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Emily Dickinson

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joseph carrier

on 28 May 2015

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Transcript of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
Professor Carrier
DongA University

Birth: Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10th, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Family: Her father was one of the most important men in the city. He was a lawyer, politician, and the treasurer of Amherst College, one of America’s oldest universities.
Her closest friends were her older brother, Austin and her younger sister Lavinia. She also had an incredibly close relationship with her brother’s wife, Susan.
Neither
she nor her sister
ever

married
.
When Emily graduated from Amherst Academy (like a middle school and high school) she attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (a kind of religious college for women), ten miles from her home.
Although the program was to last three years, she quit the school and came home after staying there for less than one year. She was extremely homesick at that time. She wrote home often of how she missed her
“own DEAR HOME.”
She never left her home again
, except for a few overnight trips. She felt that her home was a place of “infinite power.”
She had extremely close friendships with several people and seems to have fallen in love with two men and at least one woman.
Emily died in 1886, possibly of a kidney disorder. Prior to her own death she endured the death of her father (1874), mother (1882), nephew Gilbert (1883), and her best friend Helen (1885).
Biography
She had a large and beautiful flower garden and she worked in it every day. Many of her poems are about birds, flowers, and bees. She also loved children and was often seen playing with them in her garden.
Emily has been called a “recluse” and she certainly loved her home but this description may not be exactly correct. She loved
children
and worked in her flower garden every day.
Themes
Language: She also writes about the act of writing. Some of her best poetry explores the relationship between the word and reality, and she considers, like all great poets, the writing of a poem to be an act of creation.
Society: Although Emily chose to stay away from other people, she seems to have done so for a reason: she says that to be famous and popular is often problematic. (See Poem #1: “I’m Nobody....” And Poem #5: “This is my letter to the world....”)
Eternity: Emily writes a lot of poems about life and death. She seems to have a very unique idea about human existence: the human soul is eternal. Her ideas are influenced heavily by the thinking of Emerson and the British Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth and Blake. (see Poem #2: “Because I could not stop for death…” and Poem #9 “I heard a fly buzz when I died…”)
Nature: Her love of nature as a metaphor for human emotions and experience places Emily Dickenson firmly within the Romantic tradition. Although her nature is not “wild” nature, but the quiet and peaceful nature of the garden, she still finds many symbols and messages there.
Love: For Emily Dickinson, love was life. She was incredibly passionate in her love and devotion to her family and had many “affairs of the heart,” although she is not believed to have ever taken a lover. Many of her poems are plainly erotic.
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
[...]
A slash of Blue —
A sweep of Gray —
Some scarlet patches on the way,
Compose an Evening Sky —
A little purple — slipped between —
Some Ruby Trousers hurried on —
A Wave of Gold —
A Bank of Day —
This just makes out the Morning Sky.
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
Style
Interpretation
All of these things lead the reader to experience a kind of
poetic irony
in the language of Emily Dickinson’s poetry: the simple “fourteener” becomes a complex form, the sounds of her rhymes are a little bit strange, and her use of the English language is creative and strange.
Emily Dickinson’s poetic style is very unique but it has been
compared to William Blake
, who also wrote short, passionate poems on similar themes: joy and pain, the relationship between self and nature, descriptions of intense spiritual experiences.
She writes mostly in a meter called a
“fourteener:”
pairs of seven beat lines, often broken up into two lines of four and three beats. This form is very simple but she finds many ways to creatively expand the pattern. It is the common form for “hymns,” or religious songs in the Christian church: rhythmical and easy to memorize. Most of her poems are
untitled
.
Her poetry was a lot like “drawings” on the paper. She used a lot of dashes and lines. She also wrote in
fragments
rather than complete sentences: ideas come in bits and the relationship between the ideas is not always clear, adding to the potential interpretations.
She makes use of what is sometimes called
“slant” rhymes
. These rhymes are close but not exact. These sounds are an important part of her poetry. Sometimes the rhymes sound wrong and this adds a message in the poem.
She also experiments with the way she uses words. She sometimes uses verbs in the subject of a sentence, breaks the rules of subject/verb agreement, and plays with language in other ways. Her main poetic tool in other words is
surprise: she doesn’t say what you expect her to
.
1 2 3 4
How DREAR / y TO / be SOME / bod Y!
1 2 3
How PUB / lic, LIKE / a FROG

1 2 3 4
To TELL / your NAME / the LIVE / long DAY

1 2 3
To AN / ad MI / ring BOG!
"The Sick Rose"
William Blake

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
[...]
"Because I could not stop for death..."
Emily Dickinson
I gave myself to Him —
And took Himself, for Pay,
The solemn contract of a Life
Was ratified, this way —

The Wealth might disappoint —
Myself a poorer prove
Than this great Purchaser suspect,
The Daily Own — of Love

Depreciate the Vision —
But till the Merchant buy —
Still Fable — in the Isles of Spice —
The subtle Cargoes — lie —

At least — 'tis Mutual — Risk —
Some — found it — Mutual Gain —
Sweet Debt of Life — Each Night to owe —
Insolvent — every Noon —
What is the poem’s
subject
?
What are the
rhyme and meter
of the poem?
What is the
primary metaphor
in the poem?
Is there any
symbolic language
? If so, what are the symbols and what could they symbolize?
How does the
language
of the poem reinforce its
message
?
Are there any
words missing
? Sometimes Emily leaves out words or shrinks sentences down.
Are there any
references
to other literature? Emily often used Biblical images in her poetry, for instance.
Think of the poem as a map with clues pointing you to a treasure.

The clues are words.

The treasure is
truth
and
beauty
.
The key to finding meaning in Dickinson’s poetry (or any poetry for that matter) is to
ask questions
. Here are some questions you can ask to try to begin to see the deeper meaning in the poetry you are reading.
Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
Questions for Discovery.

i. What is the poem’s subject?
ii. What are the rhyme and meter of the poem?
iii. What is the primary metaphor in the poem?
iv. Is there any symbolic language? If so, what are the symbols and what could they symbolize?
v. How does the language of the poem reinforce its message?
vi. Are there any words missing? Sometimes Emily leaves out words or shrinks sentences down.
vii. Are there any references to other literature? Emily often used Biblical images in her poetry, for instance.
Key Terms:
Iambic Heptameter
Quatrains
Stanzas
"Slant" Rhyme
Internal rhyme
Alliteration
Anaphora
Personification
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
Hope is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
William Wordsworth. 1770–1850
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood"
Full transcript