We fill the hands and nurseries of our children with all manner of dolls, drums, and horses, withdrawing their eyes from the plain face and sufficing objects of nature, the sun, and moon, the animals, the water, and stones, which should be their toys. So the poet’s habit of living should be set on a key so low, that the common influences should delight him. His cheerfulness should be the gift of the sunlight; the air should suffice for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with water. That spirit which suffices quiet hearts, which seems to come forth to such from every dry knoll of sere grass, from every pine-stump, and half-imbedded stone, on which the dull March sun shines, comes forth to the poor and hungry, and such as are of simple taste. If thou fill thy brain with Boston and New York, with fashion and covetousness, and wilt stimulate thy jaded sense with wine and French coffee, thou shalt find no radiance of wisdom in the lonely waste of the pinewoods.
excerpt from “The Poet” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Excerpted from the sixth edition of The Heath Anthology of American Literature, edited by Paul Lauter. Published 2009 in Boston, MA, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.