Emerson uses personification in the introduction of his essay to imbue the era in which he lives with uniquely human characteristics:
"Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism."
Here, Emerson attributes sentience, critical thinking and even the ability to erect tombs (sepulchers) to a non-human, intangible idea, “our age,” which most nearly means, “the times in which we live.”
A little later, at the end of the first paragraph of chapter one, when discussing the ability of nature to evoke awe and wonder in humans, Emerson again employs personification to lend human characteristics to the stars in the sky.
“But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
Here, Emerson designates the stars as “envoys,” which in common parlance means diplomatic messengers. This is clearly a human description of a non-human object. Then Emerson describes the stars as wearing an “admonishing smile,” another uniquely human characteristic.
This latter example of personification (the admonishing smile) is part of a larger motif present in much of Emerson’s works; he imparts aspects of human behavior and physicality to the natural world in order to convey his feelings of intense kinship for nature. Again and again throughout Emerson's writings, the reader can see that he views the natural world as his friend and constant companion.