Comparing Emerson and Dickinson

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Religion Pages: 2 (674 words) Published: June 30, 2005
Darrell Phifer
Dr. Colin Clarke
English 202-002
February 4, 2004

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson were two of America's most intriguing poets. They were both drawn to the transcendentalist movement which taught "unison of creation, the righteousness of humanity, and the preeminence of insight over logic and reason" (Woodberry 113). This movement also taught them to reject "religious authority" (Sherwood 66). By this declination of authority, they were able to express their individuality. It is through their acceptance of this individuality that will illustrate their ambiguities in their faith in God.

Emily Dickinson was an intricate and contradictory figure who moved from a reverent faith in God to a deep suspicion of him in her works. (Sherwood 3) Through her own intentional choice she was, in her lifetime, considered peculiar. Despite different people and groups trying to influence her, she resisted making a public confession of faith to Christ and the Church. (Sherwood 10) She wanted to establish her own wanted to establish her own individuality and, in doing so, turned to poetry. (Benfey 27) Dickinson's poems were a sort of channel for her feelings and an "exploration" of her faith (Benfey 27).

A testimony of her faith can be seen in the poem "I Never Saw a Moor." (Dickinson 1273) In the first two lines she clearly states that she hasn't ever seen a moor or the sea. Yet, in the second set of lines she implies that she knows "how heather looks" and "what billows be" (Dickinson 1273). She can not possibly know what these things look like without having seen moors or seas. In the first stanza she simply states that just because one can't see or have never seen something doesn't mean that it can't or doesn't exist. That being said, Dickinson then says that she has not ever "spoken with God" or visited heaven in the third pair of lines (Dickinson 1273). The final set of lines says that she is "certain of the spot" (Dickinson...
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