Read the following essay carefully. Then, in an well organized essay, analyze
Ralph Waldo Emerson's view of
history. Analyze the rhetorical devices he used to convey his views. You may want to consider his use of allusions, diction,
figurative language and choice of words.
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night,
let us use in broad day. The student is to read
history actively and not passively; to esteem his own
life the text, and books the commentary. Thus
compelled, the Muse of history will utter oracles, as
never to those who do not respect themselves. I have
no expectation that any man will read history aright
who thinks that what was done in a remote age, by men
whose names have resounded far, has any deeper sense
than what he is doing to-day.
The world exists for the education of each man. There
is no age or state of society or mode of action in
history to which there is not somewhat corresponding
in his life. Every thing tends in a wonderful manner
to abbreviate itself and yield its own virtue to him.
He should see that he can live all history in his own
person. He must sit solidly at home, and not suffer
himself to be bullied by kings or empires, but know
that he is greater than all the geography and all the
government of the world; he must transfer the point of
view from which history is commonly read, from Rome
and Athens and London, to himself, and not deny his
conviction that he is the court, and if England or
Egypt have any thing to say to him he will try the
case; if not, let them for ever be silent. He must
attain and maintain that lofty sight where facts yield
their secret sense, and poetry and annals are alike.
The instinct of the mind, the purpose of nature,
betrays itself in the use we make of the signal
narrations of history. Time dissipates to shining
ether the solid angularity of facts. No anchor, no
cable, no fences avail to keep a fact a fact.
Babylon, Troy, Tyre, Palestine, and even early Rome
are passing already into fiction. The Garden of Eden,
the sun standing still in Gibeon, is poetry
thenceforward to all nations. Who cares what the fact
was, when we have made a constellation of it to hang
in heaven an immortal sign? London and Paris and New
York must go the same way. "What is history," said
Napoleon, "but a fable agreed upon?" This life of ours
is stuck round with Egypt, Greece, Gaul, England, War,
Colonization, Church, Court and Commerce, as with so
many flowers and wild ornaments grave and gay. I will
not make more account of them. I believe in Eternity.
I can find Greece, Asia, Italy, Spain and the Islands,
--the genius and creative principle of each and of all
eras, in my own mind.
We are always coming up with the emphatic facts of
history in our private experience and verifying them
here. All history becomes subjective; in other words
there is properly no history, only biography. Every
mind must know the whole lesson for itself,--must go
over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it
does not live, it will not know. What the former age
has epitomized into a formula or rule for manipular
convenience, it will lose all the good of verifying
for itself, by means of the wall of that rule.
Somewhere, sometime, it will demand and find
compensation for that loss, by doing the work itself.
Ferguson discovered many things in astronomy which had
long been known. The better for him.
History must be this or it is nothing. Every law which
the state enacts indicates a fact in human nature;
that is all. We must in ourselves see the necessary
reason of every fact,--see how it could and must be.
So stand before every public and private work; before
an oration of Burke, before a victory of Napoleon,
before a martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, of Sidney, of
Marmaduke Robinson; before a French Reign of Terror,
and a Salem hanging of witches; before a fanatic
Revival and the Animal Magnetism in Paris, or in
Providence. We assume that we under like influence
should be alike affected, and should achieve the like;
and we aim to master intellectually the steps and
reach the same height or the same degradation that
our fellow, our proxy has done.