their shining goals—The sower scatters broad his seed,The wheat thou strew'st be souls. Every substance is negatively electric to that which stands above it in the chemical tables, positively to that which stands below it. Water dissolves wood, and iron, and salt; air dissolves water; electric fire dissolves…
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Art

Give to barrows, trays, and pansGrace and glimmer of romance;Bring the moonlight into noonHid in gleaming piles of stone;On the city's paved streetPlant gardens lined with lilac sweet;Let spouting fountains cool the air,Singing in the sun-baked square;Let statue, picture, park, and hall,Ballad, flag, and festival,The past restore, the day adorn,And make each morrow a new…
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