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Greatest Father’s Day Ever – R. W. Emerson

So I have not been writing much lately. This is not due to laziness, it’s due to reading! My wife got me some great books for Father’s day and one of them is the Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have been totally enamored by this man’s essays – especially his essay entitled Nature. It has simply blown me away as he expresses things so amazingly eloquently that I have felt – unanswered – my entire life. His ideas on Art and Nature and man are completely reshaping the way I feel about much of my own writing and the purposes in it. He sees the world in a completely ‘poetic’ way, and that I adore and admire. So, I wanted to share some of my favorite excepts. All text listed below belongs to the remarkable Ralph W. Emerson.

“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.”

“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 poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man. Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.”

“This imagery is spontaneous. It is the blending of experience with the present action of the mind. It is proper creation. It is the working of the Original Cause through the instruments he has already made. These facts may suggest the advantage which the country-life possesses for a powerful mind, over the artificial and curtailed life of cities. We know more from nature than we can at will communicate. Its light flows into the mind evermore, and we forget its presence. The poet, the orator, bred in the woods, whose senses have been nourished by their fair and appeasing changes, year after year, without design and without heed, — shall not lose their lesson altogether, in the roar of cities or the broil of politics. Long hereafter, amidst agitation and terror in national councils, — in the hour of revolution, — these solemn images shall reappear in their morning lustre, as fit symbols and words of the thoughts which the passing events shall awaken. At the call of a noble sentiment, again the woods wave, the pines murmur, the river rolls and shines, and the cattle low upon the mountains, as he saw and heard them in his infancy. And with these forms, the spells of persuasion, the keys of power are put into his hands.”

“This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf;

“Can these things be,
And overcome us like a summer’s cloud,
Without our special wonder?”

for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own, shines through it.”


2 thoughts on “Greatest Father’s Day Ever – R. W. Emerson

  1. May I say I love your wife for her wonderful taste. And I love that you’re loving Emerson. I find him easier to digest in small doses myself, but oh so very worthy all the same. I’ll be interested to see how your readings influence your writings. Very interested indeed.

    And if you’re enjoying Emerson, you may want to consider (if you haven’t already) Thoreau. Where Emerson can feel (IMHO) weighty, with Thoreau I can fly. (I would especially point you toward Walden, Chapter 5 – Solitude.)

  2. sheesh, what sarah said about thoreau and flying, and then you’ll have to come on a pilgrimage to Massachusetts. though frankly you should probably do that anyway.
    i love the passage about country-life and see what you see there. country-life really does never leave you.

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