The Poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Analysis of “A Nation’s Strength” by Ralph Waldo Emerson in the Context of National Consciousness
Poetry is arguably the most democratized art form. It is written by the common man, for the common man. As a result, it becomes an effective medium to express sentiments of nationalism which lie in the deep consciousness of the ordinary man, but are not directly expressed. Identification with a piece of poetry which is nationalistic in nature brings these sentiments to the forefront, and has the capacity to create a gushing wave of increased awareness and national consciousness. Such ideas can be reflected in A Nation’s Strength, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. To better understand A Nation’s Strength and how it enables the poetic voice to unify with a national consciousness, it is essential to understand Emerson’s background, as many shades of his ideologies insidiously make their presence felt in the poem. Emerson was educated at the famed Harvard College in Boston and had a long association with the Church, which continued up until the death of his beloved wife, Ellen. After her death, he could no longer get himself to unquestioningly have faith. This seed of doubt sown in his mind preceded his role in creating the transcendentalism movement. Coming to transcendentalism, this was a movement which started in the 1830s, by a group of people who were inspired by Romanticism’s more instinctive and intuitive approach as opposed to hardcore rationalism. The period of religious rationalism in the early 19th century answered a lot of important questions which people had about why the world is the way it is in a logical manner, but left people wondering, what now? What more? They believed that when humans had been blessed with the power of intuition and imagination, why waste those by deeming only rationalism as the correct lens to see the world? The basic principles upon which transcendentalism was based includes fostering a relationship with God and with nature, as well as ensuring human dignity; their belief in human dignity led many transcendentalists to get involved in social reform movements, and fight for the rights of women and slaves. Emerson has multiple works which reflect his ideas as a transcendentalist, most notably, “Nature”. These basic principles of transcendentalism weave themselves into the foundations upon which the poem was built, and these ideas unknowingly enter the reader’s consciousness as well.
The poem is strategically titled “A Nation’s Strength” and this symbolism can be decoded by looking at the word Nation. In any form of colloquial speech outside of academic contexts, the words country, nation and state are used somewhat interchangeably. In reality, there are worlds of differences between the implications of each of these words, and the elements that each one inherently lays emphasis on. The terms Country and State have their foundations in contexts which have been politicized to a great extent. Country has historically been used to refer to land, and has evolved with time to imply a distinct region which is united under the governance of a given political entity. This definition for country can also be used non-problematically to define the term State. State is used to describe the Government in many contexts. Nation, however, is the standout amongst these three seemingly identical terms. Etymologically, it is derived from the Latin term “nation” which can be loosely translated to people, tribe or kin. The Latin term gave rise to the French “nacion” which means birth or place or origin. From French, the word crept into the English vocabulary and sat snugly in the niche carved out for nation and country, though there are certain fundamental differences. In the modern context, we use nation to describe a distinct group of people who are united by a group of factors: namely common descent, culture or language, and who generally tend to inhabit one particular area of land. Therefore, the term uses the similarities between people as its core idea, and builds upon this to enter into the more political realm of these people with similarities coming together in a piece of land to form a group. The implication is political, but the ideology is really not, and has its roots in the more organic relationships between human beings of similar circumstance. The narrative which Emerson weaves throughout the poem is a political one, but he has deliberately titled his work “A Nation’s Strength” when he could have just as easily used State or Country; the former case would have led to some pleasing alliteration as well. However, his usage of Nation acts as a prelude to the central message he attempts to convey through his writing, that people themselves are the only and most reliable source of strength in a Nation, because only those who make up a nation can make it great.
The poem has six stanzas, and is written in the relatively simply abab form. The literary devices have been kept to a minimum to let the power of the message shine through. The very first line is a question is “What makes a nation’s pillars high?” The next line asks a similar question, what makes a nation’s “foundations strong”. The analogy of a building is interesting, considering that Emerson goes on to describe how material conditions cannot make a nation strong. The building itself could be a mere device to symbolize the construction of a structure, and not the end result itself. The next two lines speak of what makes the nation might enough to defeat its enemies. Linking the first stanza together, we can infer that perhaps the poet is trying to create the image of a strong, secluded structure of a nation which cannot be breached by enemies, thereby instilling in the reader a sense of pride and duty towards building a structure.
