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09 July 2011

Frequently the woods are pink —

Frequently the woods are pink —
Frequently are brown.
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town.
Oft a head is crested
I was wont to see —
And as oft a cranny
Where it used to be —
And the Earth — they tell me
On it's Axis turned!
Wonderful Rotation —
By but 
twelve performed!

                                                              J6,  Fr 24 (1858)

Dickinson catalogs the seasons here: the pink woods of spring, the brown of winter, the gradual undressing of leaves and flowers of fall, and the fully crested trees of summer (contrasted with the more bare branches--a cranny--of winter). She playfully anthropomorphises them, with the hills shyly undressing behind town and with trees boasting a full crest of hair.
    In the last line she pointedly italicizes "twelve," drawing our attention to it. Literally, she is saying, Look how economical and marvelous it is to have such changes all transpire within a twelve-month rotation of the earth. But she and her peers would have recognized twelve as the number of Christ's disciples who, after the crucifixion went about performing miracles. They healed the sick, typically. The implied contrast is decidedly in favor of Nature.
     All but one line are written in trochees which gives the poem a lovely positive emphasis. The three repetitions of "Frequently" that begin the poem give an almost perky sound with their long 'free' sounds, and this contributes to the playful tone. 

1 comment:

  1. Before the the 1800s, "it's" was the possessive form of "it". By the 19th century the preferred possessive form of "it" was "its". However, ED used "it's" interchangeably as a contraction and as a possessive, e.g., 'On it's Axis turned' (Franklin 1999). Dickinson was a century behind the times, perhaps intentionally as a protest of modernity.

    Franklin, R.W. 1999. The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Harvard University Press.