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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 6:49 pm 
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Well, Mike, you've probably already realized my real name is Payne Inthias.
I made a simple attempt to try and find the real source and context of the line "hitch your wagon to a star" and discovered, once again, an inaccurate quote. I think I'm going to give up on this "sourcing" business because it too often leads to disappointment. I am approaching that stage of life that embraces the banner "ignorance is bliss."

In your author section, you have:
"Hitch your wagon to a star. "
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude: Civilization, 1870

I found a similar citing, but it goes:
"Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves."
~Emerson, "Society and Solitude - Civilization", 1870

Well, come to find out, this "hitch your wagon to a star" (inaccurate as it is) line actually predates 1870 by eight years. Turns out he is literally referring to Man's ability to harness the powers of the forces of this Earth, the Moon, and the stars.
The full context is:

I admire still more than the saw-mill the skill which, on the sea-shore, makes the tides drive the wheels and grind corn, and which thus embraces the assistance of the moon, like a hired band, to grind, and wind, and pump, and saw, and split stone, and roll iron.
Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson from American Civilization (1862)
The Atlantic Monthly; April 1862; American Civilization - 1862.04; Volume IX, No. 54; page 502-511
http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/1862a ... merson.htm

So I would be willing to state emphatically that Emerson never said "hitch your wagon to a star," a line that is beautiful in concept and poetry.
Curious to know what you think of this.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 7:42 pm 
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Well, if we're misquoting him, so is Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (16th ed, p. 433) which gives the same attribution.

I'm not saying you're wrong, I've found errors in Bartlett's before. I'm surprised that "Society and Solitude" isn't online anywhere. I guess I'll have to look it over next time I'm at the library.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 10:28 pm 
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I am such a dope. He does say it, later in the Atlantic Monthly article.
The website appears to be very legit, so I have no real reason to doubt it.
Maybe he said it again later in "Society and Solitude," (1870) but I am thinking now that the source citing is what is wrong, not the quote itself.
By the by, someone is trying to get all of "Society and Solitude" but so far has only chapter 10:
http://www.rwe.org/pages/society_and_solitude.htm
http://www.rwe.org/works/Society_and_So ... ourage.htm

So here goes:

And as our handiworks borrow the elements, so all our social and political action leans on principles. To accomplish anything excellent, the will must work for catholic and universal ends. A puny creature walled in on every side, as Donne wrote, --
-- "unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!"
but when his will leans on a principle, when he is the vehicle of ideas, he borrows their omnipotence. Gibraltar may be strong, but ideas are impregnable, and bestow on the hero their invincibility. "It was a great instruction," said a saint in Cromwell's war, "that the best courages are but beams of the Almighty." Hitch your wagon to a star. Let us not fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone. Let us not lie and steal. No god will help. We shall find all their teams going the other way, -- Charles's Wain, Great Bear, Orion, Leo, Hercules: -- every god will leave us. Work rather for those interests which the divinities honor and promote, -- justice, love, freedom, knowledge, utility.
~Raplh Waldo Emerson
http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/1862a ... merson.htm
http://www.users.ch/tio.family/page172.html

For whereas the mind works in possibilities, the intuitions work in actualities, and what you intuitively desire, that is possible to you. Whereas what you mentally or "consciously" desire is nine times out of ten impossible; hitch your wagon to star, or you will just stay where you are.
- D. H. Lawrence
http://www.aristotle.net/~domiller/q2001_01_03.html

Success is the ability to hitch your wagon to a star while keeping your feet on the ground.
~Author Unknown
http://www.madwed.com/quotes/Quotations ... _duty.html

"We have everything on a large scale here," said the banker, breaking off the ash of his cigar with the end of his little finger, "and we rather pride ourselves on the size of our inconsistencies even. I know something of the state of things in Altruria, and, to be frank with you, I will say that it seems to me preposterous. I should say it was impossible, if it were not an accomplished fact; but I always feel bound to recognize the thing done. You have hitched your wagon to a star and you have made the star go; there is never any trouble with wagons, but stars are not easily broken to harness, and you have managed to get yours well in hand. As I said, I don't believe in you, but I respect you." I thought this charming, myself--perhaps because it stated my own mind about Altruria so exactly and in terms so just and generous.
~ W. D. Howells, A Traveller from Altruria
From The Cosmopolitan magazine, Vol. 14 Number 1 (November 1892) to Vol. 15 Number 6 (October 1893).
http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/faculty/campb ... truria.htm
http://209.11.144.65/eldritchpress/wdh/altruria.htm


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 8:32 pm 
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Ah, there we go. I've updated our database to show the earlier 1862 source.

BTW, the Atlantic Monthly article is called "American Civilization", and the essay in "Society and Solitude" is called "Civilization". I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it's a reprint or revision of the same article. It's pretty normal for things like this that appear in magazines to be published later in a compilation of essays...

Maybe Bartlett's just missed the earlier source.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 9:09 pm 
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So far as I can see, there is no "maybe" about it.
This was a quest that had gratifying results.
I would suggest you contact Bartlett's and let them know of this information and see what they say.
I get a kick out of seeing how "one liners" were used in their original context. I can't think of a single time when I wasn't amazed at how the meaning was either changed or enriched somehow.


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