There is a definite struggle between the materialist and the transcendentalist. These two waves of thinking are in complete conflict with each other because they display opposite views. The materialist believes that physical matter is the only reality and that everything can be explained in terms of matter, while the transcendentalist asserts the existence of an ideal spiritual reality that transcends the empirical and is knowable through intuition. As we read through the poetry of Emily Dickinson, it may be easy to classify her as materialist. But by looking at three of her poems: “I taste a liquor never brewed”, “There’s a certain Slant of light”, and “I died for Beauty”, we can see that Dickinson evidently displays some of the characteristics of transcendentalist thought: nature, transcendentalist language, and spiritual wellbeing. A language or “vocabulary list” that coincide with the beliefs of a way of thinking has accompanied each new wave of thought that has been introduced into our world.
For example, in the time of the Enlightenment, the language revolved around equality, liberty, and freedom of rights etc. It is the same for transcendentalism. Those who adhere to the beliefs of transcendentalism will obviously speak of ideals such as truth, morality, harmony etc. It is this type of language that comes through in Dickinson’s poem “I died for Beauty.” This poem is filled with the ideal rather than the materialistic. The author describes herself as one who dies for beauty, and is soon joined in the grave by “one who died for Truth.” Both of these ideals “them sel[ves] are one, we Brethren, are.” Only the transcendentalist would ascribe truth and beauty as principles worth dying for. Thus her transcendental language comes forth in her search for the meaning behind death.
Poe is unquestionably one of the great American writers of all time. He was far ahead of his time with his vision of a special area of human experience the "inner world" of dream, hallucination, and imagination. There is a distinct connection between Poe's nightmarish life and his works. His fictional works resemble a distressed individual who has a pattern of dreams night after night with the ...
Another characteristic of transcendental thought is the focus on nature. In “I taste a liquor never brewed” Dickinson talks of the drunkenness that comes from the nature around her. This state of inebriation comes not “from Tankards scooped in Pearl” or “all the Frankfort Berries” but “reeling… from inns of Molten Blue” and “Debauchee of Dew.” The beauty of nature elates her and she uses the metaphor of drunkenness to explain this exhilaration.
And according to Dickinson, nature will continue to inebriate her till “Butterflies-renounce their ‘drams'” of nectar and foxgloves stop blooming. She ends this poem with an image of her leaning against the sun, ending the poem with the setting of the sun. The poem is about the joy that nature can bring and Dickinson’s background with transcendental thinking is strongly evident in this piece. The last characteristic of transcendentalism that Dickinson displays is spiritual well being. In the poem “There’s a certain Slant of light” Dickinson describes a beam “of light/That oppresses, like the Heft/ Of Cathedral Tunes.” This beam spills over us and “we can find no scar/But internal difference/Where the Meanings, are.” Dickinson is not just evaluating the spiritual well being of every human being, but rather is searching for that source of the spiritual. She looks past the light itself and focuses on the affect of the light.
“When it comes, the Landscape listens/ Shadows hold their breath.” The materialistic would not wonder at the affects of this light, nor would they search for a higher meaning behind it. But because of her transcendentalist views, Dickinson is stepping out and taking us with her as she questions as to the “Heavenly Hurt, [the light] gives us.” Her transcendentalist background is visible as we journey with her. In all of these poems, we can see evidences of Dickinson’s transcendental way of thinking through her focus on nature, the transcendental “language” and spiritual well being. Each poem brings out a new side of Dickinson, whether it is her intoxicating joy of nature, her unification of truth and beauty as ideals worth dying for, or the spiritual reaction she receives through a beam of light. Each poem has something different to bring to us, and this is only enhanced by Dickinson’s transcendentalism.
Emily Dickinson The life of Emily Dickinson seems to be one of simplicity. After all, she only lived in two houses her entire life. Even though her life might have seemed plain, her mind was fully understanding to a multitude of ideas and feelings. In her poetry you can see her dealing with many concepts and how she feels about certain things in her life. A couple themes I found particularly ...
And through her poetry, we are lifted up to experience the joys of the ideal spiritual reality and the searching for the unknown.