RALPH WALDO EMERSON
From Nature (1836)
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 rays that come from those heavenly worlds will
separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made
transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence
of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear
one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many
generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night
come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
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. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man
extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never
became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the
wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.
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 woodcutter from the tree of the poet.
The charming landscape which I saw this morning is indubitably made up of some twenty
or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond.
But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man
has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of
these men's farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.
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. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real
sorrows. Nature says-he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be
glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its
tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different
state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits
equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible