National Poetry Month: Transcendentalist Literature and Scenic Conservation
April 10, 2023
Image credit: Zach Betten, Unsplash

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of poets, their works, and their influence on culture and society. As you get ready to appreciate some April poetry, it’s the perfect time to reflect on Transcendentalism in literature and its influence on environmental conservation. Here’s how 19th century writers and poets brought the beauty of nature to life through their words, and how those words inspired America to protect its beautiful places.

What Is Transcendentalism?

American Transcendentalism was a philosophical and literary movement that emerged in the early 19th century in New England. The central idea behind the Transcendentalist movement was the belief in the inherent goodness of both people and nature, and the idea that knowledge could be discovered through intuition and personal experience, rather than through reason and scientific method. The movement was a reaction against the Enlightenment’s emphasis on reason and science, and was influenced by European Romanticism and German Idealism.

Transcendentalist literature reflected these beliefs and was characterized by a focus on individualism, nature, and spiritual exploration. Some of the most famous Transcendentalist writers include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. Works of Transcendentalist poetry include “Mist” by Henry David Thoreau, “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman, and “Meditations” by Margaret Fuller.

Transcendentalism and Nature

The Transcendentalists believed that nature was a source of spiritual and moral wisdom, and that it was important to preserve and protect the natural world. This idea was expressed in Thoreau’s “Walden,” wherein he lived in a cabin in the woods for two years and wrote about his experiences and reflections on the importance of nature.

The Transcendentalist emphasis on the environment had a lasting impact on American culture and society. The conservation movement that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was influenced by the Transcendentalist idea that nature was not just a resource to be used, but a valuable and sacred entity that needed to be protected. These Transcendentalist ideals led to the creation of national parks and the establishment of environmental laws and regulations that aimed to preserve the natural world for future generations.

Here at Scenic America, we are carrying on that legacy of scenic conservation. Our country’s scenic beauty has incredible value and we want to see it persist. We work to preserve the Scenic Byways, landscapes, and towns that define our nation’s visual character. Donate today to help us protect our beautiful places and the heart of our country’s character!

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