Sunday, August 30, 2009

The largest Fire ever known

The largest Fire ever known
Occurs each Afternoon--
Discovered is without surprise
Proceeds without concern--
Consumes and no report to men
An Occidental Town,
Rebuilt another morning
To be burned down again
(F 974)

Dickinson's sunset is a fire, wild and yet steady. Opposites war within this poem, as is typical in her writing. The town is burned completely, and yet it will rise again like the phoenix. Or perhaps the fire will rise again like the phoenix. There is a free license this fire has to burn, and yet it burns within its parameters, so predictable that it is of little concern to men.

She has the gift of the poet to make the reader look at the next sunset and marvel at its intensity and its audacity to ignite the sky so. Her language arrests the reader's attention, mixing clinical words like "discovers", "occurs" and "report" with the highly charged words like "largest fire" and "burned down". Language in the poem follows the progression, using inciting words when describing the fiery sunset, then cooling to a clinical description of the lack of awareness in the middle of this poem, only to flare again in the final lines. Her word choice guides the emotion of the poem, plotting its progression.

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