Thursday, May 14, 2009

The hours between class and dinner

I've had Emily Dickinson on my mind. Her poems, so breathless and brief, sometimes visit me in  short bursts. 

Out of nowhere, I hear, I'm nobody! Who are you?  I try to picture her audience: Who is "you"? 

I hear, Wild nights! Wild nights!/ Were I with thee, and feel strangely comforted by that fact such words were written while Dickinson secluded herself in the family's Massachusetts home. 

Earlier today, as I visited a poetry site, I found a link to an article by a former professor - actually, my advisor - from college: Elegy and Eros: Configuring Grief. The piece examines two poems, one by the wonderful Whitman--When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd--and the other by Dickinson--Because I Could Not Stop for Death--to argue that the American elegy is signficantly different from the English elegy. Compare these stanzas from Whitman and Dickinson to Englishman Thomas Gray's, Elegy Written in a Country Courtyeard:

Come lovely and soothing death, 
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving, 
In the day, in the night, to all, to each, 
Sooner or later delicate death.

(From "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd")

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me— 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.
(From "Because I Could Not Stop for Death")

* * *

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

(From "Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard)

Contrast the hopefulness of the American elegies to the mournfulness of the English one (Baker's words, not mine).  

Speaking of mournfulness, I should go wash dishes.

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