Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some say good night-- at night--

Some say good night-- at night--
I say good night by day
Good bye-- the Going utter me--
Good night, I still reply--

For parting, that is night,
And presence, simply dawn--
Itself, the purple on the hight
Denominated morn.
(F 586)

This poem fascinates me, and I was surprised to find it hiding so impishly among the other poems in Franklin's anthology of Dickinson. Yes, there is a speaker or persona in this poem who narrates it-- an other who is not the poet herself. And yet, I think it shows the depth of feeling and love that Dickinson had for those closest to her.

While she did not have a huge range of friends and people to whom she spoke or even wrote, she was prolific in what letter writing she did. Her language in her letters is practically poetry instead of prose, in its highly charged language and abundance of imagery and exacting phrases. Perhaps all of her poems truly were letters. At any rate, there is a deep connection to others. "Presence, simply dawn" expresses the glorious joy and eagerness that friends brought to Dickinson, as well as the speaker.

I think it is a bit interesting that Dickinson chose night and sunrise as the metaphors in this poem. Humans have no control over nightfall or sunrise, and it implies that Dickinson or at least the speaker has little or no control over the comings and goings of those beloved. Perhaps this could serve as an extended metaphor for death, as though each goodbye could be a literal and not just metaphoric death. Certainly death was not predictable and could strike far too suddenly. This may have enhanced the feeling of "goodbye" as a death and every "hello" as not only a sunrise but as its archetypal plot motif dictates, it could be a rebirth or resurrection. Again, hope tries to eke out some space in this poem, and I think Dickinson and her speaker ardently wish for the next "hello" of a sunrise and its revival of all things new and fresh.

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