Lower Columbia College | American Transcendentalists

Skip directly to:

LCC FacebookLCC photosLCC TwitterLCC blogLCC YouTubeLCC social

American Transcendentalists

Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were the American Transcendentalists, proponents of a philosophy that moved into an appreciation for the ineffable qualities of nature.

Here are some of their poems:

Walt Whitman

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good fortune--I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road--the gay fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel! O public road! Do you say to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are lost? Do you say, I am already prepared--I am well-beaten and undenied--adhere to me?

O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave you--yet I love you;
You express me better than I can express myself;
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceived in the open air, and all great poems also.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. . . . Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God. . . . The simple perception of nature is a delight, and the presence of a higher, spiritual element is essential to its perfection.

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour and is not reminded of the flux of all things?

Henry David Thoreau

Most men are not concerned for nature and would sell their share in all her beauty, as long as they may live, for a stated sum--many for a glass of rum. Thank God, men cannot yet fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth! We are safe on that side for the present. It is because some do not care that we must protect nature from the vandalism of a few.

Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or the like of this.