Ourlife is not so much threatened as our perception.
Emerson's insistence on the close links between nature and language has important practical implications. Because our verbal language is based on nature, it will follow that after a period of time, language will come to seem separate from nature. The strong, natural, material roots of words will be forgotten, and lesser writers will go on imitating and repeating words they do not really understand. "Hundreds of writers may be found in every long-civilized nation," says Emerson, "who for a short time believe, and make others believe, that they see and utter truths, who do not of themselves clothe one thought in its natural garment, but who feed unconsciously upon the language created by the primary writers of the country, those, namely, who hold primarily on nature." So the function of the genius, of the true poet, is to reform such language, to "pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible things." The poet is he who can reconnect the word supercilious with the raised eyebrow, who can make us see again, but freshly, that the word "consider" means study the stars . "The moment our discourse rises above the ground line of familiar facts, and is inflamed with passion or exalted by thought, it clothes itself in images." Thus Emerson's conception of language as based in nature leads him to outline the task of the poet as the renewal of language, the reattachment of language to nature, of words to things. So, too, the idea that nature is itself a language (an idea that haunts the modern mind from at least Linnaeus and the early eighteenth century on) leads to the view that it is the writer's job to decipher what nature has to say, the view that informs all nature writers from to .
Ah thatour Genius were a little more of a genius!
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In addition to providing us with beauty, nature also provides us with language, which Emerson treats in chapter four. In a famous-and difficult--opening statement he summarizes his position.
"Nature is the vehicle of thought, and in a simple, double, and threefold degree."
1. Words are signs of natural facts.
2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.
3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.
We too fancy that the upper people musthave raised their dams.
A politicalorator wittily compared our party promises to western roads, which openedstately enough, with planted trees on either side, to tempt the traveller,but soon became narrow and narrower, and ended in a squirrel-track, andran up a tree.
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