Where does poetry concentrate itself, affirm and realize itself most fully? In wholes or in particles? Let us leave out of the reckoning the great dramatists and epic writers to whom Emerson is virtually unrelated; let us confine ourselves to writers of lyrics and modest narrative, to the class represented by Herbert, Marvell, Gray, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Rossetti, Alfred de Musset, Paul Verlaine, Heine, Carducci. Is the poetry of such men most evident in the large or in the little units?
If we approach poetry from the side of literature, if we view it as thought and style with rhythm superadded, we shall find its quintessence in the final or total effect. But if we approach poetry from the standpoint of embodiment, if we regard it as furnishing at the same time a physical and a moral impression coinciding in quality and effect, it is difficult to see how the whole can become the especial, the typical, seat of this coincidence. Is not the aggregate impression in poetry merely psychological? Do we find anywhere a physical total? Is the ear a reservoir of physical impressions? Does it accumulate sounds? Is not the truth rather that the mind accumulates sensations, each of which, on its entrance to the mind, was attended and enforced by a physical correlative?
A narrative poem, even a poem so brief as "Days," has an organism--plot, proportion, adaptation, climax--which is distinct both from its total sentiment and from its verbal or rhythmical felicities. But is not
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Publication information: Book title: Ralph Waldo Emerson. Contributors: O. W. Firkins - Author. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1915. Page number: 294.