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Emily dickinson life and her works

Emily Dickinson: Life and Her Works

Emily Dickinson made a large influence on poetry, she is known as one of

America's most famous poets. With close to two thousand different poems and one

thousand of her letters to her friends that survived her death Emily Dickinson

showed that she was a truly dedicated writer.

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10,1830

to a prominent family, her father Edward Dickinson was both a lawyer and the

Treasurer of Amherst College. Emily's mother was Emily Norcross Dickinson.

Emily had one older brother, William Austin and a little sister, Lavinia. She

was educated at the Amerherst Academy, the institute that her grandfather helped

found. She also spent a year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley,

but had left because she did not like the religious environment. For a woman of

this time, this much education was very rare.1

Emily Dickinson was a very mysterious person as she got older she became

more and more reclusive too the point that by her thirties, she would not leave

her house and would withdraw from visitors. Emily was known to give fruit and

treats to children by lowering them out her window in a basket with a rope to

avoid actually seeing them face to face. She developed a reputation as a myth,

because she was almost never seen and when people did catch a glimpse of her she

was always wearing white. Emily Dickinson never got married but is thought to

have had a relationship with Reverend Charles Wadsworth who she met in the

spring of 1854 in Philadelphia. He was a famous preacher and was married. Many

scholars believe that he was the subject of her love poems. Emily probably only

saw Wadsworth an additional three times after their first encounter which was

only done by him going to Amherst, where she lived. In 1861 Wadsworth moved to

San Francisco. It is after this time that Emily really started to produce

hundreds of poems. Emily Dickinson submitted very few poems to publishers.

She felt that her poetry was not good enough to be read by everyone. Eight of

her poems were published during her life time either by her friends who

submitted them to a publisher without her consent or Emily Anonymously. (Emily

Dickinson 1996,1)

In 1862 she told a friend "If fame belonged to me I could not escape

her...My Barefoot-Rank is better."

It is also thought that Emily Dickinson had a passionate relationship

with Susan Gilbert. Emily wrote three times more poems to Susan then to any one

else. They probably met at Amherst. They became very close friends, they

shared many similar interests and desires. Emily became very affectionate

toward Susan and trusted her completely. Their relationship went sour when

Susan became engaged to Austin Dickinson, Emily's brother. For two years their

friendship ended completely. When Austin and Susan moved next door their

relationship started over and Emily began to write her love letters to Susan

again. Feminist scholars who have examined Emily Dickinson's letters and poems

to Susan from a lesbian viewpoint think that her letters and poems to Susan move

beyond a romantic friendship to a blatantly passionate relationship. No one

knows how Susan responded to Emily's love letters and poems. When Emily died

all of her letters from Susan were destroyed. So no one will ever know whether

they did or did not have a love affair. I think that the mysteries of Emily

Dickinson's life is what makes her poetry so interesting because it can be

analyzed in so many different ways. Emily's poems and letters to Susan could

suggest an eroticism that could be intentional, subconscious, or merely

coincidental. Emily may have had perfectly innocent intentions, but to modern

audiences translated to be sexually suggestive. (Poetry of Emily Dickinson


Other poems that Emily wrote were mostly about the exploration of the

concept of religious faith. Her father was a very religious man who practiced

a Protestant sect that closely followed the tenets of New England Puritanism,

but she was never able to practice his faith with dedication. She was drawn to

transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was one of the leaders of this

movement in the belief in the essential unity of creation, the goodness of

humanity, and the supremacy of insight over logic and reason. This philosophy

also taught a renunciation of authority, whether it be religious, scientific, or

political. These new ideals led her to think a lot more about life and it's

ultimate destiny. The concepts of good and evil, life and death and where you

go when you die turned into an obsession with Emily which led her to spent a lot

of time worrying about it and writing about it as her life slowly went by

instead of enjoying life and living it to its fullest.(Sewell 1963,12) Although

he r obsession of death seemed to destroy her life, it allowed her to express

her true genius through poetry this was the time when she created her greatest

works. (Sewell 1963,15)

Emily Dickinson Died at the age of 55 on May 15 1886 in Amherst.

Shortly after her death her sister Lavinia discovered hundreds of Poems in a

locked chest in Emily's room in her Amherst home. Lavinia persuaded M.L. Todd

to edit Emily's poems. He published a small portion of the poems in 1890, and

his daughter and Emily's niece followed with more poems later on. But because

of a feud in the family, the entire collection of Emily's poems were not

published until 1955. (Olsen1990,91)

Here is an example of a couple of Emily Dickinson's poems and what

critics thought of them and what I think of them.

