Funny — to be a Century —
And see the People — going by —
I — should die of the Oddity —
But then — I'm not so staid — as He —
He keeps His Secrets safely — very —
Were He to tell — extremely sorry
This Bashful Globe of Ours would be —
So dainty of Publicity —
Fr677 (1863) J345
Dickinson has a bit of fun imagining what it would be like to be time itself, a hundred years’ worth, to be precise. She imagines how you’d see everyone and know everything they did. I think that when she says she’d ‘die of the Oddity’ she means die of laughter. Fortunately, Father Time is more ‘staid’ – he’s probably seen it all before. Plus, he has great propriety. He never tells – our secrets are safe with him. And that is a good thing; otherwise, we’d be very sorry.
The poet casts Time as male and the world as female: she is ‘Bashful’ and ‘dainty’. She would be mortified by any publicity. I wonder if Dickinson considered the reverse proposition but concluded that a Mother Time would be quite chatty – a real gossip! – and the masculine Globe would be far less averse about being in the news After all, any news is good news – the thing is to be in the news. Or at least that strategy seems to be adopted by some big-name US politicians … .
It’s really rather delicious to think about Dickinson claiming that the Bashful Globe would be dainty of Publicity. Is she being ironic? Is it a comment on Victorian repression? Or on how much we each want to hide?
This little poem is in itself an oddity in Dickinson’s oevre in that each of the lines rhyme. I don’t recall any other of her poems (at least so far) doing this. I welcome better info in the comments. Plus, in the first stanza she alternates trochees (Fun-ny; I – should) and iambs (And see; But then) to begin the lines.
The first two lines of the second stanza both end with feminine, trailing rhymes: very and sorry. To me there’s something just droll looking and sounding about the first line: He keeps His Secrets safely – very –“. It might be the repeated ‘s’ sounds plus the two last words ending in ‘y’ – plus the way ‘very’ is emphasized by that along with being set off by dashes.
It’s a cute poem and I imagine Dickinson had some fun imagining having Time’s omnipresence. But then again, that’s a gift our great writers have.