Emerson's Essays By Ralph Waldo Emerson Study Help Full Glossary for Emerson's Essays

acrostic A short poem in which the first, middle, or last letter of each line spells a word or phrase when read in sequence.

Agamemnon In Greek mythology, the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War; he was killed by his wife, Clytemnestra.

agaric A form of fungi, including many edible mushrooms.

Agrippa, Cornelius (1486-1535) German physician.

alembic A distilling machine.

Alexandrian stanza A palindrome; an arrangement of words that reads the same backwards or forward — for example, "If I had a hi-fi."

Alfred (d. 899) Alfred was the king (871-99) of what was then called West Saxony, in the southwest portion of England.

Algiers The capital of Algeria, a country in northwest Africa, on the Mediterranean Sea.

alms to sots Donations to drunkards.

alter idem Latin, meaning "the same, but somehow different"; in another reality.

amelioration An improvement.

Anaxagoras (d. 428 B.C.) Greek philosopher; he believed that matter was composed of atoms.

an ancient historian Emerson is referring to Gaius Sallustius Crispus, or Sallust (86-34 B.C.), a Roman historian.

ancillary Subordinate; a servant.

Andes A South American rugged mountain chain that runs parallel to the Pacific coast, through Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.

Animal Magnetism The term given to hypnosis by the pioneer experimenter Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), an Austrian physician.

anomalous Departing from the regular arrangement, general rule, or usual method; abnormal.

antediluvian Occurring before the biblical flood.

Antigone In Greek legend, she was the daughter of Oedipus and performed funeral rites over her brother's body in defiance of Creon, her uncle, who became Thebes' king after the fall of Oedipus.

anti-nomianism Belief in a religious doctrine that promotes faith rather than adherence to moral laws; moral laws are relative, not fixed or universal.

antinomianism Belief in the religious doctrine that promotes faith rather than adherence to moral laws.

apocalypse A prophetic revelation.

Apollo In Greek mythology, the god of poetry, prophecy, music, healing, and light.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) A Greek philosopher who once studied with Plato, Aristotle advocated moderate behavior and the use of logic as the proper tool of investigation.

Arrian Second-century Greek historian.

asp A small, venomous snake.

Assyria An ancient Near Eastern kingdom; emblematic of an early period of splendor.

azote A former name for nitrogen.

Bacon, Francis (1561-1626) An English essayist, statesman, and philosopher, he proposed a theory of scientific knowledge based on observation and experiment, which came to be known as the inductive method.

Bailey's Dictionary Officially known as the Universal Etymological English Dictionary, compiled in 1721 by Nathaniel Bailey (d. 1742).

bantling A baby.

Barbados The easternmost island of the West Indies, Barbados was a British colony until it became independent in 1966; British legislation abolished slavery in the West Indies in 1833.

Beaumont, Francis (d. 1616) An English dramatist, he co-authored all of his major works, including The Maides Ragedy (1611), with John Fletcher.

Behmen, Jacob (1575-1624) German mystic.

Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832) British philosopher; recognized as the official founder of utilitarianism, which holds that the chief purpose of human social existence is to secure the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Bering, Vitus (d. 1741) Danish explorer.

Berkeley, George (1685-1753) Berkeley was a leading advocate of empiricism and idealism in British philosophy; as an idealist, he argued that all the sensible qualities of an object — for example, taste, color, and odor — depend on the mind of the viewer.

Berserkirs Savage warriors of Norse mythology.

Bible-society One of a number of societies organized for translating and distributing bibles.

bivouac A camp without tents.

"blasted with excess of light" Spoken about the English poet John Milton in "The Progress of Poesy" (1757), by the English romantic poet Thomas Gray (1716 — 71).

bleeding A medical practice in which blood is released from a patient's veins, supposedly to drain away infections or toxic matter.

blindman's buff A game in which a blindfolded player tries to catch and identify other players.

boats Boasts.

Brahmins Members of the cultural and social elite in India.

Brutus, Marcus (d. 42 B.C.) A Roman general who conspired to assassinate Julius Caesar.

Buddhism A philosophical religion based on the teachings of Buddha; adherents believe that the self, or the "soul," has no independent reality apart from the many inseparable parts of the universe.

