Question: Read the short poem below that was included at the beginning of Emerson's Nature. What elements of Transcendentalism are in this poem?
A subtle chain of countless rings The next unto the farthest brings; The eye reads omens where it goes, And speaks all languages the rose; And, striving to be man, the worm Mounts through all the spires of form.
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Transcendentalism was a movement in the late 1820s and 1830s. The ideas are not religious in nature, but an understanding of life and how everyone is connected in the world. Key concepts of the movement included linking people with nature and each other across cultural or racial divides. The 1836 publication of "Nature" includes a quote from Roman philosopher Plotinus, and the poem was included in the 1849 edition.
"A subtle chain of countless ring / The next unto the farthest brings;"
The first two lines of the poem speak to the countless rings which bind everyone to the farthest, referencing things which may not seem connected. He is also suggesting the theme of evolution here, a key component of transcendentalism.
"The eye reads omens where it goes / And speaks all languages the rose"
These lines reference the connection of language and emotions for all people. The first line is speaking about the strange experiences of traveling and the distrust people feel away from their own culture. However, Emerson points out in the next line people all have the same emotions when he references everyone speaks the rose. This is another central theme of transcendentalism, the connection of everyone through shared thoughts and feelings.
"And, striving to be man, the worm / Mounts through all the spires of form."
The closing lines refer to the worm striving to be man, again referring to evolution but also commenting on the social hierarchies inherent at the time. The worm, or person of lower stature, is striving to be better and rise through all spires of form. The commentary on human nature to want to be better and strive for greatness reflects upon the separation from religion transcendentalism encouraged. The movement felt people should strive for greatness out of desire to better humans rather than as a mandate by God.
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