Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What is Success? A Reflection Wrongly Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson
I found this quote on the back of a menu in a restaurant while we were on vacation last week.

It was attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century American essayist, poet and author. I thought it would make a great blog post and today as I was researching the quote, I discovered from reading the Emerson Society website, that for many years this passage has been wrongly attributed to Mr. Emerson.

In fact, the misattribution might have occurred back in 1911 when a second volume of a book called 'Heart Throbs' was published by the Boston National Magazine. The book was a result of a writing contest that the magazine sponsored. On the very first page a essay titled “What is Success?” was written by Bessie A. Stanley. Ms. Stanley was a school teacher from Lincoln, Kansas who was born in 1879. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s entry titled “Good-Bye” appeared a few pages later. It is widely thought that a mix up might have been by publications reprinting the 'Success' piece due to the close proximity of the two pieces in the book.

But whoever wrote it, it is an inspirational message that has endured. To give him equal time, Emerson's poem 'Good-Bye' follows.

What Is Success?
To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one’s self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived
- this is to have succeeded.
Bessie Stanley
Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home:
Thou art not my friend, and I'm not thine.
Long through thy weary crowds I roam;
A river-ark on the ocean brine,
Long I've been tossed like the driven foam;
But now, proud world! I'm going home.

Good-bye to Flattery's fawning face;
To Grandeur with his wise grimace;
To upstart Wealth's averted eye;
To supple Office, low and high;
To crowded halls, to court and street;
To frozen hearts and hasting feet;
To those who go, and those who come;
Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home.

I am going to my own hearth-stone,
Bosomed in yon green hills alone, --
A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned;
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird's roundelay,
And vulgar feet have never trod
A spot that is sacred to thought and God.
When I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools, and the learned clan;
For what are they all, in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet?

No comments:

Post a Comment