The selfish world will soon forget you

A few days hence an unforeseen exposure to a storm or to cold, will shut you up in your chamber, will heat your blood to fever and stretch you on your bed. A few days more and idle eyes will run over your obituary in the newspaper. The selfish world will soon forget you. The sun will shine on your funeral as bright as he did at your bridal day & for one word that is spoken of your character ten twenty will be spoken of the settlement of your estate. When two or three weeks of decent grief are gone those of your own household will quote the day of your death as a convenient date, & not an occasion of grief; so rapidly in men’s hearts are the strongest passages of the past, swallowed up in interests & din of the present. But when you are thus numbered with those who have no part in all that is done under the sun, when in the places where your foot was familiar it is no more known and all trace of you is obliterated as tho’ it had never been, shall you also forget as you are forgotten; shall your memory, my brother, be swept with the same waters of oblivion? If not, where will consciousness awake again? In what society, in what presence will you stand?

The employment of time is the main purpose of life & the main consequence of death is the account that is to be rendered thereof.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks 3:97

Posted in: Journals on April 29, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Share on Twitter | Facebook

  1. On April 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm Emersonreader Said:

    Thanks for this interesting quote, do you know when Emerson wrote it? Is it part of the Notebooks or the Journals? Many thanks again.

  2. On April 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm kirk Said:

    As it says, it’s in volume 3 of the Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks. I think that, at that time, there were only journals.

    He wrote it in September 1827.