•Emerson has a broad view on Nature; Broader than most other essayist •Emerson focuses on understanding and learning from Nature; Theoreu only
appreciates the physical beauty of things. •Some ideas are relevant to most other essays. For example, in Death of a Moth, the
idea of beauty in heroism of the moth. The beauty of its actions. In the Edge of the Sea, the beauty in the ever changing dynamic nature of things. Also a sense of infinite knowledge.
•In Theoreu, there is a sense of the need to be a “transparent eye-ball”. Like that of a poet in Emerson.
In the essay Nature, Emerson suggests four uses of nature: Commodity, Beauty, Language and Discipline. Commodity, “the only use of nature which all men apprehend”, provides man with sustenance. They include, “Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn.” The experience of beauty depends on the individual’s rejoice in “primary forms...in and for themselves.” Such forms include physical attractiveness, heroic actions and intellect. Emerson believes Language is strongly related to God’s words, and hence provided by nature. Indeed, “Words are signs of natural facts”, and “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.” Lastly, Nature provides Discipline, which teaches our Reason and Understanding with “sincerest lessons, day by day.”
Surely, this is a broad definition of the word, Nature. I therefore contend that most naturalist essays are written as a discussion or appreciation of one of these four gifts of nature. However, most naturalist essays are unable to talk about all four aspects, since the area of discussion would be too broad. Rather, they more often concentrate on one of the aspects in their Essays.
For example, in The Death of a Moth, by Virginia Woolf, it was apparent that the moth that landed on her windowpane, being “neither gay like butterflies nor somber like their own species”, was not endowed with physical attractiveness. However, it was beauty inits own way, through its actions that earns it the classification of Beauty, by Emerson’s standards. It was truly heroic in the way it relentless attempted to free itself for a force that was overwhelming, and it was brave enough to accept its final verdict of death gracefully.
This beauty of its action was certainly something that Virginia Woolf wanted to write about, for she had learned a lesson in life through an event in nature, that is through Discipline. She learned that “Death was stronger than I am”, but the passive resignation to one’s ultimate fate is not acceptable. To make the best of life, one has to try, over and over again, to free oneself from any potential confinement, even if it was those of death.
Another example of the appreciation of Nature is in the essay, Where I lived, and what I lived for, by Henry David Thoreau, who was a friend of Emerson and obviously inspired by him. In this essay, Thoreau talks about all the aspects that are provided by Nature, except possibly Discipline. In fact, Emerson’s main criticism for Thoreau is his lack of attempt in trying to understand and learn from Nature. Rather, he merely appreciates nature for its gifts.
This, however, he did a good job in. As Thoreau describes his home and its surroundings, we get a sense of being a “transparent eyeball” that floats in some spiritual metaphysical river, appreciating Beauty as it comes. This is tantamount to the appreciation of Nature as suggested by Emerson, in a “moving ship”, where “change in our point of view gives the whole world a pictorial air.” In this stream, we move from “an airy and unplastered cabin” to “the shore of a small pond”, stopping to admire the physical beauty of the wood-thrust on the way.
As Theoreu enjoys his journey of a poet that “unfixes the land and sea and makes them revolve around an axis of his primary thought”, he truly indulges himself...