We may ask ourselves a simple question: do we believe Emily Dickinson tried to tell about very exceptional Ears, Bees, or Birds, so peculiar that you write them with capital letters?
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Emily Dickinson’s poetry in the extent of the first print, along with poetry by Carl Sandburg, is predicted for 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 bring 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. 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.
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: 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.
For most of the pieces, the poet never prepared them for print, and all book formats today are editions that compare somewhere between the first draft and the Declaration of Independence as published, in text refinement. There is always a simple question: do we believe Emily Dickinson tried to tell about Ears, Bees, 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, 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 an autograph in pencil, a piece written by Emily Dickinson: if she used such big letters, there had to be a reason. Image contrast is enhanced.
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 copy of the Renunciation published by Little, Brown and Company in 1891, and the Edεn of the Wild Nights (Houghton Fr269), 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.
Emily Dickinson’s 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?
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today…
(Life, poem I, Success, Johnson’s edition).
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, and this 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.
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 sometimes senility, handwriting hardly would just change.
F124B looks closer to a fair copy than F124C, and Emily Dickinson’s letter shape T grew 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.
A person of regular vision might experience a similar change in own handwritten style. The alternate character T, bar shifted to the right, surfaces also in 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 might imply the “loving” person enjoyed the death of the “loved” one (hence the quotation marks), and the poem, though ironic, does not support any such inference.
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. 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 marks 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 boldface prosodic highlight above converges considerably; we do not get poetry marked for prosody in print because spoken expression is always, however to an extent — individual.
P90-28 differs from Higginson-Todd in wording: most prints 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 right: and how do we even say the clipped ’t?
A precious — mouldering pleasure — ’tis —
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.
We need to reevaluate the fascicles. The letter shape T might prove too strict an assay, in appreciation of the written samples. Our criterion may embrace a few other characteristics to include the epsilon, along with the poet’s manner to develop and express thought.
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 styles.
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.
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. Not even one of the fascicles for Emily Dickinson’s poetry would have page numbers. For a quantity as more than a thousand pieces, in Johnson’s as well as Franklin’s calculation, it would be natural to have a record with the pages numbered.
Poems are easy to rearrange as loose sheets of paper, someone might say. 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 present mostly the poems Dickinson took pains to copy carefully onto folded sheets and gather with string, say the Harvard on the previously quoted web page, and the Amherst agree that most pieces are of rewritten 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. Feel welcome to see the Resource for Emily Dickinson’s poetry on this website.
In the Library (Life X, sample P9010), the author herself would have rewritten the piece with repetitive phrasing:
On themes concern our mutual mind,
The literature of man —
Safe in their Alabaster Chambers would have the same, oddly “mechanical” error, compare samples F124AD:
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.
The author would have rewritten pieces with suggestions for improvement, yet without improving them, and in contexts where keeping previous forms is unnecessary (unless we would be to reflect on a lexemic correlation between individual poems, which does not look the case here). Sample J621:
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 reality (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 —
That was justifiably not suspected by Higginson and Todd, where we can really get to think they had other, better copies.
If I could see you in a year,
I’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 1862. In Boston, the first electric street car 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 presents her room with an oil lamp. Poem components as housewives or drawers suggest a home; J511 would have extrapolation of no evidence in the 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…
To oppose would have been “frivolous” of the man (Surrender, Love V): an idea much unlike Emily Dickinson in the Apotheosis; more, the first print piece tells about a book, not a man.
Fascicle distribution of the epsilon happens to be unlike her, as well. The Secret (Life XIV, P90-14) has the epsilon only in the word shape “εxpound”, not an extraordinary word to the author herself. Different from any other imagery by Emily Dickinson, The Wind (sample F334A) would elaborate a figure-of-speech hand into bodily dust, to spell the word shape beyond without the epsilon as well as with it, in two directly 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 verse is a plain 8-by-6 vowel value. The 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 does end 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. 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. Sometimes, an editor needs to do the job.
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.
His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;
What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty,
And Sophocles a man;
When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
The poet’s language performance can gain in appeal, if we allow a thematic stanza and adapt the punctuation, to do what is only fair about poetry printed from private notes.
Feel welcome to compare my manner with text
USA Charters of Freedom,
American English as today, Google Sites mobile-friendly, Creative Commons.
The Higginson-Todd stanza looks focused on proportion, and poetry highlights on delineation of semantic scopes more. Ends of versed lines may work as commas, which we can see putting the lines together (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, suspicion that the Sun might have been capable of opening the door would 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 along with reference to the thematic stanza.
The thematic stanza
The Lonely House proves 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, —
And windows hanging low,
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,
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.
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 marks 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 today
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 a Houghton print image, 72S-700.
Thomas Niles, the publisher, reportedly admitted in his letter to Emily Dickinson, “you have doubtless perceived [it] was slightly changed in phraseology”. The problem was not in the layout.
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 becomes misnomers, in Emily Dickinson’s writing. 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 (Higginson-Todd).
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 consider 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;
And then to dwell in sovereign barns…
I leave the comma and dash combination in The Outlet. The locutionary intent in the last line is built on these directly to precede it:
I’ll fetch thee brooks
From spotted nooks, —
Say, sea, take me!
We could say the comma and dash mark a phrasal antecedent or, in simpler words, that the sense of making an offer depends on what there is offered.
