-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-* Copyright DueNow. com Inc. *Category:BiographiesPaper Title:emily dickinsons poetryText:EMILY DICKINSON:DEATH TAKES LIFE IN POETRYEmily Dickinson is regarded as one of the greatest American poets thathave ever existed. (Benfey 5) The unique qualities of her brief, butemotional, poems were so uncommon that they made her peerless in a sense thather writing could not be compared to.
Her diverse poetic character could bedirectly connected to her tragic and unusual life. The poems that she wrote wereoften about death and things of that nature, and can be related to herdistressed existence. Dickinsons forthright examination of her philosophicaland religious skepticism, her unorthodox attitude toward her sex and calling,and her distinctive stylecharacterized by elliptical compressed expression,striking imagery and innovative poetic structurehave earned widespreadacclaim, and her poems have become some of the best loved in Americanliterature. Although only seven of Dickinsons poems were published during her lifetimeand her work drew harsh criticism when it first appeared, many of her shortlyrics on the subjects of nature, love, death, and immortality are nowconsidered among the most emotionally and intellectually profound in the Englishlanguage. Biographers generally agree that, Emily Dickinson experienced an emotionalcrisis of an undetermined nature in the early 1860s. (Cameron 26) Dickinsonsantisocial behavior became excessive following 1869.
Her refusal to leave herhome or to meet visitors, her gnomic sayings, and her habit of always wearing awhite dress earned her a reputation of eccentricity among her neighbors. (Cameron29) Her intellectual and social isolation further increased when her father diedsuddenly in 1874 and he was left to care for her invalid mother. The death ofher mother in 1882 followed two years later by the death of Judge Otis P. Lord,a close family friend and her most satisfying romantic attachment, contributedto what Dickinson described as an attack of nerves. (Cameron 29)Emily Dickinsons distressed state of mind is believed to have inspired herto write more abundantly: in 1862 alone she is thought to have composed over 300poems.
Her absorption in the world of feeling found some relief in associationswith nature; yet although she loved nature and wrote many nature lyrics, herinterpretations are always more or less swayed by her own state of being. (Benfey22) The quality of her writing is profoundly stirring, because it betrays,not the intellectual pioneer, but the acutely observant woman, whose capacityfor feeling was profound. (Bennet 61)All seven of the poems published during her lifetime were publishedanonymously and some were done without consent. The editors of theperiodicals in which her lyrics appeared made significant alterations to them inattempt to regularize the meter and grammar, consequently discouraging Dickinsonfrom seeking further publication. (Fuller 17)When her poetry was first published in a complete unedited edition after herdeath, Emily was acknowledged as a poet who was truly ahead of her time. However, there is no doubt that critics are justified in complaining that, Herwork was often cryptic in thought and unmelodious in expression.
(Bennet 64)Today, an increasing number of studies from diverse critical viewpoints aredevoted to her life and works, thus securing Dickinsons status as a majorpoet. Theres a certain slant of light is a poem in which seasonal changebecomes a symbol of inner change. The relationship of inner and outer change iscontrasted. It begins with a moment of arrest that signals the nature andmeaning of winter.
It tells that summer passed but insists that the passingoccurred so slowly that it did not seem like the betrayal that it really was. (Bloom122) The comparison to the slow fading of grief also implies a failure ofawareness on the speakers part. The second and third lines begin adescription of a transitional period, and their claim that the speaker felt nobetrayal shows that she had to struggle against this feeling. The next eightlines create, A personified scene of late summer or early autumn.
Thedistilled quiet allows time for contemplation. (Eberwein 354) The twilightlong begun suggests that the speaker is getting used to the coming season andis aware that change was occurring before she truly noticed it. These linesreinforce the poems initial description of a slow lapse and also convey the ideathat foreknowledge of decline is part of the human condition. (Bloom 124) Thepersonification of the polite but coldly determined guest, who insists onleaving no matter how earnestly she is asked to stay, is convincing on therealistic level. On the level of analogy, the courtesy probably correspondsto the restrained beauty of the season, and the cold determination correspondsto the inevitability of the years cycle.
(Bloom 122) The movement fromidentification with sequestered nature to nature as a departing figurecommunicates the involvement of humans in the seasonal life cycle. The lastfour lines shift the metaphor and relax the tension. Summer leaves by secretmeans. The missing wing & keel suggest a mysterious fluiditygreater thanthat of air or water.
Summer escapes into the beautiful, which is a repositoryof creation that promises to send more beauty into the world. (Eberwein 355)The balanced picture of the departing guest has prepared us for this low-keyconclusion. A number of Emily Dickinsons poems about poetry relating the poet to anaudience probably have their genesis in her own frustrations and uncertaintiesabout the publication of her own work. This is my letter to the World,written about 1862, the year of Emily Dickinsons greatest productivity looksforward to the fate of her poems after her death. The world that never wrote toher is her whole potential audience who will not recognize her talent oraspirations. She gives nature credit for her heart and material in a halfapologetic manner, as if she were merely the carrier of natures message.