The Chariot

Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me-

The Carriage held but just Ourselves-

And Immortality.

We slowly drove-He knew no haste

And I had away

My labor and my leisure too,

For His Civility-

We passed the School, where Children strove

At Recess-in the ring-

We passed the fields of Gazing Grain-

We passed the Setting Sun

Or rather- He passed Us-

The Dews drew quivering and chill-

For only Gossamer, my Gown-

My Tippet- only Tulle-

We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground

The Roof was a Scarcely visible-

The Cornice-in the Ground-

Since then- ‘tis Centuries-and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses' Heads

Were toward Eternity-

(Benfey 1986, 83)

The "New Critics who were Allen Tate, R,P. Blackmur and Yvor Winters said this

about "The Chariot" "If the word great means anything in poetry, this poem is

one of the greatest in the English language. The rhythm charges with movement

the pattern of suspended action back of the poem. Every image is precise and,

moreover, not merely beautiful, but fused with the central idea. Every image

extends and intensifies every other."(Benfey 1986, 84).

I really liked this poem I found her interpretation of death very

interesting and that it was very easy for me to create an image of death using

her perfectly placed adjectives. She was very descriptive, but not to the point

that you loose focus on the poem. Making the trip to Eternity with a carriage

and horse I found to be a very interesting concept. I also liked this poem

because it is not too long like other poems that bore me, She gets right to the

point and keeps your attention through out the whole poem.

Remorse-is Memory-awake-

Her Parties all astir-

A Presence of Departed Acts-

At window-and at door-

Its Past-set down before the Soul

And lighted with a Match-

Perusal-to facilitate-

And help Belief to stretch-

Remorse is cureless- the Disease

Not even God-can heal-

For ‘tis His institution-and

The Adequate of Hell-

(Benfey 1986,68)

Benfey says about this poem that " Death is the ultimate mystery for Dickinson;

no matter how wise we are, through a riddle at the last,/ Sagacity must go. She

can try to ward off the horror with a glib definition: Death is the Suitor/that

wins at last, whose stealthy Wooing is pursued by pallid innuendoes. Even when

she is wondering about the resurrection she can be witty and playful." Benfey

1986, 68)

I think that this poem is very deep in meaning and makes me think a lot

about the after life. With great poems about death like this it is obvious that

Emily Dickinson Spent a lot of time focusing on the concepts of death, Religion

and the after life. She in this poem interprets the Resurrection in a different

way. I think that she is saying that Death is inevitable in this life as we

know it and that even Jesus could not cheat death even though he was able to

come back to Earth in a new body. He still had to die like all humans and

creatures to reach life after death.

"Wild Nights-Wild Nights"

Where I with thee

Wild Nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile-the Winds-

To a Heart in port-

Done with the Compass-

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden-

Ah, the Sea!

Might I but moor- Tonight-

In thee!

Her breast is fit for pearls,

But I was not a Diver-

Her brow is fit for thrones

But I have not a crest.

Her heart is fit for home-

I- a sparrow- build there

II- Sweet twigs and twine

III- My perennial nest.

Her sweet weight on my Heart a Night

Had scarcely deigned to lie-

When, stirring, for Beliefs delight,

My bride had slipped away-

If ‘twas a Dream- made solid - just

The Heaven to confirm-

Or if Myself were dreamed of Her-

The power to presume-

With Him remain- who unto Me-

Gave- even as to All-

A fiction superseding Faith-

By so much-as ‘twas real-

(Poetry of Emily Dickinson 1996,3)

Benfey says that this poem is " elegant and has a mild eroticism that

reaches the level of great art in Emily Dickinson's poetry"(Benfey 1986,62)

Feminist Scholars looking at this poem from a lesbian point of view feel

that Emily Dickinson had a passionately intimate relationship with Susan which

is who she wrote the poem to and that Emily depended on Susan's love.(poetry of

Emily Dickinson 1996,2)

I do not agree with the Feminist Scholars, I don't think that this poem

is sexual or passionate toward Susan. I think that back when Emily Dickinson

was writing her poetry people were a lot more open with their feelings and were

not afraid to express them although I do think that Emily had a very strong love

for Susan. This is a great poem because it shows the sensitive loving side of

Emily's poetry, instead of the depressing gloom of death and worrying about it.

I think that this poem has been misinterpreted to mean something passionate and

sexual. Now a days it seems that people are always trying to find something

sexual in everything.


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