CHAPTER VI
Emerson AS POET

I. CONTROVERSY

THE history of critical opinion, in the fields of Emerson's prose and verse, has been singularly different. The world made up its mind, hastily and all but unanimously, on the subject of the prose. Various half-true or untrue assumptions, including the assumption that knowledge on the subject was complete, passed contentedly from mind to mind, and enough of error is current even to-day to afford scope for alteration and readjustment. The verse, on the other hand, has provoked a fairly keen and brisk controversy, and, as debate sharpens perception, the main qualities of the poems have been definitely ascertained, without any abatement in the warmth of the contention. On the nature of his poetic traits, on the classification of those traits as bad or good, men are pretty well agreed. The passages which transport the believers are enjoyed by the sceptics; the faults which the assailants detest are painful to the defenders. The difference is resolvable into a shift of stress, and rests at last on those organic peculiarities in critics which argument is slow to discern and powerless to reconcile.

That minds keenly sensitive to logic and coherence and less vividly responsive to outleaps of inspiration, minds like Mr. (since Lord) John Morley and Mr. W. C.

-274-

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