The next three stanzas provide a crescendo like build up to the crux of the poem They describe everything which does not make a nation great, and each stanza addresses one particular element which most consider as either highly important or the most important factor towards building a successful nation. Flashes of Emerson’s own ideologies appear, with transcendentalism’s views on nature and human dignity making their presence felt. The second stanza opens with a proclamation that “It is not gold”, with it being the nation’s strength. The significance of gold can be debated here. On the surface, gold represent luxury, the ultimate status symbol. If status is in consideration, gold could be a reference to the olden day monarchies where Kings reigned supreme, enjoyed lavish lifestyles and unquestionable authority. In such a context, this is a blatant criticism of the social structure that glorified and shone the spotlight on a few, while the majority of the population remained hidden form view. The line mentioned “kingdoms grand” and this supports the theory that this stanza could quite possible be a critique of the ancient system of highly undistributed development fuelled by the monarchy. Another way to look at gold could be material wealth and the accumulation of possession. Material progress: the building of higher and more opulent structures and a more advanced consumer culture reflect development on a superficial level. They may seem shiny, golden and perfect, but all it takes is a “battle shock” for this carefully constructed aura of grandeur to shatter. The penultimate line to the stanza speaks of the shafts of such kingdoms decked out in guild having their shafts laid on “sinking sand” as opposed to “abiding rock”. The difference in the qualities of these materials drives across a very powerful, multidimensional point. Sand cannot hold any solid structure of worth, as its own nature is neither smooth nor stable, and the possibility of the structure sinking into and being enveloped by the sand, leaving it in a state of nothingness is rather high. Rock, on the other hand, is dependable and tough to weather regardless of the conditions it faces. The poet uses the term “abiding” to reflect this quality. In short, “gold” in all its flashy, high status glory is a mere sham when it comes to true greatness, because the very foundations upon which it seeks to grow development from, are not solid. The first shade of transcendentalism comes through here, with nature being used as a reference point for a solid foundation. Emerson believed that Man’s relationship with nature was of critical importance; his book “Nature” stands testament to this. The dependence on nature for a foundation conveys that ultimately, our foundation for a successful system must be of an organic origin, and not through the material conditions we create. Here, the poet begins to embed a hidden commentary which is linked to national consciousness. He begins to tell the common man that all the factors which he believes to be linked to greatness of a nation, are actually mere shams. With this, he instills a sense of hope in them that the greatness of a nation can be defined by them, and not factors beyond their control. In this particular stanza, some of the biggest conceptions of national greatness: material wealth and monarchial power, are smashed.
The third stanza’s element of focus is “the sword.” The sword as a symbol is a rather obvious one, it depicts violence and bloodshed, and power seized through these means. The phrase “red dust” holds important significance here, and is arguably the backbone of the whole stanza. The poet describes how blood has turned stones to rust, and “glory to decay.” The stones referred to could be the stones upon which the building called the nation was built. As the stones stained with blood rust over the ages, the red dust begins to gather. The red of the blood in the dust is the only sign that the empire ever existed. The term “dust” is powerful. Dust is irrelevant, an irritant and brushed away in a hurry. It gathers on old objects that are no longer cared for or worth anything. There could again be a reference to nature here. All the violence which people inflict upon each other, all the meticulous planning and strategy to win battle after battle, has no use. The stanza does not refer to a mere kingdom, but an Empire, which means its rulers clearly had considerable success with their tyrannical approach, and were able to conquer a lot of land by shedding more and more blood with every fight. But, in the end, their empire “passed away” and it was defeated in the battle of life itself. All that remained in the end were traces of the blood in the dust that had gathered on the empire long gone. The false glory which we waste our time trying to attain has no usage, because empires eventually turn into mere dust. The selection of dust to represent that something as inconsequential to dust during the conception and formation of an empire can be the one thing which conquers what is remaining of it. Dust, is a natural element, so the message here is that nature will eventually take back whatever is claimed by violent means, and nothing can be done to stop this. The poet continues the underlying commentary of telling the larger population what does not make an empire great while, till now, he is wordlessly telling them that they can. A great number of empires have been formed by violence over history. There is not one of them which has lasted till date. The ancient ones, such as the Mongol Empire and even rising modern ones, always had their expiry date all set. By giving the people food for thought by making them understand that even if they are subjected to violence and atrocities by a tyrant of a leader, he is grossly misguided and will ultimately fall. The second seed of doubt with the traditional notion of greatness is planted in the minds of the readers.