Buffon, Comte Georges Louis Leclerc de (1707-88) A French naturalist, he is noted for his 44-volume Histoire naturelle (finished in 1804), a comprehensive formulation of the biological sciences.

Burns, Robert (1759-96) The Scottish poet who wrote "Tam o'Shanter" and "Auld Lang Syne."

Caesar, Gaius Julius (100-44 B.C.) A Roman general, statesman, and emperor, he was given a mandate by the people to rule as dictator for life; he was stabbed to death by a group of republicans led by Brutus and Cassius.

calculator A mathematician.

calices Outer leaves at the base of flowers.

Caliph Ali (d. 661) The fourth caliph — or leader — of the Muslim community, Caliph Ali's descendants are regarded as the true successors to the prophet Mohammed.

Calvinism A Christian theological perspective associated with the work of John Calvin (1509-64), who advocated the final authority of the Bible and salvation by grace alone.

camera obscura A darkened box with a lens, through which objects are projected on a surface in their natural colors; the ancestor of the camera.

"Can crowd . . . to eternity" Spoken by Lucifer in Cain (1821), by the English romantic poet Lord George Byron (1788-1824).

Cardano, Girolamo (1501-76) Italian mathematician.

Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881) English historian, philosopher, and essayist.

Cato, Marcus Porcius (95-46 B.C.) Also known as Cato the Younger, he was a leading Stoic and Roman conservative in the last years of the Roman republic; he supported Pompey against Caesar in the nation's civil war and committed suicide after Caesar's victory.

a certain poet Meaning Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), an American educator and philosopher; Alcott was Emerson's neighbor and an admirer of Emerson's essay on nature.

Chalmers, Alexander (1759-1834) A Scottish biographer, he compiled the thirty-two volume British Biographical Dictionary.

Chapman, George (d. 1634) An English poet and dramatist noted for his translations of Homer.

charity-boy A boy attending a school for indigent children and funded by charitable donations.

Charles ll (1630-85) King of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1660 — 85), he reigned at the beginning of the Restoration.

Charmides . . . Timaeus Two dialogues written by Plato.

Chatham, First Earl of (1708-78) More widely known as Willim Pitt the Elder, he supported the American colonists' bid for independence in the British Parliament.

Chaucer, Geoffrey (d. 1400) The English poet who wrote The Canterbury Tales.

Chimborazo An inactive volcano in Ecuador.

Christina (1626-89) Queen of Sweden.

chronometers Highly accurate timepieces.

churlish Unrefined.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.) A Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher, he is best known for his speech making.

Clarkson, Thomas (1760-1846) A pioneer of the British antislavery movement.

closet Originally, any small room, such as a study, where an individual could withdraw in privacy.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) A British poet and critic, his works include "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798).

commit sacrilege with David Although David distinguished himself as a monarch who was faithful to God and as a ruler who administered justice impartially, he did not escape the demoralizing influences of his great prosperity and unrestricted power. He had numerous wives and lovers, and because his passion for Bathsheba was so great, he sent her husband, Uriah, to the front lines, thereby ensuring his death. Afterward, David married Bathsheba, but God was so displeased with David's transgression that he caused the son of David and Bathsheba to die.

Condillac, Etienne (1715-80) A French philosopher, he established the doctrine known as sensationalism, which holds that all human knowledge is strictly the result of sensory perception.

connate Tnborn; innate.

consanguinity A close affinity, or connection.

constellation Harp another name for Lyra, a constellation of stars in the northern hemisphere; it contains Vega, the fourth brightest star in the heavens.

Copernicus, Nicolaus (1473-1543) The Polish astronomer who theorized that the earth revolves around the sun.

copestones Meaning capstone, the top stone of a wall.

corporeal Physical.

Cowper, William (1731-1800) The English poet whose major work is The Task.

craft Guile; deception.

Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658) Cromwell was the Lord Protector of England (1653-58).

cumber To confound or trouble the mind or senses.

cumbers To trouble the mind or the senses.

Cuvier, Georges (1769-1832) A French naturalist, he is considered to be the founder of comparative anatomy.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) The Italian poet renowned for The Divine Comedy, completed in 1321.

