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Ralf Waldo Emerson Essay, Research Paper

Ralph Waldo EmersonRalph Waldo Emerson who was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston was known as, “the leading member of the group of New England idealists known as the transcendentalists.” [Benet- 17] His father, editor of the “Monthly Anthology” – a review of literature, and pastor at the Unitarian Church in Boston, died in 1811, when Ralph Waldo was only eight. With a scholarship to Harvard, Emerson entered in 1817. Not a outstanding student, Emerson graduated thirteenth out of 59 students in 1821, and was elected class poet. After his graduation, he taught, even though he was suffering from symtoms of tuberculosis. Many generations of the Emerson family were ministers, so Ralph Waldo knew in the beginning that he was to become one. By the time he was twenty-two, he wished himself called Waldo. At this time he was enrolled for the Divinity School at Harvard, but his being sick made him have to give up his work for a while.In Concord, New Hampshire he met another poet, Ellen Tucker, also suffering with tuberculosis. Even though she was only 17, while Ralph Waldo was 24, they got married. They were both happy, but both very ill. Ellen died only after two years of their marriage. In the same year that Emerson met Ellen, he became a preacher, but it didn’t last long. His chest was weak and he had to give it up.His travels to Europe led him to meet many men, even though he was very sick. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Thomas Carlyle were among the few. Carlyle stayed his friend throughout his whole life.Nature as a metaphor or image of the human mind was the topic of his lecture, “The uses of Natural History” after he got back from Europe. His attempt being to, “humanize science.” [Grolier pg.304] His later marriage to Lydia Jackson lasted the rest of his life. They lived in Concord, Massachussetts. Lydia was forced by Ralph Waldo to change her name to Lydian. His reasoning for this was because of New Englander’s habit of pronouncing things that ended with ‘a’, with an ‘r’ sound at the end. Their house guested many writers and conversationalists, including Henry David Thoreau.1836 brought his first novel, “Nature.” Even though a small 500 copies were published, not all of them were sold. It was not until his second series of essays that he built his reputation. Although many people respected Emerson’s thoughts, many of them weren’t original. Many of his views were inspired by the Puritan religion, readings from Plato and the Neoplatonists. The thing that made him different from most other writers is that his thoughts were phrased so well, probably from his poetic writing. Poets have a way of writing things in one line that usually take a paragraph to explain. It puts more importance and meaning into what they are saying.Ralph Waldo Emerson went to many funerals, but in April of 1882, he died of pnemonia in Concord, and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetary. People knew Emerson was doing people good, he inspired hope in people with his known optimistic attitude toward life.Philosophy There was no easy system of philosophy to Emerson. “He did not pretend to know the truth. The truth is as hard to capture and bottle up as light.” [Thomas-250] Emerson was not afraid to say that he was wrong. He would simply change his opinion.All men are vital parts of one organism- mankind. Transcendentalism came as the term for this oneness of man, through his relationship to God.Dignity of the common man. “Come out of the cemeteries of the past!” “Look forward into the woodlands of the future! The eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead.”… “Build your own world.” [Thomas- 352] Nobility of the commonplace- … “the world exists for you.” [Thomas- 253]Asserting oneself- “All that Adam had, and Ceasar could, you have and can do.” … “There are no bounds to the possibilities of man.” [Thomas- 253]Be of good cheer!- “This world belongs to the cheerful, the energetic and daring.” [Thomas- 253]Friendship. The life of man is a search for friendship. It is not just a passion, but an action in our souls. “The Alps and the Andes come and go as rainbows.” [Thomas- 255] Peaceful Pioneers was Emerson’s philosophical dream. A world with no wars, friends who were courageous, independent, joyous and loving. Hawthorne said that when he would meet Emerson on one of his walks, “…it was impossible to dwell in the vicinity without inhaling the mountain atmosphere of his lofty thoughts.” [Thomas- 256] Quotes”Great geniuses have the shortest biographies. Their cousins can tell you nothing about them.” [Hodgins-184]“I am glad to the brink of fear.”… “In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life- no disgrace, no calamity…”… “Standing on the bare ground- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into the infinite space- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”… “I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.”[Hodgins- 186] Taken from, “Nature.”

“There is never a beginning, there is never and end, to the inexplicable continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning into itself. Therein it resembles his own spirit, whose beginning, whose ending, he never can find- so entire, so boundless.”… “The theory of books is noble.” [Hodgins- 187] Taken from, “The American Scholar.”"There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but though his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”… “Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string.”… “To be great is to be misunderstood…” [Hodgins- 190] Taken from, “Self-Reliance”"Rhodora! if the sages ask thee whyThis charm is wasted on the earth and sky,Tell them, dear, that if eyes wee made for seeing,Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:” [Hodgins- 193] Taken from, “Rhodora”"He sings the song, but it cheers not now,For I did not bring home the river and the sky;”"Nothing is fair or good alone.”"Again I saw, again I heard,The rolling river, the morning bird;Beauty through my senses stole;I yielded myself to the perfect whole.” [Hodgins- 194] Taken from, “Each and All”"It is time to be old,To take in sail:”"And every wave is charmed.” [Hodgins- 197] Taken from, “Terminus”"By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,Here once the embattled farmers stood And fired the shot heard round the world.” [Hodgins- 198] Taken from, “Concord Hymn”"America means opportunity, freedom, power. The genius of this country has marked out her true policy: opportunity- doors wide open- every port open. If I could, I would have free trade with all the world, without toll or customhouse. Let us invite every nation, every race, every skin; white man, black man, red man, yellow man. Let us offer hospitality, a fair field and justice for all.” [Thomas- 258]AnalysisThough Emerson’s ideas were mostly not original, they were understood better because of his unique ability of stating things so well as a poet. His messages were also easy to understand due to his, “organic nature,” [Hodgins- 185] that made us understand and, “that was alive and virtually connected to our own spirit. He placed us inside the world in a new way.”I have always believed Emerson’s basic faith that the soul’s emphasis is always right. There are many sayings about two roads you need to choose between with all things. When Emerson delivered the Phi Beta Kappa speech in 1837, called, “The American Scholar,” he mentioned that in life the scholar often errs with mankind and doesn’t give in to his privilege.One basic principle I would say that I like about Emerson’s philosophy would be the method of his writing which I often use I my own writing; personification. Attributing human characteristics to something that is not human, makes me feel that it has more symbolic character. Reading something that uses human characteristics, to me reads as having more importance.The basics of Transcendentalism agree with many of my own thoughts. “Transcendentalism is the view that the basic truths of the universe lie beyond the knowledge we obtain from our senses.” [Hodgins- 180]ComparisonHermann Hesse compares Siddhartha’s thoughts with Emerson’s thoughts on nature. In the novel, Siddhartha, it states that, “It seemed to him as if the river had something special to tell him, something which he did not know, something which still awaited him.” [Hesse- 100] Emerson agrees with this when he says, “Man is a stream whose source is hidden…” [Hodgins- 181] These quotations agree with each other by stating that the river has more than what it looks like. The river in Siddhartha’s quote says that it has something to tell him. Emerson’s stream symbolizes man. This method of personification helps give importance and that symbolism that is stated. What we learn from both of these quotes is that a river is more than just what you look at, as is everything. If you find time to connect with the river or stream, you will have the ability to connect with yourself.


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