Give me to sing the songs of the great idea, aspirations toward the far ideal,
The ideal, which, however overlaid, lies folded latent, hidden, in perhaps every character.
By common consent there is nothing better for man or woman than a perfect and noble life, morally without flaw, happily balanced in activity, physically sound and pure, giving its due proportion, and no more, to the sympathetic, the human emotional element—a life, in all these, unhasting, unresting, untiring to the end.
The spine or verteber principle of my book is a model or ideal of the growth of completer men than any yet—the new culminating man—a grander better son, brother, husband, father, friend, citizen than any yet—a complete healthy, heroic, practical modern man, formed and shaped in consonance with modern science, with American democracy—model of a woman also, equally modern and heroic—a better daughter, wife, mother, citizen also, than any yet.
These words are for the great men, the gigantic few that have plunged themselves deep through density and confusion and pushed back the jealous coverings of the earth, and brought out the true and great things, and the sweet things, and hung them like oranges rounder and riper than all the rest,
Persons not so very plenty, yet some few certainly of them running over the surface and area of humanity, in all ages, all times, all lands,
The few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor death dismay.
This sort of nature of persons I have compared to little rills of water, flowing fresh, from perennial springs,
As if, indeed, under the screams of passion, the groans of the suffering, the parching of struggles of money and politics, and all hell’s heat and noise and competition above and around, should come melting down from the mountains—from sources of unpolluted snows, far up there in God’s hidden, untrodden recesses, and so rippling along among us low in the ground, at men’s very feet—a curious little brook of clear and cool, and ever-healthy, ever-living water—enough to irrigate the soil, maintaining freshness.
Attempting, then, however crudely, a vivid picture of the most flowing grandeur of a fully complete man, well-developed in all that makes a person better, healthier, happier, more commanding, more beloved, and more a realizer of love:
His shape arises,
We descry a well-begotten selfhood, built of the common stock,
In youth, fresh, ardent, emotional, aspiring, full of adventure,
At maturity, a man of gigantic stature, clear-blooded, strong-fibred physique, supple, healthy.
He has the simple magnificence of health and strength, lithe and erect,
Countenance sun-burnt, bearded, swart, unrefined, fiery, brave, perceptive,
Eyes of calm and steady gaze, yet capable also of flashing,
His face strikes as with flashes of lightning whoever it turns toward.
His voice clear and sonorous, under control,
Neither too talkative nor too reticent, neither flippant nor sombre,
Wisdom undisturbed, acuteness, enlargement of intellect, stores of cephalic knowledge, self-respect, fortitude unshaken, are in his expression, his personality.
His gait is erect, calm and dignified,
The movements easy, accomplished, powerful, and resistless;
Dress does not hide him,
The quality he has and the strong, sweet, supple nature he has strike through cotton and woolen.
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
To see his back is a spectacle,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.
Virtuous, chaste, industrious, voluptuous,
Affectionate, compassionate, combative, fully arm’d,
Conscientious, intuitive, resolute, cheerful,
Unrefined, with nothing extra of genius or wealth,
Nobler than the proudest mere genius or magnate in any field,
He fully realizes the conscience,
Simple, unsophisticated conscience, easily understood after all.
Enterer everywhere, welcomed everywhere—
At home among common people,
And a general presence that holds its own in the company of the highest and in terrible positions—
Nothing for anyone but what is for him.
Of copious friendship, firmness, self-esteem, individuality, pride, sublimity, noble aspirations,
He places virtue and self-denial above all the rest,
Never offering others, always offering himself.
Joined to his great power and wealth and strength the knowledge of the perfect equanimity,
Perfect serenity of mind, superior nonchalance,
Satisfied with the present—not trapped into any partiality;
The spiritual, the divine faculty—devout, all-penetrating religiousness—exemplified in all his deeds and words, through life, uncompromising to the end.
Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving,
He shows to what a glorious height the man may ascend.
Every now and then, there are beings I meet—specimens of unworldliness, disinterestedness, animal purity, and heroism, on whose birth the calmness of heaven seems to have descended, and whose gradual growing up, whatever the circumstances of work-life, or change, or hardship, or small or no education that attended it, the power of a strange spiritual sweetness, fibre, and inward health have also attended.
Something veil’d and abstracted is often a part of the manners of these beings. They are different from the rest, more silent, obeying the events and occasions about them, unaware of their own nature, and apt to go off and meditate and muse in solitude.
There is invariably this fact about superior natures: they understand each other,
And with similar sight behold the soul, the universe, immortality, and all the aims and arts of men.
Perfections: only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves,
Perfections are only understood and responded to by perfections.
The people they meet respond to them; here is someone that they are not afraid of. Now they have ease, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Now they take holiday. They do not feel awe or respect or suspicion; they can be themselves; they can expose their secret failings and crimes.
Why can we not see a being who, by the manliness and transparence of his nature, disarms the entire world, and brings one and all to his side, as friends and believers?
Can no father beget or mother conceive a child so entire and so elastic, and so free from all discords, that whatever action he do or whatever syllable he speak, it shall be melodious to all creatures, and none shall be an exception to the universal and affectionate Yes of the earth?
Picture: A thousand perfect men and women appear,
Around each gathers a cluster of friends, and gay children and youths, with offerings—
Thou, thou, the ideal man,
Complete in body and dilate in spirit,
Be thou my god.
What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours O soul?
What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection, strength?
What can be a more admirable aim for the most exalted human ambition than the wish and resolve to be perfect?
(Though the carrying out of this resolve requires some mental purification, the most of it, I think, is of a physical nature.)
Faint not, heart,
Advance stoutly and perseveringly.