Emerson Poet Essay

Emerson Poet Essay-81
"-- The old Sphinx bit her thick lip,-- Said, "Who taught thee me to name?I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow, Of thine eye I am eyebeam.The poet stands alone, above all of humanity, and thus “the birth of a poet is the principal event in chronology,” yet “every man is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments of nature.” These tensions or contradictions are central to Emerson’s philosophy.

"-- The old Sphinx bit her thick lip,-- Said, "Who taught thee me to name?I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow, Of thine eye I am eyebeam.The poet stands alone, above all of humanity, and thus “the birth of a poet is the principal event in chronology,” yet “every man is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments of nature.” These tensions or contradictions are central to Emerson’s philosophy.

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Certain chief ideas stand out, however, echoing Emerson’s comments throughout his career on the role of art in human life—the celebration of intuition and inspiration over learning and technique; the connections among the material universe of nature, the individual mind, and the divine, universal, spiritual truth; and a tension between an egalitarian emphasis on the capacity of every human to access this truth and his exaltation of the few who most fully provoke or lead the rest to see the truth.

One of Emerson’s most famous phrases appears early in “The Poet,” placing him squarely within Romanticism’s emphasis on organic, as opposed to imposed, form: “For it is not meters, but a meter-making argument that makes a poem,--a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing.” While most of Emerson’s poetry was fairly conventional in its form, in terms of meter and rhyme, stanzaic construction, etc., he emphasizes the form should follow from the inspiration, the feeling, or thought that creates the poem and gives it life.

Even in our less conscious moments, our existence reflects that truth, the truth at the core of what Emerson calls poetry.

Emerson’s understanding of the “Universe” as “the externization of the soul” thus leads him to identifying the poet’s chief task as making that relationship real to us. to the use of emblems:” “The people fancy they hate poetry, and they are all poets and mystics” through their recognition of a spiritual truth and meaning behind material form.

This focus on the specific conditions of the physical world undergirds his famous call towards the end of the essay for a distinctly American poet.

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The problem, as Emerson diagnoses it, is that “We do not with sufficient plainness or sufficient profoundness address ourselves to live, nor dare we chant our own times and social circumstances.” While the true poet will lead us beyond the everyday and past merely contemporary concerns and ways of thinking, he can only do so by engaging with the world as it exists in the here and now.

"Outspoke the great mother, Beholding his fear;-- At the sound of her accents Cold shuddered the sphere:-- 'Who has drugged my boy's cup? Who, with sadness and madness, Has turned the man-child's head?

'" I heard a poet answer, Aloud and cheerfully, "Say on, sweet Sphinx! Deep love lieth under These pictures of time; They fad in the light of Their meaning sublime.

Analogizing the poem to a living entity, the form, like the body of an animal or plant, should grow out of its inner being, should be an extension and expression of its spiritual life.

A true poem, in this way, is a unique expression, a living object, as opposed to merely technically brilliant writing (“a music-box of delicate tunes and rhythms” through all of which we hear “the ground-tone of conventional life”).

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