I'm reading here and there in Thomas Carlyle's Essay on Burns; and this is what Carlyle says about poets:
A true Poet, a man in whose heart resides some effluence of Wisdom, some tone of the "Eternal Melodies," is the most precious gift that can be bestowed on a generation: we see in him a freer, purer development of whatever is noblest in ourselves; his life is a rich lesson to us; and we mourn his death as that of a benefactor who loved and taught us.
On the one hand, this statement could read as ridiculous hyperbole, given Carlyle's reputation as a cynical, sour-faced crank. On the other hand, I think it's immensely touching to watch a cynical, sour-faced crank suddenly drop that pose so entirely. Whatever the truth or merits of his claims about poets, I believe the writer's vulnerable, innocent trust in the ideal of the poet, even if that innocence is only temporary, does matter enormously. I'm not sure why I think this, but I suspect such trust is rather like real, deep religious belief, which I don't have but which I respect. We risk a great deal to believe in anything so profoundly, be it God or words.