Emily Dickinson [1830-1886] was a powerful poet of America and the “most perfect flower of New England. ” She not only did occupy a pride of place in American Literature but she was considered to be an anticipator of philosophical poetry, a harbinger of Modernity and an upholder of Romanticism. In her wit she was philosophical, in her attitudes a Romantic and in her poetics a Modern. She wrote upon varied subjects though she was known to be virtually withdrawn from the outside world till she breathed her last.
Her pen gave poetic touch to all issues right from Death, contemporary social scene, immortality , pain and pleasure , hope and fear, love , Nature, God, religion, virtue. Hers was a highly romantic soul that found strange beauty and startling suggestion in the simplest elements of experience—the glance of a friend ,a sentence in a book, a bee’s hum, a stone in the road or the slant of light on winter afternoons. Her poems won her a place in world literature because of their originality.
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It is really interesting to note that Emily Dickinson once wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson of The Atlantic Monthly sometime in 1862 “Are you too deeply occupied to say that my verse is alive? ” No doubt, A. C. Ward had called her “perhaps next to Whitman the greatest American poet of the last century. ” Emily Dickinson had a checkered life of love and frustration or love and a sense of loss before 1958 when she had withdrawn from the society , keeping herself cooped up in her father’s residence at Amherst, Massachusetts. She used to write and preserve the poems in small volumes,- in her own coinage ‘fascicles’.
In her lifetime she was able to publish only seven to ten poems though she went on writing madly from 1858 to 1864[some say 1862]. Most of her neighbors remembered her to see wandering alone in the house dressed in spotless white. They even nicknamed her “the woman in white. ” She remained an enigma till her demise. After her death, her sister Lavinia found forty such poems in her bedroom. She sat with Mary Babel Todd , their neighbor as well as a family friend, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson they found these to be somewhat difficult to publish. Emily Dickinson even loved to share her poems through letters with her friends.
Emily Dickinson used to stay in her paternal residence with her unmarried sister Lavinia till death. Her brother Austin Dickinson moved to a nearby house with his wife Susan. And it is known through the article by Emily Dickinson: Continuing Enigma by Jone Johnson Lewis [Women’s History Guide] that she used to write letters even to her closest neighbors and even with Susan and Mabel Todd she used to write regularly. She even sent poems to them through the letters. Says George Frisbie Whicher in her book This was a Poet, “A letter seemed to her to possess a spectral power.
It was the disembodied mind, walking alone….. The letters that she composed during her years of seclusion are like her poems, distinguishable from them only by their greater length and variety. ” It is interesting to note that Emily Dickinson used to write poems right from the days in Mount Holyoke Seminary. R. B. Sewall has it that the Book of Revelation was her favorite book of the Bible. As a schoolgirl when she wrote, ”I hope the father in the skies /Will lift his little girl ,--/Old-fashioned, naughty, everything,--/Over the stile of pearl!
” she seemed to echo the ideas she imbibed from her tutor, Doctor Wadsworth. But she began to mature along with the growing years, gave up the religious inclinations she had so far. From the winter of 1861—62, Emily Dickinson changed her course of thought and started to declare, “They[family members] are religious, except me” From then onwards she decided to live and breathe for her writing alone. Perhaps, she found as a poet a more satisfying existence than she could otherwise find as a woman. She had a horde of literary friends to whom she loved to send her poems . They were:
Samuel Bowles, Josiah Gilbert Holland, Helen Hunt Jackson, Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers all with a professional interest. They also were of the opinion that the reading public of the sixties and the seventies were not of the required wavelength to meet her on her own level. It might have been one reason behind her very few publications during her lifetime. Her niece Martha Dickinson Bianchi took all the responsibility to publish three authentic volumes of her poems: Further Poems of Emily Dickinson,Unpublished poems of Emily Dickinson and The Poems of Emily Dickinson.
Emily Dickinson’s poems made a remarkable difference in understanding the modern poetry. Hence, it goes without saying that hers was a major influence upon the mature readers of that period. If from among the gems of her creation we take at least a few to judge and analyze critically we will be able to understand why the world of literature still makes room for such a rare genius! Emily Dickinson’s fascination with Death comes out in the much read and critically appreciated lines: “Because I could not stop for Death--/He kindly stopped for me-/The Carriage held but just ourselves-/And Immortality.
Immortality also creeps into the lines and is pictured as the third person in the carriage ,mentioned in the first stanza. To Emily Dickinson, Death appeared in various guises. At times she treated Death as a courtly lover sometimes again as the dreadful murderer. “Because I could not…”or “A Clock Stopped” deal with the tremendous and irresistible power of Death . These poems also highlight the physical transformation and the final isolation that Death involves. Sometimes she had stressed upon the ghastly aspects of Death by her willing use of the funeral and the religious imagery.
For example, “I heard the fly buzz when I died .. ” Quite difficult ,no doubt, for the contemporary readers to understand such invincible power of Life that it goes beyond the Ultimate Barrier of Death too!! Emily Dickinson fell in love many a time . Her possible lovers, as suggested by her biographers were: Benjamin Newton, Charles Wadsworth, Emmons et al. From the early sentimental love lyrics to the religious-mystical love-utterances , we are sure to find a wide range in Emily Dickinson’s love poetry.
From among her early love lyrics we get one poem starting with “ I started early –Took my dog--/And visited the Sea--/The Mermaids in the Basement/Came out to look at me. ” The word “Early” holds the key to the interpretation of the poem. It means that the young girl is on a journey ,un-attempted before. Gradually, the tone changes from that of childlike innocence to a mellower awareness. The newly-aroused emotions of the girl and her fear at the thought of the Sea’s complete possession of her are expressed in a verse that is suggestive of shock and renunciation of life’s prime forces: love, sex, beauty so forth,-
“And He-He followed-close behind-/I felt his Silver Heel/Upon my Ankle—Then my shoes/Would overflow with pearl-/Until we met the Solid Town-/No one He seemed to know--/And bowing with a mighty look--/At me-the Sea withdrew. ” Examining all the associations clustered around the Sea , beauty, freedom , haughtiness, male power coupled with shy nature of the female we assume that the poem intends to express the emotional and physical effects of a lover’s advances. The girl nearly gives in to it but her life of control and proves stronger than this short-lived temptation and she beats a retreat!
Dickinson’s images are powerful, her “dash” means a lot like her lonely existence and her poems help her win an immortal place in the hearts of her readers because of their unique and universal appeal! Works and References 1. Sewall R. B. :The Life of Emily Dickinson, Boston, 1978. 2. Whicher G. F. :This was a poet, Michigan, 1957. Other Sources 1. High Beam Encyclopedia[http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1E1-DickinsoE. html] 2. http://www. womenshistory. about. com/library/bio/bldickinson. htm
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Biography Of Emily Dickinson. (2016, Aug 10). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/biography-of-emily-dickinson/