Notes for Emily Dickinson’s poetry

■→This text is also available in Polish.

Are we going to believe Emily Dickinson tried to tell about very exceptional Ears, Bees, or Birds, so peculiar that you write them with capital letters?

■→Life | Love | Nature | Time and Eternity

The text makes fair use of standard copyright, for the purpose of fascicle and print comparison: Thomas H. Johnson, 1955. The Poems of Emily Dickinson.
The text may be used under any of the following licenses:
■→Creative Commons License 4.0, BY-SA 3.0, and License 2.5.
The first print selected verses, along with a few by Carl Sandburg, are semantic field exercise in part four of the Travel in Grammar. Feel welcome,

Print so far

Emily Dickinson’s Poems were first printed in year 1890. Around 400 copies sold within months, which was really a success those times, and further prints were done. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd prepared the print from notes. In their edition, mostly the shape of the stanza might cause reservations, but book sales proved the poetry was appreciated favorably.

Views changed in 1955, when Thomas Herbert Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson. He elaborated on manuscripts that Harvard University received in 1950, as a gift from Gilbert H. Montague.[1] In 1956, Amherst College was given a collection by Millicent Todd Bingham.

It was with regard to Johnson’s print that opinion came, on an “extensive” or even “pervasive” manner for dashes, “unconventional” or “unexpected” use of capital letters, or summarily an “idiosyncratic poetic practice” by Ms. Dickinson.[2]

The poet, as well as her readers, would know proper spelling and punctuation, even if only simply aware of the founding texts, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights.

In the Declaration, John Dunlap’s peculiarity would have been in his use of capital letters for all nouns, forms deriving from nouns, and phrases of nominal reference, as “to Publish and Declare” — yet he did that according to quite a prevalent and known printing style of the time.

Outside the style, we may have capital letters to specify on terms. John Carter capitalized the Constitution as that of the United States. For particular States, he printed the word “constitution” with a small letter.

Emily Dickinson certainly did not mean her poetry for just a joke, though her poems show a sense of humor as well. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd were cognizant of the poet in person. They knew how she made notes, or drafted poems, and what a clean copy was to look — according to her own resolves. Their edition does not have “idiosyncrasies”. Those occurred with Johnson’s print, year 1955.


Most of the pieces never were finalized by the poet for print, and all formats today are editions that compare somewhere between the first draft and the Declaration of Independence as published, in text refinement. There always is a simple question: do we believe Emily Dickinson tried to tell about about Bees, Ears, or Birds so extraordinary, that you write them with capital letters?
Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,
Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence —

(Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers, Johnson’s edition; the big letters do not occur in the Republican of 1862, when the poet lived).

Over the Internet,[3] we can have a glimpse at sample F124C, a draft of Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers from Houghton, one of Harvard University libraries. It is handwritten in pencil. If Emily Dickinson used such big letters, there had to be a reason. Image contrast is enhanced.

Houghton sample F124C

Houghton sample F124C.

The habit of the hand has a “non-print character”, ε: we can find it only in manuscripts. To compare the Diadεms, Dogεs, Surrεndεr, and Firmaments along with soundless, we might think about word stress and vowel length.

With shapes as εntirely, mε, and rεsurrections, in the handwritten Renunciation as published by Little, Brown and Company in 1891, and the Edεn of the Wild Nights (Houghton, sample number 269 by Franklin), we may think about vowel quality, low or high, in some general contour.

In vowel chart mid position, between front and back, as well as low and high vowels, there is a speech sound central quality. Some phonetic scripts may interpret this mid for the shwa.

The handwritten ε is as the Greek epsilon. We can see it is not to represent the shwa, but it can be a mark for vowel length and height, in relation to the central quality. It is as a precursor shape, with modern phonetic scripts.

Might there be a connection between the epsilon and manuscript big letters? Let us consider a fragment of the poem Success as edited by Johnson.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today…

To think about someone who likes to talk verses, he or she would put more emphasis on words as host and flag, to tell you the poem. This emphasis is not for the most important words. It is the prosodic stress.

It is possible that Emily Dickinson shared her markup for intonation and rhythm with her friends. Poets yet never have marked prosody for publication: you do not do it for the general reader; you do it for your vowels. In proximity with prosodic emphasis, unstressed vowels become the shortest, which matters in the poetic meter — this can be the connection between the big letters and the epsilon.

Before we analyze the manner of writing any further, let us think if we have genuine samples. To regard copy physical qualities, we may focus on Houghton F124B. We can examine a handwritten feature, the digraph TH in the Alabaster Chambers, to compare Houghton F67B.

Houghton F124B

Houghton F124B.

F124B was accepted by both Johnson and Franklin, and the habit of the hand does not have the characteristic T we can see in F124C. Except adolescence, and senility only sometimes, handwriting hardly would just change.

Houghton F124C, the TH

Houghton F124C.

F124B looks closer to a fair copy than F124C, and Emily Dickinson’s letter shape T would have grown bigger — and not smaller — along with her finalization of text. We can recur to the Little and Brown Renunciation, for the words there, thought, or that. The handwriting here is not as casual as in F124C.

Theories on Emily Dickinson’s worsening eyesight fail with an important regard: the writing characters in F124B are not enlarged, or separated. Samples as P90-39, the Suspense, might substantiate doubt on the writer’s visual acuity, provided the quality here did not arise with another determinant, and that might have been an extremely short pencil, too. For all Ts, the stem and the bar yet do come together, the bar to wander to the left of the stem.

Persons of regular vision happen to experience hindrance in own handwritten style. An alternate character T, bar shifted to the right, yet surfaces with a smooth flow of ink, also in sample F67B.

Houghton F67B, as well as F67A, are copies of the poem Too Late. They show the text rewritten almost consistently with the print by Higginson and Todd. Houghton copy F67A differs in two words, joy and remaining; Houghton F67B in one word, joy, and the word is the only one not to rhyme.
Delayed till she had ceased to know,
Delayed till in its vest of snow
Her loving bosom lay.
An hour behind the fleeting breath,
Later by just an hour than death,
Oh, lagging yesterday!

Could she have guessed that it would be;
Could but a crier of the JOY
(first print: glee)
Have climbed the distant hill;
Had not the bliss so slow a pace, —
Who knows, but this surrendered face
Were undefeated still?

It is hard to believe the author would have rewritten the poem entire (a few times!) with just one odd word and in a different hand — to send it to friends? More, Johnson’s joy in the place of glee would hint that a “loving” person could enjoy the “loved” one dying (hence the quotation marks), and the poem, though ironic, does not show such prejudice or error in use of words.

The first print glee does not only rhyme: “glee and glory”, the song and fame theme of Anglo-Saxon legends, merely has become less familiar to the reading public today.

The verses may suggest prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, whose marriage with queen Victoria was surrounded with propaganda of family tremendous happiness, questioned in the queen’s times and later. Present day, we can read the historian doubt by Jane Ridley, via BBC News.[4] It was during queen Victoria’s “domestic bliss” there came another tension between the United States and Britain, in the Trent Affair. Prince Albert died in December.

Language work may favor markup, it yet would never look as in the Houghton copies, text rewritten with one word obviously to stand out: a person of standard linguistic aptitude would have had no difficulty to find a synonym or rhyme.

Emily Dickinson was above standard, in her language skill. We may consider the Bequest: with regard to vowel reduction, natural in English, the Bequest will give two stanzas of 8 and 5 lengths. Classic or ancient canons allowed to “sum up” vowel length. A short vowel might make one length, a long one — two, not only in elegiac verse.

The poet used her epsilon strictly in places for the letter shape “e”. We can use an inverted lunate, э, deriving it from the shape he in Phoenician, a popular merchant script of the ancient Mediterranean. We do not claim insight into the poet’s mind; we come up with a symbol to relate vowel length generally and the central mid.

There was no vowel reduction in the classics, but we can think about own way, to consider prosody for English as a natural language. The boldface is to highlight the prosodic stress, the chevron or hat ˆ to mark vowels that would be the shortest, in proximity with prosodically prominent positions. We can have them for half-lengths.
8 You left me sweet, two le_gэ_cies, —
5 A le_ˆgэ_cy ˆэf love
8 A Hea_ˆvэn_ly Fa_ˆthэr would con_tent,
5 Had He ˆthэ of_ˆfэr of;

8 You left me baˆund_ˆdэ_rēz of pain
5 ˆCэ_pa_ˆciэs as the sea,
8 Be_tween e_tэr_nı_ty and time,
5 Your con_ˆsciэs_ˆnэss and me.

In the word “boundaries”, the diphthong does not make two vowels, and it can “add up” with the adjacent short length ˆэ. As noted before, we can think about someone who simply likes to talk verses, and not necessarily about pompous presentations for rhymed lines.

Let us now view the “capital letters” in Houghton sample P90-28: the preceding boldface prosodic highlight for the Bequest converges considerably; we do not get prosody marked in print because spoken expression is always, however to an extent — individual.

P90-28 differs from Higginson-Todd in wording: most copies today would present versions never prepared for publication, whereas a special Bee or Ear cannot provide for poetic appeal. Johnson’s overuse of the dash also does not serve the skill well: and how do we even say the clipped ’t?
A precious — mouldering pleasure — ’t is —
To meet an Antique Book —
In just the Dress his Century wore —
A privilege — I think —

His venerable Hand to take —
And warming in our own —
A passage back — or two — to make —
To Times when he — was young —
(In a Library).

Authors for Amherst College say that recovery of the manner the poet worked on language is rather impossible: there is not enough original material.
It is impossible for any transcription of these fragments to capture the important details of how Dickinson originally laid out her poetry on the page.[5]

We need to re-evaluate the fascicles. The letter shape T might prove too narrow an assay, in appreciation of the written samples. Our criterion may include the epsilon, predicate structure, vowel contour, phonemics, person reference in abstract thought, and altogether stylistic coherence.

Not to evolve into a manual for written forgery, let us only try to realize what we would need to approve of, to disregard a criterion the letter shape T is part. We may use a “sample” for Emily Dickinson’s handwritten style, the marker to have run dry: the “sample” is not to cheat; it is to encourage open minds. Hear — I have never met this Teresa, Emily.

There was no way for markers to run dry in Emily Dickinson’s times, as there were no markers. In everyday life, people yet had two important practices: for books to make notes or to copy manually.


The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

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Copybooks were for learners to reproduce written examples. The books might as well be “manufactured” at home, a person able to write to provide the pattern for a child, or a person hard of writing. Following someone’s handwritten style was much more usual those times than it is today.

More, the practice was not new or limited to America. The Philadelphia-published periodical Port folio, volume XVI of 1823, lays out the recommendation for British youths:
The youth should begin to write at a very early age; for the well known reason, that the more early any mechanical operation is begun, the greater dexterity is generally acquired. Till a very considerable improvement has been made, he should be taught to imitate, not the engraved models too often employed, but manuscript copies at the head of his page.[6]

Paper notebooks were sewn for household accountancy, as well as family or personal learning. Most people knew how to make them, pages usually numbered: the numbers can show if any content might have been lost. Only a few of the manuscripts for Emily Dickinson’s poetry would have anything like a page number. With a quantity as more than fifteen hundred pieces, in Johnson’s as well as Franklin’s calculations, it would be natural to have a record where all pages are numbered.

Someone might say, poems are easy to rearrange as loose sheets of paper, for volume beginning or end. Poetry may seem abstract; let us think about recipes. How many people would we have today, to note recipes in a personal book and say you need to follow the page number order to use them? Numbered pages allow other markup for content arrangement; and well, you can have a few books for types of content, if you like.

