The Romantic Vision
Literary movements often take completely different opinions and ideals from previous movements, swaying drastically far from the previous movement; in this case, the swing from Romanticism to transcendentalism was a great swing, but, nonetheless, various Romantic ideals were upheld and mingled with those of the new transcendentalist philosophy.
Transcendentalism is a philosophy that rejects the ideas of greed and materialism; this philosophy highlights simplicity and individuality through the Romantic visions of cherishing nature, intuition, and death, thereby allowing one to be more of an individual by not conforming to the corrupted society that chastises false economies. In “Thanatopsis,” Bryant’s view on nature and death are positive, in fact, it seems as though Bryant welcomes death because one would then be interred into the wonderful couch of nature, the excerpt “Yet not to thine eternal resting place/ Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish/ Couch more magnificent,” relishes the idea that he would feel honored and overjoyed to be interred into the earth who’s vast nature had occupied and captivated, also revealing that, once one lies in earthly repose, they are not alone, that it’s natural, an equalizer of men. In “The Snowstorm,” Emerson uses the lines “The sled and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet/ Delayed, all friends shut out, the house mates sit/ Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed/ In a tumultuous privacy of storm.” (Emerson 395). The phrase represents optimism and the importance of nature, in this poem, due to a snowstorm, friends are trapped in a house, away from the corrupt society; those trapped with each other around the fire view this optimism as they are cut off from society and its pollution of greed, materialism, and corrupt thoughts, in a sense, the snowstorm is a blanket that separates them from the lives of society that happen to not be simple and free of worry.
In “Self-reliance,” Emerson states “… no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” (Emerson 391). This demonstrates the ideal man as he is self-reliant; he works hard in order to acquire what he has, thereby making it more meaningful than it would be if it were acquired simply by conforming to society. Thoreau, one of the associated founders of transcendentalism, withdrew into the secluded area near Walden Pond in order to escape from the forced socialization that would occur in society, to find purpose in life, and to figure out what we need to be ideal people; from his experience, Thoreau came to the conclusion that simplicity, being self-reliant, and periods of seclusion, or meditation, are ideal in order to have an over soul, or be “the best you that you can be.” In “Nature,” Emerson describes his transcendental beliefs; in his lengthy essay, Emerson elaborates the concepts of nonconformity, free thought, and the importance of nature, to name a few. The quote “For nature is not always trickled in holiday attire…” (Emerson 390) means that nature does not conform to one person’s desires, it is as it is, and, in essence, humans should not conform to fit in with the crowd as that would deprive the world of individuality.
“In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period of life is always a child.” (Emerson 388). This quote demonstrates that transcendentalist belief in an ideal life of simplicity as children are free from burden and worry, they are not corrupt by society, and, here, Emerson is stating that, in a sense nature averts the unpure distractions of life. The texts “Walden,” “Thanatopsis,” “The Snowstorm,” and “Self-reliance” work to convey the Romantic vision of an ideal man and an ideal life by contemplating nature and death, by leading a life in which one is simple, independent, and self-reliant, and expressing that is necessary to withdrawl from the forced socialization that occurs when one is among society; each of these work together in order to convey the Romantic vision of an ideal man and an ideal life.