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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Emily D. Filtered Through Wikipedia

Below are a few Emily Dickinson poems that have caught my eye tonight. Don't know that I'll have much to say about them. Don't know that I can say much about them. Perhaps a few hyperlinks to Wikipedia on occasional words will have to do. These numbered versions are from The Complete Poems.


To my quick ear the Leaves — conferred —
The Bushes — they were Bells —
I could not find a Privacy
From Nature's sentinels —

In Cave if I presumed to hide
The Walls — began to tell —
Creation seemed a mighty Crack
To make me visible

I think the above poem and the following one might be best read one right after the other. It seems to me that Emily's in the process of dissecting Plato here, about ready to rip him a new one. The first stanza, and how its last two lines seem to resonate in their counterparts in the second stanza, makes me think that she was leaning more towards realism than idealism. I suspect the second last line to be full of puns and irony: seemed/seamed; usages for the word crack that she would have or could have known include a sharp sound, an opening, an attempt, and superior (as in "he's a crack shot").


Had I not seen the Sun
I could have borne the Shade
But Light a newer Wilderness
My Wilderness has made —
And the irony continued through the use of sun and light here.


Safe Despair it is that raves —
Agony is frugal.
Puts itself severe away
For its own perusal.

Garrisoned no soul can be
In the front of trouble —
Love is one, not aggregate
Nor is Dying double.

I find the fifth and sixth lines of this one difficult. She's using garrisoned in the sense of fortified for defense. Is she saying there's no way to defend against trouble, or saying that trouble is not to be faced alone? The second one, I suppose.


I cannot want it more —
I cannot want it less —
My Human Nature's fullest force
Expends itself on this.

And yet it nothing is
To him who easy owns —
Is Worth itself or Distance
He fathoms who obtains.

And this one I'll just let folks enjoy. I like it.


GM said...

Dickinson was one of the first poets I was drawn to, so thanks for this exploring post. I think I was drawn to this sense of mystery and the puzzle/riddle-like nature of some of her work.

I must admit, I was also quite fond of aphoristic lyrical work back then.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, G. Glad it was of interest to you.

MackJohnny said...

I said that.

Humble Servant said...

1301--that is great example of how she takes what could be prosaic (and it's never quite prosaic anyway) and throws in something that skews it--

"Is Worth itself or Distance"

--that's the line that stops me.

MackJohnny said...

Yeah, I can never decide if fathoms refers just to obtains or to Worth and Distance as well. Those last two lines keep me pinballing up, down, and across the avenues they open up.

Humble Servant said...

I can see!

I think I have obtained a fathoming of this blog comment process.