‘For each ecstatic instant’ is a short lyric by Emily Dickinson about the relationship between pleasure and pain, joy and suffering. The Earl of Rochester, in the seventeenth century, had asked, ‘All this to love and rapture’s due; / Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?’ In ‘For each ecstatic instant’, Emily Dickinson answers with a resounding, if regretful, Yes.
For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.
For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years —
Bitter contested farthings —
And Coffers heaped with Tears! Read the rest of this entry
‘Safe in their Alabaster Chambers’ is about one of Emily Dickinson’s favourite themes: death. But, as so often with an Emily Dickinson poem, her treatment of this perennial theme is far from straightforward.
Safe in their Alabaster Chambers –
Untouched by Morning –
And untouched by noon –
Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection –
Rafter of Satin – and Roof of Stone!
Grand go the Years – in the Crescent – above them –
Worlds scoop their Arcs –
And Firmaments – row –
Diadems – drop – and Doges – surrender –
Soundless as dots – on a Disk of Snow – Read the rest of this entry
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) is not primarily remembered now as a poet, but as the author of Walden (1854), about his time living a few miles from his home in the woods of Massachusetts. But in his poem ‘Friendship’, Thoreau offers a powerful perspective on the relationship between love and friendship.
I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
Love is to me a world,
Sole meat and sweetest drink,
And close connecting link
‘Tween heaven and earth.
I only know it is, not how or why,
My greatest happiness;
However hard I try,
Not if I were to die,
Can I explain.
I fain would ask my friend how it can be,
But when the time arrives, Read the rest of this entry