Representative Phi Beta Kappa Orations

By Clark S. Northup; William C. Lane et al. | Go to book overview

THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR

BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Delivered before the Alpha of Massachusetts, at Harvard University, August 31, 1837

I GREET you on the recommencement of our literary year. Our anniversary is one of hope, and, perhaps, not enough of labor. We do not meet for games of strength or skill, for the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like the ancient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the Troubadours; nor for the advancement of science, like our contemporaries in the British and European capitals. Thus far, our holiday has been simply a friendly sign of the survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any more. As such it is precious as the sign of an indestructible instinct. Perhaps the time is already come when it ought to be, and will be, something else; when the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill. Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that around us are rushing into life, cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests. Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the pole-star for a thousand years?

In this hope I accept the topic which not only usage but the nature of our association seem to prescribe to this day, -- the AMERICAN SCHOLAR. Year by year we come up hither to read one more chapter of his biography. Let us inquire what light new days and events have thrown on his character and his hopes.

It is one of those fables which out of an unknown antiquity convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to him-

-24-

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Representative Phi Beta Kappa Orations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • THE TRUE WEALTH OR WEAL OF NATIONS 1
  • THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 24
  • THE INFLUENCE OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY AND INVENTION ON SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PROGRESS 43
  • THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION 76
  • THE AMERICAN DOCTRINE OF LIBERTY 94
  • The Scholar of To-Day 112
  • INTELLECTUAL LEADERSHIP IN AMERICAN HISTORY 129
  • The Relations of Higher Education To National Prosperity 152
  • THE WORSHIP OF SUCCESS 174
  • THE SCHOLAR IN A REPUBLIC 191
  • THE SOCIAL PLAINT 216
  • EVOLUTION VS. REVOLUTION, IN POLITICS 233
  • The Unity of Human Nature 254
  • THE AMATEUR SPIRIT 263
  • THINGS HUMAN 276
  • HUMANITIES, GONE AND TO COME 286
  • JEFFERSON'S DOCTRINES UNDER NEW TESTS 298
  • THE AGE OF ERUDITION 326
  • ACADEMIC FREEDOM 344
  • THE HOPE OF DEMOCRACY 362
  • DEMOCRACY AND A PROPHETIC IDEALISM 377
  • THE ATTITUDE OF THE SCHOLAR 395
  • WHAT IS VITAL IN CHRISTIANITY? 404
  • THE MYSTERY OF EDUCATION 442
  • THE SPIRIT OF LEARNING 466
  • THE UNITY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT 481
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