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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 straight expressed. Identification with a piece of poetry which is nationalistic in nature brings these sentiments to the forefront, and has the capacity to generate 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 much better comprehend A Nation’s Strength and how it enables the poetic voice to unify with a national consciousness, it is important to understand Emerson’s background, as numerous 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. Right 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 began in the 1830s, by a group of folks who had been inspired by Romanticism’s far more instinctive and intuitive method as opposed to hardcore rationalism. The period of religious rationalism in the early 19th century answered a lot of important inquiries which people had about why the globe is the way it is in a logical manner, but left men and women asking yourself, what now? What more? They believed that when humans had been blessed with the energy of intuition and imagination, why waste these by deeming only rationalism as the correct lens to see the planet? The basic principles upon which transcendentalism was primarily based includes fostering a partnership with God and with nature, as effectively as guaranteeing human dignity their belief in human dignity led numerous transcendentalists to get involved in social reform movements, and fight for the rights of women and slaves. Emerson has a number of functions which reflect his concepts as a transcendentalist, most notably, “Nature”. These basic principles of transcendentalism weave themselves into the foundations upon which the poem was constructed, and these suggestions unknowingly enter the reader’s consciousness as effectively.

The poem is strategically titled “A Nation’s Strength” and this symbolism can be decoded by looking at the word Nation. In any type of colloquial speech outside of academic contexts, the words country, nation and state are employed somewhat interchangeably. In reality, there are worlds of differences between the implications of each and every of these words, and the elements that every single a single inherently lays emphasis on. The terms Nation and State have their foundations in contexts which have been politicized to a fantastic extent. Nation has historically been utilized to refer to land, and has evolved with time to imply a distinct area 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 utilised to describe the Government in many contexts. Nation, even so, is the standout amongst these 3 seemingly identical terms. Etymologically, it is derived from the Latin term “nation” which can be loosely translated to individuals, tribe or kin. The Latin term gave rise to the French “nacion” which means birth or location 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 basic differences. In the modern context, we use nation to describe a distinct group of people who are united by a group of aspects: namely widespread descent, culture or language, and who typically have a tendency to inhabit a single specific area of land. For that reason, the term makes use of the similarities among men and women as its core notion, and builds upon this to enter into the more political realm of these folks with similarities coming with each other in a piece of land to kind a group. The implication is political, but the ideology is genuinely not, and has its roots in the far more organic relationships in between human beings of similar circumstance. The narrative which Emerson weaves all through the poem is a political one, but he has deliberately titled his function “A Nation’s Strength” when he could have just as very easily utilised State or Nation the former case would have led to some pleasing alliteration as properly. However, his usage of Nation acts as a prelude to the central message he attempts to convey by means of his writing, that men and women themselves are the only and most reliable source of strength in a Nation, since only those who make up a nation can make it wonderful.

The poem has six stanzas, and is written in the comparatively basically abab type. The literary devices have been kept to a minimum to let the energy of the message shine through. The very 1st line is a question is “What makes a nation’s pillars higher?” The subsequent line asks a related query, what tends to make a nation’s “foundations strong”. The analogy of a building is fascinating, taking into consideration that Emerson goes on to describe how material conditions can not make a nation robust. The creating itself could be a mere device to symbolize the construction of a structure, and not the finish outcome itself. The next two lines speak of what makes the nation may possibly enough to defeat its enemies. Linking the first stanza with each other, we can infer that possibly the poet is trying to create the image of a sturdy, secluded structure of a nation which can not be breached by enemies, thereby instilling in the reader a sense of pride and duty towards constructing a structure.

The next three stanzas offer a crescendo like build up to the crux of the poem They describe every little thing which does not make a nation great, and every single stanza addresses one particular specific element which most take into account as either extremely essential or the most essential element towards building a successful nation. Flashes of Emerson’s personal 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 couple of, even though the majority of the population remained hidden form view. The line pointed out “kingdoms grand” and this supports the theory that this stanza could very attainable be a critique of the ancient system of extremely undistributed improvement fuelled by the monarchy. One more way to appear at gold could be material wealth and the accumulation of possession. Material progress: the developing of higher and a lot more opulent structures and a far more sophisticated customer culture reflect development on a superficial level. They might seem shiny, golden and excellent, 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 possessing their shafts laid on “sinking sand” as opposed to “abiding rock”. The distinction in the qualities of these supplies drives across a extremely effective, multidimensional point. Sand can't hold any strong structure of worth, as its personal nature is neither smooth nor steady, and the possibility of the structure sinking into and getting enveloped by the sand, leaving it in a state of nothingness is rather higher. Rock, on the other hand, is reliable and hard to climate regardless of the conditions it faces. The poet uses the term “abiding” to reflect this good quality. In quick, “gold” in all its flashy, higher status glory is a mere sham when it comes to true greatness, simply because the really foundations upon which it seeks to grow improvement from, are not strong. The initial shade of transcendentalism comes by way of right here, with nature getting utilised as a reference point for a solid foundation. Emerson believed that Man’s connection with nature was of crucial value his book “Nature” stands testament to this. The dependence on nature for a foundation conveys that in the end, our foundation for a productive program need to be of an organic origin, and not via the material situations we generate. Here, the poet starts to embed a hidden commentary which is linked to national consciousness. He begins to tell the widespread man that all the elements which he believes to be linked to greatness of a nation, are in fact 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 variables beyond their manage. In this specific stanza, some of the biggest conceptions of national greatness: material wealth and monarchial energy, are smashed.