(Bloom297) The fact that this message is committed to people who will come after hertransfers the uncertainty of her achievement to its future observers, as if theywere somehow responsible for its neglect while she was alive. The plea thatshe be judged tenderly for nature’s sake combines an insistence on imitation ofnature as the basis of her art with a special plea for tenderness towards herown fragility or sensitivity; but poetry should be judged by how well the poetachieves his or her intention and not by the poem alone, as Emily Dickinsonsurely knew. (Bloom 297) This particular poems generalization about herisolationand its apologetic tonetends toward the sentimental, but one candetect some desperation underneath the softness. (Bloom 298)Her poem, Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant– immediately remindsus of all the indirection in Emily Dickinsons poems: her condensations, vaguereferences, renowned puzzles, and perhaps even her slant rhymes. The idea ofartistic success lying in circuitthat is, in confusion and symbolismgoeswell with the stress on amazing sense and staggering paradoxes which we haveseen her express elsewhere.
(Eberwein 171) The notion that Truth is too muchfor our infirm delight is puzzling. On the very personal level for Emilysmind, infirm delight would correspond to her fear or experience and herpreference for anticipation over fulfillment. For her, Truths surprise had toremain in the world of imagination. However, superb surprise sounds moredelightful than frightening. (Bloom 89) Lightning indeed is a threat becauseof its physical danger and its accompanying thunder is scary, but it is notclear how dazzling truth can blind usunless it is the deepest of spiritualtruths.
These lines can be simplified to mean that raw experience needs artisticelaboration to give it depth and to enable us to contemplate it. Thecontemplation theme is reasonably convincing but, The poem coheres poorly anduses an awed and apologetic tone to cajole us into disregarding its faults. (Bloom89)Success is counted sweetest, Dickinsons most famous poem aboutcompensation is more complicated and less cheerful. It proceeds by inductivelogic to show how painful situations create knowledge and experience nototherwise available. (Eberwein 18) The poem opens with a generalization aboutpeople who never succeed.
They treasure the idea of success more than others do. Next, the idea is given additional physical force by the declaration that onlypeople in great thirst understand the nature of what they need. The use of comprehendabout a physical substance creates a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction. Havingbriefly introduced people who are learning through deprivation, Emily goes ontothe longer description of a person dying on a battlefield. The word host,referring to an armed troop, gives the scene an artificial elevation intensifiedby the royal color purple. These seemingly victorious people understand thenature of victory much less than does a person who has been denied it and liesdying.
His ear is forbidden because it must strain to hear and will soon nothear at all. (Eberwein 19) The bursting of strains near the moment of deathemphasize the greatness of sacrifices. This is a harsh poem. It asks foragreement with an almost cruel doctrine, although its harshness is oftenoverlooked because of its crisp illustrated quality and its pretendedcheerfulness. On the biographical level, it can be seen as a celebration ofthe virtues and rewards of Emily Dickinsons renunciatory way of life, and asan attack on those around her who achieved worldly success.
(Bloom 158)I heard a fly buzzwhen I died is often seen as a representativeof Emily Dickinsons style and attitude. The first line is as arresting anopening as one could imagine. By describing the moment of her death, the speakerlets you know she has already died. In the first stanza, the death roomsstillness contrasts with a flys buzz that the dying person hears, and thetension pervading the scene is likened to the pauses within a storm.
The secondstanza focuses on the concerned onlookers, whose strained eyes and gatheredbreath emphasize their concentration in the face of a sacred event: the arrivalof the King, who is death. In the third stanza, attention shifts back tothe speaker, who has been observing her own death with all the strength of herremaining senses. (Eberwein 201) Her final willing of her keepsakes is apsychological event, not something she speaks. Already growing detached from hersurroundings, she is no longer interested in material possessions; instead sheleaves behind whatever people can treasure and remember. She is getting ready toguide herself towards death.
But the buzzing fly intervenes at the lastinstant; the phrase and then indicates that this is a casual event, as ifthe ordinary course of life were in no way being interrupted by her death. (Bloom365) The flys blue buzz is one of the most famous pieces ofsynesthesia in Emily Dickinsons poems. This image represents the fusing ofcolor and sound by the dying persons diminishing senses. The uncertainty ofthe flys darting motions parallels her state of mind. Flying between thelight and her, it seems to both signal the moment of death and represent theworld that she is leaving. (Bloom 365) The last two lines show the speakersconfusion of her eyes that she does not want to admit.
