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Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the imagination intoxicates the poet, it is not inactive in other men [or women]. The metamorphosis excites in the beholder an emotion of joy. The use of symbols has a certain power of emancipation and exhilaration for all men. We seem to be touched by a wand which makes us dance and run about happily, like children. We are like persons who come out of a cave or cellar into the open air. This is the effect on us of tropes, fables, oracles and all poetic forms. Poets are thus liberating goods. Men have really got a new sense, and found within their world another world, or nest of worlds; for, the metamorphosis once seen, we divine that it does not stop. I will not now consider how much this makes the charm of algebra and the mathematics, which also have their tropes, but it is felt in every definition as when Aristotle defines space to be an immovable vessel in which things are contained;–or when Plato defines a line to be a flowing point; or figure to be a bound of solid; and many the like. What a jouful sense of freedom we have when Vitruvius announces the old opinion of artists that no architect can build any house well who does not know something of anatomy. When Socrates, in Charmides, tells us that the soul is cured of its maladies by certain incantations, and that these incantations are beautiful reasons, from which temperence is generated in souls; when Plato calls the world an animal, and Timaeus affirms that the plants also are animals; or affirms a man to be a heavenly tree, growing with his root, which is his head, upward; — Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “The Poet,” (1844). Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry 1800-1950, ed. Melissa Kwasny (Wesleyan University Press, 2004)

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