(1844), “The Poet” marks Emerson’s most sustained attempt at defining the vocation of the poet and his central importance within Emerson’s broader philosophical thought.Like all of Emerson’s essays, “The Poet” is difficult to summarize as it moves from point to point, working more through suggestiveness and the reworking of similar ideas in slightly different formulations rather than through sustained argument.These various definitions and characterizations of the poet almost immediately come into apparent contradiction.
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.
It was what he saw as the emptiness of such writing that led Emerson to dismiss Poe as “the jingle-man.” In opposition to Poe’s focus on poetic design, Emerson emphasizes intuition. by sharing the path or circuit of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others.” The poet, in this way, takes on the role of the prophet or the minister, bringing a message of the divinity of nature and of humankind to his listeners.
Repeatedly, in “The Poet,” Emerson suggests that the poet does little at all, except to allow “the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him.” It is through “abandonment to the nature of things” that the poet frees himself from his narrow individual view of the world and his thinking begins to “take its direction from celestial life.” In this way, “Imagination” is less creative in itself than merely a “very high sort of seeing . As such, Emerson elevates the poet to a supreme position within society.
Because poets break through our normal way of seeing the world, Emerson twice refers to them as “liberating gods.” In particular, poets help the individual “to escape the custody of that body in which he is pent up, and of that jail-yard of individual relations in which he is enclosed.” By “stimulating” us to imagine the world in new ways, poets free us from our old thought.
Solving Mass Spectrometry Problems - Emerson Poet Essay
Unlike the mystic, then, who “nails a symbol to one sense,” the poet must always keep in mind that “all symbols are fluxional,” a flux that mirrors the development of nature, the movement of the mind, and the organization of the universe.
"The waves, unashamed, In difference sweet, Play glad with the breezes, Old playfellows meet; The journeying atoms, Primordial wholes, Firmly draw, firmly drive, By their animate poles.
"Sea, earth, air, sound, silence, Plant, quadruped, bird, By one music enchanted, One deity stirred,-- Each the other adorning, Accompany still; Night veileth the morning, The vapor the hill.
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.
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.