'Tact' by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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What boots it, thy virtue,
What profit thy parts,
While one thing thou lackest,
The art of all arts!
The only credentials,
Passport to success,
Opens castle and parlor,-
Address, man, Address.The maiden in danger
Was saved by the swain,
His stout arm restored her
To Broadway again:The maid would reward him,-
Gay company come,-
They laugh, she laughs with them,
He is moonstruck and dumb.This clenches the bargain,
Sails out of the bay,
Gets the vote in the Senate,
Spite of Webster and Clay;Has for genius no mercy,
For speeches no heed,-
It lurks in the eyebeam,
It leaps to its deed.Church, tavern, and market,
Bed and board it will sway;
It has no to-morrow,
It ends with to-day.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Poetry, Tact" by Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Delightful Exploration of Social Grace and Artistic Expression
As a literary critic, it is always a pleasure to revisit the works of the great American essayist and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. His essays and lectures on nature, self-reliance, and spiritual intuition have inspired generations of writers and thinkers, but his less well-known work, "Poetry, Tact," deserves more attention for its insightful and entertaining exploration of social grace and artistic expression.
At first glance, "Poetry, Tact" may seem like a rather esoteric and highfalutin subject for an essay, but Emerson's approach is refreshingly down-to-earth and accessible. He begins by defining his terms, starting with poetry:
"Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the spirit of the thing, to pass the brute body and search the life and reason which causes it to exist;—to see that the object is always flowing away, whilst the spirit or necessity which causes it subsists."
This definition captures the essence of what makes poetry such a powerful and enduring art form. It is not just about describing the external appearance of things, but about tapping into their deeper meanings and significance. Poetry is a way of seeing the world with fresh eyes, of uncovering the hidden connections and patterns that underlie our everyday experience.
But what does poetry have to do with tact, you might ask? Emerson explains:
"Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy. It is a diplomatist's wisdom, a skill to secure advantages without losing them. Tact deals with surfaces, but it is not superficial. It does not reside in devices or expedients, but in an habitual cultivation of the good qualities of every creature and spirit."
Here we have another definition, equally compelling and illuminating. Tact is the art of navigating the social world with grace and intelligence, of recognizing and respecting the feelings and needs of others while still pursuing one's own interests. It is a skill that requires both empathy and strategic thinking, and it is essential for success in any field, from politics to business to personal relationships.
Emerson then goes on to explore the ways in which poetry and tact intersect and complement each other. He argues that poetry, at its best, is an expression of tact, a way of communicating complex ideas and emotions in a way that is both beautiful and persuasive. A poet who lacks tact, who is too blunt or insensitive in his or her language, will not be able to connect with his or her audience, and the message will be lost.
On the other hand, tact without poetry can be empty and shallow, a mere superficial charm that lacks substance or depth. A tactful person who does not have the ability to see beneath the surface of things, who does not appreciate the complexity and richness of life, will be limited in his or her ability to connect with others or to achieve true success.
Emerson illustrates these points with a series of examples, drawn from history and literature, that demonstrate the power and versatility of poetry and tact. He discusses the ways in which tactful leaders like Washington and Lincoln were able to achieve great things by balancing their principles with a keen sense of timing and social awareness. He also cites examples of poets like Shakespeare and Milton, who were able to use their language to move and inspire their readers, even in the most difficult and challenging circumstances.
Throughout the essay, Emerson's prose sparkles with insight and wit. He is a master of the aphorism, and there are many memorable lines and phrases that will stick with you long after you have finished reading. For example:
"The poet, like a delighted child, brings you heaps of rainbow bubbles, opaline, air-borne, spherical, and transparent, with the sun flashing through them off their film at every conceivable angle."
"Tact is the first wisdom of the world, and the last; it is the ambassador's secret, and the diplomatist's armor."
