Thursday, January 02, 2014


Blessed Are the Woods

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (September 15, 1834):
No art can exceed the mellow beauty of one square rood of ground in the woods this afternoon. The noise of the locust, the bee, and the pine; the light, the insect forms, butterflies, cankerworms hanging, balloon-spiders swinging, devils-needles cruising, chirping grasshoppers; the tints and forms of the leaves and trees,—not a flower but its form seems a type, not a capsule but is an elegant seedbox,—then the myriad asters, polygalas, and golden-rods, and through the bush the far pines, and overhead the eternal sky.
Id. (December 2, 1834):
Blessed are the woods. In summer they shade the traveller from the sun; in winter, from the tooth of the wind; when there is snow, it falls level; when it rains, it does not blow in his face. There is no dust, and a pleasing fear reigns in their shade. Blessed are the woods!
Id. (December 14, 1834):
Nature in the woods is very companionable. There, my Reason and my Understanding are sufficient company for each other. I have my glees as well as my glooms alone.
Id. (March 19, 1835):
As I walked in the woods I felt what I often feel, that nothing can befal me in life, no calamity, no disgrace (leaving me my eyes) to which Nature will not offer a sweet consolation.
Id. (September 24, 1839):
Wise are ye, O ancient woods! wiser than man. Whoso goeth in your paths or into your thickets where no paths are, readeth the same cheerful lesson whether he be a young child, or a hundred years old, comes he in good fortune, or bad, ye say the same things, and from age to age. Ever the needles of the pine grow and fall, the acorns on the oak, the maples redden in autumn, and at all times of the year the ground pine and the pyrola bud and root under foot. What is called fortune and what is called Time by men—ye know them not. Men have not language to describe one moment of your eternal life. This I would ask of you, O sacred woods, when ye shall next give me somewhat to say, give me also the tune wherein to say it. Give me a tune of your own, like your winds or rains or brooks or birds; for the songs of men grow old when they have been often repeated, but yours, though a man have heard them for seventy years, are never the same, but always new, like time itself, or like love.
Id. (November 20, 1839):
How old, how aboriginal these trees appear, though not many years older than I. They seem parts of the eternal chain of destiny whereof this sundered will of man is the victim. Is he proud, high-thoughted and reserved sometimes? Let him match if he can the incommunicableness of these lofty natures, beautiful in growth, in strength, in age, in decay. The invitation which these fine savages give, as you stand in the hollows of the forest, works strangely on the imagination. Little say they in recommendation of towns or a civil, Christian life. Live with us, they say, and forsake these wearinesses of yesterday. Here no history or church or state is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year.
Id. (June 29, 1840):
And as I have looked from this lofty rock lately, our human life seemed very short beside this ever renewing race of trees. Your life, they say, is but a few spinnings of this top. Forever the forest germinates: forever our solemn strength renews its knots and nodes and leaf-buds and radicles. Grass and trees have no individuals, as man counts individuality. The continuance of their race is immortality; the continuance of ours is not. So they triumph over us; and when we seek to answer, or to say something, the good tree holds out a bunch of green leaves in your face, or the woodbine five graceful fingers, and looks so stupid-beautiful, so innocent of all argument, that our mouths are stopped and Nature has the last word.

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