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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Once More Into Emily's Riches

This is the fourth installment in what's turning out to be a series of posts occasionally hyperlinking Emily Dickinson poems to various Wikipedia entries (and, sometimes, entries on other sites) that I associate with the poems. The first three posts can be found here, here, and here. My source for the poems is The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, and I'm designating each poem by the number it appears under in that book; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are all as they appear there.

Sometimes, but not always, I'll comment after the poems in addition to the links. Today I was browsing amongst the earliest poems.


One Sister have I in our house,
And one, a hedge away.
There's only one recorded,
But both belong to me.

One came the road that I came —
And wore my last year's gown —
The other, as a bird her nest,
Builded our hearts among.

She did not sing as we did —
It was a different tune —
Herself to her a music
As Bumble bee of June.

Today is far from childhood —
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter —
Which shortened all the miles —

And still her hum
The years among,
Deceives the Butterfly;
Still in her Eye
The Violets lie
Mouldered this many May.

I spilt the dew
But took the morn —
I chose this single star
From out the wide night's numbers —
Sue — forevermore!

I'm always curious about Dickinson's syntax, especially when she does the sort thing she did in the last two lines of the second stanza. One of the things I like about this poem is how she changes up the rhythms in the last two stanzas.


If recollecting were forgetting,
Then I remember not.
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near had I forgot.
And if to miss, were merry,
And to mourn, were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered this, Today!

Possibly my favourite Emily poem. I think she exhibited pure genius and perfect control in her brief and complete turning of everything on its head.


There's something quieter than sleep
Within this inner room!
It wears a sprig upon its breast —
And will not tell its name.

Some touch it, and some kiss it —
Some chafe its idle hand¹ —
It has a simple gravity
I do not understand.

I would not weep if I were they —
How rude in one to sob!
Might scare the quiet fairy
Back to her native wood!

While simple-hearted neighbors
Chat of the "Early dead" —
We — prone to periphrasis
Remark that Birds have fled!

What's there to say, except that even at her most serious, Emily never shied from word-play.

¹ Idle hands are the devil's tools?


Humble Servant said...

Oh but she's wierd and she's wonderful.

How do we know which are her early poems?

Do we know why she didn't title her poems?

Is there anyone better at death as a personified familiar presence without caricature?

MackJohnny said...

It seems we know the approximate dates of the poems, and therefore which ones are the earliest, because Emily herself apparently loosely bound about 900 of her poems into sixty or so little packets which she dated.

I have no idea why she didn't title them. I think the numbers in this book are based on the order in which the poems appeared in her booklets (cross-checked maybe(?) against other versions of the poems).

No one that I know of.

MackJohnny said...

Oh yeah, the contents of the Complete Poems can be found here:

I prefer the book itself, though. Whoever put those poems up centered every line which I find makes them very hard to read without annoyance; and I think it distracts from the poems. But at least they didn't compound the sin by italicizing as well.

Humble Servant said...

That's some link!

One thing I like about 14 is the use of the plain grand old name "Sue." Not Susannah, Suzanne, not even Susan and certainly not a romantic pseudonym. It's a control thing (as you said re 33)--she can use pedestrian truth.

Interesting that one of your favorites (33) is such an early one.

MackJohnny said...

# 33 seems to be from 1858. I'm told her most intense period of creativity was from 1858 to 1865; 46 of those packets I mentioned are said to be from that period.

I see I posted the wrong link. This one breaks down the other link into 18 sections of about 99 poems each:

Gazetteer said...


Those are Aaron-like numbers.

MackJohnny said...

Yeah, I think you could call Emily a power hitter.

Gazetteer said...

My 12yr old kid's name is Emily.

This fine Sunday morning we had our first Spring Training session.

She's no power hitter, but she's got three tools so far.

She also did a science project and wrote 4 poems last week.

Life is good.

MackJohnny said...

What was the science project?