On Sept. 9, 1832, Ralph Waldo Emerson retired from ministry. But, he will never retire from the literary tradition and memory of Western Civilization. Among his many famous essays is that which is called Nature.
In 1836, Emerson set out in the essay Nature the foundation of transcendentalism which incorporates within it a profound if non-traditional appreciation for nature. The system puts forth that the divine, or God, is all of nature and reality is best understood by studying nature.
To Emerson, nature can be divided into the four usages of Commodity, Beauty, Language and Discipline. These are the distinctions that we humans define and use nature to our own pleasure, our communication with each other and our sublime understanding of the world surrounding us. Together with The American Scholar, this essay is the foundation for his paradigm of the world and the foundation of his literary career.
Of the many influenced by this work, Henry David Thoreau read Nature while attending Harvard and took this work to heart. This led to Thoreau’s seminal work, Walden. That work, in fact, was written in a cabin, on Emerson’s property.
Nature may be read at:
Alternatively, this essay may be listened to in an audiobook format at: