Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841
1. I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not
2. conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may.
3. The sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your
4. own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that
5. is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due
6. time becomes the outmost, — and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the
7. Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses,
8. Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what
9. they thought.
10. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from
11. within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice
12. his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they
13. come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson
14. for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored
15. inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger
16. will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall
17. be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another...
18. Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has
19. found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have
20. always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their
21. perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands,
22. predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the
23. same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing
24. before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and
25. advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Self-Reliance." Essays, First Series. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1903. N. pag. Print.
The primary claim presented by the author is one of