Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Luck is not chance

Luck is not chance--
It's Toil--
Fourtune's expensive smile
Is earned--
The Father of the Mine
Is that old fashioned Coin
We spurned--
(F 1360)

I don't think it's coincidence that Dickinson wrote this poem in the time period that she wrote it. It speaks volumes of the Puritan work ethic, bastioned by the "self made, up-by-the-bootstraps" echos of Benjamin Franklin and the more obvious example of Dickinson's father, Edward who labored fiercely to secure his family financially in ways his father had failed.

It might seem strange to think of Dickinson writing these words when one considers that she was a woman of leisure in her own right. The only chores she performed are the ones she enjoyed, namely baking and tending to the flowers in the hothouse. Dickinsons were the cornerstone of Amherst, and while there were some financial struggles early in her parents' marriage, by the time she grew old enough to fully realize what was going on, the Dickinson's financial situation was resolved. It semes she was granted all of the priviledges of her class to indulge in her own pursuits, and she was given the privacy and space in which to create her art.

Though she might know little of any physical toil, clearly she does not take anything for granted. Despite the genius displayed in her writing, it was developed painstakingly, poem by poem. Over time her very distinct style emerges and lodges firmly on page. I sincerely believe that even if she had been published openly in her lifetime, Dickinson would have maintained that her abilities were as much (if not far more) because of persistence and practice than from sheer gifting alone. She crafted her gift, cultivated it as lovingly as she did her dear flowers, feeding and pruning as the years passed.

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