The dot can mark an inner boundary for a train of thought, as in the first stanza of Along the Potomac. The semicolon holds for the third and fifth stanzas in the Indian Summer, and for the second thematic stanza in the Emancipation.
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 Greek and Latin inspiration
It is natural, for a person of a fondness for language, to study it to detail. Emily Dickinson evidently did such a study.
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 is divinest sense: Greek alusson, madwort, Farsetia clypeata; alussos, curing madness; alusidotos, wrought in chain.
- Exclusion: the Latin divinatio might also 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 sailing vessel, bark, 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
- 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,
Along the Potomac has the morphemic patterning precede a psychological presentation. 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!
… 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 particles upo/ypo, Latin cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman; Greek 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?”
To Antiquity and back
For thousands of years, language particles have been able to make more than one word, in more than one language. Already ancients viewed words entire as capable of more than one sense.
In Latin, the word praesentio did not refer only to presaging; it also meant a predictive perception. Praesens meant in sight, present. The word shape preasensus was the same for someone predictably present or something as a presentiment.
In Emily Dickinson’s Presentiment, the plural form “suns” may suggest the Proto-Indo-European theory by William Jones. 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.
The Beclouded word shape some one was quite regular in Webster 1828 and translations of Latin classics, as Cicero. The difference in spelling was to mean “some indicated person”, and someone remained close with “anyone”. 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 or, to regard ancient Latin, own secret or inner resolve. Much Madness highlights 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).
Some of her predicate forms may bring associations with ancient Greek philosophers.
Captivity is consciousness,
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.
On our way back from Antiquity, we may view the poem Mine as poetic 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 in ploughing. 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 occurrences 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 thus 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.
Additional links here have A Dissertation on the Philosophy of Aristotle, in Four Books, by Thomas Taylor, a rare book those times. Perpetuity as a notion also to embrace recurrent manifestation pervades the poetry, not only for Time and Eternity. The note is yet just a suggestion, as I do not endeavor to recover Emily Dickinson’s reading list.
Webster 1828 is available from the Internet Archive; it can be downloaded or browsed via the search field online. Browsing may prove interesting for other poems too, as The Chariot or Bequest.
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…
… Some distant heaven…
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 linguistically as the grammatical person, where we can use personal pronouns for animals or things as well, please see A Service of Song, or I Taste a 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 material and human reality yet does not mean the poet herself in Love’s Baptism.
The poet’s 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 Butterfly’s Assumption-Gown, a humorous piece where an association with a priori reckoning may come in parallel with The Chrysalis.
It is thinking to let a human being 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. (Resurrection).
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.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are (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 may 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, by use of own word senses 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 could be only incongruous, for a physical sensation. Even if one has not had experience with pain whatsoever more serious than an ache from a milk tooth, one knows 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. For an association, we may think about Aristotle’s Physics as well, and the word barymohthos, toilsome.
The ancient word barys could mean heavy, as well as deep or strong: the term worked for mass, length, and intensity or amplification, barathrodes to mean abysmal with reference to a sea, and precipitous with regard to a way or path. The phrase bareia prosodia meant the grave accent, a linguistic feature. We are going to come across these terms, if we browse Webster 1828, as noted before, for occurrences of the word shape grave.
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.
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, or if there were
A day when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
The pain is not experiential. Without perception on its beginning and source, there is no physical or psychological pain, and human memory always gathers on sensory circumstances as the predicament allows. Regarding language paradigms, 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. To make a future form with the verb, 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. The phrase I like a look of agony, in Real, 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, as the Yellow River comes to feed the waters of the sea, — just 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.
In everyday life, 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), we would purport the poet presumed she had a potential for a 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: God 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 use of the time had the word shape content also to connote the necessary minimum: “journalism was content to print little more than the Inaugural Address”, we can learn from The Atlantic about the presidential election of 1800.
Overall, Emily Dickinson’s exploration on word shape would work around polysemy and ambiguity. Importantly, there are no “dim people” in her poetry, and the dim companion probably is not a person.
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 people, a gift of dust could be only incongruous: there never have been such poor people.
Personality and writing
I have read quite a few analyses about writers. The analyses differed as their authors did, and commentator’s own activity usually influenced his or her picture of a linguistically creative person. People who were not authors allowed more speculation on mentality and comport. Rumor or opinion, even madness or drug use have been ascribed to writing: quite powerful odiums.
I am a linguist and a pragmatic. To me, linguistic 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 writing has awareness of the poetic person as a device, and employs no linguistic naivete.
Regarding her 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. Solitude does not have to mean loneliness, and it cannot be a stand 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. Talented in joining linguistic prowess with a simple allure of speech, Emily Dickinson wrote pieces to favor this “some one” to like to talk verses, rather than a person to seek a pedestal. We can return to this natural charm despite Thomas Johnson’s print.
 William Jones, a fellow of The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.
 A few additional links
Reading from around the times the poet might have had access:
Things perpetual, — these are not in time, but in eternity, which abides in one.
Taylor, Thomas. 1812. A Dissertation on the Philosophy of Aristotle, in Four Books. London: Robert Wilks.
For Aristotle, feel also welcome to my Thinktionary. The inserted phrase “sift her” would misinterpret Aristotle with regard to animate life forms, for example.