In his essay “The Poet,” Emerson expresses his belief that poetry, like any art, should be organic rather than simply metrically or musically beautiful:For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument, that makes a poem,—a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. . . . The poet has a new thought: he has a whole new experience to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be the richer in his fortune.
It is Emerson’s thesis that poetry should not be an embellished art, but a living form which corresponds to higher truth. Like Poe, Emerson believed that true art is the creation of beauty, but he had quite different ideas about what can be considered beautiful. Where Poe believed that the chief merit of poetry is found in its rhythmical beauty and ability to arouse emotion, Emerson held that the worth of a poem lies in its philosophical truth. Emerson likewise believed that the mind of the poet is not “a music-box of delicate tunes and rhythms,” but an instrument by which mankind is enlightened. In other words, the verse itself is worthless unless it is an integral part of the truth it conveys:For verse is not a vehicle to carry a sentence as a jewel is carried in a case: the verse must be alive, and inseparable from its contents, as the soul of man inspires and directs the body.
Emerson is no less specific...
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