What is the tone of Nature by Emerson?
In Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson employs both a philosophical tone to appeal to his readers' intellect and a poetic tone to delight their emotions. Let's look at a couple of examples of each.
The philosophical tone appears when Emerson sets up the scenario of the stars that only “appear one night in a thousand years.” He invites his audience to consider how they should feel in that case and what they might think if they were able to see the stars. He suggests that they would “believe and adore,” long remember that night, and tell future generations about it. He then asserts that we have the opportunity to see the stars every night, yet we fail to appreciate them, because they are too familiar. The stars stand as a symbol of nature, which is largely ignored even though it provides the best of benefits to human beings. The argument appeals to our reason as well as our emotions, for we can see the logical sense of it.
Emerson's philosophical tone also appears in sentences like “To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature,” and “We mean [by nature] the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects.” He follows the latter sentence with a logical explanation that the landscape one views may be “made up of some twenty or thirty farms,” each owned by different people, yet it takes a poetical turn of mind to “integrate all the parts” into a meaningful whole.
Indeed, Emerson reveals that he has a poetical mind, and he waxes poetic in his tone many times. “The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of a child,” he declares. He speaks of the “perfect exhilaration” he has found as he crosses “a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky.” With these vivid words, we can picture the scene and share, at least a little, in Emerson's exhilaration.
His delightful poetic tone continues with sentences like “I become a transparent eye-ball.” There is, perhaps, a slight shock here as readers try to uncover Emerson's meaning, but we quickly realize that he is expressing his complete openness to nature. He is transparent to allow nature to flow into and through him, yet he desires to notice and appreciate every aspect of the natural world. His poetic tone appears again as he declares that “nature is not always tricked in holiday attire.” Rather, depending upon the viewer's perspective, the same natural scene can be either glittering bright and cheerful or “overspread with melancholy.”