5 Poems by Emily Dickinson

Emily DickinsonI’ve just completed my second journey through the works of an American poet this year. Dickinson’s nineteenth-century verse is certainly more traditional than Cummings’s, but she herself was original in many ways. Her near-universal usage of iambs makes her poetry much easier to read than the experiments of Cummings, although the lilting rhythm would get distracting were it not for her dynamic use of capitalization and punctuation. Her twin themes are nature and death — those subjects that are readily observed from the type of seclusion for which Dickinson is posthumously famous. She’s most known for the latter, but the former is equally striking in her work. Dickinson was at least as fascinated by bees as Cummings was by elephants.

Here are five poems I especially like.

501. (c. 1862)

  • This World is not Conclusion.
  • A Species stands beyond —
  • Invisible, as Music —
  • But positive, as Sound —
  • It beckons, and it baffles —
  • Philosophy — don’t know —
  • And through a Riddle, at the last —
  • Sagacity, must go —
  • To guess it, puzzles scholars —
  • To gain it, Men have borne
  • Contempt of Generations
  • And Crucifixion, shown —
  • Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies —
  • Blushes, if any see —
  • Plucks at a twig of Evidence —
  • And asks a Vane, the way —
  • Much Gesture, from the Pulpit —
  • Strong Hallelujahs roll —
  • Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
  • That nibbles at the soul —

670. (c. 1863)

  • One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
  • One need not be a House —
  • The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
  • Material Place —
  • Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
  • External Ghost
  • Than its interior Confronting —
  • That Cooler Host.
  • Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
  • The Stones a’chase —
  • Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter —
  • In lonesome Place —
  • Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
  • Should startle most —
  • Assassin hid in our Apartment
  • Be Horror’s least.
  • The Body — borrows a Revolver —
  • He bolts the Door —
  • O’erlooking a superior spectre —
  • Or More —

747. (c. 1863)

  • It dropped so low — in my Regard —
  • I heard it hit the Ground —
  • And go to pieces on the Stones
  • At bottom of my Mind —
  • Yet blamed the Fate that flung it — less
  • Than I denounced Myself,
  • For entertaining Plated Wares
  • Upon my Silver Shelf —

1136. (c. 1868)

  • The Frost of Death was on the Pane —
  • “Secure your Flower” said he.
  • Like Sailors fighting with a Leak
  • We fought Mortality.
  • Our passive Flower we held to Sea —
  • To Mountain — To the Sun —
  • Yet even on his Scarlet shelf
  • To crawl the Frost begun —
  • We pried him back
  • Ourselves we wedged
  • Himself and her between,
  • Yet easy as the narrow Snake
  • He forked his way along
  • Till all her helpless beauty bent
  • And then our wrath begun —
  • We hunted him to his Ravine
  • We chased him to his Den —
  • We hated Death and hated Life
  • And nowhere was to go —
  • Than Sea and continent there is
  • A larger — it is Woe —

1235. (c. 1872)

  • Like Rain it sounded till it curved
  • And then I knew ’twas Wind —
  • It walked as wet as any Wave
  • But swept as dry as sand —
  • When it had pushed itself away
  • To some remotest Plain
  • A coming as of Hosts was heard
  • That was indeed the Rain —
  • It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools
  • It warbled in the Road —
  • It pulled the spigot from the Hills
  • And let the Floods abroad —
  • It loosened acres, lifted seas
  • The sites of Centres stirred
  • Then like Elijah rode away
  • Upon a Wheel of Cloud.

One response to “5 Poems by Emily Dickinson

  1. Pingback: 5 Poems by Walt Whitman | Infinite Crescendo·

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