New Poetic Form - Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

    • Her poetry broke with convention: did not “look right,” did not rhyme
    • In her time, her poetry considered too bold, too radical
    • Concrete imagery, forceful language, unique style
    • Wrote 1775 poems, published only seven in her life

    Success is counted sweetest
    By those who ne'er succeed.
    To comprehend a nectar
    Requires sorest need.

    Not one of all the purple Host
    Who took the Flag today
    Can tell the definition
    So clear of Victory

    As he defeated -- dying --
    On whose forbidden ear
    The distant strains of triumph
    Burst agonized and clear!

    Exultation is the going
    Of an inland soul to sea,
    Past the houses -- past the headlands --
    Into deep Eternity --

    Bred as we, among the mountains,
    Can the sailor understand
    The divine intoxication
    Of the first league out from land?

    Water, is taught by thirst.
    Land -- by the Oceans passed.
    Transport -- by throe --
    Peace -- by its battles told --
    Love, by Memorial Mold --
    Birds, by the Snow.

    "Faith" is a fine invention
    When Gentlemen can see --
    But Microscopes are prudent
    In an Emergency.

    I taste a liquor never brewed --
    From Tankards scooped in Pearl --
    Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
    Yield such an Alcohol!

    Inebriate of Air -- am I --
    And Debauchee of Dew --
    Reeling -- thro endless summer days --
    From inns of Molten Blue --

    When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
    Out of the Foxglove's door --
    When Butterflies -- renounce their "drams" --
    I shall but drink the more!

    Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats --
    And Saints -- to windows run --
    To see the little Tippler
    Leaning against the -- Sun -

    "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.

    There's a certain Slant of light,
    Winter Afternoons-
    That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes-

    Heavenly Hurt, it gives us-
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference,
    Where the Meanings, are-

    None may teach it-Any-
    'Tis the Seal Despair-
    An imperial affliction
    Sent us of the Air-

    When it comes, the Landscape listens-
    Shadows-hold their breath-
    When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
    On the look of Death-

    The Soul selects her own Society --
    Then -- shuts the Door --
    To her divine Majority --
    Present no more --

    Unmoved -- she notes the Chariots -- pausing --
    At her low Gate --
    Unmoved -- an Emperor be kneeling
    Upon her Mat --

    I've known her -- from an ample nation --
    Choose One --
    Then -- close the Valves of her attention --
    Like Stone -

    It sifts from Leaden Sieves --
    It powders all the Wood.
    It fills with Alabaster Wool
    The Wrinkles of the Road --

    It makes an Even Face
    Of Mountain, and of Plain --
    Unbroken Forehead from the East
    Unto the East again --

    It reaches to the Fence --
    It wraps it Rail by Rail
    Till it is lost in Fleeces --
    It deals Celestial Vail

    To Stump, and Stack -- and Stem --
    A Summer's empty Room --
    Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
    Recordless, but for them--

    It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
    As Ankles of a Queen --
    Then stills its Artisans -- like Ghosts --
    Denying they have been -

    Some keep the Sabbath going to Church --
    I keep it, staying at Home --
    With a Bobolink for a Chorister --
    And an Orchard, for a Dome --

    Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice --
    I just wear my Wings --
    And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
    Our little Sexton -- sings.

    God preaches, a noted Clergyman --
    And the sermon is never long,
    So instead of getting to Heaven, at least --
    I'm going, all along.

    I know that He exists.
    Somewhere -- in Silence --
    He has hid his rare life
    From our gross eyes.

    'Tis an instant's play.
    'Tis a fond Ambush --
    Just to make Bliss
    Earn her own surprise!

    But -- should the play
    Prove piercing earnest --
    Should the glee -- glaze --
    In Death's -- stiff -- stare --

    Would not the fun
    Look too expensive!
    Would not the jest --
    Have crawled too far!

