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28 June 2011

There is a morn by men unseen—

There is a morn by men unseen—
Whose maids upon remoter green
Keep their Seraphic May—
And all day long, with dance and game,
And gambol I may never name—
Employ their holiday.

Here to light measure, move the feet
Which walk no more the village street—
Nor by the wood are found—
Here are the birds that sought the sun
When last year's distaff idle hung
And summer's brows were bound.

Ne'er saw I such a wondrous scene—
Ne'er such a ring on such a green—
Nor so serene array—
As if the stars some summer night
Should swing their cups of Chrysolite—
And revel till the day—

Like thee to dance—like thee to sing—
People upon the mystic green—
I ask, each new May Morn.
I wait thy far, fantastic bells—

Announcing me in other dells –
Unto the different dawn! 

                                                                     - F 13 (1858)


This seems like a light fantasy of Paradise--maids dancing and playing in eternal May. The grassy grounds are perfect and the games are accompanied by birds who fled where summer goes. Dickinson seems sure of herself--"There is a morn by men unseen" she declares and then describes the idyllic scene confidently. This is where maids keep their innocence (except for the 'gambol I may never name' -- which sounds bewitchingly naughty), the tired villagers once more walk with light step, and the birds once again find warm sun.
     But in the last stanza there is suddenly another presence--one who dances and sings--and revels like the Chrysolite-swilling stars (chrysolite is a golden-yellow peridot gem). The poet waits for that someone's 'far - fantastic bells' to ring on her own demise, announcing her into 'other dells' and different dawns.
     Perhaps this someone is the childhood girlfriend lost to Dickinson when she was but a young maid herself. It is pleasant to think that ones friends are gamboling on a gorgeous lawn. But the ending is surprisingly sad: May Day is supposed to be happy and yet the poet waits for death -- or at least for transformation into some frolicking version of paradise. 
     The rhyme and measure are straightforward and conventional: 6-line stanzas with pairs of tetrameter interrupted by a third and sixth line of trimeter. It's a small variation on hymn or ballad verse, adding two extra lines to the standard four. The rhyme scheme is AABCCB. 
    I do like a few of the images: summer's bound brows, the stars swinging their cups of Chrysolite, and the fun meter of the dancing feet that begins the second stanza: "Here to light measure, move the feet"-- which I scan as a dactyl followed by a trochee and an amphimacer (long - short - long). It is indeed 'light measure'.  

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Susan. I appreciate and enjoy your commentary.

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    1. Thanks! I re-read the commentary and that made me realize I'd omitted a line in the poem ("Announcing me in other dells –"). So special thanks!

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