Search This Blog

18 January 2012

Wait till the Majesty of Death

Wait till the Majesty of Death
Invests so mean a brow!
Almost a powdered Footman
Might dare to touch it now!

Wait till in Everlasting Robes
That Democrat is dressed,
Then prate about "Preferment"–
And "Station" – and the rest!

Around this quiet Courtier
Obsequious Angels wait!
Full royal is his Retinue!
Full purple is his state!

A Lord, might dare to lift the Hat
To such a Modest Clay
Since that My Lord – "the Lord of Lords"
Receives unblushingly!
- F 169  (1860)  171
Angels in Heaven
Peter Paul Rubens
Sigh. Dickinson is always trying to cheer people up about death. And it is soooo class conscious. I can hardly wait to get back into her more startling and original work. In this poem some “mean” ordinary person (lower class) has died but the poet says that this “Modest Clay” is releasing a spirit that “Obsequious Angels” are waiting for. There will be a retinue and purple regailia – the whole royal razzmatazz. I’m sorry to read that our forebears in New England were such monarchists at heart – and this not even a hundred years after Independence from Mother England!
            I don’t think Dickinson’s heart was really in the poem, anyway. There aren’t any fresh images and even her creative use of rhyme and meter is missing. Bah humbug.


  1. What would the mood be? And by any chance was there any imagery used? And please explain the metaphors used!

    1. For mood, I urge you to look at the punctuation and at the imagery. For imagery, let your mind make pictures out of the words and phrases. Metaphors? Think of things that are said that represent something else. "Modest clay", for example. Have fun!

  2. Well done. You are a good teacher, trying to find the right question for the student to find the answers. I hope the student was successful!

  3. No wonder the querulousness, it’s 2:08 AM.

    Remember F35,

    “Sleep is supposed to be
    By souls of sanity
    The shutting of the eye
    Morning has not occurred!”?

    Here's a more scholarly explication: “Death” appears 172 times in ED’s 1789 poems (9.6143%). “Purple” appears 60 times; therefore, for ED, death was 2.866667 times more important than purple.