Saturday, August 22, 2009

Will there really be a "morning"?

I'll always remember sitting in the movie theatre the first time that I saw the second Lord of the Rings movie, "The Two Towers." It's my favorite of the trilogy, and my favorite moment is the dreary scene atop the stronghold as the men of Helm's Deep prepare to fight a battle they feel they are sure to win. There is a moment where a young boy is handed a sword that he obviously has never held before and is looking at Aragorn talking about how little chance they stand. Aragorn simply answers, "There is always hope."

I feel like much of Emily Dickinson's poetry is her search for hope, for some kind of assurance. She saw her share of heartaches and pains, and I think she felt them much more intensely than most people do. She obviously felt things very deeply, and I somewhat suspect she would be labelled in current day as a "highly sensitive person." Her poetry often reflects this searching and longing for comfort in poems like:

Will there really be a "morning"?
Is there such a thing as "Day"?
Could I see it from the mountains?
If I were as tall as they?

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Man from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called "morning" lies!
(F 148)

This is listed as an earlier poem, and her tighter rhyme scheme certainly reflects earlier work. Later, she often sacrificed neat rhyme for "eye rhyme." The reader should not allow the simplistic cadence to lull him or her into believing Dickinson meant these questions to be glib. If anything, the overt nursery sound of the poem should cause the reader to be hyper suspicious of the theme and its meaning.

Perhaps in a cynical mood she wrote this in the bitingly sarcastic of tones. Clearly the persona finds no one to adequately answer these questions. The speaker remains a "little Pilgrim", seemingly not worth the time for explanation, much less assurance. And "Wise Man from the skies" reads as nearly mocking, as though some apparition or magical all-knowing genie might appear to answer such wonderings. No, Dickinson provides no hope for these questions, leaving a void for the speaker and for the reader. Perhaps this was more of a reflection of her doubts and fears concerning religion and its inabilities to settle her inmost needs for security.

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