What is the summary of poem Brahma by Emerson?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Emerson's poem is a transcendetalist exploration into the nature of life and death and the powers of the divine.  In appropriating the Hindu god Brahma, Emerson seeks to develop a metaphor to explain his notion of transcendentalist thought. The opening stanza helps to redefine the notion of traditionalist life and death, with a sense of continuity and complexity within such notions.  In this stanza, Emerson is insisting that there is a sense of emotional understanding about the nature of "slain" and that which "slays."  Emphasizing a duality in both, the poem continues to the second stanza, which again suggests that dualistic opposition is actually in tandem with one another.  "Shadow" and "sunlight" are no longer in diametric competition, just as is "vanished gods" who might "appear."  The oppositing polarities of "shame" and "fame" are cast in a similar light of symmetry.  The implication of this stanza is that there is some type of energy that brings together that which is oppositional and the traditionalist notions of demonizing one force over another might not be in line with this energy.  Here is probably where Emerson's Trancendentalist thought, a movement that sought to bring emotions into reconfiguring what had been stressed as normative and socially acceptable, is most evident.  The fact that the last line integrates socially deemed values of "shame" and "fame" is evidence of this.  This theme is continued in the concluding stanzas.  The last two lines provide Emerson's own twist to the notion of divinity, when he suggests that one need not look to heaven for such a cosmic and energetic force.  The implication would be that this belief resides in the individual who can find and locate this spirity of unity and symmetry in their own sense of identity and self.

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