The aim of this paper is twofold: the first aim is to accomplish an analysis of the role of ethics in Emerson's poetics from four poetic perspectives,namely the concept of the poet,viewpoint on the creating process of the poet,understanding of the poetry and the criti cal standards of poetry; then based on this analysis,this paper tentatively come up with the proposal that the reason of Emerson's disproportionately emphasis on morality in his poetics is because of his ultimate pursuit of the cosmic unity.Morality is the key element in his cosmic unity and plays a significant role in keeping the harmony and unity among the individual,society and the cosmos.Therefore in his poetics,Emerson resorts to morality to achieve the effect of poetic unity,and,more importantly,to strike the Americans out of the mire of moral paralysis.
The United States in the early stage of 19th century presented avery worrying picture.The whole society was plagued by materialism and commercialism,the individual was suffering from spiritual poverty.Emerson hopes that morality is the healing medicine for the America went astray.Emerson believes in the innate“moral sentiment”,and he connects the moral sentiment inside with the moral laws of the universe outside.In his writings and lectures he endeavors to waken the moral souls of the Americans through the dissemination of morality.In the process of the formation of the morally-toned poetics,Emerson is deeply influenced by the Classi cal poetics tradition,the Christian poetics tradition,the Romantic poetics tradition,and the poetics tradition in the Oriental thoughts.
In Emerson's writings,the Poet connotes special meaning.The poet Emerson refers to,is not the ordinary versifier,but the intellectual who can commu nicate with heaven and earth,and links the natural the spiritual realm.Viewed from the cosmic order,the poet is the center of the universe,and is a complete man; viewed from the perspective of function,the poet is the prophet and the liberating God.The poet,standing in the center of the universe,sees the connection between nature and spirit,and uses symbolic language to express it,thus liberating the public from the oblivion and numbness.The poet,hence becomes the bridges between nature and spirit,and connects both.
The process of the poet interprets the symbol of nature is the process of creating,and it includes three stages: moral perception,symbolic language,and organic form,and all these three stages are ethi cal.In the first stage,moral perception,the poet should handle carefully with the issues like reason and understanding,intuition and inspiration,imagination; in the second stage,symbolic language,the poet should consider his choice of words,and aware of its symbolic nature; in the third stage,organic form,the poet should aim for organic in three levels,the organic of the language,the organic of the process and the organic of the structure.These three stages form the unity in the creating process.
Poetry,as the poet's record of truth,its main goal is to record the moral truth the poet discovered in nature.As with the poet,Emerson doesn't restrict the poetry as the common verse.In his view,the interdisciplinary quality of poetry is indispensable in achieving its goal of moral teaching.In the relation between poetry and philosophy,Emerson continues the Romantic thinkers' vein,and attempts to unite both; in the relation between poetry and science,Emerson incorporates the Enlightenment view and the Romantic view,holding that poetry and science are complementary,poetry stands in need of the rationality of science,and science requires the poetic quality of poetry; in the relation between poetry and social practice,Emerson insists on the moral reform,on the reforming power of poetry to the society.Emerson's own poetry practice justifies from another angle his theory of poetry.All in all,Poetry and philosophy,poetry and science,poetry and social practice,these three pairs form unity individually,and under the flag of moral truth,their form a wider unity.
As to the literary criticism,Emerson adheres to the ethics of transcendental criticism.Under the standard of transcendence,Emerson's criti cal principle is the universality and contemporaneity of genius; under the standard of ethics,Emerson's two criti cal principles are: the ethi cal criticism and the conformity of the writer's talent and his writing; furthermore,contrary to the emphasis of the subjectivism of his time,Emerson believes that a writer should guide the reader towards nature instead of leading towards himself.From these criti cal principles,it is not hard to conclude that in criticism Emerson follows the criti cal tradition of the Classi cal period rather than the Romantic principles.
The basis of morality is the affirmation of individual divinity.Started from the religious history,Emerson develops his idea of individual divinity,that is,the individual is divine,and by constant self-culture,he can approach the perfect character of God; started from the social reality,Emerson advocates for self-trust and self-reliance.Morality is the truth of nature.Nature,being the externalization of the universal soul—the Oversoul,and the symbol of spiritual world,is loaded with the moral truth.The individual communicates with the Oversoul through intuition,and then realizes the moral law inside of his soul.If the soul is inside us,it is manifested as the innate moral sentiment,and if the soul is outside us,it is manifested as the natural rules and natural laws.The two most important laws in nature is the law of compensation and the law ofcirculation.History is the time axle of nature,the carrier of the Oversoul; and the space axle of nature,culture,is the growth of the Oversoul.To sum up,it is in Emerson's belief that the soul is moral,its aim is the unity of the universe.The same Soul exists in every individual,and through the revelation of the moral law in nature,the individual can intuit his inner moral sentiment.This is how the moral law guide the individual from the condition of isolation and atomization to the wholeness and unity.The poet is the interpreter of the Oversoul and the bridge between nature and spirit; Poetry is the expression of the Oversoul,and it pursues the unity between poetry and philosophy,poetry and science,and poetry and practice; on the view of creating,Emerson insists on the unity between content and form; on criticism,Emerson advocate the unity of truth,goodness,and beauty.
The last part is conclusion.Emerson's poetics is unique in its ethi cal val ue.From his view onthe poet,the creating process,poetry,literary criticism and cosmic vision,he is proper to be called a classi cal Romanticist.Emerson's ethi cal thinking in poetics flows into the currents of American as well as European culture and ideology.
Key words:Emerson; Poetics; Moral Soul; Ethics; Unity
作者：中国社会科学院外国文学研究所外国文学研究资料丛书编辑委员会 陈燊 郭京申