Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Mountain And The Squirrel / The Fable

Summary of The Mountain and the Squirrel by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"The Mountain and the Squirrel" (also known as "The Fable") is a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, first published in 1846. In this work, Emerson reflects on the relationship between the natural world and human beings, using the image of a squirrel and a mountain to illustrate his point.

The poem opens with the squirrel hoarding nuts and seeds while the mountain looks down on him with a sense of detachment. The poem suggests that humans are similarly focused on accumulating wealth and power while nature remains indifferent to their efforts.

The poem ends with the suggestion that humans would be better off taking a cue from nature and embracing the values of simplicity and contentment. "The Mountain and the Squirrel" is considered a classic example of Emerson's philosophical and literary style and continues to be widely read and studied today.

from: Emerson, Ralph Waldo.  Early Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York, Boston, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company: 1899. Introduction by Nathan Haskell Dole.

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
"Little prig."
Bun replied,
"You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut."

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
Laugh as much you breath and love as long as you live

Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "The Mountain and the Squirrel" is a witty and insightful exploration of individual worth and self-acceptance.

In this short poem, a mountain and a squirrel engage in a conversation. The mountain initially looks down on the squirrel due to its small size and perceived insignificance, while the mountain considers itself grand and important.

However, the squirrel retorts, pointing out that it can crack a nut, which is something the mountain cannot do. Emerson's message here is clear and powerful: everyone, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, has unique abilities and strengths and should not be judged solely on size or appearance.

Key Point: Every individual has an intrinsic value and role to play.

This poem reflects Emerson's transcendentalist views, emphasizing self-reliance, the value of the individual, and the spiritual connection between nature and all living beings.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson left the ministry to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. Emerson became one of America's best known and best-loved 19th-century figures.
More About Emerson

Emerson Quotes

"Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 
– Ralph Waldo Emerson