Characteristics of Transcendental Literature -The “over soul” -In order to be in harmony with nature, we must connect with nature on a spiritual level, with our deepest levels of intuition. -Nature is a source of inspiration and goodness. -The human mind can find the meaning and truths of nature. -If you are true to who you are, you do not have the potential to be less than good. -Individualism -The power of the mind and soul are equally available to all. -Society, because of its focus on material success, is often a source of corruption.
from Walden “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever.’”
“front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach”
to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it
< Thoreau wants to live life in truth. <He wants to realize the fundamental truths of life, so he withdrew from society to live in the wilderness. < This reflects the transcendental belief that the fundamental truths of life can only be realized by living true to oneself.
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away…however mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.” from Walden
< Individualism and not mindlessly following the crowd. Nonconformity. <No matter what, live life to the fullest. <Even if you think you have a terrible life, you still have a life, and that itself is worth celebrating and loving.
The Fireside Poets -images and appreciation of nature Transcendentalist characteristic. -easy to read and understand: could be read around the fireplace and understood by everyone listening
The First Snowfall by James Russell Lowell THE SNOW had begun in the gloaming, And busily all the night Had been heaping field and highway With a silence deep and white.
Every pine and fir and hemlock Wore ermine too dear for an earl, And the poorest twig on the elm-tree Was ridged inch deep with pearl.
From sheds new-roofed with Carrara Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow, The stiff rails softened to swan’s-down, And still fluttered down the snow.
I stood and watched by the window The noiseless work of the sky, And the sudden flurries of snow-birds, Like brown leaves whirling by.
I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn Where a little headstone stood; How the flakes were folding it gently, As did robins the babes in the wood. Up spoke our own little Mabel, Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?” And I told of the good All-father Who cares for us here below.
Again I looked at the snow-fall, And thought of the leaden sky That arched o’er our first great sorrow, When that mound was heaped so high.
I remembered the gradual patience That fell from that cloud like snow, Flake by flake, healing and hiding The scar that renewed our woe.
And again to the child I whispered, “The snow that husheth all, Darling, the merciful Father Alone can make it fall!”
Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her; And she, kissing back, could not know That my kiss was given to her sister, Folded close under deepening snow.
From Self-Reliance By: Ralph Waldo Emerson The quotes from “Self-Reliance” on the previous page all demonstrate the individualistic aspect of Transcendentalism. The Transcendentalists held an appreciation for nature primarily, but they also said that humans must be true to themselves. Emerson is stating that conforming and not being true to oneself makes it much more difficult for one to be completely at harmony and peace.
In Conclusion… Transcendentalism was a literary movement and set of beliefs that held that the fundamental truths of life lie outside of the sense of human experience and intuition. Transcendentalist authors are clearly defined as such by their focus on the purity and sublimity of nature and stress on the importance of individualism. Transcendentalists hold that all of these philosophies can be discovered through nature.
“The First Snowfall”, James Russell Lowell http://www.bartleby.com/248/351.html Resources The Annotated Walden, Henry D. Thoreau. Edited by Philip Van Doren Stern, 1970. Marboro Books Corp. Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes; The American Experience. Pearson Education, Inc. 2005.