From wise men the world inherits a literature of wisdom, characterized less byits scheduled education than by its strength and shortness of statement. Thoughtprovoking and discerning, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a cynical world an unbiasedperspective on human frailty. Emerson first and foremost was a poet. He has notwritten a line which is not conceived in the interest of mankind.
He neverwrites in the interest of a section, of a party, of a church, or a man, alwaysin the interest of mankind. (Carlyle 19) From Emersons poetry the readeris able to derive a central theme of idealism and reality. Emerson was a poetthat sings to us with thoughts beyond his song. (Howe) His never endingsearch for immortality was always resolved by his reencounter with reality. Inhis poem Days he expresses the purely ideal or mystical half of histhoughts. Days suggests both points of view and is structurally dividedinto two parts. The first six lines personify the Days as demigods whooffer the gifts of life to mortals.
Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,muffled and dumb, like barefoot dervishes, And marching single in an endlessfile, Bring diadems and fagots in their hands. To each they offer gifts, afterhis will,– Bread, kingdoms, stars, or sky that holds them all. Emerson issaying here that the individual days arranged in an endless running bring manindulgences and plainness alike. They bring whatever is the will of man.
Bazemore 2 Emersons problem with this is that it is up to him to claimresponsibility for his actions. These supreme beings simply provide a steadfastpace unchanging and unyielding. They say nothing and make no efforts tointervene in mans path. They claim time, but so short. The time they provideis not long enough, and that is why they are hypocrites, thus providingEmersons confrontation with perfection. In the last five lines he describeshis actual failure to realize the value of these gifts, and then his idealrecognition of this mortal failure. Man is depicted as a tragic hero inDays. I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp, Forget my morningwishes, hastily took a few herbs and apples, And the Day turned and departedsilent. I, too late, under her solemn fillet saw the scorn. (Emerson 437)Emerson here refers to how he looks at these beings or demigods, withresentment. He has high expectations in the morning but sees how time has notgiven him the means necessary. He almost gives the Days an evil regard andexpects a reply, but instead the Days leave without a word. He sees theerrors of his ways and sees how because he has given the Days so muchthought he has wasted the day, and thus executes the last line where heindicates he saw the scorn. (Emerson 437) Again in another well-renownpoem by Emerson, Rhodora, the theme of self-reliance is depicted bycombining idealistic and realistic virtues. He gives a flower the Bazemore 3appeal of a prefect being. This time, however, his technique is reversed fromthe previous poem. The first lines express the normality of the flower. He says,I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods, Spreading its leaflets Blooms in a dampnook, to please the desert And the sluggish brook. (Emerson) Nothing, thus far,has portrayed the flower as anything but a delightful surprise. He speaks of thehappiness it has brought to the scene, but has not given it any unusualattributes. Then he grants that this flower is the greatest thing to ever happento the world. Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why this charm is wasted on theearth and sky, Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing, Then beautyis its own excuse for being In another critically acclaimed poem by Emerson,Forbearance, he dwells on the idea of mans nature of selfishness andheartlessness Hast thou named all the birds without a gun? Loved the wood-rose,and left it on its stalk? At rich mens tables eaten bread and pulse? Unarmed,faced danger with a heart of trust? Bazemore 4 And loved so well a highbehavior, In man or maid, that though from speech refrained, Nobility more noblyto repay? O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine! (Emerson 31) Emersoncondemns man for their unfortunate nature. Why must man kill to understand andbe glutinous with greed and predisposition. Yet other men want nothing less thanto be like these men. Men who take advantage of others in order to succeed andadvance their own fancy. That is what Emerson is referring to when he says,O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine! This is an example of hisinterpretation of reality. Idealism would be represent the better sides ofmans nature and instead show these sides as faultless. In this poem, ratherthan writing about idealism, it is in a form of rhetorical question. Whenreaders finish the poem they are perplexed with the idea of what man should belike and the way he should act. In another famous Emerson poem, Faith, hespeaks of attributes which require the greatest of discipline, and againself-reliance. Plunge in your angry waves, Defying doubt and care, And theflowing of the seven broad seas Bazemore 5 Shall never wet thy hair. Emersonhere is granting the most idealistic conditions that one might imagine. He isbasically saying that men should face their fear and dive into them rather thanignore them. All is said and well, but it is mans overcoming nature to letfear consume their minds and take control. And though thy fortune and thy formBe broken, waste and void, Though suns be spent, of thy life-root No fibre isdestroyed. Here if men face their fears Emerson explains that they will bebetter off and will be stronger because of their decision. He observes thetrials and obstacles which accompany mans decision but essentially realizesthat strength comes from them. It is these fundamental ideas that Emersonpresents that show forth his idealistic principles. Emerson represents a smallpiece of every man. So much of his thought and life was cast in forms ofimmortal beautyit shows the mortal fixed in immortality, and the deep serenepersuasion which smiles beyond tears. (Howe 307) His never ending search fortranquility in life provided mankind with bits and pieces that might fulfilltheir lives. Emerson once said I cannot declare, yet cannot all withhold.
(Emerson 472) Emerson was a man with an extraordinary ability to express histhoughts on paper. Not many are Bazemore 6 given this ingenuity in theirlifetime. Emersons life was dedicated to poetry and forms of writing thatdiagnosed the complications of life. In every piece of his writing there is anunderlying theme of idealism and reality. He speaks of the way things should beand then speaks of the way they are. His writings poor forth no unhappy norunholy passion. A charm of unconsciousness is in them. (Howe 309)BibliographyBlack, Walter J. The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York Press, (1882) :13. Carlyle, Thomas. The Correspondence of Emerson and Carlyle. ColumbiaUniversity Press, (1964): 516-518. Chapman, John Jay. Emerson. CharlesScribners Sons, (1898) : 3-108. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Journals of Ralph WaldoEmerson. Houghton Mifflin Company, (1913) : 314-21. Grimm, Hernan. RalphWaldo Emerson. Upham and Co., (1886) : 1-43. Howe, Julia Ward. EmersonsRelation to Society. Kennikat Press, (1971) : 286-309. Laurence, D.H.
Americans. Viking Penguin, (1936) : 314-321. Emerson: Hero Lost By TannerBazemore English 102 Professor Sheila Tombe 3 December 1998English Essays
Cite this Ralph Emerson Essay
Ralph Emerson Essay. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/ralph-emerson/