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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??


  1. I like your 3 ideas for repose; repose conveyed by good work, repose from hard work, and, re-pose, keep up the good work. They all work here. Though the most meaningful one I think is that the wrestling leads, eventually, to repose, that all the hard work is worth it. That feels most Dickinsonian to me.

    I wonder if the student of the year might be the rose itself, Or maybe it's a pun and the student is studying the year? One does wonder how ED could've been so precise and ambiguous at the same time. Quite a trick.

    Just the idea of a tint being cashmere is enough for me. Or at least that's where I find my own repose after wrestling with this poem.

    It does inspire me to keep wrestling with my own art too, that the ultimate effect, to bring peace, is worth it.

  2. Artists of all kinds struggle to create art that conveys subtle shades of meaning. They hone their skills with each piece, including this one. The artist knows there comes a time to end each struggle, the piece is finished. And when that happens, as it has for this, rest well, you have done your best.