Moral Values


Men do not so much differ. There is a universal language. What is heroic is universal among men. Love is universal among men. Liberty is—justice is—the hatred of meanness is, etc.

This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches,
Give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others—
The sick cared for, the shoeless shod, the orphan father’d and mother’d,
The hungry fed, the houseless housed.
Have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
Fear grace, elegance, civilization, and delicatesse,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

I announce the justification of candor and the justification of pride,
The soul’s wealth is candor, knowledge, pride, enfolding love.
How beautiful is candor! All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor,
Henceforth let no man of us lie, for we have seen that openness wins the inner and outer world and that there is no single exception.

All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful, young children, widows, the sick, and to shunn’d persons,
All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw others fill the seats of the boats,
All offering of substance or life for the good old cause—liberty, justice, the cause of the people—or for a friend’s sake, or opinion’s sake,
All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe, or on any of the wandering stars,
All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are, or by any one,
These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which they sprang, or shall spring.
If a man spatter mud on his new clothes by lifting a child or an old woman over the slush, let him nevertheless be content—
Mud like that strikes in and makes beauty spots.

A great man is not trapped into any partiality,
He strikes the balance between the eternal average of the developed and the undeveloped,
He goes on the square with those who have not yet climbed as high as he,
Tender to children and old people and women,
Indulging most the stupid the sinful and the vulgar, because them the world is most down upon.

Gratitude has never been made half enough of by the moralists; it is indispensable to a complete character, man’s or woman’s—the disposition to be appreciative, thankful. Of my own life and writings I estimate the giving thanks part, with what it infers, as essentially the best item. I should say the quality of gratitude rounds the whole emotional nature; I should say love and faith would quite lack vitality without it. There are people—shall I call them even religious people, as things go?—who have no such trend to their disposition. I pity ’em.

Who has been bold and true?
For I would be the boldest and truest being of the universe,
He only wins who goes far enough.
Be bold! Be bold! Be not too bold!
It is well to know when to be firm against others’ wishes,
But it is better to know when to yield in a manly and amiable spirit.

Who has been cautious?
For I would be more cautious.
Caution—the great need that is so long coming to young souls, and that, when it comes, puts an end forever to the freshest joys, and the thoughtless abandon, of their lives,
And yet it is so useful in this wicked world, and we cannot get along without it.
Caution seldom goes far enough;
He is wisest who has the most caution,
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its place,
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs.

I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times, olden times, and all times,
Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing.
Why should I subscribe money to build some hero’s statue?
The butcher boy is just as great a hero—

I remember what a brave boy he was, and how, in any trouble, he never deserted me then, but stood as staunch as steel;
He does not know what fear is—

And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero.

The young man who composedly peril’d his life and lost it has done exceedingly well for himself—
What cheerful willingness for others’ sake to give up all,
For others’ sake to suffer all,
To duly fall, to aid, unreck’d at last, to disappear, to serve,
Token of all that went down doing their duty.
Where the great renunciation is made in secret, that will allure me;
He who never peril’d his life, but retains it to old age in riches and ease, has probably achiev’d nothing for himself worth mentioning.

Remember the hospitality that belongs to nations and men,
The hospitality which for ever indicates heroes;
Cursed be nation, woman, man, without hospitality.
Lend us, O nature, the children of the poor, the helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women, the ignorant, and the depraved—We can receive them—For them also we have preparation and welcome—We have not only welcome for the healthy.

I know many beautiful things about men and women,
But I do not know of any thing more beautiful than to be free-handed and generous, and always go on the square;
The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give.
I have stores plenty and to spare, good temper and open-handedness,
And anything I have I bestow, and the first I bestow of my love.
Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,
When I give I give myself.

Neither a servant nor a master I,
I take no sooner a large price than a small price,
I will be even with you and you shall be even with me.
This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just same as the righteous,
The kept-woman, thief, venerealee are hereby invited,
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
It is quite indifferent to me who you are,
I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away.

Who has been benevolent? for I would show more benevolence than all the rest,
I, determined brother of low persons and rejected and wronged persons,
I have not thought myself better than the degraded and lost ones,
But rather pity and relieve them,
From this hour sleeping and eating mainly that I wake and be muscular for their sakes,
Training myself in the gymnasium for their sakes, and acquiring a terrible voice for their sakes.
I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs,
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.

NEXT: Morality and Money