David (d. 962 B.C.) The second king of Judah and Israel, David is the reputed author of many of the Psalms; the most famous stories about David concern his success as a young shepherd boy over the great Philistine warrior Goliath, and his love for the king's son, Jonathan, who loved David with a love that "was wonderful, surpassing the love of women" (I Samuel 17:48; 11 Samuel 1:26-27).

Davy, Sir Humphry (1778-1829) English chemist.

de Stael Madame (1766-1817) The French author of De l'Allemagne (1810), in which she compared French literature and society unfavorably with German literature and society.

de Witt, John (1625-72) Political leader of Holland (1653-72).

Desdemona The wife of Othello, who, in a jealous frenzy, smothers and kills her in her bed.

despotic Having absolute power and behaving arrogantly.

despotism Tyranny.

Diogenes of Sinope (c. fourth century B.C.) Diogenes was the most famous of the Cynics, a group of Greek philosophers who considered virtue to be the only good and esteemed self-sufficiency.

doctor In the Latin sense, "a teacher."

Doric The earliest and simplest of Greek architecture, characterized by fluted pillars with plain, square tops.

droll Amusing or farcical.

Druids Prehistoric Celtic priests.

Dryden, John (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist, and essayist.

ecclesiastical Pertaining to the church; concerned with the affairs of the church.

eclat A dazzling display.

efflux To flow outwardly.

elements Here, the basic principles of a subject.

emendators Those who make textual corrections.

Empedocles Fifth-century B.C. Greek philosopher and statesman.

Empirical Science experimental, based on systematized observation.

empyrean The highest reaches of heaven; paradise.

ennui Boredom.

Ens "Being" in the most general sense of the term.

Eolus In Greek mythology, the god of the winds; in Homer's Odyssey, Eolus tries to aid Odysseus by giving him a bag in which unfavorable winds are confined.

Epaminondas (418-362 B.C.) Greek Theban general.

ephemera Something that has a transitory existence.

ephemeral Short-lived; transitory.

equinox The two times during the year when the sun crosses the celestial equator, and day and night are of equal length.

Essenes An ascetic Jewish sect of the first century B.C. and first century A.D.; authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, they lived communally and are often associated with the Jews who first followed Jesus.

Euler, Leonhard (1707-83) A Swiss mathematician, he is noted for developing integral calculus.

Exchange Stock exchange.

faerie Fairyland.

ferules Sticks used for punishing children.

fetish An obsessive preoccupation.

Fichte, Johann Gottlieb (1762-1814) A German idealist who held that the ego is neither subjective nor personal, but is the universal and "absolute ego" from which all objective reality is derived; he believed that if all people were fully developed morally, laws would be unnecessary.

fig tree A Mediterranean tree or shrub, widely cultivated for its edible fruit.

firmament The expanse of the heavens; the sky; poetically, a symbol of strength.

Flamsteed, John (1646-1719) English astronomer.

Fletcher, John (1579-1625) An English dramatist best known for his collaboration with Francis Beaumont; Fletcher was the sole author of at least fifteen plays.

Foreworld The primeval world.

Fourier, Francois Marie (1772-1837) French social theorist.

Fox, George (1624-91) The founder of the Society of Friends (1647), popularly called the Quakers, Fox preached equality between men and women, and pacifism. The Quaker doctrine of inner enlightenment belongs in the religious tradition called quietism; the emphasis on inner enlightenment is similar to transcendentalists' emphasis on intuitive knowledge.

Franklin, Benjamin (1706-90) An American scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and philosopher; one of the most important figures in the transformation of the American colonies into the United States of America.

Franklin, Sir John (1786-1847) An Arctic explorer from England.

frigate A fast, multi-sailed naval ship.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) An Italian scientist, Galileo furthered the theories advanced by Copernicus through use of the telescope; his views were considered a threat to certain religious doctrines, and he was obliged to publicly retract some of his assertions.

gazetted Here, meaning "dismissed."

Gibbon, Edward (1737-94) Considered to be one of the greatest English historians, Gibbon authored the six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

glazed Having a roof of glass.

Gnostics A sect that believed that human experience was characterized by a radical disjunction between the spiritual, which they regarded as real, and the physical, which they regarded as illusory.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832) The German writer who profoundly influenced literary romanticism; he is noted for his two-part dramatic poem Faust, published in 1808 and 1832.

gold eagle A gold coin.

