EMILY DICKINSON –
The Misanthropic Poet
Emily Dickinson’s life as that of a recluse who maintained little contact with people and the outside world is reflected in her work as a poet.
This main point can be illustrated in one of her most famous poems, “This Is My Letter to the World/That Never Wrote to Me.” Consisting of 8 lines, the stanza is most revealing in that she was resentful of society for not reacting to her poems while she was alive. The first line clearly shows that she looked forward to the day when the world would read her poetry. Furthermore, it exemplifies the lifestyle of one who did not have much contact with society at large.
As opposed to this deeply felt resentment toward her fellow humans, Emily Dickinson had adoration for nature. It was her deepest belief that nature was more caring for it’s own than that of humans toward their fellow kind. This is manifested in poem #164, “Mama Never Forgets Her Birds.” It would be less than prudent for the reader to view this poem as a work of condemnation toward Emily Dickinson’s mother. Closer analysis provides ample evident that Emily implied Mother Nature takes care of its own and that humankind does not. This is supportive evidence that Emily Dickinson finds nature not only more caring but more faithful than humans are toward one another.
A prime example to reinforce this fact is her poem, “Lost Faith” (#36). Composed of two stanzas of four lines each, Emily details the woe of any person who has lost faith. The first two lines state, “To lose one’s faith surpasses/the loss of an estate.” Faith, for all practical purposes, is not a tangible thing, but something that is contained within the soul, and therefore, priceless. The last two lines of the first stanza expresses the fact that estates can be bought but faith, once lost, can never be restored to its previous state.
Emily also had a strong inclination toward metaphysical thought and expresses it throughout her work. This passion for spiritual coherence through poetry is intoxicating in all manners and what she is best known for as a poet. Not only were her thematic approaches love, nature, and beauty, but also of death and immortality. Death is where the reader finds Emily Dickinson most intense and emotionally charged.
One poem that comes to mind and will not allow one to deny the feeling of tension rippling through each metered word is “I Felt A Funeral/In My Brain.” In stanza one and two Emily repeats certain words to accentuate the tension of the moment. The following stanzas are reproduced below to show just how she did this:
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 Drum-
Kept beating-beating-till I thought
My Mind was going numb-
Of course, the poem is about the gallows and what better way to place the reader within the lonely shoes of one sentenced to hang than by having the reader live it within the written word.
In her poem, “This World is Not Conclusion,” the reader finds that Emily is directly alluding to the unknowable state of death. Here we find her describing death as a prelude to post mortem life: although we cannot see those who exist after death we can be moved by their afterlife presence (Line 3: “Invisible, as Music—“).
A fascinating aspect about Emily Dickinson’s lifestyle is her worldly view of our age and the fact she did very little traveling. Most people would be hard pressed to describe places and events (real or fictional) without a frame of reference in which to draw upon. Such is not the case with Dickinson. She attempts to express her knack for this talent through the verses of her poem, “I Never Saw A Moor.” In stanza one, we find that she has never seen the sea but knows what a wave is. Stanza two expresses her faith in a spiritual entity (God) – one she has never seen or visited. A closer analysis of stanza 1 reveals an expression of faithful belief in unseen geographical locations while stanza 2 draws us entirely into her conviction that the same faithful belief is intact concerning a spiritual world and entity.
Of course, no one has the capability to traverse the spiritual realm in physical state – Dickinson was a temporal traveler and a very astute one at that. I propose that Dickinson has visited these places, specifically, those she has penned within her works. No other answer can adequately explain the clarity of her descriptive verse.
Solitary life did not restrict Dickinson’s experiences – her almost insatiable hunger for reading provided the fuel to ignite the catalyst (her mind).
Although it has been many years since Emily Dickinson’s passing we can all know who she is – even hear her unique and lovely voice. A visit to the library or web site will allow any and all to explore her works and thus discover who this incredibly complex person was. Such an endeavor will allow the reader to get an inside picture of her views, beliefs, and lifestyle.
To read Emily Dickinson’s poetry is to know Emily Dickinson…”