Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1883): He was the leading figure in American transcendentalism. As a philosopher, essayist and a poet, he set the intellectual tone of New England letters in his own time and of American literature. He resembles the mystical views of Plotinus. Where Plotinus god-term was “the one”, Emerson’s was the “over-soul”.
Transcendentalism: A philosophy that emphasizes the unknowable character of ultimate reality or asserts the importance of the spiritual over the material.
The Poet: It is Emerson’s second series of essays, which preaches its topics rather than analyzing them. In the poet, Emerson claims that the poet can transcend individually through truths about the relationship between matter and spirit.
A. Defining a Poet:
1- Only highest minds of the world are the ones that cease to explore the endless meanings of masters of Arts.
2- The poet is a representative person. He is the complete man standing among partial men.
3- Expressions are important. “The man is only half, the other half is his expression”.
4- The poet is the person who has his powers in control, who has the ability to express without obstructions.
5- The universe has three children in every system of thought: knower, doer and sayer.
6- “The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.
7- A poet has a new thought or new experience to mankind that he wants to unfold.
B. An Honest Poet vs. A Dishonest Poet:
1- Poetry existed before time and only a true poet can faithfully pass it on.
2- A dishonest poet makes the reader feels like s/he flying to another world but when s/he realizes the truth because of exaggerations, s/he stumbles down again.
3- An honest poet is able to interpret the symbols of nature.
C. The Poet and Nature:
1- Nature looks better in the eyes of a loving man that the poet holds nature.
2- Nature is symbolic of truth, goodness, beauty, and an external appearance of soul.
3- The poet is the only one who can interpret the symbols of nature and creates wholeness.
D. The Difference between Poets an Mystics:
1- Poets: They do not stop at a form, color or meaning. He uses all as subjects for a new thought.
2- Mystics: They reach a moment of truth and read symbols but give only one fixed meaning.