Goldsmith, Oliver (d. 1774) English poet, playwright, and novelist.

Gothic A European style of architecture noted for its pointed arches and flying buttresses.

The Grand Turk The Sultan of Turkey.

grandames Grandmothers.

Greenwich nautical almanac Initiated in 1767, the Nautical Almanac, published by the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England, was indispensable to ship captains and navigators,

Gustavus (1594-1632) Gustavus was the Swedish king responsible for making Sweden a major European power; after his troops marched through Germany, he became known as the "Lion of the North." During his reign, a short-lived Swedish colony — the only one in the Americas — was founded in what is now Delaware.

harbingers Those who foreshadow the approach of someone or something.

Haydn, Franz Joseph (1732-1809) Austrian composer.

heosophists Broadly applied to theologians who claim direct knowledge of God by mystical insights.

Heraclitus The sixth-century B.C. Greek philosopher who claimed that strife and change are natural conditions of the universe.

Herbert, George (1593-1633) An English metaphysical poet, he wrote The Temple (1633), a famous posthumous collection of religious poems.

Hercules The Roman name for the Greek mythological hero Heracles, who was famous for his bravery and strength; his many incredible feats are customarily divided into the famous twelve labors.

Herschel, Sir William (1738-1822) An English astronomer, he is credited for discovering Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun.

hieroglyphic A picture or symbol representing a sound or a word; best known for being used by the ancient Egyptians.

Himmaleh The Himalaya Mountains are the highest in the world, forming the northern border of Nepal.

hobgoblin A frightening apparition; a goblin.

Hohenlohe Emerson makes reference to Leopold Franz Emmerich, prince of Hohenlohe (1794-1849), a reputed miracle healer.

Homer (eighth century B.C.) The reputed author of the earliest surviving epic poems in the European tradition, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Homer The eighth-century B.C. reputed author of the earliest surviving epic poems in the European tradition, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Hudson, Henry (d. 1611) The English explorer who sailed up the river now bearing his name and established an English claim to it; he died after being set adrift by a mutinous crew in the Canadian bay that was later named for him.

Hutton, James (1726-97) A Scottish geologist, he advanced the hypothesis that geologic changes in the earth's surface occur slowly over long periods of time.

ichor In Greek mythology, the heavenly fluid that flows through the veins of Greek gods.

Idealism The philosophical assumption that material objects do not exist independently of humans' perceptions of them.

ief Willingly.

impalpable Incapable of being readily grasped or comprehended.

interloper One who interferes in the affairs of others.

irrefragable indisputable.

Isaiah A Hebrew prophet of the eighth century B.C.

Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich (1743-1819) A German philosopher who opposed idealism, Jacobi believed in the reality provided by the senses, but he also acknowledged truths present in the heart and in the human spirit, including the knowledge of God.

Jamblichus (fourth century B.C.) Syrian philosopher.

James I (1566-1625) King of England.

Jeremiah Hebrew prophet during the period 626 B.C. to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; his texts are compiled in the Book of Jeremiah, also called Lamentations.

Johnson, Samuel (1709-84) The English writer and critic who wrote Lives of the Poets, a study of English poetry.

Joseph and the harlot A reference to the biblical Joseph, who refused the advances of an Egyptian officer's wife (the "harlot"); the woman then falsely accused him of rape, and Joseph was thrown in jail, where he received his gift of dream interpretation.

Judas Iscariot (d. 33) Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve Apostles and the betrayer of Christ.

Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804) The German philosopher who greatly influenced Emerson.

Kepler, Johann (1571-1630) The German astronomer who clarified the theory that the planets revolve around the sun.

Las Casas, Emmanuel (1766-1842) French historian; best known for recording Napoleon's last conversations on the island of St. Helena.

Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent (1743-94) French chemist; regarded as the founder of modern chemistry

Leibnitz, Gottfried Wilhelm von (1646-1716) A German philosopher and mathematician, he is noted for his theory that we live in the best of all possible worlds.

