Jones Very, 1813-1880

One of the most extraordinary of the Transcendentalists, Jones Very produced approximately 300 of his nearly 900 poems in a state of intense mysticism. These verses were the product, he believed, of his "submission to the Divine Will…ever striving to manifest itself in the human soul." Some might have thought Very insane during this period, but his transcendentalist colleagues thought him "profoundly sane." William Ellery Channing considered Very "an oracle of God" and that to hear him speak was "like looking into the purely spiritual world, into truth itself." Emerson wished "the whole world were as mad as he" and published a selection of the fevered poetry, as well as insightful essays on Shakespeare, in Essays and Poems (1839).

The poems "have the sublime unity of the Decalogue or the Code of Menu," wrote Emerson, "and if as monotonous, yet are they almost as pure as the sounds of surrounding Nature!" His work received the support of other Transcendentalists including Bronson Alcott and Elizabeth Peabody. In his desire to write and speak only when guided by the Spirit, Very might be considered the quintessential transcendental poet. His posthumous publications include Poems (1883) and Poems and Essays, edited by James Freeman Clarke (1886).

"Jones Very is gone into the multitude as solitary as Jesus. In dismissing him, I seem to have discharged an arrow into the heart of Society. Wherever that young enthusiast goes, he will astonish and disconcert men by diving for them the cloud that covers the gulf in man." (RWE, Journal, 1838)

"Jones Very is like the rain plentiful. He does not love individuals : he is annoyed by edge. He likes only community ; and he likes the lowness also, if it be community." (RWE, Journal, 1845)

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