Mans Place in Nature and Other Essays

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Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves ; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping. This seems partly owing to the eye itself.

It is only in solitude that a man realizes the significance of nature because he is far away from the hustled life he is accustomed to live since childhood. Emerson is of the view that nature gives a human being so much; the sun, the trees, place to live and in return the man gives nothing as a result of which the balance of nature is disturbed. It is extremely essential for a man to take himself away from the distractions of the society to understand the importance of nature and what nature has to offer.

Read full article. Sunshine was he In the winter day; And in the midsummer Coolness and shade.

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A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty. The eye is the best of artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light, perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what character soever, into a well colored and shaded globe, so that where the particular objects are mean and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose, is round and symmetrical. And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful.

And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its own beauty. But besides this general grace diffused over nature, almost all the individual forms are agreeable to the eye, as is proved by our endless imitations of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion's claw, the serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms of many trees, as the palm.

INTRODUCTION

For better consideration, we may distribute the aspects of Beauty in a threefold manner. Show More. But in other hours, Nature satisfies by its loveliness, and without any mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spectacle of morning from the hill-top over against my house, from day-break to sun-rise, with emotions which an angel might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind.

How does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements! Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sun-set and moon-rise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams. Not less excellent, except for our less susceptibility in the afternoon, was the charm, last evening, of a January sunset.

The western clouds divided and subdivided themselves into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable softness; and the air had so much life and sweetness, that it was a pain to come within doors. What was it that nature would say? Was there no meaning in the live repose of the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shakspeare could not reform for me in words? The leafless trees become spires of flame in the sunset, with the blue east for their back-ground, and the stars of the dead calices of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with frost, contribute something to the mute music.

The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year.

Summary and Analysis

I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer. To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. The heavens change every moment, and reflect their glory or gloom on the plains beneath. The state of the crop in the surrounding farms alters the expression of the earth from week to week. The succession of native plants in the pastures and roadsides, which makes the silent clock by which time tells the summer hours, will make even the divisions of the day sensible to a keen observer.

The tribes of birds and insects, like the plants punctual to their time, follow each other, and the year has room for all.


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By water-courses, the variety is greater. In July, the blue pontederia or pickerel-weed blooms in large beds in the shallow parts of our pleasant river, and swarms with yellow butterflies in continual motion. Art cannot rival this pomp of purple and gold.


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Indeed the river is a perpetual gala, and boasts each month a new ornament. But this beauty of Nature which is seen and felt as beauty, is the least part. The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still water, and the like, if too eagerly hunted, become shows merely, and mock us with their unreality.

Go out of the house to see the moon, and 't is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? Go forth to find it, and it is gone: 't is only a mirage as you look from the windows of diligence. The presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual element is essential to its perfection. The high and divine beauty which can be loved without effeminacy, is that which is found in combination with the human will.

Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue.

Thoreau, Emerson, and Transcendentalism

Every natural action is graceful. Every heroic act is also decent, and causes the place and the bystanders to shine. We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it. Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate. It is his, if he will. He may divest himself of it; he may creep into a corner, and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his constitution.

In proportion to the energy of his thought and will, he takes up the world into himself. When a noble act is done, — perchance in a scene of great natural beauty; when Leonidas and his three hundred martyrs consume one day in dying, and the sun and moon come each and look at them once in the steep defile of Thermopylae; when Arnold Winkelried, in the high Alps, under the shadow of the avalanche, gathers in his side a sheaf of Austrian spears to break the line for his comrades; are not these heroes entitled to add the beauty of the scene to the beauty of the deed?

Wilson Belknap pp. Enter your email address to receive occasional updates and previews from The New Atlantis. Follow The New Atlantis. Gertrude Himmelfarb.

T hey persuade the world of what is false by urging upon it what is true. Intended as an epithet, the term has been adopted as an honorific by some of its practitioners. The emergence of social Darwinism recalls the adage of another eminent Victorian. S ixteen years younger than Darwin, with little formal schooling, self-taught and self-willed, Thomas Henry Huxley like Darwin served his apprenticeship as a naturalist by doing research on a royal naval ship although his official appointment was as assistant surgeon.

By the time he returned from that four-year trip, he was a recognized authority on marine biology. In , at the age of twenty-six, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, received the Royal Medal the following year, and two years later was appointed Professor of Natural History at the Royal School of Mines. But he was completely won over after reading the book. As there had been earlier theories of evolution, so there were earlier versions of social Darwinism, most notably the laissez-fairism propounded by Herbert Spencer.

It took a while for Huxley to address that issue, perhaps because Spencer was a friend and remained one, in spite of their differences.

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