Arthurian and Grail Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Ralph Waldo Emerson was
born May 25,1803, in Boston to William Emerson and Ruth Haskins Emerson. By the time he was
seventeen, he would already begin the journey to become one of America's most influential
authors and thinkers. To chronicle his journey, he began keeping journals which he would
continue throughout most of his life. The first series was called "Wide World"
because they expressed his thoughts on a wide range of topics.
From 1821- 1825, he attended Harvard College but did not excel. He was admitted
to the Harvard Divinity School and after graduating, served as a traveling preacher for several
years. In 1829, he was ordained a junior Unitarian minister of Boston's Old North Church.
In September, he married Ellen Tucker who was to die two years later of tuberculosis. Within
the year, Emerson was to resign because of doctrinal disputes.
On a fateful trip to Europe at Christmastime, Emerson met Thomas Carlyle, Samuel
Coleridge, and William Wordsworth, whose ideas assisted him in the creation of a philosophy
that embraced both the sciences and spirituality. Buoyed by his embrace of transcendentalism,
he returned home in 1835 where he settled in Concord, Massachusetts. He married again later
that year to Lydia Jackson. Accompanied by Margaret Fuller, Thoreau, and others, he created
a center for Transcendentalism studies.
A noted lecturer, Emerson called for American intellectual independence from
Europe in his Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard ("The American Scholar," 1837). In
an address at the Harvard divinity school (1838), he asserted that redemption could be found
only in one's own soul and intuition. Emerson developed the transcendentalist themes from
his famous Journal in the magazine The Dial and in a series of Essays from 1840 to 1844.
Throughout the remainder of his life, he traveled, lectured, wrote, and raised a family. Among
the best known of his essays are "The Over-Soul," "Compensation," and
"Self-Reliance." He is also noted for his poems, including "Threnody,"
"Brahma," and "The Problem." His later works include Representative Men
(1850), English Traits (1856), and The Conduct of Life (1870). As as any thinker, he
occasionally touched on the Arthurian realm.
Emerson died in Concord on April 27,1882, at the age of 78 and was buried in
Sleepy Hollow. For the next almost thirty years, his lectures and journals were slowly
published. He was a prolific writer and thinker for a changing America.