Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple
Leaping like Leopards to the Sky
Then at the feet of the old Horizon
Laying her spotted Face to die
Stooping as low as the Otter's Window
Touching the Roof and tinting the Barn
Kissing her Bonnet to the Meadow
And the Juggler of Day is gone.
F321 (1862) 228
|The sun really does have a spotted face|
The sun blazes gold on the eastern horizon as it rises; its blaze is quenched in the purple hues of the of late evening. The sun does seem to sail up pretty quickly, but I’m not sure I agree that it leaps “like Leopards”—and that’s one leopard too many, if one is to be picky. But perhaps Dickinson is thinking of Helios driving his horses with the sun chariot across the sky. But Dickinson likes to use leopards in her poems—at least she has in two previous ones (here and here).
The next lines take us to day’s end. Like a human woman, day’s face becomes “spotted” as it progresses through time. But before she dies, she stoops as low as the river bank where the otter makes its home, shedding her last light on the roof, painting the barn with sunset colors, and leaving a final kiss of light with the crown of the sun as she sinks beneath the western horizon.
In the last line, where daylight or the sun is named “the Juggler of Day,” we see the sun not as Helios or an old woman or as leopards but rather as a circus performer dressed as modern-day clowns in blazing golds and purples and with a heavily-marked or spotted face. This, then, is the image of day—an actor staging dazzling feats for the enjoyment of the audience who might stop from time to time throughout the day to admire the performance.
Dickinson makes use of the present progressive tense to carry the poem in a rush—as if the day flew by in one seating: blazing, quenching, leaping, laying, stooping, touching, and kissing. Quite a show! The words begin each of their lines with a trochaic emphasis that provides a forward energy. It’s almost acrobatic.