Leonidas, King of Sparta Leonidas succeeded his half-brother, Cleomenes I, as one of the two kings of Sparta, a city-state of ancient Greece. In 480 B.C., during the Persian Wars, he led a Greek army of about one thousand men to hold the pass of Thermopylae against the Persian army of Xerxes 1; all of the troops, including Leonidas, were killed.

Lethe In Greek mythology, the river of forgetfulness that flows between the world of the living and the underworld of the dead.

Linnaeus, Carolus (1707-78) The Swedish botanist who founded the modern classification system for plants and animals known as binomial nomenclature.

lintel The horizontal door post of a house.

Locke, John (1632-1704) An English philosopher, Locke developed a theory of cognition that denied the existence of innate ideas and asserted that all thought is based on knowledge received from our senses. His works influenced American Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, who modified Puritan doctrine to allow for more play of reason and intellect, building a foundation for Unitarianism and, eventually, transcendentalism.

logrolling Exchanging political favors.

Lowell goes in a loom, and Lynn in a shoe, and Salem in a ship Three cities in Massachusetts known for their individual industries: textile manufacturing, shoe making, and shipping, respectively.

lpiunell'uno Italian, meaning "The many in one."

lumber room A room cluttered with discarded household articles and furniture.

Luther, Martin (1483-1546) A German theologian, Luther is credited with initiating the Protestant Reformation; he believed in the ability of educated lay people to form ethical and religious judgments based on their own interpretations of scripture.

Lyncaeus In Greek mythology, Lyncaeus was the keenest-sighted crewman on the ship Argo, which Jason and his fellow Argonauts sailed in search of the Golden Fleece.

Macdonald Emerson substitutes this typical name of a Scottish chief in the old proverb, "Where Macgregor sits, there is the head of the table."

Mackintosh, Sir James (1765-1832) Scottish political philosopher.

magnanimity The quality of being generous in forgiving insult or injury.

Manichean An adherent of a third-century religious system that asserted that the body was produced by evil, but that the soul streamed from goodness.

Manichees Adherents of a religious system widely accepted from the third to the fifth century and composed of Gnostic Christian, Manichean, and pagan elements; in their religion, Satan was represented as coeternal with God.

Marvell, Andrew (1621-78) An English metaphysical poet, his works include "To His Coy Mistress" and "Damon the Mower."

Materialism The philosophical belief that all human events and conditions depend upon material objects and their interrelationships; sensory perception is the key to learning.

maugre In spite of.

mean Worth little.

mendicant Taking the characteristics of a beggar.

Methodism Founded by John Wesley (1703-91), Charles Wesley (1707-88), and others in England during the early 1700s, this Protestant religion emphasized doctrines of free grace and individual responsibility.

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) Italian sculptor, painter, and architect; among his accomplishments are the paintings on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling (1508 — 12) and the marble sculpture David (1501).

Milton, John (1608-74) An English poet, he is renowned for his religious epic poem Paradise Lost 1667), which sought to "justify the ways of God to men."

Monachism of the Hermit Anthony The construction of the abbeys of St. Anthony marked the beginning of Christian monasticism.

monitors People who give an admonition, a warning to correct some fault.

monitory A warning.

Moravian and Quietist Eighteenth- and seventeenth-century religious sects, respectively.

mow To grimace.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-91) An Austrian composer whose music epitomizes the height of the Classical age. Among his masterpieces are two operas, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Napoleon I (1769-1821) The emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, Napoleon I is remembered as one of the greatest military strategists of all time.

Ne te quaesiveris extra Latin, meaning "Do not seek outside yourself." In other words, "Look within."

Nebuchadnezzar (d. 562 B.C.) The king of Babylonia who destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727) An English mathematician and scientist, Newton is chiefly remembered for formulating the law of gravity.

nomenclature A set of names or terms that makes up a system.

ocular All-seeing.

Olympus Home of the mythical Greek gods.

Omne verum vero consonat Latin, meaning "Every truth agrees with every other truth."

optative Wishful.

oracles In the classical Greek tradition, oracles were prophetic voices or persons who could foretell the future but did so in ways that were generally impossible for listeners to interpret.

Orestes The legendary son of Agamemnon, Orestes avenged his father's death by killing his mother and her lover.

Orpheus A legendary Greek poet and lyre player, he attempted to free his wife, Eurydice, from the Underworld by using his music to charm Hades, king of the Underworld.

