"The Only Gift Is A Portion Of Thyself"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Emerson is quite skeptical about the value of giving gifts. Even though "it is always so pleasant to be generous, . . . the impediment lies in the choosing." The best gifts are the services we render out of necessity. But all gifts are in a sense inappropriate: "It is not the office of a man to receive gifts. How dare you give them? We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. . . . For, the expectation of gratitude is mean, and is continually punished by the total insensibility of the obliged person." In a true friendship, mere gifts are unimportant, for friends "cannot be bought and sold." The true gift "must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him":

. . . But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man's wealth is an index of his merit. . . .