Emily Dickinson's famous love poetry is characterised by her unique individuality.
The famous love poetry of Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886), born in Amherst, Massachusetts, is characterised by a unique individuality that devised verses in short intense and mostly unrhymed lyrics. Skillfully employing words that sounded alike, to create an illusion of rhyme, the resultant assonance broke away from traditional forms of writing poetry.
If anything, rather than detract, this poetic style exhibited intense energy and a complexity never seen before and rarely seen today. Her poetry has been described as comprising odd images and eccentric rhyming whilst having the abillity to penetrate the human soul and mind with infinite insight.
Her life, in keeping with her inimitable idiosyncratic stylizations, can be considered strange and eccentric when measured against the yardstick of societal mores and conventions.
After an apparently normal childhood and adolescent years spent in the best schools of her age, for reasons that remain a riddle to this day (and for which speculation continues to be rife), Dickinson withdrew into a life of seclusion that abhored almost all human contact save her immediate family.
She hardly ever left her home, and after 1865 when she visited a doctor in Boston for some eye troubles, she never again left the bounds of the family property.
Poetry, letters, baking and tending the family garden became her sole occupation till she died in 1886.
In her later years she often refused to see visitors that came to her home, and reports have it that she would only talk to them behind a door, or shout to them from upstairs. Yet, she maintained correspondences with prominent journalists, editors and writers of the time, and in this way, she met and conversed with two men who had a profound influence on her life, Thomas Wenthworth Higginson and Judge Otis P. Lord of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
When we consider the setting of Emily Dickenson's famous love poetry, there are some features that are inescapable:
1. In her lifetime, only six or seven of her poems were published, and these were without her consent. It was only after she passed on that the full extent of her ouevre was discovered. Estimates of over 1700 poems from her are widely accepted today.
2. Her famous love poetry were typically short (not more than 30 lines), and she can be called a miniaturist where content is considered, but what each poem lacked in size, it more than made up for in sheer quality and numbers.
3. By the late 1850's she began sewing sheets of her written poetry into small booklets or packets called fascicles. She was reported to have written a total of 366 poems in 1862, approximately one a day!
Much has been made of her development as a free thinker, after she developed into and practised the philosophy of non conformity, which movement gained ground in America from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau whose accent on individualism shook up the New England intelligensia.
For Dickinson, growing up in Massachusetts which was the epicenter of Christian religious practise and the homestead of the puritans, the new transcendental movement was like water on parched ground.
She rebelled against the Christianity her family had adopted and rejected the Church. For her, a set religion was not the way to salvation:
"Some keep the sabbath going to Church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolike for a chorister,
With an orchard for a dome"
These strong views on religion and the Church have in my opinion led critics and reviewers over the years to conclude erroneously that Emily Dickinson did not believe in the existence of Almighty God or a Supreme Deity.
Surely this constitutes too narrow a prism to make such an assertion with any degree of conviction or veracity. Can we really conclude that rejection of formalised religion with its creeds and dogma is tantamount to denying the existence of The Creator? I think not, and the evidence of Dickinson's life and works bears me out.
Her life and work itself, one submits, point to the very opposite of this assertion. Records abound of her love for humanity and humaneness, and as we will shortly see, her famous love poetry indicate a firm belief in a core spirituality and religiousness of a type which maybe does not lend itself easily to mundane categorisation, but which nonetheless shines through brilliantly as a core conviction for her.
She wrote famous love poetry whose themes and subjects were profound: death, the afterlife, love, humanity's relation to The Godhead and nature. In fact by exploring nature, it seems she drew nearer to her maker, recognising His Greatness through this medium than many of those who were quick to deny her this knowledge because of her insistence on an individual recognition.
Let us enjoy a selection of ten famous love poetry from the Belle of Amherst, Poetess Emily Dickinson. The first is Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Wild Nights! - Wild Nights!
by Emily Elizabeth Dickinson
Wild nights--wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port--
one with the compass,
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden--
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor, tonight,
Most of Dickinson's famous love poetry ellicite great divergence in critical opinion, and none more so than Wild Nights! - Wild Nights!. The poem has a lot of ambiguities and complexities embedded in it, but because it dazzles the senses due to its arresting images and powerful passions, one might be tempted to pass it off as just a sensual delight. Either way, trite or deep, it holds delights for the reader.
Here are two more delightful vignettes that exhibit her art of famous love poetry:
It's Such a Little Thing
It's such a little thing to weep,
So short a thing to sigh;
And yet by trades the size of these
We men and women die!
I Should Not Dare
I should not dare to leave my friend,
Because if he should die
While I was gone and I -too late,
If I should disappoint the eyes
That hunted, hunted so, to see
And could not bear to shut until
He noticed me, -he noticed me,
If I should stab the patient faith
So sure I’d come -so sure I’d come
It listening, listening went to sleep
Reciting my tardy name.
My heart would wish it broke before
Since breaking then, since breaking then,
Is useless as next morning’s sun
To erase a midnight’s tear.
This brings us to the end of the first part of Emily Dickinson's famous love poetry. If you would like to see more of her work, please follow the links:
Emily Dickinson 2
Famous Love Poetry Examples 1
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