Monday, March 10, 2014

Fragments of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Nature": a poem

Today I read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Nature."  As I read it, I underlined passages that spoke to me with particular eloquence and power.  Though Emerson writes in prose, his language is highly poetic.  I decided to turn the passages I underlined in "Nature" into a poem.  Here it is:

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.
Every night come out these preachers of beauty
and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

There is a property in the horizon which no man
has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts,
that is, the poet.
Few adult persons can see nature.
Most persons do not see the sun.
In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man,
in spite of real sorrows,
all his impertinent griefs,
he shall be glad with me.

Almost I fear to think how glad I am.
In the woods, is perpetual youth.
In the woods, we return to reason and faith.
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 the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty.
The misery of man appears like childish petulance,
when we explore the steady and prodigal provision
that has been made for his support and delight
on this green ball
which floats him through the heavens.

A man is fed, not that he may be fed,
but that he may work.
Give me health and a day,
and I will make the pomp of emperors 

The eye is the best of artists.
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon.
We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

To the attentive eye,
each moment of the year has its own beauty,
and in the same field it beholds, every hour,
a picture which was never seen before,
and which shall never be seen again.
Indeed the river is a perpetual gala,
and boasts each month a new ornament.

Every heroic act is also decent,
and causes the place and the bystanders to shine.

Nothing divine dies.
All good is eternally productive.
The production of a work of art throws a light
upon the mystery of humanity.
The poet, the painter, the sculptor,
the musician, the architect
seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world
on one point.
Man is conscious of a universal soul
within or behind his individual life, wherein,
as in a firmament, the natures of
Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom,
arise and shine.

These are not the dreams of a few poets, here and there.

Every object rightly seen,
unlocks a new faculty of the soul.
Every particular in nature,
a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time
is related to the whole,
and partakes of the perfection of the whole.
Each particle is a microcosm,
and faithfully renders the likeness of the world.

"A Gothic Church," said Colerige,
"is a petrified religion."

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.

We are as much strangers in nature,
as we were aliens from God.
We do not understand the notes of the birds.
Infancy is the perpetual Messiah,
which comes into the arms of fallen men,
and pleads with them to return to paradise.

Prayer, eloquence, self-healing, and the wisdom of children.

The invariable mark of wisdom 
is to see the miraculous in the common.
To the wise, therefore, a fact is true poetry,
and the most beautiful of fables.

So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes.

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