The fascicles have mostly the poems Dickinson took pains to copy carefully onto folded sheets and gather with string, say the Harvard on the previously referred web page, and the Amherst agree that most pieces are of re-written shapes.

Emily Dickinson would have been the person to have “taken the pains” of rewriting, yet never to have cared to make a regular book and number the pages.

For personal keeping, the rewriting shows strangely hurried. The author herself would have “swapped” words in lines (The Great Storm Is Over):
Then a softness suffuses the story,
And a silence the teller’s eye

Softness and silence become returned to their places with markup (Life V, sample F685). My ■→Google Drive has the samples arranged according to the first print, for ease of comparison. The ■→Resource for the poetry is on this website.

In the Library (Life X, sample P90-10), the author herself would have rewritten the piece with repetitive phrasing, absent from the first print, though it does not tackle even stanza breaks:
On themes concern our mutual mind,
The literature of man

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran…
When Plato was a certainty,
And Sophocles a man.

(The Chrysalis verb agreement is untouched, too.)

Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers would have the same, oddly “mechanical” error, let us compare samples F124 A-D:
Light laughs the breeze in her castle above them

The stanza to follow right next begins as
Grand go the years in the crescent above them

School copybook practice might have been even completely mechanical, yet rewriting own content has always been and will remain different, to a human being employing own handwritten style and semantics.

Here, the author would have rewritten a piece with a suggestion for improvement, but without improving it, and in content where keeping the previous form looks unnecessary — unless we would be to reflect on a lexemic correlation between poems, for which the example in J621 does not make anything much of the case:
I asked no other thing
No other was denied
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant sneered+

Down the page, the plus symbol is rewritten, with the suggestion, +smiled.

Without any suggestion for improvement, If You Were Coming in the Fall might give even a comic effect, yet only if to believe the author herself was unaware of lack of rhyme as combined with lack of reference in context (Love VI, sample J511):
If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls
And put them each in separate Drawers,
For fear the numbers fuse

Higginson and Todd did not surmise such poetic nescience, or the piece is not the first or only to let think they had other, better copies.
If I could see you in a year,
’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

Electricity did not much belong with their lives then — Johnson dated the poem for year 1862. In Boston, the first electric streetcar started up in 1888. In the USA entire, the first to market electricity was the California Electric Company in 1879, within own system for San Francisco. Their commercial generators began work in 1880. The early high voltage weighed about 10 dollars per lamp dusk to dawn, mostly against city coffers. In New York, Thomas Edison opened his public electric supply in 1882, direct current.

■→There is no record for electricity having been installed in the Amherst household within the poet’s lifespan (she died in 1886), and Emily Dickinson Museum exhibits her room with a fuel lamp. Poem components as housewives or drawers suggest a home; J511 would have extrapolation of no evidence in Emily Dickinson’s style, hence my following Higginson and Todd.


It remains the objective reality that fascicles of no page number allow insertion. We would need to ignore this and try — well, visually a kind of carpet for hanging on a wall, and acoustically a thud, as poetic imagery for a woman (F332A):
Sift her, from Brow to Barefoot!
Strain till your last Surmise —
Drop, like a Tapestry, away…
(Surrender, Love V).

To oppose would have been “frivolous” of the man: an idea much unlike Emily Dickinson in the Apotheosis. More, the first print piece does not tell about a man, see the Resource bookmark ■→here.

Fascicle distribution of the epsilon may occasion doubt, too. Different from any of the poet’s imagery as well, The Wind (sample F334A) would expand on a figure-of-speech hand as bodily dust, to spell the word shape “beyond” with the epsilon and then without it, in two consecutive lines.
Inheritance, it is, to us —
Beyond the Art to Earn —
Bεyond the trait to take away…

Prosodic marking would be acquiring the looks of “directions for use”, and the lines are plain 8-by-6 in vowel value.

Suspicion may grow, if we compare the Port folio, page 302.
In public schools, it is probably supposed that he (…) who is destined for a liberal profession, may obtain sufficient skill in the mechanical operations of writing and arithmetic, either before the age the youth are usually admitted into those schools, or by employing the holidays and vacations in these secondary and auxiliary studies.

The questioned fascicle fragment, having alluded to money with the “Art to Earn”, ends as follows:
In some odd fashion
of it’s own —
Some quainter Holiday

The first print has been criticized for stanza shapes, and as a heavy edit on the original poetry. I disagree on the latter and enclose a piece-by-piece ■→Analysis also to continue with the criterion. The first print is not a heavy edit, and wholesale belief in the fascicles — because they were written by hand — does not do the poetry any favor.

I believe my reservations are reasonable, and my resolve is to favor the poet. Editors have done broader jobs, for living and approving authors, than the one required here. There is no way to claim or seek Emily Dickinson’s approval, but this will apply to my edition as well as to any other, whereas edited shape always regards the language standard and the quality of the source material.
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

{stanza break}
His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

{stanza break}
What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran…

The poet’s linguistic endeavor can gain in appeal, if we allow thematic stanzas and adapt the punctuation, only to do what is fair about poetry from private notes: we would not have own unfinished writings for an honest presentation.

Feel welcome to compare my manner with text for the ■→USA Charters of Freedom. The Constitution is a “syntax bonanza”, that is, an exceptionally rich resource. We only cannot have language forms that are hundreds of years aged, to learn modern grammar. More

Poetic punctuation

Higginson-Todd stanzas look focused on proportion, and poetry highlights on delineation of semantic scopes more. Ends of versed lines may work as commas; let us put the lines together and see (Time and Eternity, X):
I died for beauty, but was scarce adjusted in the tomb…

We might get an impression a person was hardly fitting in a coffin, but it is usual to pause a little, when we read the end of the line. We can express this pause with a “default comma”.
…but was scarce, adjusted in the tomb…

Indeed, the poetic person does not have spatial concerns, and soon gets company: dying for beauty was not enough, and you cannot die twice.


