How would you paraphrase this quote from Emerson's Nature?

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In one of the opening lines to Emerson's text, the quote brings out the special and unique quality that Emerson sees in the natural world.  The description of the stars as "heavenly worlds" illuminates how Emerson feels about nature.  A paraphrase of the quote could be that human beings take for granted the nightly spectacle of the stars.  If the stars only showed up once a year, they would earn the natural reverence and awe that Emerson feels is intrinsic to them.  Another way to look at the quote would be to suggest that there is a divine quality to the stars and then when one looks at them, there is a beholding of the "heavenly worlds" that one cannot forget or overlook.  

For Emerson, the stars capture the moral and ethical imagination of the individual.  The stars are what reminds the individual that there is more than the temporal world around them.  The stars help to trigger a sense of solitude and isolation from others, even though in observing them and partaking in them, one is in greater communion with the natural world.  The paraphrase that suggests the needs for individuals to acknowledge the divine power of the stars that happens each night is an essential idea to both the quote and how Emerson feels that the individual should acknowledge the natural world.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial