When we look at poetry by Emily Dickinson today, we get strange big letters and a multitude of dashes which yet cannot give the special Bees, special Birds, or special Ears any real sense. Well, to blame the reader
— “you know, the author was a mystic, metaphysical, only high minds get it” —
also a mystical special Bee on a high mind can remain unappealing.
I’ve heard of her my whole life of course, but have never read anything of hers.
A very detailed analysis for those interested in Emily Dickinson.
I have not read Emily Dickinson’s poetry, nor am I inclined to.
The matter is not in publicity, comments as above can show. Emily Dickinson belongs with curricula: you learn about her at school; serious institutions sponsor publications and conferences about her; a book of her poetry would be in the bookstore round the corner.
Is this true there are special Bees or Birds or Ears in Emily Dickinson’s poetry?
Not only Wikisource would venture to say there are, indeed.
Let us think what we can really see. For example, Latin and Greek have a particle -lus-.
(Time and Eternity, XVIII, Playmates) collusor, companion at play; condiscipulus, school-mate; angelus, a messenger, an angel; lapillus, small stone, pebble; lusus, a game; ὁμηλυσία, omelusia, companionship;
God permits industrious angels
Afternoons to play.
I met one, — forgot my school-mates,
All, for him, straightway.
God calls home the angels promptly
At the setting sun;
I missed mine. How dreary marbles,
After playing Crown!
(Life, XXIII, Unreturning) ἀνάπλυσις, anaplusis, washing or rinsing out; ἀνήλυσις, anelusis, going up, return; ἤλυσις, elusis, step, gait; lenunculus, a small sailing-vessel, bark, skiff (the toddling little boat).
‘T was such a little, little boat
That toddled down the bay!
‘T was such a gallant, gallant sea
That beckoned it away!
‘T was such a greedy, greedy wave
That licked it from the coast;
Nor ever guessed the stately sails
My little craft was lost!
We can compare the Greek -upo/ypo- for I asked no other thing (Life, XII, p. 213): ἰσότυπος, isotypos, shaped alike, συνυπόπτωσις, synypoptosis, simultaneous presentation to the senses, cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman, ὑποπτερνίς, upopternis, knob (a kind of a button that can twirl, in the modern use), and ὑπo, upo, below, looking a picture up and down (as Brazil on a map).
I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled.
Brazil? He twirled a button,
Without a glance my way:
“But, madam, is there nothing else
That we can show to-day?”
I have decided to stay by the first print, the Higginson-Todd. Let us see the sound patterning in Mine, before we recur to the handwritten of later editions, as we can see it transcribed over the Wikisource.
Mine by the Right of the white election!
Mine by the Royal seal!
Mine by the sign in the sCaRlet pRison
BaRs Cannot Conceal!
Mine, here in Vision and in Veto!
Mine, by the GRave’s Repeal
Titled, confiRMed,-— deliRious chaRteR!
Mine, while the ages steal!
Everyone is individual in phonemics. The Wikisource transcript yet shows the big letters mostly with the words I marked for their constituent sounds.
There are no special Bees or Birds, as well as Ears in Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Words are marked for their constituent sounds. Emily Dickinson used patterns from other languages she studied, evidently Latin and Greek, to build a lexical imagery. On top of that, she tailored her phonemics, also consciously. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd knew the draft feature of her writing: marking words for phonemics with big letters. The “dashes” were to help keep the rhythm. They are not hyphens.
Read also my book afterword about Emily Dickinson’s poetry.