Our “default comma” will depend on word sense. We may compare the Success, text transcribed into clauses:
Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar, requires sorest need.

In The Lonely House, if we allow a picture as the Sun might have been capable of opening the door, we allow for the thought something has been stolen from the household:
… Fancy the sunrise left the door ajar!

The first print yet might have “lost” a comma:
Fancy the sunrise, left the door ajar!

We can continue our notes on punctuation with reference to stanzas.

The thematic stanza

The Lonely House does assure that Emily Dickinson was not stereotyped in her written composition (Life, poem XV):
I know some lonely houses off the road
A robber ’d like the look of, —
Wooden barred,
And windows hanging low,
Inviting to
A portico…

The Library yet would show an unfinished stanza shape, in handwritten as well as printed copies. Emily Dickinson’s health condition before death did not let her even title all her poems.
… The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

{stanza break}
He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town…

Stanzas need to be integral bodies of word sense. The Wind encourages a consideration of the stanza as a thematic structure.
Of all the sounds despatched abroad,
There’s not a charge to me
Like that old measure in the boughs,
That phraseless melody
The wind does, working like a hand
Whose fingers brush the sky,
Then quiver down, with tufts of tune
Permitted gods and me.

{stanza break}
When winds go round and round in bands,
And thrum upon the door,
And birds take places overhead,
To bear them orchestra;

The first print uses the comma here. At stanza end, the comma may yet give the impression something is interrupted, fragmented. The semicolon works better in delineating on thematically self-contained structures, and the first print embraces the use, see The Heart Asks Pleasure First, In a Library, or Whether My Bark Went Down at Sea.

The comma may set forth semantic elements that continue to expand. Let us recur to the Success.
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,
As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.

The verse brings a picture of enemy brief and transient victory. To resolve in favor of a unitary layout, I could follow Houghton print image 72S-700.[8] Thomas Niles, the publisher, reportedly admitted in his letter to Emily Dickinson, “you have doubtless perceived [it] was slightly changed in phraseology”.[9] The problem was not so much in the layout, though the poem became divided into stanzas for the first print.

The final verses as in the Masque of Poets would have success defined by a person to experience failure: the enemy takes the flag and the lead character dies hearing shouts of exultation, the distant strains of triumph break, agonizing clear.

Opposite semantics yet never become misnomers in Emily Dickinson’s verses. The first print has the lead character lose the flag, but it is not far away he can hear the enemy defeated:
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear

It was the sake of thematic integrity to make me present the Psalm of the Day as a layout of 4×3 – 6 – 3×3 – 6 lines, whereas the notion of a thematically self-contained structure encouraged the presentation of the Summer’s Armies as 6 – 6×3 lines of text.

Regard to thematic delineation influenced me into shaping the text as two stanzas, for the Transplanted and Death and Life. The train of thought required to join the verses into unitary layouts for the Dawn, Perhaps You’d Like to Buy a Flower, A Train Went through a Burial Gate, and The Bustle in a House.

Word sense indicated to think over the comma for Rouge et Noir, A Service of Song, Love’s Baptism, One Dignity, and The Funeral. The semicolon rather than the comma closes the first stanza in The Grass; the semicolon remains for the fourth, owing to the phrasal development:
And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine;

{stanza break}
And then to dwell in sovereign barns…

In The Outlet, I leave the comma and dash combination:
I’ll fetch thee brooks
From spotted nooks, —
Say, sea, take me!

The comma and dash are to mark a phrasal antecedent or, in simpler words, it is before the comma and dash we tell the grounds or cause, and we offer a consequent or response after. The dash alone expands on thought.

The semicolon holds for the third and fifth stanzas in the Indian Summer, and for the second thematic stanza in the Emancipation. The dot can mark an inner boundary for a train of thought, as it does in the first stanza of Along the Potomac.

I have arranged the stanzas thematically for the Library, In Vain, Resurrection, The Wife, Apotheosis, May-Flower — feel welcome to the ■→Resource for Emily Dickinson’s poetry. My adaptations are only to help perceive the text in its flow.


The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

Electronic format $2.99
E-book | NOOK Book | Kindle
Soft cover, 260 pages, $16.89
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Hard cover, 260 pages, $21.91
Barnes & Noble | Lulu

The Greek and Latin inspiration

It is natural, for a person of a fondness for language, to study it analytically, to detail. Emily Dickinson evidently did learn in such a way.

Not only stanzas or syntax, words have constituents, too. Word particles can be inspiration. Here, Latin and Greek words to have the particle –lus– helped make poetic imagery.

Much madness: Greek alusson, madwort, Farsetia clypeata; alussos, curing madness; alusidotos, wrought in chain;

Exclusion: the Latin divinatio might mean an examination concluded in a secret vote; we can read the divine majority as a personal resolve;

Unreturning: Greek anaplusis, washing or rinsing out; anelusis, going up, return; elusis, step, gait; Latin lenunculus, a small boat, skiff (the toddling little boat);

Have you got a brook in your little heart: Latin rivulus, a small brook, petty stream; galgulus, small bird; aridulus, somewhat dry;

On this long storm: Greek enelusios, struck by lightning;

Playmates: Latin collusor, companion at play; condiscipulus, schoolmate; angelus, a messenger, an angel; lapillus, small stone, pebble; lusus, a game; Greek omelusia, companionship.

Along the Potomac has the morphemic patterning precede a psychological scope. The Latin angellus, double el, could mean an angle of small measure.
To look at her; how slowly
The seasons must have turned
Till bullets clipt an angle,
And he passed quickly round!

The psychological image: … But proud in apparition,
That woman and her boy
Pass back and forth before my brain,
As ever in the sky.

I Asked No Other Thing builds an abstract picture on Latin and Greek particles upo/ypo: cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman; isotypos, shaped alike; synypoptosis, simultaneous presentation to the senses; upopternis, knob (a button that can twirl), and upo, below, looking at a picture (as for 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 today?”

Please try the Perseus language tool for Latin and Greek.
Sample searches:
■→Greek morpheme -lus
■→Greek morpheme -luo
■→Latin morpheme -lus
■→Latin morpheme -luo.


To Antiquity and back

For thousands of years, speech syllables and sounds have been making more than one word, in more than one language. Already ancients had words entire bring more than one sense.

In Latin, the word praesentio did not refer only to presaging; it also meant predictive perception. Praesens meant in sight, present. The shape “preasensus” was the same to imply something or someone predictably present or a a presentiment.

In Emily Dickinson’s Presentiment, the plural shape “suns” may suggest the Proto-Indo-European theory by William Jones.[10] He speculated that European and Far East Indian languages came from one ancestor language. There has never been evidence to this, and words as man, woman, child, or house differ in form between Latin and Greek, as they may between German, French, Polish, or Russian.

To compare just Latin and Greek, we have dissimilar words for the Sun: Sol and Helios. The poem has all nouns in the singular, except the suns; comprehensibly, it would not be much support for the PIE theory. Feel welcome to read:
■→No man, woman, child, or house, with the pie.

The Beclouded word form some one was quite regular in Webster 1828 and translations from ancient classics. Someone was close in sense to “anyone”, any person, and the difference in spelling was to indicate “a type of person”. Today, the context resolves on the meaning.

The poet allowed the word divine classically to indicate senses as psychological or select. In the Exclusion, the soul, to decide on oneself, follows own divine majority; to regard Latin, own secret or inner resolve. Much Madness highlights on the difference between personal and group accord.

Words as divine, heavens or skies, correlate with the Latin cœlum, which meant “out there, where the stars are” or “the highest”, for quality. The odors so divine in The Grass, the clew divine in the Chrysalis, and the divine intoxication in Setting Sail, all refer to exquisite and earthly experiences.

Ancient Roman mythologies had the skies also for “somewhere the souls of the deceased went”. An eagle, aquila in Latin, was a funerary symbol too. In Emily Dickinson’s poetry, the words heaven or skies do not presume on the Last Judgment and salvation; they are closer in sense to “after we die”:
I reason that in heaven
Somehow, it will be even,
Some new equation given;
But what of that?

(Time and Eternity, XXIII).

We can associate some of her predicate forms with ancient Greek philosophers.
Captivity is consciousness,
So’s liberty.


The philosophers organized concepts in categories. We can interpret the lines above as captivity belongs with the category of CONSCIOUSNESS; one is aware whether captive, and it is the same with the state or condition of being free. We can find the logical predication in Aristotle, for example.

English is a non-flexing language. To purport that consciousness is captivity, we would have to follow the regular word order and say literally,
*consciousness is captivity.

On our way back from Antiquity, we may view the poem Mine as enjoyment of a rare book, possibly on Greek writings. The white vote was that of approval in ancient Greece, which in public matters had to be affirmed by officials named the prytaneis. No modern political interpretation for a vote would apply. First “white primaries” were held years after Emily Dickinson’s death in 1886.

Therefore, the royal seal might be an ex libris, or a library stamp to affirm on borrowing. Webster 1828 ■→display page 544 derives delirium from wandering off the furrow, and furrows were counted. Pages for the ex libris, or library book cards, have been usually those without number, at book beginning.

Works of ancient Greeks may come to mind with browsing Webster 1828 for occurences of the word shape grave. The dictionary defines auxesis as a figure by which any thing is magnified too much, and a more grave and magnificent word is put for the proper word. The poetic scarlet prison might mean a library stamp kit, possibly with an ink pad.

For the phrase grave’s repeal, we may refer to the verb to disinter; Webster 1828 explains the sense also was to take out as from a grave, to bring from obscurity into view. The accompanying quote from Addison tells, The philosopher—may be concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred.

The ■→piece-by-piece analysis concludes in two works by Thomas Taylor, A Dissertation on the Philosophy of Aristotle, in Four Books, and Collectanea. They were rare books also in Emily Dickinson’s times. Perpetuity as a notion to embrace recurrent manifestation pervades the poetry, not only for Time and Eternity.

The opening verses for the first print say:
This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me —
The simple news that Nature told
With tender majesty.

The Greek word ■→φυσικός, fysikos, continues to mean natural, as it also did in Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics, the book after Physics.

The poet’s use of Aristotle should not be judged by published translations. Dictionary search for the word shape ἐπιδεικνύουσι, at the beginning of the third chapter of Physics Book 1, will show δείκνυμι for bringing to light, and δεινός as for the timid dwelling of the Surrender. The overcoat of clay from Death is a Dialogue might get along well with the Greek οἷον and οἰονοϊστική, for the same chapter. The poet worked the sense on her own, with the philosopher’s discourse to refute the thesis “All is One”, as in an equation.

I do not want to ruin the pleasure a curious reader might have, and my last spoiler is ■→I Reason, Earth Is Short. Feel welcome to the ■→Lexica: Aristotle and Emily Dickinson have much in common, testing the philosophical against the everyday, and I enclose sample searches to show the correlation; my gist for the Physics and Metaphysics yet remains an independent project,
■→Correlate, Emily Dickinson and Aristotle.

The Resource bookmark ■→here tells about dictionary use in languages of shared etymology. Browsing for language particles is another use, as described above for the Latin and Greek inspiration; it can help understand how morphemes work in another language.

Webster 1828 is available from the Internet Archive; it can be browsed as a download, or via the search field online. Let us see the search results for the word shape “grave”.

■→Webster 1828 Volume I
■→Webster 1828 Volume II

Naturally, dictionary definitions are not the objects of thought they describe; the Surrender yet affirms that a lexicon can be itself companionship of highest quality:
Why, God would be content
With but a fraction of the love
Poured thee without a stint.
… The whole of me, forever… Might…
… Some distant heaven… Dwell timidly with thee.

Emily Dickinson reportedly wrote to Thomas Higginson in 1862, For several years, my lexicon was my only companion.


The supernatural, or God

Beyond doubt, Emily Dickinson used the poetic person, the phrase to be my preference over the lyrical subject. The phrase the poetic person is not the same as a human being; it is as the grammatical person, where we can use personal pronouns for animals or imagination as well, please see A Service of Song, or Liquor Never Brewed.

Her first person pronouns, I or we, depart from material existence in To Fight Aloud Is Very Brave, or Renunciation. Reference to human reality yet does not mean the poet herself in Loves Baptism.

The way to present belief always involves the human being — bodily, psychological, or both — in context with feeling and thinking.

A feeling and thinking entity does not presume on the outcome or result of events, even if mildly humorous about oneself:
For Heaven is a different thing
Conjectured, and waked sudden in
(Rouge Gagne).

We can compare The Butterflys Assumption-Gown, a humorous piece where an association with ■→a priori reckoning may come in parallel with The Chrysalis and its expectation on the world as inclusive of the skies to be made of some fine fabric.

It is own, human thinking to let one take comfort in reading:
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!
(A Book).

It is a human feeling, to want an affection to survive:
Before the judgment-seat of God,
The last and second time
These fleshless lovers met,
A heaven in a gaze,
A heaven of heavens, the privilege
Of one another’s eyes.

It is human feeling and thinking, to associate physical phenomena and emotional response:
There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath…
(Nature, XXXI).

The ordinary, everyday human being remains a factor, even without appearing in the picture: belief in God is a human matter.
It makes no difference abroad,
The seasons fit the same…
(Two Worlds).

We may compare A Service of Song, where a bird, even if complaining about some regular preacher length of sermon, celebrates when humans do.

God or Heavenly Father, the words belong with human notionality, and word senses vary among people, as well as change over time. The Bequest clearly refers to Antiquity. An indefinite Heavenly Father suggests a pre-Christian time, when the notion of one heavenly father figure did not have the prevalence to motivate the definite article of today:
You left me sweet, two legacies, —
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content
Had He the offer of…

By notionality, I mean the human ability to speak, write, as well as think and project, with use of own vocabulary and ideas about living experience, learning, intellect, theory, and imagery; human thinking is not necessarily made of dictionary definitions.

Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers shows that ways to practice and profess belief are matters human and not always wise. The poem is not likely about Christianity. The phrase the members of the resurrection” localizes, regards a specific environment, and Christianity was global already in Emily Dickinson’s times. More, not all people for Christian resurrection have been born even by today, according to the creed as it has long been known.

We may think about ancient Egypt and the ■→Fertile Crescent. The people could not have truly believed the mummified shells of human remains might ever regain living functions. The phrase rafter of satin, and roof of stone, and idea impracticable for builders, looks a metaphor for pretended belief.


Word sense and human living experience

There is a word in Emily Dickinson’s works taken much too neurophysiologically, and the word is pain, a common noun.
You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me…

Borders as above would lack shape, for a somatic reality, and even if one has not had experience with pain whatsoever more serious than an ache from a milk tooth, one knows that people cannot pass on or swap physical sensations. Early in life, we people learn that our bodies are individual.

English language yet has the phrase to take the pains, for conscious effort. This does not have to bring physical, psychological, or any pain at all. We may think about Aristotle and Webster, and the word βαρύμοχθος, toilsome.

The ancient barys could mean heavy, as well as deep or strong: the term worked for mass, length, and intensity or amplification, βαραθρώδης to say abysmal about a sea, and precipitous with regard to a way or path.[11] The phrase bareia prosodia denoted the grave accent, a linguistic feature. Webster 1828 will show the word βαρύς along with the shape grave sometimes. The Greek ἁδύ-λογος was the one who spoke sweetly; ἀ-δύνατος was a term for One motionless Being, disputed by Aristotle.

We may also read today about ancient Greek epigrams, as in the fragmentary codex that Yale University acquired in 1996. It forwards a story of a poet who, having lived “a pound of years” and worked on some toilsome grammar, was going to Hades — to counsel the dead. Kevin Wilkinson interprets the “pound of years” as about 70 years of life by Palladas.[12]

The Mystery of Pain may encourage thinking about language as a cognitive device. Emily Dickinson would have been a precursor with the idea.
Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began…

The pain is not experiential. Without perception on its beginning and source, there is no physical or psychological pain, and human memory gathers on sensory circumstances as the predicament allows. We may note that the English verb to ache does not have the Passive. We do not say *we are ached. In a conjugation chart, the place would be blank. For future forms, we use the infinitive.

To take a cognitive implication: we do not have to learn everything by experience. In particular, making a life painful would not make it meaningful.

The poet was aware in her use of the grammatical articles, a and the. In the poem Real, the phrase I like a look of agony, denies fondness; we would have the look of agony, then: the anguish is homely, the poem is about ordinary dying.
I like a look of agony,
Because I know it’s true;
Men do not sham convulsion,
Nor simulate a throe

The eyes glaze once, and that is death.
Impossible to feign
The beads upon the forehead
By homely anguish strung.

For the verb to like, we may refer to ■→Webster 1828 (II), page 54. It has senses as to liken, quoted after Shakespeare, or to choose, quoted after Locke.

It is cognitively quite challenging, to think about this world without death, to wonder if there would be a person willing to stay on this planet eternally. To expand on the articles, I lost a world (Lost) does not pronounce the end of the world.

The Sea of Sunset shows cognitive individuality in picturing the world. The Yellow Sea is in the Far East. However, it receives a western connotation, since the Yellow River comes to feed the waters of the sea, — as objectively as geographically — from the West.