The third stanza’s element of focus is “the sword.” The sword as a symbol is a rather apparent one particular, it depicts violence and bloodshed, and energy seized by way of these implies. The phrase “red dust” holds essential 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 constructing named the nation was constructed. As the stones stained with blood rust over the ages, the red dust starts to collect. The red of the blood in the dust is the only sign that the empire ever existed. The term “dust” is potent. 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 once more be a reference to nature here. All the violence which individuals inflict upon every single other, all the meticulous planning and strategy to win battle right after battle, has no use. The stanza does not refer to a mere kingdom, but an Empire, which signifies its rulers clearly had considerable achievement with their tyrannical strategy, and have been able to conquer a lot of land by shedding a lot more and much more blood with each fight. But, in the finish, 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 attempting to attain has no usage, because empires at some point turn into mere dust. The choice of dust to represent that something as inconsequential to dust in the course of the conception and formation of an empire can be the one particular factor which conquers what is remaining of it. Dust, is a natural element, so the message right here is that nature will eventually take back whatever is claimed by violent indicates, and nothing at all can be carried out to cease this. The poet continues the underlying commentary of telling the larger population what does not make an empire wonderful even though, till now, he is wordlessly telling them that they can. A wonderful number of empires have been formed by violence over history. There is not one particular of them which has lasted till date. The ancient ones, such as the Mongol Empire and even increasing modern day ones, usually had their expiry date all set. By giving the individuals food for believed by generating them recognize that even if they are subjected to violence and atrocities by a tyrant of a leader, he is grossly misguided and will in the end fall. The second seed of doubt with the classic notion of greatness is planted in the minds of the readers.

Stanza 4 is the last one particular in the trio that explains what can't make a nation great. The poet chooses not to deal with tangible issues such as gold or a tangible symbol which has devastating effects in its usage such as the sword, but chooses some thing intangible. Ironically, the intangible item chosen could seem rather small and irrelevant when compared to gold and swashbucklers with swords, but upon closer examination, it is the tips in the thoughts which do not physically express themselves but are the root result in for each other ill deed. These tips poison the mind, and inform it that in order to be fantastic as a nation, the only way to do is to progress materialistically and kill all its enemies. The idea chosen 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. These in power hide behind the veil of pride when telling their subjects to fight wars, and exploit nature for resources. Pride is a strong drug, and when 1 convinces a group of folks that getting a nation they are proud to a portion of is the single most crucial point, you have yourself a generation of addicts. Pride has been referred to as a Crown for a couple of motives, each unrelated. Firstly, the vibrant crown which has seemed so appealing to nations could actually be a Crown, and represent the monarchy. Monarchies had been constructed on the foundation of convincing folks that getting a King or a Queen to represent them would make sure that a nation which they have been proud to belong to was constructed. This journey to building a nation that absolutely everyone is proud of could be as violent or exploitative as possible, but in the name of preserving or constructing one’s pride, all was forgiven. Secondly, the crown could imply that this particular virtue of pride takes precedence more than both gold and the sword. That this actually is the crowning glory of what does not make a nation fantastic. In the end, 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 a single, as they believed God was the superior energy, and fostering a excellent connection with God was critical. The poet here tells men and women that if they are victims of the pride trap, if not nature, God himself will make certain that these empires fall. This also serves as a warning to them to not use pride as a guiding light when contemplating actions that will make them wonderful.

The final two stanzas finally reveal what it is that tends to make a nation excellent. As he begun the quite 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 wonderful and strong. The values which are emphasized are truth, honor and standing quickly to “suffer long” in the name of these values. The final stanza additional specifics the nature of the guys who make a nation great. The are brave and hardworking, even “while other folks sleep” and “dare whilst others fly.” According to Emerson, the foundations of a strong nation can only be built by these individuals, as they will construct “pillars deep” and take the nation to greater heights, even as far as “the sky.”

The metaphor of a developing comes up once more, with reference to pillars in the last stanza. The men who Emerson refers are solid, well rounded and hardworking folks. The crux of the poem is truly revealed in his final stanzas. A single also sees a culmination of the narrative he has been building up over the second, third and fourth stanzas exactly where he discusses what cannot make a nation excellent. In those stanzas, the idea that money or wealth, violence and pride, all three getting components to a particular extent in our mental picture of a great nation, was broken. Ironically, all these are variables which man has quite tiny control over. The final two stanzas however, inject the poem with a dose of optimism, and assures folks that the only ingredient essential to produce a powerful nation is strong men and women. Every human getting is faced with a decision as to what type of person they want to mold themselves into, and if they mold themselves into the hardworking, honest and robust guys that Emerson refers to, they can grow to be a crucial cog in the wheel spinning towards national greatness. These are aspects men and women can actively control, and not only are these controllable elements, they are motivating ones as well. Creating a powerful and great nation is outstanding incentive for even the most demotivated of guys to step up and make something of himself.

A national consciousness can only become a universal 1 if there are unfalteringly powerful suggestions which are shared among those who hold it. Emerson, via “A Nation’s Strength” facilitates the development of such an idea, by means of the notion of a excellent nation. By dismissing wealth, violence and pride, elements which divide people’s opinions greatly, and providing the image of a recipe for greatness which demands 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 strong instance of how the poetic voice can make its way into, unite and even operate for the betterment of the national consciousness.
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