She is both distancingfear and revealing her detachment from life. Painhas an element of Blank deals with a self-contained and timelesssuffering, mental rather than physical. The personification of pain makes itidentical with the sufferers life. The blank quality serves to blot out theorigin of the pain and the complications that pain brings. The second stanzainsists that such suffering is aware only of its continuation.
Just as thesufferers life has become pain, so time has become pain. Its present is aninfinity, which remains exactly like the past. This infinity, and the past,which it reaches back to, are aware only of an indefinite future of suffering. (Eberwein76) The description of the suffering self as being enlightened is ironic becauseeven though this enlightenment is the only light in the darkness, it is stillcharacterized by suffering. In This World is not Conclusion, Emily Dickinson dramatizes aconflict faith in immortality and severe doubt. (Bloom 55) Her earliesteditors omitted the last eight lines of the poem distorting its meaning andcreating a flat conclusion.
The complete poem can be divided into two parts: thefirst twelve lines and the final eight lines. (Eberwein 89) It starts byemphatically affirming that there is a world beyond death which we cannot seebut which we still can understand intuitively, as we do music. Lines fourthrough eight introduce conflict. Immortality is attractive but puzzling. Evenwise people must pass through the riddle of death without knowing where they aregoing.
(Bloom 55) The ungrammatical dont combined with the elevateddiction of philosophy and sagacity suggests the irritability of alittle girl. In the next four lines, the speaker struggles to assert faith. Her faith now appears in the form of a bird that is searching for reasons tobelieve. But available evidence proves as irrelevant as twigs and as indefiniteas the directions shown by a spinning weathervane.
The desperation of a birdaimlessly looking for its way is analogous to the behavior of preachers whosegestures and hallelujahs cannot point the way to faith. (Bloom 56) These lasttwo lines suggest that the narcotic which these preachers offer cannot stilltheir own doubts, in addition to the doubts of others. Although the difficult This Consciousness that is aware deals withdeath, it is at least equally concerned with discovery of personal identitythrough the suffering that accompanies dying. The poem opens by dramatizingthe sense of mortality which people often feel when they contrast theirindividual time bound lives to the world passing by them. (Eberwein 49) Wordorder in the second stanza is reversed. The speaker anticipates movingbetween experience and deaththat is, from experience into death by means ofthe experiment of dying.
Dying is an experiment because it will test us, andallow us, and no one else, to know if our qualities are high enough to let ussurvive beyond death. (Bloom 137) The last stanza offers a summary that makesthe death experience an analogy for other means of gaining self-knowledge inlife. Neither boastful nor fearful, this poem accepts the necessity ofpainful testing. (Bloom 137)Even this modest selection of Emily Dickinsons poems reveal that death isher principal subject.
In fact, because the topic is related to many of herother concerns, it is difficult to say how many of her poems concentrate ondeath, but over half of them, at least partly, and about third centrally,feature it. Most of these poems also touch on the subject of religionalthoughshe did write about religion without mentioning death. Life in a small NewEngland town in Dickinsons time contained a high mortality rate for youngpeople. As a result, there were frequent death-scenes in homes. This factorcontributed to her preoccupation with death, as well as her withdrawal from theworld, her anguish over her lack of romantic love, and her doubts aboutfulfillment beyond the grave. (Cameron 114) Years ago, Emily Dickinsonsinterest in death was often criticized as being morbid, but in time, Readerstend to be impressed by her sensitive and imaginative handling of this painfulsubject.
(Stonum 83) Her poems concentrating on death can be divided into fourcategories: those focusing on death as possible extinction, those dramatizingthe question of whether the soul survives death, those asserting a firm faith inimmortality, and those directly treating Gods concern with peoples livesand destinies. If nothing else had come out of our life but this strange poetry we shouldfeel that in the work of Emily Dickinson, America, or New England rather, hadmade a distinctive addition to the literature of the world, and could not beleft out of any record of it. (Benfey 66)works citedBedard, Michael. Emily. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Benfey, Christopher.
Emily Dickinson : Life of a Poet. New york: GeorgeBraziller,1986. Bennet, Paula. Emily Dickinson : Woman Poet.
New York: Univ of Iowa Press,1991. Bloom, Harold. Emily Dickinson (Modern Critical Views). New York: ChelseaHouse,1999. Cameron, Sharon.
Choosing Not Choosing : Dickinson’s Fascicles. New York:University of Chicago Press, 1993. Dickinson, Emily. Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.
New York: Little Brown& Co,1976. Eberwein, Jane Donahue. An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia. New York: GreenwoodPublishing Group, 1998.
Fuller, Jamie. The Diary of Emily Dickinson. New York: St. Martin’s Press,1996. Stonum, Gary Lee. The Dickinson Sublime (Wisconsin Project on AmericanWriters).New York: Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1990.-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-