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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 287

Obviously, the overriding theme of this poem is nature, but Emerson approaches nature from a particular perspective which he wants the reader to understand. Specifically, he focuses upon the theme of what is beautiful in nature, as opposed to what is true, and how the two things interact.

Emerson is very keen to demonstrate that "nothing is fair or good alone." He does this very logically by providing three illustrations of instances when something has appeared beautiful in its natural context but, upon being removed from that context, no longer seemed as pleasing as it once was. This, Emerson indicates, is because we are supposed to appreciate the natural world as a "perfect whole." If we don't do this, then what we are seeing isn't the truth of a thing. If we bring something home with us and try to capture its beauty, then we will, inevitably, eradicate that beauty, because these things are all supposed to be interdependent.

Emerson associates this idea of beauty alone with "unripe" childhood. He suggests that it is a childish impulse in us which seeks to claim and preserve beauty, without also bringing to this an adult desire for "truth." In the final section of the poem, Emerson describes the landscape he is observing in minute detail, filling in the strokes of the pine-cones and acorns on the ground, the "eternal sky" above, and the birdsong in his ears. This sensory image seeks to present this "whole" to us, the reader, because to present anything less than the whole would now be hypocrisy. Nature, Emerson suggests, cannot be recollected in its stolen elements. All its parts must be enjoyed together, just as all humans are interdependent in order to be "good."

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