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14 August 2011

To venerate the simple days

To venerate the simple days
Which lead the seasons by,
Needs but to remember
That from you or I,
They may take the trifle
Termed mortality!

To invest existence with a stately air –
Needs but to remember
That the Acorn there
Is the egg of forests
For the upper Air!
                                      - F 55 (1859)

My favorite part of this poem is the epigram of the Acorn being the egg of forests. It’s a bid odd, isn’t it, that Dickinson capitalizes “Acorn” and “Air” but not “egg” or “forests”? I wonder what her capitalization rubric was. Anyway, one can’t argue with the sentiment: it is easier to honor each passing day if one remembers that it carries away a bit of your life with it.
The second stanza builds upon the first. While the first reminds us of life’s brevity, the second reminds us that like the Acorn we are but lowly forms of the heavenly (“upper Air”) beings we will be in Paradise. Both stanzas are essentially structured with six lines. Although the second has only five, Dickinson has combined two trimeter lines to make the first line—imbuing it with a more ‘stately air’.
One line is repeated: “Needs but to remember.” The repetition helps us remember as well as knits the two stanzas together. The word “air” is repeated in the second stanza. The first time it is the ‘stately air’ we should invest our lives with, our sense of gravity and import. Our daily life matters. The second use is as the very last word of the poem. This time it is to contrast the earthly (Acorn on the forest floor) with the eternal and incorporeal. 

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