The mind thirsts and longs so to know the Beginning: who and what manner of men those were who laid the first foundations of all that is now upon the earth: of what intellectual power, of what degree of civilization, of what race and country. We wonder how the fathers of mankind lived, what habitations they dwelt in, what instruments or tools they employed, what crops they tilled, what garments they wore. We catch eagerly at any traces that may remain of their faiths and beliefs and superstitions; and we fancy, as we gain a clearer insight into them, that we are approaching more nearly to the mysterious Source of all life in the soul.
Yet the contrast is between the heroic faith of Garibaldi and the hesitating, treacherous timidity of the British Government, and not between the instinct of the Italian fils du people and that of the people of England. An angry King Oberon casts a spell on Queen Titania, so that she falls madly in love with Bottom, a weaver who has been given the head of an ass. The last week in December was likely a cold and perhaps dreary time in the Dickinson household. The earliest New England Puritans were not keen on Christmas, which they claimed had no scriptural foundation and was celebrated in Old England by carnival-like activities they found reprehensible.
They outlawed Christmas, but by the mid-eighteenth century, it had become a popular holiday in the US embraced by Congregational Churches as a time for formal observance. The December 27, issue of the Republican reported:. Here at home we see the usual demonstrations on the part of the whole people for a spirited and bona fide celebration of the holiday rites,. After his return, Bowles visited the Homestead, but Dickinson refused to come down and see him, and sent this note instead:.
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Dear friend I cannot see you. You will not less believe me. That you return to us alive, is better than a Summer. And more to hear your voice below, than News of any Bird.
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Because I did not see you, Vinnie and Austin, upbraided me — They did not know I gave my part that they might have the more. The rest of the letter is elliptical and ends on a note of shared suffering and renunciation with these two lines:. Evoking related symbolism in other letters, Dickinson associates winter with death, as in this melo dramatic outburst to the Hollands in November I can't stay any longer in a world of death. Austin is ill of fever.
I buried my garden last week — our man, Dick, lost a little girl through the scarlet fever. I thought perhaps that you were dead, and not knowing the sexton's address, interrogate the daisies. Grasping the proudest zinnia from my purple garden, — then deep to his bosom calling the serf's child! Say, is he everywhere? Where shall I hide my things? Who is alive?
The woods are dead. Is Mrs.
Annie and Katie — are they below, or received to nowhere? And do the seasons gain no grandeur or pathos from that analogy? Patterson suspects Dickinson absorbed these ideas from the writings of John Ruskin , a prominent English art critic, which, in a letter from April of this year , she told Higginson she was reading. Amherst in Winter no date. In several of his works, Ruskin praises northern superiority, which flourishes in the cold and, like the hemlock trees surrounding the Homestead, is strengthened by the deprivations of winter.
Read this week's poems. Credit: Emily Dickinson Museum. I recognize how lucky I am to have had the luxury of spending a year with one poet who so richly deserves and repays our closest attention. To be able to read extensively and deeply in the biographical materials has been essential. Serious news next to the latest in fashion, and in periodicals, now-famous writers published without by-lines. Another absolute revelation was engaging people to reflect on the weekly posts and the range and depth of passion for Dickinson this unearthed. From the amazing 7th graders at the Crossroads Academy in Lyme, New Hampshire, to a poet and translator living and working under life-threatening conditions in Iraq, a translator of Dickinson in Germany wresting with diction choices, scholars and poets, friends and those who volunteered to respond whom I had not even met—Dickinson continues to be a comfort and confidante to so many readers around the world and across time.
But then, this project reinforced for me the folly of getting too hung up on dates and dating. Open up meanings rather than close them down. Bring a humility to our reading of the poetry—. But as the Crossroaders titled their thank you note to me:.
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Though fun, it was not always an easy year and I was sometimes daunted by how the research and writing on a weekly basis expanded to fit the time. Without thinking, I replied: Every week there is a surprise, sometimes many surprises, which sometimes, for me ——a Dickinson dilettante——rose to the level of a discovery. A few other take-aways I would pass on: The letters. And perhaps they require a different, and new methodology of textual reading. But read them we should be doing on a par with the poetry.
Speaker and Gender. I loved the group of poems we found where Dickinson speaks not just in a masculine voice, but as a boy —a very particularly gendered and located voice. This is an area that needs so much more work and innovative thought. The World. Finally, the extent and richness of the world Dickinson occupied and evoked.
Reading in the Springfield Republican for July about the discovery of the Swift-Tuttle comet , I wondered if I could find poems that might touch on that event and was amazed to find a whole cluster of poems on Astronomy. But this is not the end. Or rather, as Peter Schumann, founder of Bread and Puppet Theater and a big fan of Dickinson, implies in his calendar for December: in ending are beginnings. We will probably run the blog again this coming year, so if you have missed any posts, you will be able to catch up.
And look for White Heat in another guise in the coming year.
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It has been an honor to share this project with you. Profoundest thanks to my students who worked to make this dream a reality, to my web designer and other tech wizards who lent their expertise, to my family who put up with my incessant monologues on things Dickinsonian, and to all the users, participants and fans who dared to "see a soul at the White Heat. Sources Overview Folsom, L. Biography Emerson, Ralph Waldo.
Complete Works. Patterson, Rebecca.
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, , , On Monday, December 10th, we journeyed down the Connecticut River Valley in a large yellow school bus with Steve Glazer and his 7th grade class from Crossroads Academy. Dickinson Day! He was surprised and impressed when he held up the manuscript of a poem, announced its first line and, as if on cue, the entire class recited the poem with one voice. West Cemetery with Crossroads 7th graders. The march to Richmond by any of Fredericksburg has begun and ended. Our army is in camp again on the north side of the Rappahannock, but weaker by the loss of fifteen thousand men and by the consciousness that it has failed in one of its greatest efforts.
The most indispensable qualities for this medium are, that it should be simple, uniform, and of undoubted value.
The local paper currencies of the United States have not these qualities. But the theoretical difficulties have very little reality to them. They are chiefly got up by those ingenious amateurs in state craft who think in some way to circumvent the stubborn facts of the situation and get rid of the hard necessity of fighting down the rebellion. The territorial lines, the constitutions and laws of the states in rebellion still exist. South Carolina is still a state, and her state officers elected legally are her rightful state authorities.
Magic in a Certain Slant of Light
The act of secession is null and void, and all the acts connected with it—if we can make it so by success in the war. While seeking to master material forces, they have well-nigh mastered us, leading us to rest content with physical facts, instead of regarding them as the lowest and coarsest forms of subtle spiritual truth. We have lost the reverent faith of childhood; we are like raw schoolboys, who, knowing a little, fancy they know all.
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Strange Horizons - Magic in a Certain Slant of Light By Deborah Coates
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