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03 July 2012

Me, change! Me, alter!

Me, change! Me, alter!
Then I will, when on the Everlasting Hill
A Smaller Purple grows –
At sunset, or a lesser glow
Flickers upon Cordillera –
At Day's superior close!
                                                            281 (1862)  268


This short poem expresses a sort of shocked outrage at the notion that the narrator could change. Perhaps a lover has suggested that her feelings may not last; that what she feels today she may not feel next year.
Cotopaxi, Frederick Church, 1862
            Not so, she protests. As long as the sunset fills the evening sky with purple or “Flickers upon Cordillera,” I will remain constant. “Cordillera” is Spanish for mountain range. Dickinson would probably be referring to the Andes here. Her Yankee compatriot, Frederick Church was painting wildly popular scenes from South America and no doubt Dickinson was familiar with them. Dickinson scholar Judith Farr notes that Church’s “The Heart of the Andes,” an epic picture based on Ecuadoran scenery, “was not a mere painting but a national event in 1859." Cotopaxi, another famous Church painting, shows a sunset made vivid by smoke and ash from the volcano.

Dickson emphasizes her indignation by using a spondee to begin the poem: “Me, Change.” The next line begins with an anapast (“Then I will”) that delivers an internal rhyme with “Everlasting Hill.” The contrast between the first and second lines sets up the contrast between change and the flowing continuity of nights and sunsets.

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