Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to the Rev. William Emerson, a Unitarian minister in a famous line of ministers; Emerson was later to become a Unitarian minister himself. He gradually drifted from the doctrines of his peers, then formulated and first expressed the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his essay Nature.
Nature is an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson published anonymously in 1836. It is in this essay where the foundation of transcendentalism is put forth, a belief system that espouses a non-traditional vision of nature. Building on his early lectures, Emerson defines nature as an all-encompassing divine entity inherently known to us in our unfettered innocence, rather than as merely a component of a world ruled by a divine, separate being learned by us through passed-on teachings in our experience.
It is not about "men of poetical talents, or of industry and skill in meter, but of the true poet."
The final lines in the essay are, "Wherever snow falls or water flows or birds fly, wherever day and night meet in twilight, wherever the blue heaven is hung by clouds or sown with stars, wherever are forms with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial space, wherever is danger, and awe, and love,--there is Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee, and though thou shouldest walk the world over, thou shalt not be able to find a condition inopportune or ignoble."
In the essay he formulates his philosophy of self-reliance an essential part of which is to trust in one's present thoughts and impressions rather than those of other people or of one's past self. This culminates in the quote: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
He stresses originality, believing in one's own genius and living from within. From this springs the quote: "Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide."
Thy summer voice, Musketaquit,
Repeats the music of the rain;
But sweeter rivers pulsing flit
Through thee, as thou through the Concord Plain.
Thou in thy narrow banks art pent:
The stream I love unbounded goes
Through flood and sea and firmament;
Through light, through life, it forward flows.
I see the inundation sweet,
I hear the spending of the steam
Through years, through men, through Nature fleet,
Through love and thought, through power and dream.
Musketaquit, a goblin strong,
Of shard and flint makes jewels gay;
They lose their grief who hear his song,
And where he winds is the day of day.
So forth and brighter fares my stream,--
Who drink it shall not thirst again;
No darkness taints its equal gleam,
And ages drop in it like rain.
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They recon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
You probably don't need to know too much about Transcendentalism to ace all the questions that might pop up on the GRE, but you should know about The Dial, which was a Transcendentalist periodical. Ohter names you should associate with the movement and the periodical are:
Henry David Thoreau