After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on—
Have found that none of these finally satisfy—
What remains? Nature remains.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.
Beyond thy lectures learn’d professor,
Lo! behold the regions we call nature, (the only complete, actual poem,) existing calmly in the divine scheme, containing all, content, careless of the criticisms of a day, or these endless and wordy chatterers.
I cannot divest my appetite of literature, yet I find myself eventually trying it all by nature,
I have fancied the ocean and the daylight, the mountain and the forest, putting their spirit in a judgment on our books—
Nature seems to look on all fixed-up poetry and art as something almost impertinent.
The greatest lessons of nature are the lessons of the fresh, eternal qualities of being:
The variety and freedom, the great amplitude, rectitude, impartiality—each toward all and nothing supersedes the rest;
That eternal tendency to perpetuate and preserve which is behind all nature;
The indefinable hard something that is the old heroic stamina of nature, inexorable, onward, resistless, to proceed with single purpose toward the result necessitated, and for which the time has arrived.
Perhaps the greatest moral lesson anyhow from earth, rocks, animals, is that same lesson of inherency, of what is—not criticism by other standards, and adjustments thereto—
The quality of being, in the object’s self, distinct, individual, complete, according to its own central idea and purpose, and of growing therefrom and thereto without the least regard to what the looker on (the critic) supposes or says, or whether he likes or dislikes,
Impassive amid the screams and din of disputants, utterly regardless of the outputs of shape, appearance, or criticism, which are always left to settle themselves.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of nature,
Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Towering beyond all measurement, with infinite spread, infinite depth and height,
Nature saying, There’s lots of this, infinitudes of it—therefore why spare it?
If you ask for ten I give you a hundred, for a hundred I give you a thousand, for a thousand I give you ten thousand;
I make every one a present of the sun,
I have plenty more—I have millions of suns left.
What is nature but change, in all its visible, and still more its invisible processes?
Nature keeps up her long and harmless throes, her vital, copious, eternal procession,
An infinite number of currents and forces, and contributions, and temperatures, and cross-purposes,
Whose ceaseless play of counterpart upon counterpart brings constant restoration and vitality.
Laws invisible permeate them and all,
Reliable, when once establish’d, to carry on themselves.
But observe the goal and apex of all education deserving the name—the lesson of nature, ever checking the excess of one law by an opposite, or seemingly opposite, law, generally the other side of the same law—the counterpart and offset whereby nature restrains the deadly original relentlessness of all her first-class laws.
I say nature continues, glory continues,
Nature all so real, so whole, so compact, without flaw!
There is no hardness; the eye is not pained by the sharpness of outline,
There is a delicious melting in, so to speak, of object with object.
The unerring harmony, the bracing and buoyant equilibrium, of concrete outdoor nature is the only permanent reliance for sanity of book or human life,
Superb and infinitely manifold as natural objects are, not any one of these, nor the whole of them together, disturbs or seems awry to the mind of man or woman,
(But nearly all pictures distort things from the harmony and equilibrium of nature.)
You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific, about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness—perhaps ignorance, credulity—helps your enjoyment of these things, and of the sentiment of feather’d, wooded, river, or marine nature generally—
I repeat it—don’t want to know too exactly, or the reasons why.
To penetrate nature and solve her problems the human faculties, under mortal conditions, will in all probability never be eligible. Though the corporeal parts and aggregates can be seized and dissected, the main things, the atoms and vitality, remain in eternal mystery, the least as well as the largest item ever inexplicable.
I fully believe in a clue and purpose in nature,
Enfolding itself all processes of growth, effusing life and power, for hidden purposes.
The sun and stars that float in the open air,
The apple-shaped earth and we upon it,
Earth’s soil, trees, winds,
Waters that encompass us, tumultuous waves—
Surely the drift of them is something grand,
The purport of objective nature is doubtless folded, hidden, somewhere here;
I do not know what it is except that it is grand, and that it is happiness.
While the moral is the purport and last intelligence of all nature, there is absolutely nothing of the moral in the works, or laws, or shows of nature. Those only lead inevitably to it—begin and necessitate it—
The flowers, the green shrubs, the branches of the trees—they more forgiving than mankind, distinguishing not between the children of darkness and the children of light.
O nature! How curious! how real!
Sovereign of this gnarl’d realm,
Lurking in hidden barbaric grim recesses,
Impartial, and perfect in imperfection!
Good in all!
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good,
For all the great harmony of purpose evinced in the structure and movement of worlds, is evinced quite as wonderfully in the structure and frame of animals and other growing life.
Nature is not only the infinite and relentless queen, unspeakably mysterious and separate,
It is our mother, holding us with undying ties, affections.
Tenderly she gave us birth,
Is ever ready for us through life, with health, with silence, with consolation,
Tenderly receives us at death.