Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. Early in his life, Emerson followed in the footsteps of his father and became minister, but this ended in 1832 when he felt he could no longer serve as a minister in good conscience. He experienced doubts about the Christian church and its doctrine. These reservations were temporarily alleviated by his brief association with Unitarianism, but soon Emerson became discontent with even their decidedly liberal interpretation of Christianity. After a while, however, he discovered the writings of British poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, and used their works to shape his own.

Emerson’s wife died in 1831, an
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One of his most beloved essays to readers and writers alike, “The Poet” offers numerous insights that clearly had incalculable impact on American Romanticism (Baym 1177).

Perhaps the best summary of “The Poet” can be found within the essay itself. At the end of the third paragraph, Emerson defines the poet as “The man without impediment, who sees and handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole scale of experience, and its representative of man, in virtue of being the largest power to receive and to impart.” Clearly, Emerson’s definition of a poet is broad, yet oddly specific as well. An important feature of this definition is its suggestion that the poet somehow transcends humanity; the poet must not be hindered by humanity, since he is its representative. This principle, however, is fully articulated when Emerson lists the three functions the poet serves.

First, according to Emerson, the Universe gave birth to three children: the Knower, the Doer, and the Sayer. They respectively stand for “the love of truth, for the love of good, and for the love of beauty.” The poet is synonymous with the Sayer, since he

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