By Joan Kirkby (auth.)
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Additional resources for Emily Dickinson
I meant to have but modest needs Such as Content - and Heaven Within my income - these could lie And Life and I - keep even But since the last - included both It would suffice my Prayer But just for One - to stipulate And Grace would grant the Pair And so - upon this wise - I prayed Great Spirit - Give to me A Heaven not so large as Yours, But large enough - for me A Smile suffused Jehovah's faceThe Cherubim - withdrew Grave Saints stole out to look at me And showed their dimples - too I left the Place, with all my might I threw my Prayer away The Quiet Ages picked it up And Judgment - twinkled - tooThat one so honest - be extant It take the Tale for true - THE POETRY OF 'AS IF' 45 That "Whatsoever Ye shall ask Itself be given You" But I, grown shrewder - scan the Skies With a suspicious Air As Children - swindled for the first All Swindlers - be - infer Characteristically, Dickinson's speaker asks large ('Perhaps I asked too large - / I take - no less than skies' asserts the speaker in Poem 352).
This speaker also experiences life without content; it is a dangerous moment; if survived it will bring expanse, if not - 'but that is Death, whose if is everlasting' (PF 49). I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, And Mourners to and fro Kept treading - treading - till it seemed That Sense was breaking through And when they all were seated, A Service, like a DrumKept beating - beating - till I thought My Mind was going numb And then I heard them lift a Box And creak across my Soul 34 EMILY DICKINSON With those same Boots of Lead, again, Then Space - began to toll, As all the Heavens were a Bell, And being, but an Ear, And I, and Silence, some strange Race Wrecked, solitary, here And And And And then a Plank in Reason, broke, I dropped down, and downhit a World, at every plunge, Finished knowing - then - (280) The first stanzas describe what might be a migraine of epic proportions.
Unknowing' has begun. In this fall from meaning the speaker experiences the awe of being unable to signify, unable to find words to fit experience. In such moments the burden of language is lifted and there is an influx of power: 'All things swept sole away/ This - is immensity - ' (1512). Much of the poetry precipitates just such a fall from meaning and restores the sense of the abyss that language has domesticated. Dickinson's poems constantly remind us of the fragility of our worded world. Daily life rests upon the articulation of a significant and coherent world, but Dickinson reminds us that this articulation is but a plank over the abyss I stepped from Plank to Plank A slow and cautious way The Stars about my Head I felt About my Feet the Sea.
Emily Dickinson by Joan Kirkby (auth.)