Stanza four is the last one in the trio that explains what cannot make a nation great. The poet chooses not to deal with tangible things such as gold or a tangible symbol which has devastating effects in its usage such as the sword, but chooses something intangible. Ironically, the intangible item selected may seem rather small and irrelevant when compared to gold and swashbucklers with swords, but upon closer examination, it is the ideas in the mind which do not physically express themselves but are the root cause for every other ill deed. These ideas poison the mind, and tell it that in order to be great as a nation, the only way to do is to progress materialistically and kill all its enemies. The idea selected here, is pride. Pride is the “bright crown” which appeals to nations so great and “sweet”; but ultimately, God will strike down on the luster of the crown of pride, and it will lie “In ashes at his feet.” This stanza delivers a huge blow to what populations across the globe have been told for centuries to have. Those in power hide behind the veil of pride when telling their subjects to fight wars, and exploit nature for resources. Pride is a powerful drug, and when one convinces a group of people that having a nation they are proud to a part of is the single most important thing, you have yourself a generation of addicts. Pride has been referred to as a Crown for a couple of reasons, both unrelated. Firstly, the bright crown which has seemed so appealing to nations could literally be a Crown, and represent the monarchy. Monarchies were built on the foundation of convincing people that having a King or a Queen to represent them would ensure that a nation which they were proud to belong to was built. This journey to building a nation that everyone is proud of could be as violent or exploitative as possible, but in the name of preserving or building one’s pride, all was forgiven. Secondly, the crown could mean that this particular virtue of pride takes precedence over both gold and the sword. That this truly is the crowning glory of what does not make a nation great. Ultimately, God does strike down, and the empire built on pride assumes its place at God’s feet as humbled ashes. The reference to God here is again a transcendentalist one, as they believed God was the superior power, and fostering a good relationship with God was crucial. The poet here tells people that if they are victims of the pride trap, if not nature, God himself will ensure that these empires fall. This also serves as a warning to them to not use pride as a guiding light when considering actions that will make them great.
The last two stanzas finally reveal what it is that makes a nation great. As he begun the very first stanza, he begins the penultimate one saying “Not gold” but rather, it is “only men” who can make a people or a nation great and strong. The values which are emphasized are truth, honor and standing fast to “suffer long” in the name of these values. The last stanza further details the nature of the men who make a nation great. The are brave and hardworking, even “while others sleep” and “dare while others fly.” According to Emerson, the foundations of a strong nation can only be built by these people, as they will build “pillars deep” and take the nation to greater heights, even as far as “the sky.”
The metaphor of a building comes up again, with reference to pillars in the last stanza. The men who Emerson refers are solid, well rounded and hardworking people. The crux of the poem is actually revealed in his last stanzas. One also sees a culmination of the narrative he has been building up over the second, third and fourth stanzas where he discusses what cannot make a nation great. In those stanzas, the idea that money or wealth, violence and pride, all three being ingredients to a certain extent in our mental picture of a great nation, was broken. Ironically, all these are factors which man has very little control over. The last two stanzas however, inject the poem with a dose of optimism, and assures people that the only ingredient required to create a strong nation is strong people. Every human being is faced with a choice as to what kind of person they wish to mold themselves into, and if they mold themselves into the hardworking, honest and strong men that Emerson refers to, they can become a vital cog in the wheel spinning towards national greatness. These are factors people can actively control, and not only are these controllable factors, they are motivating ones too. Building a strong and great nation is excellent incentive for even the most demotivated of men to step up and make something of himself.
A national consciousness can only become a universal one if there are unfalteringly strong ideas which are shared among those who hold it. Emerson, through “A Nation’s Strength” facilitates the development of such an idea, through the notion of a great nation. By dismissing wealth, violence and pride, factors which divide people’s opinions greatly, and providing the image of a recipe for greatness which requires only the relentless human sprit, he is not only uniting the consciousness of a nation, but also paving the way for tangible development. A Nation’s Strength is a powerful example of how the poetic voice can make its way into, unite and even work for the betterment of the national consciousness.
