Ralph Waldo Emerson

By George Edward Woodberry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE POEMS

EMERSON, as has been said, was fundamentally a poet with an imperfect faculty of expression. By no means a perfect master of prose, he was much less a master of the instrument of verse; yet the same qualities appear in his work of both kinds, and as the excellence of his prose lies in the perfect turn of short sentences and in brief passages of eloquence, so the excellence of his verse lies in couplets and quatrains and brief passages of description or feeling. He owes much in both kinds to his quotability, or the power with which his thought in its best and most condensed expression sinks into the mind and haunts the memory. He was indifferent to the technical part of verse, but this was because of an incapacity or lack of gift for it; he was not careless, and his verse was brooded over, turned in his mind and rewrought in his study, and what he published was generally the last and long deferred result of such power of expression as he was capable of; he was inartistic by necessity. He had no constructive, but only an ejaculatory, genius; and all that belongs to construction and depends upon it, such as dramatic power, for example, he was deficient in. His verse on the prosaic level of simple observation is descriptive, and becomes lyrical when melted by tenderness of feeling or set aglow by patriotic fervour or

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Note v
  • Contents vii
  • Chapter I - The Voice Obeyed at Prime 1
  • Chapter II - "Nature" and Its Corollaries 44
  • Chapter III - "The Hypocritic Days" 64
  • Chapter IV - The Essays 107
  • Chapter V - The Poems 158
  • Chapter VI - Terminus 178
  • Index 199
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