Human cognitive mapping is anthropocentric only as to take the mapper point of view. Thinking about every human being in the world does not happen every so often, and it could be strange, when the focus is on the local fauna or flora. In the May-Flower, the phrase every human soul refers to everyone in the area.
Next to the robin
In every human soul.

Today as well, a phrase as nobody knows would be likely to tell nobody around knows.

In everyday life as of now too, there might be hardly anything more prosaic than book dusting. Penning verse about the prose of life belongs with genius (pen and paper, let us try). Here, the verses have the poetic person reading, when the time for housekeeping comes. Interrupting an interesting read requires some self-denial, hence the Surrender.

To hold the poem for the author’s affection towards a man (God is a masculine reference),[13] we would purport the poet presumed she was capable of a gender relationship with God.
Why, God would be content
With but a fraction of the love
Poured thee without a stint.

The poetry has no evidence Emily Dickinson harbored such belief. Regarding human relationships and God, there are the poetic pieces Proof and Resurrection.

In the Proof, Christian salvation is the hope for two loving humans to meet after death. In the Resurrection, the poetic person envisions such a meeting in front of a judging God: He is a being different from human.

Among attributes shared with humans, God is in all philosophy or religion an entity of own will and affect; nobody takes pleasing — God or people — for certainty. The language usage of the time had the word shape content also to connote the necessary minimum or just enough: “journalism was content to print little more than the Inaugural Address”, we can learn from The Atlantic about the presidential election of 1800.[14]

Emily Dickinson’s inquiry into polysemy and ambiguity worked around language and word shapes; it did not put human form or identity to doubt. The dim companion hardly could have been a person, and there are no “dim people” in her poetry.

What can get dim with time? — Print. A companion can be a lexicon, handbook, or compendium. The poetic person does not expect own name in a written resource to include a definition for God (the word shape “content” is the same for a book interior). My suspect is ■→Webster 1828, display page 834, entry God. As regards pleasing, whether people or God, a gift of dust could be only incongruous: there never have been such poor sentient beings.

Personality and writing

I have read quite a few texts about writers. Stories differed and their narrators did, pursuits by the human sources usually to influence the picture of a linguistically creative person. People who were not artists allowed more speculation on mentality and comport. Rumor or opinion, even madness or drug use have been ascribed to writing: quite powerful odia.

I am a linguist and a pragmatic. To me, language activity is a normal and ordinary matter; also my bread, per file or word count in translation. It does not need phenomena supernatural, or aberration from norm. Simply to say it, some people like to bake bread, some — to make horseshoes, and some people like to wield words.

On the side of simple facts, Emily Dickinson’s writing is sober. Her imagery is lexical, and the style does not have the prolixity, repetitive phonemics, and anaphora or antecedent misuse we may get with persons who are mentally unstable or substance-dependent. Her creativity has awareness of the poetic person as a device, and employs no linguistic naivete.

Regarding recluse habits, there is a state of focus that solitude and silence encourage. It is especially desirable for language work; absorption with language matter can bring natural, emotional and intellectual rewards. As eremite monks are not suspected, authors as well, do not purpose to offend the world. Detachment is not the same as loneliness, and it does not grant a position beyond people, either:
I reason that in heaven
Somehow, it will be even,
Some new equation given;
But what of that?
(Time and Eternity, XXIII).

Have pleasure: dictionary browsing can help view the poetry as a conscious exploration on linguistic shape and sense. The poet certainly did not expect dictionaries to vanish or change dramatically with time, and she realized the patterning would be perceivable — you do not need to go on top of a mountain, for your language matter; it can be right next to you, on a bookshelf.

Language art can be as garment for the heart, mind, or soul, and Emily Dickinson was talented as well as elegant, in joining linguistic prowess with a simple allure of speech. She wrote in favor of this some one to like to talk verses, rather than a person to seek a pedestal. We can return to this art and natural charm, despite Thomas Johnson’s print.


Resource for Emily Dickinson’s poetry

The epsilon, predicate structure, vowel contour, phonemics, person reference in abstract thought, and altogether stylistic coherence, for manuscripts and print piece-by-piece. ■More

Life | Love | Nature | Time and Eternity


[1] Emily Dickinson, From Fascicle to Open Access. Harvard University Press online, 2019: View ■→screenshot | ■→live page.

[2] McIntosh, Peggy. Hart, Ellen Louise. Emily Dickinson. Georgetown University online, 2019: View ■→screenshot | ■→live page.

Benfey, Christopher. 1999. The Mystery of Emily Dickinson, New York Review of Books online, 2019: View ■→screenshot | ■→live page.

[3] Emily Dickinson Archive online: ■→

[4] Ridley, Jane. 2013. Queen Victoria: the real story of her ‘domestic bliss’. BBC News online, 2015: View ■→screenshot | ■→live page

[5] Collections and Finding Aids, Emily Dickinson at Amherst College. Amherst College online, 2019: View ■→screenshot | ■→live page.

[6] Hall, John (ed). 1823. The Port folio. On writing, arithmetic, and mathematics: pages 302-303. ■→Link to free e-book.

[7] Dickinson, Emily. 1890. Poems. Internet Archive online, 2019: ■→Link.

[8] Houghton 72S-700 – Masque of Poets, Success. View ■→screenshot | ■→Wikimedia live page.

[9] Sewall, Richard B. 2003. The Life of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN ■→0-674-53080-2.

[10] William Jones, a fellow of ■→The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.

[11] ■→Perseus word study tool.

[12] Ast, Rodney. 2014. Kevin W. Wilkinson, New Epigrams of Palladas, Review. Bryn Mawr Classical Review online, BMCR 2014.02.23 on the BMCR blog, 2015: View ■→PDF | ■→live page.

[13] Kornfeld, Susan. 2012. The prowling Bee: Doubt Me! My Dim Companion! The prowling Bee online: View ■→screenshot | ■→live page.