Illusion and Reality in Emerson’s Experience
In Experience, Ralph Waldo Emerson discusses the dichotomy of illusion and an absolute realm. Through the exercise of skepticism, Emerson establishes an uncertain knowledge of the phenomenal realm of reality; neither the intellect nor emotion can grasp the meaning of the events occurring in the outside world. Similarly, absolute truth remains obscured from Emerson’s perception. Nevertheless, he remains certain of its presence, and responds to the threat of illusion with spontaneous appeals to higher knowledge. Although waking up, so to speak, proves impossible from Emerson’s current point of perception, Emerson maintains faith in the presence of a holistic reality. His response to a valueless external world proves to be, throughout the piece, an appeal to integrate with a “creative power”, or higher realm. (281) Therefore, Emerson ultimately advocates for the abandonment of illusion in favor of experience.
While Emerson identifies “illusion” as a separate “lord of life” in his opening poem, his essay implies that all perceptual subjective forms of knowledge are fundamentally illusory.(269) The lords of life — Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality, and Subjectiveness — distort our experience, disabling our connection with the absolute. Our disconnection from the absolute accounts for our general disorientation:“Ghostlike we glide through nature, and should not know our place again.”, Emerson writes. (271) This is among the first of Emerson’s many laments regarding man’s departure from Nature, a “mid-world” he describes as an intersection between “sensation and intellect”, or power and form. While Emerson frequently rejects that a complete and lasting experience with the absolute is possible, he suggests that specific forms of living will lead to our encounter with a deeper cause. Therefore, Emerson’s primary concern throughout the essay is the movement away from perceptual knowledge and into experience. Over the course of the paper, he recognizes the overwhelming quality of worldly illusions and, using the model of a mid-world, or intersection between spirit and form, attempts to find respite from confusion.
The essay’s opening metaphor introduces the dichotomy of illusion and truth. Emerson compares perception to a lingering sleep: “Sleep lingers about our lifetime about our eyes; as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glimmer. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception.” (270, 271) Through the metaphor of a shadow cast within a fir-tree, Emerson describes the nature of illusion: darkness, or shadow, obscures the unalterable truth of daylight. Regardless of our obstructed vision, Emerson implies, daytime continues on. Reality is real while illusion remains illusory, regardless of our perceptual defects. Furthermore, Emerson’s comparison of illusion to shadow suggests that misperception is a natural consequence of human existence. His lamentation in the following paragraph regarding our obsession with routine emphasizes the inescapable quality of the illusory realm.Throughout his piece, Emerson emphasizes the inescapable quality of perception, for example, when describing life as a series of illusion we travel between.
In response to his assertion that perception distorts our vision of the world, Emerson attempts to identify the cause of our depravity: “Did our birth fall in some fit of indigence and frugality in nature, that she was so sparing of her fire and so liberal of her earth, that it appears to us that we lack the affirmative principle, and though we have health and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit for new creation?” (271) Due to a lack of spirit, or “fire”, the experiencer is overwhelmed by worldly forms. Furthermore, this quote explicates that spirit stands apart from “health and reason”, or bodily states and the intellect. Throughout his essay, Emerson refers to the spiritual realm as an antidote to illusion. Emerson’s description of spirit as an “affirmative principle” alludes to the partiality, or individuality, of illusion, a recurrent unsolvable problem reiterated throughout Experience. Additionally, the word “affirmative” implies certainty; through contact with the spirit, confidence in the ultimate nature of reality can be obtained.
Emerson’s personal response to grief — an attractive mode of illusion whose “spikes and edges” offer a false sense of certainty — illustrates his faith in a greater, albeit imperceptible, truth. While Emerson’s attitude towards his son may be read as a skepticism against life, one may also interpret his refusal to indulge grief as an affirmation of faith: “Grief, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and never introduces me into the reality, for contact with which, we would even pay the costly price of sons and lovers.”, Emerson states. (271) Although Emerson feels extraordinary pain, he commits to arriving nearer to truth rather than indulging his immediate impulse. Although he desires to grieve, he chooses not to: “I grieve that grief can teach [me] nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature.” (284) Grief, therefore, fails to offer genuine relief from pain. The rejection of grief as a subjective, non-ultimate reality, however difficult, promises to lead Emerson away from his isolated perception and closer to truth. Therefore, Emerson demonstrates his faith in an undistorted reality; illusion, no matter how appealing, proves ultimately unreal.