Othello The main character of Shakespeare's five-act tragedy of the same name.

the Pacha A variation of "pasha," a Turkish government official of high rank.

Paley, William (1743-1805) English theologian.

Palmyra An ancient city in the Middle East, north of Damascus.

pantomimic Mimicry; expressed by a silent show.

Paphos An ancient city in Cyprus, where Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sensual love, was worshipped.

Paracelsus, Philippus (1493-1541) A German physician and alchemist, he introduced the concept of disease to medicine.

parallax The apparent change in the position of an object, resulting from a change in the position from which it is viewed.

Parry, Sir William Edward (1790-1855) A pioneer explorer of the Arctic Ocean.

pathos The quality of arousing feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow.

patois Dialect.

Paul (c. first century) Termed the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was a Hebrew who had Roman citizenship; while on the road to Damascus, he saw a vision of Christ and was converted to Christianity. His writings in the New Testament articulate the foundations for most Christian beliefs.

pecuniary Of, or involving, money.

pensioner One who is dependent on another for economic well-being.

peppercorn Here, meaning petty.

Pericles (d. 429 B.C.) An Athenian statesman, he was responsible for reforms and for promoting democracy.

Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich (1746-1827) Swiss educator.

Phidias (c. fifth century B.C.) A great Athenian sculptor, none of whose works survive.

Phocion (402-318 B.C.) Phocion was a pupil of Plato and later ruled Athens from 322 to 318 B.C., when he was deposed and executed by Athenians hoping to restore democracy.

Phosphorus In Greek mythology, the god representing the morning star, or morning light.

pickerel-weed North American aquatic plants with arrow-shaped leaves and spikes of violet-blue flowers.

Pindar (c. 518-438 B.C.) A Greek lyrical poet remembered for his heroic themes.

pinfold An enclosure for stray animals; to confine.

piquancy Appealingly provocative.

the pit In early theaters, the cheapest seats behind the orchestra, below the level of the stage.

pith And marrow here, signifying the essential, or central, part.

plastic Able to be molded to any shape; creative.

Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.) A Greek philosopher, he formulated the philosophy of idealism, which holds that the concepts or ideas of things are more perfect — and, therefore, more real — than the material things themselves.

Plotinus (205-270) An Egyptian-born Roman philosopher, he gave a mystical and symbolic interpretation of the doctrines of Plato.

Plutarch (c. 46-120) Greek biographer; his Parallel Lives was a source for much of English literature, including several of Shakespeare's plays.

Plutarch (c. 46-120) Greek biographer; his Parallel Lives was a source for much of English literature, including several works by Shakespeare.

pontederia The Latin name for the pickerel-weed family.

Pope, Alexander (1688-1744) English poet and translator.

Porphyry (c. 232-304) Roman philosopher.

port Bearing; posture.

presentiment A feeling that something specific may happen in the future.

Proclus (d. 485) Greek philosopher.

promulgate To make known publicly.

Proteus In Greek mythology, he was a sea god and the keeper of Poseidon's seals; Proteus had the ability to assume various shapes.

Provencal Minstrelsy Provence, an ancient province in southeast France, was a center for troubadours.

Puritans A sixteenth-century group of Protestants in the Church of England, they thought the Church of England had not gone far enough in reforming the doctrines and the structure of the Church; they called for the eradication of all Roman Catholic elements from their services.

pusillanimity Cowardice.

Pylades In Greek mythology, Pylades was the son of Strophius, king of Phocis. He was raised with his cousin Orestes and became his faithful friend, assisting him in the murder of his mother and her lover.

Pythagoras (sixth century B.C.) Greek philosopher; considered to be the first true mathematician.

Quakerism Officially called the Society of Friends; a group of Christians originating in seventeenth-century England under George Fox. They hold that believers receive direct guidance from a divine inner light.

Quakers Officially called the Society of Friends; a group of Christians originating in seventeenth-century England under George Fox, they held that believers receive direct guidance from a divine inward light.

Quincy granite The granite mined from the quarries in Quincy, Massachusetts, near Boston.

radical Here, meaning root, or most elemental.

Raphael (1483-1520) Italian painter.

