Man has always had a love affair with his natural environment. Poets were once the minstrels of love between man and the earth, orally transcribing what was so experiential at the time. The romanticism movement of literature wasn’t about love between a man and a woman, or two human beings at all. Romantics wrote about love for life, love for existence, and love for nature. Through experience these men made meaning in their lives and created the idea of meaning in the lives of others. Their emotional vulnerability and willingness to expose their innermost sensations made history and changed literature. From these men we can gain valuable insight by stepping into their mind’s eyes and seeing the world as they did.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Adopt the pace of nature”, Emerson once wrote, “her secret is patience.” On Nature is perhaps one of Emerson’s most famous pieces of writing. As a romantic, Emerson described the relationship between man and nature as a romantic one. Capturing the wild innocence of exploration, the raw vulnerability of being, the passion of presence, Emerson wrote of intimate interactions. “Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, –all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me…”
“The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first; Be not discouraged,” Walt Whitman advised, “keep on – there are divine things, well envelop’d; I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.” Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass, a progressive and modern collection of poems that, at the time in 1855, was controversial. He wrote about greater connections from a perspective that transcended what most were writing at the time. “I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d, I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep…Not one is dissatisfied…not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”
Henry David Thoreau
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Thoreau is another famous romantic writer for his words on nature. True to the romanticism movement, Thoreau wrote about the laws of nature as if they were the true laws of man. The romantic movement moved beyond the religion that was dominating the world and turned toward nature to rule their thoughts, their minds, and their spirits.
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