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19 July 2011

The morns are meeker than they were—

The morns are meeker than they were—
The nuts are getting brown—
The berry's cheek is plumper—
The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf—
The field a scarlet gown—
Lest I should be old fashioned
I'll put a trinket on. 
                                                                - F 32 (1858)

Dickinson's world is very alive: the woods and fields and gardens she loved are depicted as living neighborhoods, full of character and intent. Each season brings its cast of characters and drama.
     Here the poet gives us a charming, witty – and feminine – sketch of autumn. Dawn is a bit tardy now and without the warm exuberance of a summer morning. Nuts, like children in the sun too long,  are turning brown;  berries are filling out and gaining some color, like girls on the cusp of maidenhood. The rose, that elegant snowbird, has absented herself for the duration, while Maple puts on a brave show, decking herself out with brilliant yellow, orange, and red – a much more spectacular display than her simple summer green. The field assembles her gown with fallen maple, sumac and juneberry leaves. 
     The poet wants to join in, so will put on a 'trinket' – a meek sort of jewelry in keeping with the meeker morns. 

     Helen Vendler, commenting on a selection of Dickinson poems, says we see the poet here out for a morning walk. She starts at home noticing the morning, then glances up at the nut trees and down at the berry vines of her own woods, then ventures out to the fields. Vendler also notes that the absence of the Rose belies the gay apparel and plump cheeks of the remaining residents. As Rose is always linked with its anagram, Eros, Vendler concludes that the poem is not only is a playful depiction of autumn but an admission of loss.

At any rate, it's a wonderfully female world. I like that for while Spring is usually linked to feminine procreation and blossoming, I tend to think of Autumn as male. It is a brooding time; harvest always leaves behind empty vines. It is "mankind" who harvests Mother Nature's bounty, and this provides a rather masculine stance. But Dickinson goes all in for Autumn femaleness here. The only male presence are the brown nuts , and they are neatly paired with the plumping berries. Who knows – the Rose might have retired herself more out of propriety than dislike of the cold. Since she is gone the rest of the girls can have some fun. Maple and Field are getting dressed up and now so is the poet.



2 comments:

  1. Lovely! And very clever. ED at her best. This poem makes me want to be there with her taking that morning walk in Autumn.

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