Reformation A sixteenth-century movement in Europe to reform excesses and deficiencies in the Church, the Reformation eventually resulted in the separation of the Protestant churches from what then came to be known as the Roman Catholic Church.

Reformers Leaders of the sixteenth-century Reformation who believed that the Christian church no longer conformed to the biblical model; the reformers included John Calvin, Martin Luther, and John Knox.

refractory Unruly.

Russell, Lord John (1792-1878) A British statesman, he served as prime minister (1846-52 and 1865-66) and worked for broader voting rights and religious toleration.

Sabbath Originally, Saturday, the seventh day of the week reserved by Jews as a day of rest; Sunday is observed as the Sabbath by Christians.

Samos A Greek island.

Saturnalia A period of unrestrained license and revelry; associated with the ancient Roman festival of Saturn.

savant Here, a scholar.

Savoyards Inhabitants of Savoy, now a province of southeast France; during Emerson's lifetime, Savoyards were renowned for their woodcarving.

Saxon breasts Part of the American construction of race in the 1800s was the development of the notion of a "Saxon" or "Anglo-Saxon" race, supposedly derived from the Teutonic conquerors of England following the Roman Empire; Americans who wished to maintain an elite class of descendants of northern European Protestants excluded Irish, eastern and southern Europeans, and people of color from the notion of "true" Americans.

Scanderbeg (d. 1468) Revolutionary leader and national hero of Albania.

Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von (1775-1854) German philosopher. Oken, Lorenz (1779-1851) German naturalist. mesmerism hypnotism. Behmen, Jacob (1575-1624) German mystic.

Scipio Africanus the "Elder" (237-183 B.C.) Until Julius Caesar, he was the greatest Roman general, defeating the mighty Hannibal at Zama in 202 B.C.

scorice The refuse left after melting metal.

See the great ball which they roll from Baltimore to Bunker Hill A political stunt used by the Whigs in the 1840 American presidential campaign to illustrate their growing majority.

sepulchres Vaults for burial.

sere Withered.

set at naught To set aside, or deem inconsequential.

Shakers A religious organization originating in England in 1747; early members believed in miracle cures and exhibited hysterical manifestations of being possessed.

signet A small seal pressed into a hot wax wafer in order to make a document official.

slough The skin of a snake, especially the outer layer that is periodically cast off.

Socrates (d. 399 B.C.) The Greek philosopher who initiated a question-and-answer method of teaching — called the Socratic method — as a means of achieving self-knowledge; opponents of Socrates' method felt that he was undermining the authority of the state by teaching youths to question received knowledge. He was brought to trial, convicted of corrupting youth, and condemned to die; he carried out the sentence by drinking poison.

sod Grassy surface soil.

solstice The two times of the year when the sun reaches its most northerly (summer) and southerly (winter) positions, with reference to the equator. These are the longest and shortest days, respectively, of the year.

Sophocles (d. 406 B.C.) A Greek dramatist whose plays include Antigone and Oedipus Rex.

Spartan fife Refers to the fife, a small flute, used in tandem with drums to provide cadence for marching soldiers.

Spenser, Edmund (1552-99) The English poet whose best-known work is The Faerie Queene.

Sphinx A creature of Egyptian mythology that was often the subject of Egyptian art and sculpture; the sphinx has a human's head and an animal's body.

Spinoza, Baruch (1632-77) Dutch theologian and philosopher.

St. Peter's The most famous building in Vatican City, Rome; the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter, built by Constantine I to honor the apostle Paul, martyred three hundred years earlier.

Stewart, Douglas (1753-1828) Scottish philosopher.

Stoic One who approaches life rationally, indifferent to pleasure and emotional pain.

stumps The name given to political speakers who employed the practice of addressing audiences from anywhere, including standing on the tops of tree stumps.

subaltern Subordinate.

Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772) A Swedish scientist, mystic, philosopher, and theologian, Swedenborg insisted that the scriptures are the immediate word of God. He postulated many scientific theories that were far ahead of their time, including the idea that all matter is made up of tiny swirling particles (later called atoms). He also set out to prove the existence of an immortal soul. Theologically, he asserted that the heavenly trinity is reproduced in human beings as soul, body, and mind. His teachings became the nucleus of the Church of the New Jerusalem.

