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Emily on the Hurricane

Emily DickinsonYes, that’s Emily Dickinson on the left.  She was born in December, 1830, and died in May, 1886, having led a rather enclosed and secluded life in Amherst, Massachusetts. To read about her is to feel sorry for her, but we have such scant evidence of her life beyond her poems that we might be mistaken. She had deep friendships and a peppery sense of humor, so maybe she wasn’t utterly sad or solemn. She once wrote of her father, saying “He buys me many books, but begs me not to read them, because he fears they joggle the mind.”  And of her family she wrote, “They are religious, except me, and address an eclipse, every morning, whom they call their ‘father’.” As for the image here, you had to remain perfectly still for several moments when sitting for a daguerreotype photo, such as this one, so she looks stiffer and more formally composed than she actually was. And she favored white garments, not the dark shade of whatever color the photo registers as plain black. Of her eyes, she once wrote that they were “like the sherry the guest leaves in the glass.”  Now, the reason she’s on this page is because she wrote a poem about a hurricane, and as we have a huge one eating up the North-East Coast and moving inland today — it will reach Amherst — we thought we’d post her verse here today.

There came a Wind like a Bugle —
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost —
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
That very instant passed —
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived — that Day —
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told —
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

 

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.