Emily Dickinson (1830-86) was one of the most distinctive poets of the nineteenth century. Of her contemporaries writing across the Atlantic at the same time as her, only Gerard Manley Hopkins, of the Victorian poets, comes close to matching her uniqueness and sharp eye for detail. Before the imagists, under Ezra Pound’s leadership, began to ‘make it new’, Emily Dickinson was forging exciting new and fresh metaphors to describe the world around her. ‘The Moon was but a Chin of Gold’ is a fine example of her idiosyncratic style.
The Moon was but a Chin of Gold
A Night or two ago—
And now she turns Her perfect Face
Upon the World below—
Her Forehead is of Amplest Blonde—
Her Cheek—a Beryl hewn—
Her Eye unto the Summer Dew
The likest I have known— Read the rest of this entry
‘After great pain, a formal feeling comes’: with this arresting opening line, Emily Dickinson begins one of her most studied and powerful evocations of grief and suffering, and the ‘element of Blank’ (as she puts it in another of her poems about pain) that follows a painful event or experience. The language and imagery Dickinson employs in this poem will take a bit of unravelling and analysis…
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone – Read the rest of this entry
‘My River runs to thee’ is a short poem, even by Dickinson’s brief, telegrammatic standards, but as with so many of Dickinson’s poems, it carries an arresting opening line, and reminds us that the river and the sea are endlessly linked in one great cycle.
My River runs to thee –
Blue Sea – Wilt welcome me?
My River wait reply.
Oh Sea – look graciously!
I’ll fetch thee Brooks
From spotted nooks –
Say Sea – take Me?
A love poem – perhaps even an erotic poem? Yes, but with a difference, since it’s also a nature poem, and Read the rest of this entry