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THE ROMANTICS

Henry David Thoreau in Walden was intuiting the simple life of paradise or the "romantic" paradisian lifestyle, living off the land.

The Romantics in the new country of America were known as Transcendentalists and they studied buddhism and hinduism trying to contact the wild and pristine spiritual roots of Christianity.

The Therapeuts, Gnostics and Essenes founded Christianity according to Eusebius, the Father of Church History, in his History of the Church:

"Those ancient Therapeuts (Essenes) were Christians, and their ancient writings were our gospels."

The Therapeuts, Gnostics and Essenes were inspired by buddhist missionaries arriving in Palestine from India.

The American romantic movement was far away from Rome, the Vatican and the royalty of kings and queens which dominated and oppressed European thinking.

This allowed the creation of an independent American renaissance of literary art expressing the truth of our spiritual Self-reliance based on our God given conscience, intuition and insight.  

In his essay "The Poet" (1844), Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most influential writers of the Romantic era, asserts:

For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

Art, rather than science, the Romantics argued, can best express universal truth.

Transcendentalism is the American, as opposed to the British and European form of Romanticism.

Transcendentalism is an intuitive, experiential, passionate, more-than-just-rational perspective. God gave humankind the gift of intuition, the gift of insight, the gift of inspiration.

The Harvard-educated Emerson and others began to read Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, and examine their own religious assumptions against these scriptures.

In their perspective, a loving God would not have led so much of humanity astray; there must be truth in these scriptures, too.

Truth, if it agreed with an individual's intuition of truth, must be indeed truth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo
Emerson

Transcendentalism in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson,

"We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds...

A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."

 

 

 

 

Henry David Thoreau

In Walden, Thoreau not only tests the theories of Transcendentalism, he re-enacts the collective American experience of the 19th century: living on the frontier.

Thoreau felt that his contribution would be to renew a sense of the wilderness in language. His journal has an undated entry from 1851:

"English literature from the days of the minstrels to the Lake Poets, Chaucer and Spenser and Shakespeare and Milton included, breathes no quite fresh and in this sense, wild strain.

It is an essentially tame and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and Rome. Her wilderness is a greenwood, her wildman a Robin Hood.

There is plenty of genial love of nature in her poets, but not so much of nature herself.

Her chronicles inform us when her wild animals, but not the wildman in her, became extinct. There was need of America."

"THERE WAS NEED OF AMERICA."

The doctrine of self-reliance and individualism developed through the belief in the individual soul blossoming from the bosom of God.

Transcendentalism was intimately connected with Concord, a small New England village 32 kilometers west of Boston. Concord was the first inland settlement of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Surrounded by forest, it was and remains a peaceful town close enough to Boston's lectures, bookstores, and colleges to be intensely cultivated, but far enough away to be serene.

Walden pond was in Concord, Massachusetts. Both Thoreau and Emerson lived in Concord.

Concord was the site of the first battle of the American Revolution, and Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem commemorating the battle, "Concord Hymn," has one of the most famous opening stanzas in American literature:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

"...the shot heard round the world."

Concord was the first rural artist's colony, and the first place to offer a spiritual and cultural alternative to American materialism.

It was a place of high-minded conversation and simple living (Emerson and Henry David Thoreau both had vegetable gardens).

 

The Poet by Ralph Waldo Emerson

from Essays: Second Series (1844)


A moody child and wildly wise
Pursued the game with joyful eyes,
Which chose, like meteors, their way,
And rived the dark with private ray:

They overleapt the horizon's edge,
Searched with Apollo's privilege;
Through man, and woman, and sea, and star,
Saw the dance of nature forward far;
Through worlds, and races, and terms, and times,
Saw musical order, and pairing rhymes.

Olympian bards who sung
Divine ideas below,
Which always find us young,
And always keep us so.

 

Unlike many European groups, the Transcendentalists never issued a manifesto. They insisted on individual differences -- on the unique viewpoint of the individual.

American Transcendental Romantics pushed radical individualism to the extreme. American writers often saw themselves as lonely explorers outside society and convention.

The American hero -- like Herman Melville's Captain Ahab, or Mark Twain's Huck Finn, or Edgar Allan Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym -- typically faced risk, or even certain destruction, in the pursuit of metaphysical self-discovery.

For the Romantic American writer, nothing was a given. Literary and social conventions, far from being helpful, were dangerous.

There was tremendous pressure to discover an authentic literary form, content, and voice -- all at the same time.

It is clear from the many masterpieces produced in the three decades before the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) that American writers rose to the challenge.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the towering figure of his era, had a religious sense of mission.

Although many accused him of subverting Christianity, he explained that, for him "to be a good minister, it was necessary to leave the church."

The address he delivered in 1838 at his alma mater, the Harvard Divinity School, made him unwelcome at Harvard for 30 years.

In it, Emerson accused the church of acting "as if God were dead" and of emphasizing dogma while stifling the spirit.


 



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