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Concerning Emerson's views on the poet's nature and function, I can give you only a limited answer, but since no one else has answered yet, I'll give you what I can.
Looking at two specific poems, insight into Emerson's views can be inferred.
First, in "Ulysses," the subject of the poem is conveyed as a kind of artist. And Ulysses, the adventurer/artist, must perform his art. He cannot be happy as a king/administrator. His lot in life is to travel, to be on the ocean, to perform his art. Happiness, for Ulysses, cannot be found in Ithaca.
In Emerson's "The Lady of Shallot," the artist, it seems, must not completely separate herself from reality. The Lady, cursed to never look upon reality, but only to interpret reality through a mirror, dies when she does so. She is not allowed to look upon the actual Camelot. Why? Possibly because Camelot as she knows it does not exist. She knows Camelot only through a mirror and through her art. Tennyson seems to be suggesting that an artist should be careful of separating him or herself too much from reality. If one is to reflect reality, one must know and be a part of it.
Again, limited as my answer is, in these two poems Tennyson suggests that an artist cannot be separated from his or her art, but at the same time must be in touch with and be a part of reality.
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