On one of Dickinson’s great poems of friendship
‘I should not dare to leave my friend’ is one of Emily Dickinson’s great poems about friendship. Although she lived her life as a recluse in Amherst, Massachusetts, friendship mattered a great deal to Dickinson, as did family. In this poem, she revisits one of the perennial themes of her work – death, and the deathbed moments of the dying – but this time, from the perspective of a friend and comforter watching a loved one depart this mortal realm.
I should not dare to leave my friend,
Because—because if he should die
While I was gone—and I—too late—
Should reach the Heart that wanted me—
If I should disappoint the eyes
That hunted—hunted so—to see—
And could not bear to shut until
They ‘noticed’ me—they noticed me— Read the rest of this entry
On a little-known poem of the First World War
Marjorie Pickthall (1883-1922) was Canadian, although she was born in London. She was regarded by some as the greatest Canadian poet of her generation, and her short poem ‘Marching Men’ is a moving religiously inspired response to the sacrifice being made by thousands of men every week in the First World War.
Under the level winter sky
I saw a thousand Christs go by.
They sang an idle song and free
As they went up to Calvary.
Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave. Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle travels back over four millennia in search of the world’s oldest named poet
Where and when did literature begin? With Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, nearly 3,000 years ago? Or with the Epic of Gilgamesh, written by an unknown poet some four millennia ago in ancient Mesopotamia, and featuring a cataclysmic flood similar to the one described in the book of Genesis? We could be forgiven for thinking that Homer was the first great ‘named’ author (although who he exactly was – and whether he was even a ‘he’ – remains unknown), and that the further we go back in time before Homer, the less chance we have of encountering an author whose identity we actually know. And, well, if we do encounter a pre-Homeric writer of stature, we could probably put a pretty safe bet on that writer being male. But this is wrong. We can confidently identify the first named author in world history, and what’s more, the author is a woman, named Enheduanna. Read the rest of this entry