Jones Very's claim on literary posterity comes mainly from a brief period between September 1838 and the spring of 1840 when, in a burst of unprecedented creativity, he wrote the three hundred poems, mainly sonnets, that constitute that claim. During that period, Very believed, spectacularly so, that he had “seen the light” in religious terms. Whatever else it achieved—which wasn't much—this spell of religious exaltation was good for his poetry. Most of the rest of the roughly eight hundred seventy poems he composed, from the early 1830s, when he was in his early twenties, to 1880, the year of his death, was tepid stuff by comparison, mainly of interest these days to scholars wishing to see what “the proud full sail” of his best work had developed from and would molder into. Very was for a time associated with the transcendentalist movement headed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which emphasized personal intuition as a major source of spiritual truth. The Very scholar Helen R. Deese has argued convincingly, however, that the Very of the so-called “ecstatic” period, at least in his best work, was “essentially a mystic” outside classification.Less
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