Then noiseless, with flowing steps, the lord, the sun, the last ideal comes.
By the names right, justice, truth, we suggest, but do not describe it.
Morality is indeed the only real vitalization of character, and of all the supersensual, even heroic and artistic portions of man or nationality.
To person or state, the verteber is morality. It is to run through and knit the superior parts, and keep man or state vital and upright, as health keeps the body straight and blooming.
To the world of men it remains a dream, an idea as they call it. But no dream is it to the wise—but the proudest, almost only solid, lasting thing of all. Its analogy in the material universe is what holds together this world, and every object upon it, and carries its dynamics on forever sure and safe.
“Leaves of Grass,” all and several, surely prepare the way for and necessitate morals, and are adjusted to them, just the same as nature does and is.
There is nothing in the whole universe that can be more effective than a man’s or woman’s daily behavior can be,
Behavior is the finest of the fine arts.
We do not so much care what people say—we are deeply interested in what they do—
If we can imagine nothing left of a man but talk, would not that be a ridiculous remnant?
Yet a deaf and dumb person might still be one of the heroes.
A noble soul often illustrates itself in what the world rates as trivial,
The moral sentiment cheers the poor man and makes his hut a palace,
The grandeur and beauty of the spirit making the commonest action more luminous than the sun.
A great personal deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.
He who does great deeds, does them from his sensitiveness to moral beauty;
In morals there is the same reciprocal play of effect and causes as in the physical world,
Causes, original things, being attended to, the right manners unerringly follow.
Great is goodness!
Lo, soul, see’st thou not, plain as the sun,
The only life of life in goodness.
I do not know what it is any more than I know what health is, but I know it is great.
The test of the goodness of anything is the soul itself—whatever does good to the soul, soothes, refreshes, cheers, inspirits, consoles—that is so, easy enough.
I do not school any man or woman in virtues,
(The greatest poet does not descend to moralize or make applications of morals,)
What others give as duties I give as living impulses,
Shall I give the heart’s action as a duty?
Compulsion is a temporary support, gained at the price of much bad feeling and reaction;
Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear.
I have appeared among you to say what you do is right, and what you affirm is right;
But that they are only the alphabet of right—
The intentions perfect and divine,
The workings, details, haply human,
You shall use them as beginnings and first attempts,
That they perpetually fibre and strengthen and vivify all which is good, and erase all which is bad.
Would you be freer than all that has ever been before?
If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen to me:
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies, whirls, fierce contentions? are you very strong?
More precious than all worldly riches is a general freedom of oneself from the tyrannic domination of vices, habits, appetites, under which nearly every man of us, (often the greatest brawler for freedom,) is enslav’d.
He masters whose spirit masters;
Let Plato’s steeds prance and curvet and drive at their utmost, but the master’s grip and eyes and brain must retain the ultimate power for all, or things are lost.
I seek to typify a living human personality, immensely animal, with immense passions, immense amativeness, immense adhesiveness—in the woman immense maternity—
And then, in both immenser far, a moral conscience, the primary moral element, the verteber to state or man.
It emanates first and last splendor of character,
And gives what all the beauty and genius of the world cannot make up for;
Conscience, simplicity, culture, humanity’s attributes at their best,
Yet applicable if need be to average affairs, and eligible to all,
Perennial born qualities, which always have meaning deeper than any theory of morals.
Health is not more requisite to the bodily physiology, than conscience is to the moral and mental physiology,
Moral conscientiousness, crystalline, without flaw, not Godlike only, entirely human,
Awes and enchants forever.
We cannot pronounce too strongly the evident need of bringing to the front again, among the consciences, the greatest of all, namely the absolute, uncompromising moral one.
The intellectual or critical conscience is amply attended to; the esthetic is not neglected; the spiritual, in crude and erratic treatment, has its theories, zealous students, backers; others, equally welcome, equally important are not wanting;
But the purely moral seems to me, on the current map of humanity, to be one fitly designated by a blank incognita, a dismal vacant patch.
The proof of democratic civilization is finally to be the general development and unquestionable supremacy, for the lives of individuals or community, of the moral conscience—the simple, intuitional sense of moral soundness, the central sane idea of right and all its radiations.
(I am reminded as I write that out of this very conscience, of intense moral right, and in its name and strain’d construction, the worst fanaticisms, wars, persecutions, murders, etc., have been broach’d, and have come to their devilish fruition. Side by side with the unflagging stimulation of conscience must move with equal sway, science, absolute reason, and the general proportionate development of the whole man. Conscience isolated from all else, and from the emotional nature, may but attain the beauty and purity of glacial, snowy ice.)
All that a person does or thinks is of consequence.
In the nature of things, through all affairs and deeds, national or individual, good or bad, each has its inherent law of punishment or reward, which is part of the deed or affair itself, identical with it,
Not one name of word or deed but it is duly realized and returned, and that returned in further performances, and they returned again,
What evil or good he does leaping onward and waiting to meet him again.
The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him,
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him,
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him,
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—it cannot fail.
As childhood, maturity, craft, lies, thefts, adulteries, sarcasm, greed, hatred, denial, so the soul.
Not a move can a man or woman make that affects him or her in a day or a month or any part of the direct lifetime or the hour of death but the same affects him or her onward afterward through the indirect lifetime. The indirect is always as great and real as the direct.
I believe of all those men and women that fill’d the unnamed lands, every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible to us,
In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn’d in life, I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world, counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world.
Sure as the most certain sure, reliable as immortality, the effects appear after the causes are born—
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death you shall be superb.
Learn’d or unlearn’d, white or black, sick or well, from the first inspiration down the windpipe to the last expiration out of it, all that a male or female does, that is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her, in the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope of it forever.
If the president or chief justice is wise it is the same, if the young mechanic or farmer is wise it is no more or less, if the prostitute is wise it is no more nor less. The interest will come round—all will come round.
Of and in all these things,
I have dream’d that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of us changed,
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and past law,
For I have dream’d that the law they are under now is enough.
Look back, then, through the long track of the past years. How has it been with thee? Are there bright beacons of happiness enjoy’d, and of good done by the way? Have benevolence, and love, and undeviating honesty left tokens on which thy eyes can rest sweetly? Is it well with thee, thus? Answerest thou, it is?
Or answerest thou, I see nothing but gloom and shatter’d hours, and the wreck of good resolves, and a broken heart, filled with sickness, and troubled among its ruined chambers with the phantoms of many follies?
This dream will one day be a reality—a reality, either of heavenly peace or agonizing sorrow.
I hope, dear comrade, you are trying to be honorable and upright, for that is more than the greatest worldly prosperity, or learning either.