Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American philosopher, essayist, and poet, was born on the 25th day of May 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and also teaching for some time, he entered the ministry, and in a matter of time, he became an unwilling preacher. Before graduating from Harvard divinity school, Emerson had already written a few addresses. He wrote many poetic proses among which include Essays, First and Second Series. He had also written other volumes including Poems (1847), The Conduct of Life (1860), and English Traits (1865) (McKusick, James, 2014). His philosophy is categorized by its dependence to sensitivity as the only way to understand certainty.
Most people refer to him as a confusing and frustrating writer while other people, on the other hand, refer to his poetry as harsh and moralizing. This is in contradiction with the writer Henry David Thoreau who is referred to as being an easy one to understand (McKusick, James, 2014). This is because Thoreau’s approach was more personal while that of Emerson was more removed and observational. Emerson describes that a philosopher’s duty was to observe with no interaction involved while Thoreau believed that human beings should live their beliefs.
Emerson does not only explore the relationship between the material and spiritual in his writing but also he addresses the difference between philosophy and our life experiences. This is most noted in the essay experience. These differences between philosophy and life are one of the areas where other writers do not engage in their writing and thus making their work easier than that of Emerson (McKusick, James, 2014). He also rejected narrow and limited approaches, but he was also tolerant of social forms and humanity.
Though his writings possess directness, clarity and smooth transgression from one idea to another, Emerson’s writings have continued to use of metaphor and analogy to elucidate difficult concepts. These metaphors are sometimes hard to be digested by the readers or listeners of these poems which in turn makes the main objective of the writer, which is getting information to the readers, not easily achieved. However, the individual perception and ideas which he uses in almost all his work sweep the reader along and he is more consistent in using phrases that suggest spoken instead of written word. This unique method which might have been got from his years as a preacher and lecturer can affect his audience (McKusick, James, 2014). This way, the more educated persons, only those with the knowledge of rhetorical styles and metaphor usage can understand and move smoothly with the themes and the information being conveyed.
In his poetry, Emerson presents symbolically and in compressed forms. These are the themes also present in his other works example in addresses and prose writings. He also uses the rise and fall of emotional intensity. There are many differences in the poems. These are areas that have brought a lot of critics in assessing the technical merit and overall merit of Emerson’s poems.
Contrary to Emerson’s writing, Thoreau admired the use of vigorous, direct, succinct and economical prose. To him, the importance of having content in writing was heavier than having style in writing (McKusick, James, 2014). He did not care much about observing formalities that were involved in the literature genre which was common among romantic writers where he was one of them.
In my opinion, Emerson is one confusing writer. This is because of his continued use of philosophical approach in writing and the continued use of relationship of man and god, nature and human transitions. His poems are harsh and educative at the same time. This is evident in that he encouraged the use of soul and also addressed the issue at hand in a thoughtful manner.
McKusick & James C. “Ralph Waldo Emerson: Writing Nature.” Green Writing (2014): 113-139. Print.