Barely any of the hundreds of poems Emily Dickinson wrote were published during her lifetime, and indeed, while she was alive, she was far better known as a gardener than a poet. ‘New feet within my garden go’, which is about new generations setting foot in her garden while the seasons continue to roll on and roll round, reminds us of the link between mankind’s toil (working in the garden) and the vast and eternal cycle of nature which makes our achievements seem so small by comparison.
New feet within my garden go –
New fingers stir the sod –
A Troubadour upon the Elm
Betrays the solitude.
New children play upon the green –
New Weary sleep below –
And still the pensive Spring returns –
And still the punctual snow! Read the rest of this entry
‘If you were coming in the Fall…’ The key word is ‘If’. Some of the best love poems are poems addressed to an absent beloved. George MacDonald wrote a very short poem, ‘The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs’, comprising just two short words of longing: ‘Come / Home’. As the double meaning of the word ‘want’ (both ‘desire’ and ‘lack’) illustrates, we want what we can’t have. Or, to borrow another old phrase: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Emily Dickinson, in her poem ‘If you were coming in the Fall’, explores this idea of missing an absent beloved.
If you were coming in the Fall,
I’d brush the Summer by
With half a smile, and half a spurn,
As Housewives do, a Fly.
If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls—
And put them each in separate Drawers,
For fear the numbers fuse—
If only Centuries, delayed,
I’d count them on my Hand,
Subtracting, till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s Land. Read the rest of this entry
‘We dream—it is good we are dreaming—’ is a lesser-known Emily Dickinson poem which favours the world of dreams over the more painful reality of the waking world. Like many of Emily Dickinson’s greatest poems, the American Civil War may have fed into this vision of a life lived best in the protective arms of dreams, rather than the bloody horrors of reality.
‘We dream—it is good we are dreaming’ by Emily Dickinson
We dream—it is good we are dreaming—
It would hurt us—were we awake—
But since it is playing—kill us,
And we are playing—shriek—
What harm? Men die—externally—
It is a truth—of Blood— Read the rest of this entry