Monday, August 26, 2013

Musings on Emily Dickinson

Every year, in late August, I am struck by the changes in light.  The shorter days and new angles of sun spur the leaves to change, and it happens whether or not temperatures drop, or school has started.
So that is why, during the hottest week of summer 2013, it’s time to dream of autumn.  From the chill of air conditioning, out any window, I no longer see summer.  Gold is creeping in, and squirrels we have not noticed for months are in the yard, doing their squirrel work.
Emily Dickinson wrote a poem called, “The Name of It is “Autumn”, which is one of my favorites.  Emily was born to a prominent family in Amherst, Massachusetts, lived a remarkably sequestered life, and died in 1886 at the age of 56.   Taken at face value, this work is a beautiful depiction of fall landscape.  However, given that it was written in 1862, it is clear that the dark reality of the Civil War did not escape her.  She read the daily newspaper from the safety of her family home in the Northeast, and came up with this Haiku-esque beauty.
The name – of it- is “Autumn” -
The hue – of it – is Blood –
An artery – upon the Hill –
A vein – along the Road –

Great Globules – in the Alleys –
And Oh, the Shower of Stain –
When Winds, upset the Basin –
And spill the Scarlet Rain –

It sprinkles Bonnets - far below –
It gathers ruddy Pools –
Then – Eddies like a rose – Away
Upon Vermillion Wheels –

Now, since Emily never married, and by all accounts scarcely left her parent’s home or even her own room, I leave you with the following poem to ponder.  She did not tend to title her work, just assign it a number.  This one is 506.  I find fascinating the fact that such a proper and reclusive lady had a rich, inner life.  But in this case, it sure sounds like somebody was getting some action…  Just sayin’.
He touched me, so I live to know
That such a day, permitted so
I groped upon his breast
It was a boundless place to me
And silenced, as the awful sea
Puts minor streams to rest

And now, I'm different from before
As if I breathed superior air
Or brushed a Royal Gown
My feet, too, that had wandered so
My Gypsy face—transfigured now
To tenderer Renown
Into this Port, if I might come
Rebecca, to Jerusalem
Would not so ravished turn
Nor Persian, baffled at her shrine
Lift such a Crucifixial sign
To her imperial Sun

Well, how about that?  The last stanza is a bit convoluted - but the first two?  Come on! 
My habit of irreverence aside, today I invite you to take a few minutes and ponder this woman’s rich inner life and written legacy, coming to you from a far away Autumn.


  1. I also have a rich inner life. Sometimes when I'm in my room by myself...just saying.

  2. Always nice to hear from you, Jerry Lewis.

  3. Your just saying that.