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22 October 2011

Artists wrestled here!

Artists wrestled here!
Lo, a tint Cashmere!
Lo, a Rose!
Student of the Year!
For the Easel here
Say Repose!
                               - F111 (1859) 110

I suspect Dickinson went to a gallery exhibition of student art. The poem has a very arch quality as the poet takes us around from one painting to another. Artists wrestling works both in the sense that artists wrestle with their subject matter, composition, and technique; as well as in the sense that they were competing for top honors. One painting has a “tint Cashmere,” which to Dickinson might mean “opalescent” or “jewel-like.” A second painting takes on that traditional symbol of beauty, the rose. The third is by the winning entrant.
            It might also be that the Cashmere tint and the Rose both refer to the sunset colors in one particular painting – that of the “Student of the Year.”
            The last two lines contain a nice play on words with “Easel” containing “Ease” which of course relates to “Repose.” I think, and frankly I’m sort of pulling this out of my hat, that these last lines suggest that in spite of the wrestling and the efforts to get the subject and colors right, that on the easel itself the works convey a sense of restfulness and repose. I also think that “Repose” suggests calling a truce for the sake of art. Further, there is a suggestion that the whole composition(s) should be re-posed—started over!
            All that is to say that this poem baffles me. Anyone have any other suggestions??

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