Dec. 10, 2002

258 There's a certain Slant of light,

by Emily Dickinson

342 It will be Summer -- eventually.

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "There's a certain Slant of light," and "It will be Summer -- eventually," by Emily Dickinson.

There's a certain Slant of light

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons --
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes --

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are --

None may teach it -- Any --
'Tis the Seal Despair --
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air --

When it comes, the Landscape listens --
Shadows -- hold their breath --
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death --

It will be Summer -- eventually

It will be Summer -- eventually.
Ladies -- with parasols --
Sauntering Gentlemen -- with Canes --
And little Girls-with Dolls --

Will tint the pallid landscape --
As 'twere a bright Bouquet --
Tho' drifted deep, in Parian --
The Village lies -- today --

The Lilacs -- bending many a year --
Will sway with purple load --
The Bees -- will not despise the tune --
Their Forefathers -- have hummed --

The Wild Rose -- redden in the Bog --
The Aster -- on the Hill
Her everlasting fashion -- set --
And Covenant Gentians -- frill --

Till Summer folds her miracle --
As Woman -- do -- their Gown --
Or Priests -- adjust the Symbols --
When Sacrament -- is done --

It's the birthday of the poet Emily Dickinson, born in Amherst, Massachusetts (1830). Emily was a bright and curious girl. She loved plants and would pass the time with her best friend Abby Wood in a small playhouse in the garden. Her extended family was plagued with illness-many of her relatives had already died of consumption at young ages. Emily played the piano, preferring the sounds of upbeat music to those of church hymns. Her father, who had been the valedictorian at Yale, discouraged her from reading the "light" books she enjoyed so much. When her father was elected to the State Senate, Emily's family moved back into their family's large mansion (from a smaller home that they'd moved to during a financial struggle a few years earlier). Her mother fell into a deep depression shortly after the move, and Emily was forced to care for her mother full time. She began to exclude herself from Amherst social life, and eventually became a total recluse in her home over the next three decades until her death. From 1858 to 1866, she wrote about 1,000 poems, and over 1,700 in her lifetime. Emily's first published poem was at age 22 when she sent a mock valentine to someone, and it eventually landed in the hands of Dr. Josiah Holland, who printed it. Only about 10 of her poems were published during her lifetime, none with her consent. Shortly after her death in 1886, her sister, Lavinia, discovered two large bundles in Emily's closet, each tied up with string. One was full of letters, and the other of poems. They were marked by Emily with a note to be burned and unread. Lavinia burned the bundle of letters but could not bring herself to burn the poems. In all, about 1,775 poems or fragments were recovered from Emily's room and later published.

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