TO GO INTO SOLITUDE, one needs to retire as much from their chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if one would be alone, let them look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between them and what they touch. One might think our atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give one's spirit, 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 man believe and adore; and preserve for many generations, remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty and light our universe with admonishing smiles.
Stars awaken with a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression when our mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose their curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, animals, mountains, reflected wisdom of their best hour, as much as they delighted simplicity of one's childhood.
When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in our minds. We mean integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of a wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably created of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. None of which owns the landscape. A property in our horizon which no man has but they whose eye may integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warranty deed gives 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. Sun illuminates only the eye of men, but shines into the eye and heart of a child. A lover of nature is one whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of adulthood. Their intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of their daily food. In presence of nature, a wild delight runs through one, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, - they are my creature, and maugre* all their impertinent griefs, they shall be glad with me. Not sun or summer alone, every hour and season yields tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different consciousness, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well in a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing bare common, snow puddles, twilight, under clouded skies, without having thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In our woods too, one may cast off their years, as the snake his slough, at whatever period soever of life, always is a child. Amongst the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and guests see now how they should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing may befall me in life, - no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me eyes,) which nature may not repair. Standing on bare ground, - my head bathe by blithe air, and uplifted into 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 of a particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, - master or servant, is then a trifle and disturbance. 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 on the distant line of our horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as our own nature. The greatest delight of fields and woods minister, is suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of boughs in storm is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or better emotion coming over me when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.
Yet it is certain that power to produce this delight does not reside in nature, but in man, or in harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears colors of spirit. To one laboring under calamity, heat of one's own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by one who has just lost by death a dear friend. Sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Barns & Noble Classics, 1903, Chapter 1