[14] Parton, James. 1873. The Presidential Election of 1800. The Atlantic online:, parton.htm. View ■→screenshot | ■→live page.

A few additional links

Reading from around the times the poet might have had access:
Taylor, Thomas. 1812. ■→A Dissertation on the Philosophy of Aristotle, in Four Books. London: Robert Wilks.
Taylor, Thomas. 1806. ■→Collectanea. London: C. Whittingham.

Feel also welcome to my ■→Lexica. For example, the insertion phrase “sift her” (fascicle J275, Surrender) would misinterpret the philosopher with regard to animate life forms, and the Greek text here is not a controversy in translation, hence my strong suspicion there was someone else involved (■→Physics Book 1).

■→Epigram, Wikipedia
■→Elegiac couplet, Wikipedia
■→Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology, J. W. Mackail
■→Glyph variants for epsilon, Wikipedia

Linguistic realities

■→Poetry in translation: click to read in Polish.

Poetry happens to be translated. It begins to exist in more than one language reality then, and the form is not always logical, as the grammatical gender is able to prove.

Polish is not the only language to have the arbitrary attribution nobody takes for human gender: books or bicycles are not boys or girls, and apples are not a third orientation. You do not think about a tuxedo for the French cahier or a dress for the German Zeitschrift. In Polish, a bee is a she.

In order to avoid “reorienting” the verses “gender-wise”, the translator must go “up the family tree”, which is the Apidae here. For the Apotheosis, I use the Polish bumblebee, grammatically masculine. In the humorous Bee, biological taxonomy will acquire the masculine gender as a cognomen. Two worlds have the Polish male brzmik, because it is separation from his rose to be his misery.

The path also leads “up the family tree” for the bobolink. This local North American name happens to be translated in ways that suggest the Middle or Far East. The Polish rice eater renders the pseudo-Linnaeus label Dolichonyx oryzivorus. In America, bobolinks are known to eat grains and insects.

Dolichonyx is a mixture of Greek and Latin. Dolicho– comes from the Greek dolichos, to mean “long”. The Latin nyx would bring a form as “oblongish”. A construct as oryzivorus might give the animal kingdom a new order, were there no difficulty to prove the existence of ranivora. We have omnivora, carnivora, or herbivora, because animate life forms do not like excess limitation on feeding styles.

The label, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, was created after Linnaeus died. The original Regnum Animale does not have it. Many languages have already adopted the original name, bobolink, please see on ■→Wikispecies, but in translation it would not render the air of the every day that the name bobolink brings locally. Fortunately, bobolinks have a large and international family, Passeriformes. The Polish kin are wróblowe.

Polish everyday life has been given the name egzystencja, often as gray, gloomy, or ordinary. It is rather istnienie to collocate with philosophy, but it suggests human beings in the plural. In order to convey the English plural, existences, one may refer to lifestyle, hence istnienia może i nie jeden styl, in the poem Afraid?

Polish and American differ in wording for body parts. American has fingers and toes. Polish generalizes into specialized parts of limbs, palce, for both hands and feet, hence dłonie in my translation of the poem Dying.

Returning to the grammatical gender, death is masculine in English and feminine in Polish, yet understandably without a gender role, even if personified. Translation can simply adapt the grammatical gender here, as in The Chariot:
Because I could not stop for Death,
She kindly stopped for me…

Polish language reality has many bans and ordinances today, unlike the American. In 1996, the ■→Polish Language Council became the official ■→regulatory body for the language. It announced that the form “wziąść”, corresponding with the English verb to take, is forbidden. The proper form is to be “wziąć”. The verb to take occurs in Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

Professor Jan Miodek derives the form “wziąć” from a “Proto-Slavic” vzęti, but {ę} has not appeared in Russian, Czech, Slovak or actually most Slavic languages. The olden {ę} would have had to be “Proto-Polish” and vanish before the first written record in Polish was made. We can view the Old Polish Day ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai on ■→Wikimedia.

The Lithuanian {ę} coincides with the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, and records for it often combine with those for French influences. Most importantly, to say “wziąć”, means saying [vʹźo̊̃ńć] in practice.

In Polish, to say {ą} before {ć}, that is, a phoneme to be palatal and moreover a voiceless affricate stop, the human tongue as an organ will be prone to make a third speech sound in stressed syllables. This third sound will be either on the palate as well, or on the back of the tongue, {ś} as IPA [t͡ɕ], or [y] as in year. The thing is phonoarticulation.

Let us compare natural Polish phonology for the words piąć, giąć, and siąść. In piąć and giąć, the lettershape “i” brings the speech sound [y]. It does not do this in siąść, and the third sound is {ś}. It prevents velarization, marked in the phonetic script for wziąć here: [vʹźo̊̃ńć]. We would experience the velarization trying to say *siąć as well. It would not be a problem to say siądź, but {dź} remains voiced a bit, though it ends a word.

The thing is not in Polish tongues only, but in the nature of speech organs. This is why Polish forms as wni have evolved via forms as wnijść to forms as wejść, and [vʹźo̊̃ńć] actually does have a cluster of three speech sounds, as the tongue cannot make it otherwise.

The matter is different for “powziąć”, but word stress is on the first syllable here, powziąć. The passive velarity becomes active in stressed syllables. Speech assumes part the features for {k} or {g}, which brings a sounding as through the nose in [vʹźo̊̃ńć], owing to air flow. To avoid this, you need to exert, which results in slow or segmented speech.

“Wziąść” and “powziąć” are the forms by most, if not all well-known Polish writers around Emily Dickinson’s time. It is not true that “wziąść” came from Russians, as they do not have {ś} or {ć}. The poet’s language awareness does not allow insinuation of phonological demerit, and poems Love’s Baptism and From the Chrysalis have the forbidden wziąść in my translation to Polish.


Emily Dickinson’s poetry in Polish, translation by Teresa Pelka

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