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31 December 2012

Departed—to the judgment

Departed—to the Judgment 
A Mighty—Afternoon
Great clouds—like Ushersleaning
Creationlooking on
 

The Flesh—Surrendered—Cancelled
The Bodiless—begun—
Two Worlds
—like Audiencesdisperse—
And leave the Soul
alone— 

                                                                                  F399 (1862)  J524

In this solemn and intimidating vision of death, the soul is left to find its lonely way to "Judgment" unaided by either flesh or "Creation."  This differs from some of Dickinson's earlier poems where Jesus or some other familiar face is there to help the soul's passage. It also differs from her earlier poems where the consciousness of the dead lingers for long, long times in the coffin or elsewhere waiting for Resurrection—or just waiting.

Interested clouds watch on
I like the death day. It was a "Mighty—Afternoon" and the clouds overhead were piled high and leaning in as if they were ushers for a trip down the church aisle or perhaps at a theatre. But it turns out they are not functional ushers. Like the rest of "Creation," they are simply "looking on." 
          The second stanza contains a bit of a mystery (appropriately). The body, the "Flesh," has died and some "Bodiless" existence has begun. This would be the life of the Soul, I believe. Then "Two Worlds...disperse" to leave the soul alone. I take it to mean that not only the body has been shed, but that the soul is also no longer part of the natural world. The great clouds watched the soul in its new body-less incarnation, but can no longer interact with it. The soul is truly on its own.
        Dickinson has reflected on death in many ways—the horror, the grief, the loss or victory, and the mystery. Here she hints a bit at the simple awesome moment where the soul is left in solitude—with no hint of what it must do.

2 comments:

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  2. What image this leaves me with is merely the naked line of the horizon.

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