Could you explain to me what Ralph Emerson is trying to say in his essay "The Poet"?

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goreadabook's profile pic

goreadabook | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "The Poet" discusses the poet's role in society and the qualities that make up a true poet.  He believes that poets are visionaries who are able to receive and interpret universal truths that bind humanity as one.  The poet's responsibility is to articulate these truths to mankind through written art, and therefore expresses the emotions and feelings that all people possess, but may not be able to define.  Emerson believed in the concept of over-soul which is a statement that man and God are united as one.  This means that all knowledge is available to us at all times; however, we may be unaware of this.  The poet receives this knowledge through their strong spiritual connection with God and the universe and relays the information to the rest of humanity.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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First, you need to understand that Emerson is a transcendentalist.  In this context, that means that he believes that human beings need to seek "an original relation to the universe," meaning that they need to see how they are a part of the universe and the universe is a part of them.  In this way, people need to get outside themselves and imagine the world/universe in new ways.

To Emerson, this is what a poet does and that's the main point of "The Poet."  In the essay, he argues that poets make people free.  They do this by using language in new ways so as to get people to look at things in new ways.

It's a long essay, but that is a very brief statement of what it's about...

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