The American Scholar

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end.

Since the dawn of history there has been a constant accumulation and classification of facts. But what is classification but the perceiving that these objects are not chaotic, and are not foreign, but have a law which is also a law of the human mind?

The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. "This is good," they say, "let us hold by this." They pin me down. They look backwards and not forwards, but genius looks forward; the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead; man hopes; genius creates.

Genius is always sufficiently the enemy of genius by over-influence.

Books are for the scholar's idle times. When we can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion.

Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man.

He who has put forth his total strength in fit actions has the richest return of wisdom.