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Emerson's six-line poem that he uses as the epigraph for the 1849 edition asserts the interconnectedness of all things: A subtle chain of countless rings The next unto the farthest brings; The eye reads omens where it goes, And speaks all languages the rose; And, striving to be man, the worm Mounts through all the spires of form.
Let not a man force a habit upon himself, with a perpetual continuance, but with some intermission.
For both the pause reinforceth the new onset; and if a man that is not perfect, be ever in practice, he shall as well practise his errors, as his abilities, and induce one habit of both; and there is no means to help this, but by seasonable intermissions.
Therefore, let a man either avoid the occasion altogether; or put himself often to it, that he may be little moved with it.
A man’s nature is best perceived in privateness, for there is no affectation; in passion, for that putteth a man out of his precepts; and in a new case or experiment, for there custom leaveth him.
In the 1836 edition, for example, Emerson introduced the essay with a quotation from the Roman philosopher Plotinus, but when he reprinted the essay in 1849, he omitted Plotinus' poetic line and inserted one of his own poems.
Some of today's literary anthologies do not include either epigraph; others include both.
Emerson's earliest reference to an essay on nature occurs in his journal for 1833.
Three years later, in 1836, he anonymously published his now-famous Nature.
A collection of essays from the father of the American transcendentalism, including “Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” “Love,” and “Art.” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay “Nature” declared that understanding nature was the key to understanding God and reality, and laid the groundwork for transcendentalism.
His legacy of boldly questioning the doctrine of his day and connecting with nature will resonate with today’s readers in search of meaning and enlightenment.