Similarly, Emerson invalidates the measurement of temperament because such study overlooks the reality of the soul. Emerson argues that sensory or material signs, although indicative of an object’s appearance, fail to describe the fundamental Beingness of the object they belong to. While discussing the outlook of physicians and scientists identifying personality, Emerson writes: “They esteem each man the victim of another, who winds him round his finger by knowing the law of his being, and by such cheap sign boards as the color of his beard, or the slope of his occiput, reads the inventory of his fortunes and character. The grossest ignorance does not disgust like this impudent knowingness.” (272) Because descriptions of temperament claim that a person can be wholly known through limiting characteristics, such as character and behavior, Emerson rejects the scientific study of persona. When conclusions are proven accurate, Emerson “distrusts the facts”(284). While the intellect might be capable of describing visible personality, Emerson rejects the such indications as invalid.
Temperament proves inherently illusory and inescapable. He describes it as a “uniform tune which the revolving barrel of the music box must play.” (272) However, his statement that temperament “prevails over everything of time, place, and condition” does not erase his belief in an authentic, or non-material self which cannot be affected by the realm of illusion. (272) However, Emerson contradicts his earlier claim that temperament cannot be escaped, when he suggests that virtue sublimates the presence of temperament: “when virtue is in presence, all subordinate powers sleep.” (272) Again, Emerson suggests illusion cannot be escaped, then responds with an appeal to a higher truth. Later in the paragraph, Emerson writes: “Into every intelligence there is a door which is never closed, through which the creator passes. The intellect, seeker of absolute truth, or the heart, lover of absolute good, intervenes for our succor, and at one whisper of these higher powers, we awake from ineffectual struggles with this nightmare. We hurl it into its own hell, and cannot again contract ourselves to so base a state.” (273) In other words, upon becoming aware of a superior creative power, we hurl our former, analysis-based understandings into hell. From an absolute perspective, all indications of illusion, regardless of their particular form, are wholly unimportant.
Theoretical thought, or rationalization, proves as problematic as mood and temperament; without experience, theory keeps the experiencer within the subjective realm. While describing the futility of unsupplemented intellectual ideas, Emerson states: “Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular activity. If a man should consider the nicety of the passage of a piece of bread down his throat, he would starve.”… “Life is not intellectual or critical, but sturdy.” (275) This statement ties in with his claim that “life is not dialectics”. (274) Since over-engagement with theory distracts the experiencer from sensory life, Emerson rejects it as valueless. Furthermore, Emerson suggests that theorizing without practical application may potentially guide the thinker towards all conclusions. Therefore, Emerson suggests, the intellect cannot evaluate the superiority of one belief over another. “There are objections to every course of life and action, and the practical wisdom infers an indifferency, from the omnipresence of objection.” (286) In the same way that reality is “absolute” in Emersonian terms, illusion possesses an all-pervasive quality as well; all objections are of the same fundamental quality, in that they are not ultimately true. Opinions of the intellect, as Emerson explicates later in the paper, ultimately suggest nothing. Through honest analysis of thought’s limitations, Emerson once again redirects his reader to the realm of experience.
The intellect’s primary failure, Emerson clarifies, is its failure to analyze. This is expressed most clearly in the essay’s opening. While we as experiencers can know what happens, we cannot know why it is important to us. In the essay’s opening paragraph, Emerson discusses the general human failure to assess progress on any given day, stating: “We do not know today whether we are busy or idle.”(270) The intellect cannot identify or determine the quality of its own experience. Therefore, “critical analysis” should be abandoned; instead, we should attempt to experience moments as they occur. (270) While describing our tendency to compare ourselves to one another, Emerson expresses frustration with the human tendency to place faith in one’s perception: “Our life looks trivial to us, and we shun to record it. Men seem to have learned of the horizon the art of perpetual retreating and reference.”(270) Because of our mis-colored perception, we fail to look the present in the eye; however, ironically, genuine perception only proves possible in the present. Furthermore, Emerson’s horizon metaphor suggests that men have ironically mis-learned from Nature. While Nature would otherwise lead us closer to truth, our misinterpretation of the sunrise pulls us farther into the dream. The solution to opinion, which culminates into a kind of lasting distraction from ourselves, exists in the present moment. “How many individuals can we count in society? how many actions? how many opinions? So much of our time is preparation, so much routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each man’s genius contracts itself to a very few hours.”(270) Through the abandonment of opinion, or rejection of intellectual illusion, genuine insight from an inspired realm may be gathered.
