Wednesday, February 08, 2012


A Little Knowledge of Nature

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Letters and Social Aims, new and rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Company, 1880), pp. 121-122:
The first care of a man settling in the country should be to open the face of the earth to himself, by a little knowledge of nature, or a great deal, if he can, of birds, plants, rocks, astronomy; in short, the art of taking a walk. This will draw the sting out of frost, dreariness out of November and March, and the drowsiness out of August. To know the trees is, as Spenser says of "the ash, for nothing ill." Shells, too; how hungry I found myself, the other day, at Agassiz's Museum, for their names! But the uses of the woods are many, and some of them for the scholar high and peremptory. When his task requires the wiping out from memory
                      "all trivial fond records
That youth and observation copied there,"
he must leave the house, the streets, and the club, and go to wooded uplands, to the clearing and the brook. Well for him if he can say with the old minstrel, "I know where to find a new song."

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