Swedenborgism The philosophical system derived by the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772); emphasizes mystical insight and an idealistic vision of human nature.

sycophantic Trying to win favors from influential people by excessive fawning and flattery.

tacks The movement of a sailboat against the wind by setting sails and steering back and forth across the direction of the wind; each leg of the journey is a single tack.

Temperance The nineteenth- and twenteenth-century American movement to promote — both by law and persuasion — abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

The Tempest A romantic drama written in 1611 by William Shakespeare; it recounts the story of a magician, Prospero, and others who are shipwrecked on an island.

the temple of Delphi The Greek temple in the town of Delphi that was the home of the Delphic prophets and the oracle of Apollo.

Thebes An ancient city in Egypt, it was a major center of national life and culture at the time of the Pharaohs; many of its magnificent monuments had fallen into ruin by Emerson's time.

Thermopylae A mountain pass in Greece, where the Spartans, under the leadership of Leonidas, were defeated by Xerxes and the Persians.

Third Estate The "common people" under the French monarchy; the clergy and nobles formed the first two estates.

Thor In Norse mythology, the god of thunder; he is commemorated in the name of the fifth day of the week, Thursday.

Timoleon One of Achilles' immortal horses.

titular Existing only in title, or name.

Transcendentalism A religious, literary, and philosophical movement in New England between 1836, when Emerson published Nature, and 1844, when The Dial — the publishing entity of the transcendental movement — ceased publication. Influenced by Unitarianism, transcendentalists denied the existence of miracles, preferring a Christianity that rested on the teachings of Christ and not on his deeds. They experimented with communal living and supported educational innovation, the abolitionist and feminist movements, and the reform of the church and society, generally. New England transcendentalists were committed to intuition as a way of knowing, to individualism, and to a belief in the divinity of humans and nature.

tropes literary devices that use words in non-literal ways, such as irony or metaphor.

Troubadours A class of lyric poets and poet-musicians, they lived in southern France in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries and composed poems of love and chivalry.

Troy An ancient city in Asia Minor and the site of the Trojan War.

Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques (1727-81) French economic theorist; his reforms of the French financial systems were blocked by the forces of privilege in the clergy and the nobility.

unhandselled Unappreciated.

Unitarianism A form of Christianity that asserts that God is one person, the Father, rather than the three-in-one person as the doctrine of the Trinity asserts; Unitarians are confident in an individual's rational abilities for moral self-guidance.

valetudinarian A person in poor health, or one who is constantly anxious about his or her state of health.

Vane, Sir Henry (1613-62) Vane, a Puritan statesman and colonial governor of Massachusetts (1636-37), opposed the restoration of Charles II and was executed for treason.

Viasa A legendary Hindu credited with authoring a substantial part of the Sanskrit scriptures of the four Vedas and the Upanishads.

Vitruvius First-century B.C. Roman architect.

Vulcan In Roman mythology, the god of fire and metal-working.

Whigs Naming themselves after the British party of the common people (as opposed to the aristocratic Tories), the Whig party in the United States was active from 1834 to 1854.

Whim Emerson is recalling Exodus 12, in which God instructs Moses to mark the doors of Hebrew homes with blood so that the inhabitants will be spared when God passes through Egypt to "smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast." Here, Emerson is saying that instead of marking the house with blood, he would mark the house with the word "Whim," thereby characterizing the inhabitants as utterly devoid of personal integrity.

Winkelreid, Arnold von (d. 1386) A legendary Swiss hero.

Woden The Anglo-Saxon form of Odin, chief among the Norse and Germanic gods.

Wordsworth, William (1770-1850) An English poet, his most important collection, Lyrical Ballads (1798), helped establish romanticism in England.

Xanthus An ancient city of Lycia in present-day Turkey

Xenophanes (c. 560-478 B.C.) A Greek philosopher, he taught the unity of existence, that "All is one."

York Minster A cathedral in York, England.

Zeno (335-263 B.C.) Greek philosopher and founder of the Stoic school of philosophy.

Zoroaster (sixth century B.C.) The Persian prophet who founded a religious system that taught that life was a continual struggle between the forces of light and dark.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Emerson believes that the scholar's duties are all comprised in what?




Quiz