Adventure most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be;
Attended by a Single Hound–
Its own Identity.
-Emily Dickinson, in Complete Poems (1924)
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) had a wicked eye for detail. The natural world breathes in her poetry—it’s living color and light. Dickinson was also somewhat of an interesting character—she lived pretty much as a recluse in her father’s house. She only published seven poems during her lifetime, but she was crazily prolific and left behind over 2,000 poems when she died. Maybe her work was misunderstood by her contemporaries—all of those unconventional dashes and off-rhymes—but I’m sure she was just ahead of her time. When I read—and reread—her work today, I see its timelessness—for when do beauty, love, and life grow old?
Below, I’ll post her “A Slash of Blue,” which shows her characteristic vivid natural imagery…and may also hint at her attitudes towards the Civil War. Scholars think that she wrote it in 1860 or ’61. This one just stuck out at me today as I was reading. But I’m also pasting links to some of my other favorites published online at Bartleby.com. This collection of 597 poems is divided up into five sections (Life, Nature, Love, Time and Eternity, and The Single Hound).
“A slash of Blue,” Emily Dickinson (poem 204 in Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1955):
A slash of Blue —
A sweep of Gray —
Some scarlet patches on the way,
Compose an Evening Sky —
A little purple — slipped between —
Some Ruby Trousers hurried on —
A Wave of Gold —
A Bank of Day —
This just makes out the Morning Sky.
“I’m nobody! Who are you?”; “A bird came down the walk:”; “Some keep the Sabbath going to church”; “Much madness is divinest sense”; “Adventure most unto itself”; “Success is counted sweetest”; “I’m wife; I’ve finished that”; “There’s a certain slant of light”; “The soul selects her own society”; “Wild nights! Wild nights!”; “Title divine is mine”
Read on…those are just starters!
(The photo above is of a sunrise from a rock bivy in New Zealand’s Rees Valley– probably the most spectacular natural display of color I’ve seen in the past three months.)