These passages, and many others like them, demonstrate Emerson's gift for language and his ability to capture complex ideas in simple, memorable phrases.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about "Poetry, Tact" is the way in which it manages to be both deeply philosophical and entertaining at the same time. Emerson is not content to simply expound upon his ideas; he wants to engage the reader, to make him or her think and feel and laugh. There are moments of humor and playfulness throughout the essay, as when he compares tact to "the barber's chair, which fits all backs and buttocks."
This combination of serious thought and playful spirit is one of the hallmarks of Emerson's style, and it is what makes "Poetry, Tact" such a pleasure to read. Whether you are a lover of poetry, a student of social grace, or simply someone who enjoys good writing, this essay is sure to delight and inspire you. So why not give it a try? You might just discover a new way of looking at the world, and a new appreciation for the power of language and human connection.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Poetry Tact" is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to be a poet, and how one can use their words to create something truly beautiful. In this analysis, we will take a closer look at the poem, its themes, and its significance in the world of literature.
Firstly, let's examine the structure of the poem. "Poetry Tact" is a short poem, consisting of only six lines. However, despite its brevity, the poem is packed with meaning and depth. The poem is written in free verse, meaning that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. This allows Emerson to express his ideas in a more natural and fluid way, without being constrained by the rules of traditional poetry.
The poem begins with the line, "A subtle chain of countless rings". This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, suggesting that poetry is a complex and interconnected art form. The use of the word "subtle" implies that poetry is not always obvious or easy to understand, and that it requires a certain level of skill and sensitivity to appreciate.
The next line, "The next unto the farthest brings", reinforces this idea of interconnectedness. It suggests that each poem is connected to the next, and that they all work together to form a larger whole. This is a powerful idea, as it suggests that poetry is not just a collection of individual works, but rather a cohesive and unified art form.
The third line, "The eye reads omens where it goes", is perhaps the most enigmatic line in the poem. It suggests that poetry is not just a collection of words, but rather a form of divination. The idea that the eye can read omens suggests that poetry has a mystical quality, and that it can reveal hidden truths about the world.
The fourth line, "And speaks all languages the rose", is a beautiful image that suggests that poetry is universal. The rose is a symbol of beauty and love, and the fact that poetry can speak all languages suggests that it has the power to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers.
The fifth line, "You cannot value him alone", is a reminder that poetry is not just about the poet, but also about the reader. The value of a poem is not just in the words themselves, but in the way that they are interpreted and understood by the reader. This line suggests that poetry is a collaborative art form, and that it requires both the poet and the reader to create something truly meaningful.
Finally, the poem ends with the line, "Who in the rainbow can find blue?". This line is a metaphor for the elusive nature of poetry. Just as it is impossible to find blue in a rainbow, it is impossible to fully understand or capture the essence of poetry. This line suggests that poetry is a constantly evolving art form, and that there is always more to discover and explore.
So, what is the significance of "Poetry Tact" in the world of literature? Firstly, the poem is a celebration of poetry itself. It reminds us of the power and beauty of words, and the way that they can be used to create something truly magical. It also reminds us that poetry is not just about the poet, but also about the reader. The value of a poem is not just in the words themselves, but in the way that they are interpreted and understood by the reader.
Secondly, the poem is a reminder that poetry is a complex and interconnected art form. Each poem is connected to the next, and they all work together to form a larger whole. This is a powerful idea, as it suggests that poetry is not just a collection of individual works, but rather a cohesive and unified art form.
Finally, the poem is a reminder that poetry is a constantly evolving art form. Just as it is impossible to find blue in a rainbow, it is impossible to fully understand or capture the essence of poetry. This line suggests that there is always more to discover and explore in the world of poetry, and that it is an art form that will continue to evolve and grow over time.
In conclusion, "Poetry Tact" is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the art of poetry. It reminds us of the power and beauty of words, and the way that they can be used to create something truly magical. It also reminds us that poetry is a complex and interconnected art form, and that there is always more to discover and explore. This poem is a true classic, and it will continue to inspire and delight readers for generations to come.
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