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27 September 2014

Reverse cannot befall

Reverse cannot befall
That fine Prosperity
Whose Sources are interior —
As soon — Adversity

A Diamond — overtake
In far — Bolivian Ground —
Misfortune hath no implement
Could mar it — if it found —
                        F565 (1863)  J395

Dickenson claims here that those fine things we develop in our hearts and souls, our inner Prosperity, cannot be harmed the way our wealth or health can be. Our interior substance is no more subject to the  'slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune' than is a buried diamond. 
        The first stanza contrasts the inner and outer prosperity. Dickinson's own family lost a small fortune in her grandfather's time. Her father regained much of it, and consequently the poet probably had good opportunity throughout her life to observe poverty and prosperity in both internal and external manifestations.

        The second stanza introduces the metaphor of a diamond. That precious gem is top of the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, and that means it is pretty impervious. That is Dickinson's metaphor for the prosperous soul. Should misfortune even find it, it has no way, no tool to harm it.

Bolivia, where the fabled Potosi mine is located, is more known for silver than diamonds, but the metaphor doesn't need to be exact to succeed. 

1 comment:

  1. ED gives herself a pep talk, reminds herself that even though composing poems at her blistering pace is lonely work, when “Adversity” strikes “Reverse cannot befall” because her “Sources are interior —”.

    If she composes “A Diamond”, no matter where her genius mines the gem, “Misfortune hath no implement / Could mar it — if it found —"

    Even superstars need a boost now and then, especially a self-administered, "You can do this."