Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Earth Song" provides a thoughtful meditation on the concept of ownership, possession, and human's transient existence compared to the enduring elements of nature.
The poem opens by emphasizing the dichotomy between the notion of "mine" and "yours," swiftly transitioning to reflect upon the constancy of the earth and stars, contrasting their permanence with the fleeting nature of human life.
The second stanza introduces the idea of a legal deed that ensures the transmission of property to descendants. The language used here suggests a sense of permanence ("Who shall succeed, without fail, Forevermore"). However, the following stanza implies that such an assurance is hollow, as it details a desolate landscape - "Shaggy with wood," "old valley," "Mound and flood" - from which the rightful owners ("the heritors") have disappeared like foam on the flood.
The poem then makes a critical remark on the transient nature of human systems, including the legal system ("The lawyer, and the laws") and governance ("And the kingdom"), all of which have been swept clean from this eternal landscape.
In the final stanza, the Earth itself seems to speak. Humans may have considered it their property, yet all have eventually left, unable to maintain their hold on it. In contrast, the Earth continues to exist and 'hold' them in its memories, hinting at the ephemeral nature of human life compared to the Earth's permanence.
Overall, "Earth Song" presents a potent critique of the human illusion of ownership, especially when it comes to natural resources. It provides a timeless reminder of our mortality and transient existence, juxtaposed against the enduring backdrop of nature and the cosmos. Through this, Emerson underscores the central tenets of Transcendentalist thought, especially the inherent value and permanence of nature.