Ralph Waldo Emerson states in The Poet the question, which is what is the poet? He says that all men express their feelings, but what makes a poet is that he has more ability to express his own. For example, a poet would express the beauty of nature well, while men who are less expressive cannot give nature the worth it should be given, related to reality of course.
A poet would talk, as well about the common wealth not his own wealth. What is meant by that is that he does not only convey his own feelings and his own experience in life, but he carries the beauty of truth he sees with his art, and mostly the beauty the poet would see is in nature. In page 374, you will find all the details that have been explained before.
His idea of a poet is not wrong at all. He reminds me so much of Coleridge and Wordsworth in their definition of a poet. In my opinion, a poet should express his own point of view of life, as long as he/she does not go so far from reality. I only disagree with Emerson, Coleridge, and Wordsworth that it does not always have to be related to nature. I agree that nature teaches, and inspires a poet, but a poet should rely on more than nature as a material for his poetry, or he would be repeating himself.
The idea that a poet expresses how he sees truth in life is completely a correct idea, and related to the previous point. In page 374 Emerson states that a poet should express truth with his art. It means then that a poet expresses life of people as well, since it is part of life. The common wealth can mean other lives of other people and Mother Nature itself.
Maybe that is related to their age, since American Revolution, and then French Revolution was at the 18th century, and affected both America and Britain. It is the age in which every thing changes. America in the 18th century wanted to be separate from Britain, and not to be a colony any more.
Emerson did not go through that age though, since he is an early 19th century poet; but it is always important to know the period that came before the age of the writer, who is the subject in analyses. It is needed to have a background and to understand what are the effects of the history of the writers country, which developed his ideas and writings. In short, it is needed to have the social and political statue of the authors country to analyze his or her writings suitably.
The Reference: H.Richter, David. “The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends”. Boston:Bedford. 2,1998.