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The Angelic Sins of Jones Very

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Sarah Turner Clayton

America's Transcendentalists wanted to speak as gods, but few were so religiously exalted as Jones Very - nor did they want to be. Very lived the life of a mystic, speaking alternately as a nineteenth-century Jeremiah and the new American Messiah, for less than two years. During the period of his transfiguration, he wrote verse that was powerful and pure. It was not widely read, perhaps even suppressed, for while Jones Very's deep, if narrow, poetry fascinated his contemporaries, his life appalled them. His exaltation was his sin; the verse that grew out of his exaltation was angelic. To complicate the modern reader's response to Very's small corpus of magnificent verse is the larger body of mediocre poetry that he wrote after he «recovered» from his experience. As the millennium approaches, his ecstatic verse speaks more strongly than ever before. This book tells why.