Emerson’s rejection of analysis does not necessarily contradict his claim that the intellect reveals absolute truth. In Emerson’s view, the intellect can be used to propagate illusion or to perceive absolute truth. Later, Emerson states that the intellect proves morally sound because it stands beyond value judgments. “Sin seen from the thought, is a diminution or less: seen from the conscience or will, it is pravity or bad. The intellect names it shade, absence of light, and no essence. The conscience must feel it as essence, essential evil. This it is not: it has an objective existence, but no subjective” (281) When used for objective perception, the intellect assists rather than detracts from experience.
Although Emerson rejects the validity of illusion, he returns to considerable skepticism about one’s ability to entirely remove these “colored and distorted lenses”. (281) Regarding perception, Emerson writes: “We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorting lenses which we are, or of computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subject-lenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no objects.”(281) While accepting the limitations of illusion, however, Emerson makes multiple attempts to navigate past fixed perception and into experience: the avoidance of stasis, described by the stars in the sky, the abandonment of moral judgment, and engagement with the present moment are all methods of integrating into a deeper reality which Emerson claims offer revelation. Ultimately, Emerson describes the universe as “the bride of the soul”, which can either “sleep or wake” the “deity which sleeps forever in every soul.” (281) Furthermore, Emerson affirms that no “force of the intellect” can attribute the object, or power, which allows this subject to sleep or wake. While the intellect may assist in the revelation of truth, “forces of the intellect” cannot replace spiritual power.
Emerson’s two closing paragraphs reaffirm the complementary dynamic between illusion and experience. While Emerson admits the limitations of knowledge, stating that he is “very content with knowing, if only [he] could know”, he prompts his reader to pursue “sanity and revelation”, or the “transformation of genius into practical power.”(284, 285) Although these statements appear contradictory, they accord with the concepts presented earlier in the essay. Knowledge, which stands beyond the realm of illusion, proves inaccessible; experience, existing in a momentary mid-world, enables the expression of the unknowable absolute. The final line of Emerson’s essay suggests, therefore, that although we cannot grasp knowledge intellectually, we can express our connection with an absolute universal law. While the absolute cannot be understood, it can be experienced; the absolute, or “genius”, achieves expression without intellectual understanding.
In the final paragraph of his essay, Emerson distinguishes thought from knowledge. While thought, although unknowable through empirical methods, remains inaccessible to Emerson, he remains certain of its existence. “I know that the world I converse with in the city and in the farms, is not the world I think. One day, I shall know the value and law of this discrepance. But I have found that not much was gained by manipular attempts to realize the world of thought,” Emerson writes. (284) The first sentence may be interpreted in two ways; first, that the world Emerson sees is not what it appears to be; second, that Emerson’s inner world, or “world of thought”, is a separate imaginative sphere which stands apart from worldly forms. Through his use of a dual meaning, Emerson points out his reader’s own inability to perceive the meaning of reality. However, the remainder of his statement seems to affirm that he intends the latter interpretation: a separate imaginative world, distinct from the illusory outer forms, remains in Emerson’s mind, although the entirety of its depths remain inaccessible to him.
The redeeming aspect of Emerson’s closing paragraph is its reliance on faith. While Emerson does display a sudden optimism which overlooks his earlier claims of worldly enslavement, he makes no statements that fundamentally contradict his earlier philosophy. Because Emerson writes from the realm of illusion, as he admits in the paragraph’s opening sentence, he himself cannot know whether or not his perception is correct. Therefore, he must operate on faith, given his knowledge of reality and illusion as he understands it. He can trust, with the same certainty, that knowledge will be revealed to him; he prompts his reader — or, perhaps, himself — to stand up again, and to look forward to the transformation of the world. Emerson’s hopeful conclusion, therefore, transcends the suppositions of the intellect. While his previous reasoning suggested that illusion cannot be overcome, he places his faith in the emergence of a reality which cannot yet be known.