Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm sorry for the Dead-- Today

Emily Dickinson has so much amazing empathy, and her seemingly limitless imagination allows her to reach into ideas that other writers could never begin to consider. Many writers might miss the dead or think of how a coffin might seem during the afterlife. And yet few can craft a poem like Dickinson who not only imagines what the coffin and eternity therein might be like, but she goes a step further to the idea of living dead or conscious thoughts of the dead, aware of a world above that they have no way of reaching.

On some level, I also wonder if this poem might be intended, at least subconsciously, to be a commentary on Dickinson's mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson. Her mother spent a great deal of time sick and Dickinson was frequently the one to care for her. Or perhaps this could be hint of reflection on Dickinson's own isolation, though she did warn not to mistake her poetry for autobiography. At any rate, this poem displays Dickinsons craft with language, her use of voice, and her vast empathetic abilities. Interestingly enough, I wonder if Robert Frost's poem about fences makes me curious if he might have been influenced to write it from reading Dickinson's poetry.

I'm sorry for the Dead-- Today--
It's such congenial times
Old neighbors have at fences--
It's time o' year for Hay,

And Broad-- Sunburned Acquiantance
Discourse between the Toil--
And laugh, a homely species
That makes the Fences smile--

It seems so straight to lie away
From all the noise of Fields--
The Busy Carts-- the fragrant Cocks--
The Mower's metre--Steals

A Trouble lest they're homesick--
Those Farmers-- and their Wives--
Set spearate from the Farming--
And all the Neighbor's lives--

A Wonder if the Sepulchre
Dont feel a lonesome way--
When Men-- and Boys-- and Cars-- and June,
Go down the Fields to "Hay"--
(F 582)

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