Sunday, May 15, 2016

Letters in Poems: Emily Dickinson (II)

Many people love Emily Dickinson (1830-1866), she is a unique poet and very difficult to place in any single tradition - she seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. 

Dickinson used her knowledge of Psalms and Protestant hymns to write her customary four-line stanzas, ABCB rhyme schemes and alternations in iambic meter between tetrameter and trimeter. Her subjects are often parts of the topography of her own psyche, exploring her own feelings with painful honesty but never losing sight of their universal poetic application. 

Unlike Wordsworth or Keats, she is not a "philosophical poet", she makes no effort to organize her thoughts and feelings into a coherent, unified worldview. Rather, her poems simply record feelings and thoughts experienced naturally. I think that's what makes her unique and appealing.

We had already discussed her personal letters and another poem ("The Way I Read a Letter's- this"). In this case we are including a joyous poem, where she instructs the letter to convey all that she feels for the recipient.

Going to him! Happy letter! Tell him

Going to him! Happy letter! Tell him--
Tell him the page I didn't write;
Tell him I only said the syntax,
And left the verb and the pronoun out.

Tell him just how the fingers hurried
Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow-
And then you wished you had eyes in your pages,
So you could see what moved them so.

'Tell him it wasn't a practised writer,
You guessed, from the way the sentence toiled;
You could hear the bodice tug, behind you,
As if it held but the might of a child;
You almost pitied it, you, it worked so.
Tell him--No, you may quibble there,
For it would split his heart to know it,
And then you and I were silenter.

'Tell him night finished before we finished
And the old clock kept neighing 'day!'
And you got sleepy and begged to be ended--
What could it hinder so, to say?
Tell him just how she sealed you, cautious
But if he ask where you are hid
Until to-morrow,--happy letter!
Gesture, coquette, and shake your head!'

The Letter by Norman Hopple

No comments:

Post a Comment