Discuss this view of the poems of Emily Dickinson on your course. Support your discussion by quotation from or reference to the poems you have studied.
Emily Dickinson is widely considered one of the greatest poets in American literature. Her unique, gem-like lyrics are distillations of profound feeling and originalintellect that stand out in the main stream of 19th Century American Literature. She was considered and will always be considered the most perfect flower of New England Transcendentalism.
She was born on the 10th December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was the middle child of a wealthy family who were prominent public figures. Her father was a well-known lawyer.
She had an exceptional educationin Amherst College, founded by her grandfather; years later she was sent to Amherst Academy where she developed a particular interest in biology and botany.
Emily Dickinson was considered to be a high-spirited and energetic young woman until her withdrawal from society in 1850. After her withdrawal, all of her contact with friends and family existed through her letters and poems. The reason forher seclusion was that she suffered a broken heart by "the one true love" of her life.
Only seven of her poems were printed during her lifetime. After Dickinson’s death, in 1886, her sister, Lavinia, found her poems and set about having them published by Loomis Todd, and later, by the Roberts Brothers of Boston in 1890.
In her poetry Dickinson explores her sharply contrasting moods in herrenowned unique manner. Themes such as mental breakdown, despair, hope and love are always related to the poet’s personal experience. Her poems are attempts to understand the essence of her own widely varying, often extreme states of mind. Few poets are as instantly recognizable as Dickinson. The chief characteristic of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is her epigrammatical style. Throughout her poems she placedhyphens, commas and capital letters freely.
Death, and the problem of life after death, obsessed her. She seems to have thought of it constantly – she died all her life, she probed death daily. “That bareheaded life under grass worries one like a wasp”, she wrote. Ultimately, the obsession become morbid, and her eagerness for details, after the death of a friend – the hungry desire to how shedied – became almost vulture-like. But the preoccupation, with its horrible uncertainties – its doubts about immorality, its hatred of the flesh, and its many reversals of both positions – gave us her sharpest work.
A perfect example of the nature of Dickinson’s poetry is ‘I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain’. In this poem Dickinson could be imagining her own funeral, but I am inclined to read this poemas an account of mental breakdown or psychological death.
The poem begins with a strange declaration: ‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’. It is hard to comprehend how someone can ‘feel’ a funeral.
In the first stanza, the speaker describes the sensation of the mourners moving continuously:
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading
‘Till it seemed That Sense was breaking through’. Thiscould mean that she felt that she was on the verge of understanding something.
In the third stanza she describes the carrying of the coffin to the grave. Once again, the moment is terribly uncomfortable. As the coffin is being borne away, the church bells begin to ‘toll’, a signal that the burial is about to take place.
This poem has, as many Dickinson’s poems, an open ending: ‘And Finishedknowing – then –‘, is open to different interpretations.
This poem uses imagery that features in a number of Dickinson’s poems. The ‘Boots of Lead’ reminds us of the ‘Hour of Lead’ mentioned in ‘After Great Pain’, and the ‘Plank’ in the final stanza also calls to mind the ‘Wooden way’ of ‘After Great Pain’.
‘The Soul Has Bandaged Moments’ is another deeply personal poem, with the image at the...