A Friendly Breakdown of How Emerson’s Nature Works What do you need to cover? These are the essential elements of Emerson’s essay.

A Friendly Breakdown of How Emerson’s Nature Works


What do you need to cover? These are the essential elements of Emerson’s essay.

· Emerson begins the essay by explaining how to achieve a certain quality of solitude, one that he will achieve later in his essay when he becomes a transparent eyeball.

· He explains that if one wishes to achieve that quality of solitude, one must leave behind a connection to people (society, reading, writing, one’s home)

· To find true solitude one only need look at the stars

· The stars fill us with awe the make one feel like the stars separate us from them

· (with a “transparent” atmosphere – later connects to “transparent eyeball”

· Call the stars a “City of God” later calls the woods / nature “plantations of God”

· The stars invoke a sense of awe, for we cannot access them– thus, in their presence, we feel respect and reverence

· We can feel a similar kind of awe for all of nature down here on earth if we are open to the influence of nature

· Nature is never mean (it never “wears a mean appearance” later connects to “nature wears the colors of our spirit”)

· The “wise man” (the person whose mind is open to the influence of nature

· Never tires of nature – always feels wonder

· Never tries to forcefully take nature’s secrets

· Never treats it like a toy

· Always feels a continual wonder for it – much like the wonder most people have in childhood (but not the same exact thing – we are now adults!)

· The person who sees in this way sees poetically (sees nature in terms of the wonder and beauty it invokes)

· Offers examples of

· Tree

· Woodcutter who sees a tree as material / wood that can be used and / or sold

· Poet sees the tree with a sense of awe– for the beauty, for the awe and reverence it invokes

· The Landscape

· He takes a walk through the farmland and realizes individuals lay claim to fields and woods, but these people can never own the landscape (the view / the experience of it). The poet sees the land as nature—as worthy of reverence – the owners sees as property

· Most people, Emerson argues, never “see” nature (this IMPLIES that they do not see it more deeply– do not see it with the heart of a poet). They of course can physically “see” it …

· Offers example that adults only see the sun superficially– while the sun shines both in the inner (heart) and outer (eyes) of children

· The person who loves nature (open to influence / the poet / etc.) — has an adjusted experience of outer and inner senses

· That person retains some of the wonder he/she experienced as a child

· That person experiences an awe for nature on earth and in the heavens – and those experiences are a kind of nourishment (spiritual)

· It as if nature says you are mine personification

· A person feeling sad can feel nature uplifting him / her sometimes

· Nature fits happiness and melancholy

· Nature can feel like a cordial (a little medicine)

· Emerson has been on a walk in nature and felt exhilarated by the experience with no other special reasons for feeling that way

· He is glad to the brink of fear (on the edge between exhilaration and terror)

· He feels that one can feel as if they return to a kind of youthful excitement when in nature

· compares it to casting off the years like a snake casts off its skin

· He compares it to a ritual (decorum = dignified propriety of behavior, speech, dress, etc.)

· He calls the woods “plantations of God” – compare to “City of God” in first paragraph)

· Implies that God is both in the stars and in nature

· In those moments of pure exhilaration while in nature:

· He says that we return to reason and faith (these are contradictory) – Transcendentalists believed in science AND God

· He feels, in those moments, like nothing bad can happen – as if nature can repair any ills

· He feels the breeze

· He feels as if he is lifted by the exhilaration into an endless space (FEELS – not actual)

· He feels like all meanness vanishes

· He becomes a transparent eyeball

· Metaphor comparing (1) the experience of being deeply connected to nature TO (2) a transparent eyeball

· Transparent = having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies situated beyond or behind can be distinctly seen.

· Eyeball = the entire ball-shaped part of the eye

· Eye can be pun (same sound / two different words) on I (eye / I)

· Eye is how you see – how one experiences – I is who you are and how you see – Implication = the eye and the I are how one experiences nature

· So the implication is that this is a transparent “I”

· Thus– we can infer that the moment 0f the I and the eye is deeply connected to nature AND

· He is part of God / particle of God THUS he deeply connects to God while in nature (for, in a sense, God is nature // nature is God

· He connects because of his awe for the stars (“City of God” and his consequential connection to all of nature (plantations of God) because he is open to the influence

· In those moments other human beings feel far away (back to first paragraph) / inconsequential

· He finds something inherently essential in his deep connection to nature (and thus God)

· This deep connection suggests a mystical relationship between a person and the vegetation of nature

· Personification as if nature sees him / he sees nature

· Nature– even though familiar– always seems new (refers back to second paragraph of essay)

· In those moments it is a higher thought– a thought more intense and heightened than ordinary thoughts

· However– this connection to nature is primarily grounded in the individual

· One brings their emotions to nature (once can feel happier or elevated by nature– but the ownership of the feelings is the individual)


Essential Quotes (You can break them up and / or block them)


To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars


The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.


When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet.


To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food.


Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.


There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God

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