Search This Blog

27 October 2011

Ambition cannot find him –

Ambition cannot find him –
Affection doesn't know
How many leagues of nowhere
Lie between them now.

Yesterday, undistinguished!
Eminent Today
For our mutual honor,
Immortality!
                                 - F 115 (1859)  68

This has the feel of something penned for someone who has lost her husband. No matter how diligently she tries to find him nor how lovingly she thinks on him, there are “leagues of nowhere” “between them now.” But then the poet remarks that he was a nobody yesterday, in fact he was probably nobody until he died and could share in the honor and eminence we will all share as immortal souls.
          I hope Dickinson is right and that immortality and “life” post-grave is as wonderful as she so often makes it out to be. On the other hand, me thinks the lady doth protest too much.
            The poem is divided between the first stanza outlining how distant and unreachable the dear departed is. The second makes a stab at glorifying his current lot. Each stanza is written in trimeter. “Immortality" cuts it a bit short, but as it ends on an accented syllable it reinforces the positive ending.

5 comments:

  1. Makes you wonder though, what promtrd her to write this? It is so brief, and the words so rushed but pointed, and then they end. On an upnote you feel, but what prompted them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with myself in the first sentence. We know Dickinson would write poems and include them with baskets and flowers and this might have been written with some specific recently deceased man in mind.

      Delete
  2. ...or even her own thoughts in general on the matter. I don't see her sending this to say a widow, with flowers, and having the line "...yesterday undistinguished..." in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmm... good point. Yet 'undistinguished' might not be considered a slight as it would today. In Amherst, the Dickinson men would be distinguished, and university men, perhaps. But I think (without being an expert) that most folks, be they ever so inventive and excellent would be admired without being considered distinguished. Just a slightly different take on the word from today.

      But I think the second stanza can be read as a pivot. The first is personal, applying to one couple, the 'them'. The second is general. In our human lives we are undistinguished (by and large) we are then honored (granted distinction) once we die. The 'we' in this reading would indicate the pivot.

      Delete
  3. That's a good point. In fact, excellent. If your flowers are as good as your insights, it must be one hell of a garden!

    ReplyDelete