From wise men the world inherits a literature of wisdom, characterized less by
its scheduled education than by its strength and shortness of statement. Thought
provoking and discerning, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a cynical world an unbiased
perspective on human frailty. Emerson first and foremost was a poet. He has not
written a line which is not conceived in the interest of mankind. He never
writes in the interest of a section, of a party, of a church, or a man, always
in the interest of mankind. (Carlyle 19) From Emersons poetry the reader
is able to derive a central theme of idealism and reality. Emerson was a poet
that sings to us with thoughts beyond his song. (Howe) His never ending
search for immortality was always resolved by his reencounter with reality. In
his poem Days he expresses the purely ideal or mystical half of his
thoughts. Days suggests both points of view and is structurally divided
into two parts. The first six lines personify the Days as demigods who
offer the gifts of life to mortals. Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
muffled and dumb, like barefoot dervishes, And marching single in an endless
file, Bring diadems and fagots in their hands. To each they offer gifts, after
his will,– Bread, kingdoms, stars, or sky that holds them all. Emerson is
saying here that the individual days arranged in an endless running bring man
indulgences and plainness alike. They bring whatever is the will of man.

Bazemore 2 Emersons problem with this is that it is up to him to claim
responsibility for his actions. These supreme beings simply provide a steadfast
pace unchanging and unyielding. They say nothing and make no efforts to
intervene in mans path. They claim time, but so short. The time they provide
is not long enough, and that is why they are hypocrites, thus providing
Emersons confrontation with perfection. In the last five lines he describes
his actual failure to realize the value of these gifts, and then his ideal
recognition of this mortal failure. Man is depicted as a tragic hero in
Days. I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp, Forget my morning
wishes, hastily took a few herbs and apples, And the Day turned and departed
silent. I, too late, under her solemn fillet saw the scorn. (Emerson 437)
Emerson here refers to how he looks at these beings or demigods, with
resentment. He has high expectations in the morning but sees how time has not
given him the means necessary. He almost gives the Days an evil regard and
expects a reply, but instead the Days leave without a word. He sees the
errors of his ways and sees how because he has given the Days so much
thought he has wasted the day, and thus executes the last line where he
indicates he saw the scorn. (Emerson 437) Again in another well-renown
poem by Emerson, Rhodora, the theme of self-reliance is depicted by
combining idealistic and realistic virtues. He gives a flower the Bazemore 3
appeal of a prefect being. This time, however, his technique is reversed from
the previous poem. The first lines express the normality of the flower. He says,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods, Spreading its leaflets Blooms in a damp
nook, to please the desert And the sluggish brook. (Emerson) Nothing, thus far,
has portrayed the flower as anything but a delightful surprise. He speaks of the
happiness it has brought to the scene, but has not given it any unusual
attributes. Then he grants that this flower is the greatest thing to ever happen
to the world. Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why this charm is wasted on the
earth and sky, Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing, Then beauty
is its own excuse for being In another critically acclaimed poem by Emerson,
Forbearance, he dwells on the idea of mans nature of selfishness and
heartlessness Hast thou named all the birds without a gun? Loved the wood-rose,
and left it on its stalk? At rich mens tables eaten bread and pulse? Unarmed,
faced danger with a heart of trust? Bazemore 4 And loved so well a high
behavior, In man or maid, that though from speech refrained, Nobility more nobly
to repay? O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine! (Emerson 31) Emerson
condemns man for their unfortunate nature. Why must man kill to understand and
be glutinous with greed and predisposition. Yet other men want nothing less than
to be like these men. Men who take advantage of others in order to succeed and
advance their own fancy. That is what Emerson is referring to when he says,
O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine! This is an example of his
interpretation of reality. Idealism would be represent the better sides of
mans nature and instead show these sides as faultless. In this poem, rather
than writing about idealism, it is in a form of rhetorical question. When
readers finish the poem they are perplexed with the idea of what man should be
like and the way he should act. In another famous Emerson poem, Faith, he
speaks of attributes which require the greatest of discipline, and again
self-reliance. Plunge in your angry waves, Defying doubt and care, And the
flowing of the seven broad seas Bazemore 5 Shall never wet thy hair. Emerson
here is granting the most idealistic conditions that one might imagine. He is
basically saying that men should face their fear and dive into them rather than
ignore them. All is said and well, but it is mans overcoming nature to let
fear consume their minds and take control. And though thy fortune and thy form
Be broken, waste and void, Though suns be spent, of thy life-root No fibre is
destroyed. Here if men face their fears Emerson explains that they will be
better off and will be stronger because of their decision. He observes the
trials and obstacles which accompany mans decision but essentially realizes
that strength comes from them. It is these fundamental ideas that Emerson
presents that show forth his idealistic principles. Emerson represents a small
piece of every man. So much of his thought and life was cast in forms of
immortal beautyit shows the mortal fixed in immortality, and the deep serene
persuasion which smiles beyond tears. (Howe 307) His never ending search for
tranquility in life provided mankind with bits and pieces that might fulfill
their lives. Emerson once said I cannot declare, yet cannot all withhold.

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(Emerson 472) Emerson was a man with an extraordinary ability to express his
thoughts on paper. Not many are Bazemore 6 given this ingenuity in their
lifetime. Emersons life was dedicated to poetry and forms of writing that
diagnosed the complications of life. In every piece of his writing there is an
underlying theme of idealism and reality. He speaks of the way things should be
and then speaks of the way they are. His writings poor forth no unhappy nor
unholy passion. A charm of unconsciousness is in them. (Howe 309)
Black, Walter J. The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York Press, (1882) :
13. Carlyle, Thomas. The Correspondence of Emerson and Carlyle. Columbia
University Press, (1964): 516-518. Chapman, John Jay. Emerson. Charles
Scribners Sons, (1898) : 3-108. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Journals of Ralph Waldo
Emerson. Houghton Mifflin Company, (1913) : 314-21. Grimm, Hernan. Ralph
Waldo Emerson. Upham and Co., (1886) : 1-43. Howe, Julia Ward. Emersons
Relation to Society. Kennikat Press, (1971) : 286-309. Laurence, D.H.

Americans. Viking Penguin, (1936) : 314-321. Emerson: Hero Lost By Tanner
Bazemore English 102 Professor Sheila Tombe 3 December 1998
English Essays