    Much Madness is divinest Sense --
    To a discerning Eye --
    Much Sense -- the starkest Madness --
    'Tis the Majority
    In this, as All, prevail --
    Assent -- and you are sane --
    Demur -- you're straightway dangerous --
    And handled with a Chain -

    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

    I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died --
    The Stillness in the Room
    Was like the Stillness in the Air --
    Between the Heaves of Storm --

    The Eyes around -- had wrung them dry --
    And Breaths were gathering firm
    For that last Onset -- when the King
    Be witnessed -- in the Room --

    I willed my Keepsakes -- Signed away
    What portion of me be
    Assignable -- and then it was
    There interposed a Fly --

    With Blue -- uncertain stumbling Buzz --
    Between the light -- and me --
    And then the Windows failed -- and then
    I could not see to see -

    I'm ceded -- I've stopped being Theirs --
    The name They dropped upon my face
    With water, in the country church
    Is finished using, now,
    And They can put it with my Dolls,
    My childhood, and the string of spools,
    I've finished threading -- too --

    Baptized, before, without the choice,
    But this time, consciously, of Grace --
    Unto supremest name --
    Called to my Full -- The Crescent dropped --
    Existence's whole Arc, filled up,
    With one small Diadem.

    My second Rank -- too small the first --
    Crowned -- Crowing -- on my Father's breast --
    A half unconscious Queen --
    But this time -- Adequate -- Erect,
    With Will to choose, or to reject,
    And I choose, just a Crown --

    I reckon -- when I count it all --
    First -- Poets -- Then the Sun --
    Then Summer -- Then the Heaven of God --
    And then -- the List is done --

    But, looking back -- the First so seems
    To Comprehend the Whole --
    The Others look a needless Show --
    So I write -- Poets -- All --

    Their Summer -- lasts a Solid Year --
    They can afford a Sun
    The East -- would deem extravagant --
    And if the Further Heaven --

    Be Beautiful as they prepare
    For Those who worship Them --
    It is too difficult a Grace --
    To justify the Dream --

    I like to see it lap the Miles --
    And lick the Valleys up --
    And stop to feed itself at Tanks --
    And then -- prodigious step

    Around a Pile of Mountains --
    And supercilious peer
    In Shanties -- by the sides of Roads --
    And then a Quarry pare

    To fit its Ribs
    And crawl between
    Complaining all the while
    In horrid -- hooting stanza --
    Then chase itself down Hill --

    And neigh like Boanerges --
    Then -- punctual as a Star
    Stop -- docile and omnipotent
    At its own stable door -

    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 drew 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 -- in the Ground --

    Since then -- 'tis Centuries -- and yet
    Feels shorter than the Day
    I first surmised the Horses' Heads
    Were toward Eternity -

    Split the Lark -- and you'll find the Music --
    Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled --
    Scantilly dealt to the Summer Morning
    Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.

    Loose the Flood -- you shall find it patent --
    Gush after Gush, reserved for you --
    Scarlet Experiment! Sceptic Thomas!
    Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?

    A narrow Fellow in the Grass
    Occasionally rides --
    You may have met Him -- did you not
    His notice sudden is --

    The Grass divides as with a Comb --
    A spotted shaft is seen --
    And then it closes at your feet
    And opens further on --

    He likes a Boggy Acre
    A Floor too cool for Corn --
    Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot --
    I more than once at Noon
    Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
    Unbraiding in the Sun
    When stooping to secure it
    It wrinkled, and was gone --

    Several of Nature's People
    I know, and they know me --
    I feel for them a transport
    Of cordiality --

    But never met this Fellow
    Attended, or alone
    Without a tighter breathing
    And Zero at the Bone -

    I never saw a Moor --
    I never saw the Sea --
    Yet know I how the Heather looks
    And what a Billow be.

    I never spoke with God
    Nor visited in Heaven --
    Yet certain am I of the spot
    As if the Checks were given -

    There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry --
    This Travers may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll --
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears the Human soul.

    Apparently with no surprise
    To any happy Flower
    The Frost beheads it at its play --
    In accidental power --
    The blonde Assassin passes on --
    The Sun proceeds unmoved
    To measure off another Day
    For an Approving God.

    There is a solitude of space
    A solitude of sea
    A solitude of death, but these
    Society shall be
    Compared with that profounder site
    That polar privacy
    A soul admitted to itself --
    Finite infinity.

    My life closed twice before its close --
    It yet remains to see
    If Immortality unveil
    A third event to me

    So huge, so hopeless to conceive
    As these that twice befell.
    Parting is all we know of heaven,
    And all we need of hell.