Emily Dickinson’s life has always fascinated people, even before she was famous for her poetry. Emily spent almost all of her life in her parents’ home in Amherst, with the exception of the year she spent in boarding school—she left ostensibly because of illness, although it is more likely that it was homesickness.
After she studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she spent a short time at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family’s house in Amherst. As a young woman, she was very active socially, and was considered well-liked and attractive. In her late twenties, though, she suddenly cut herself all from all society, never leaving her family’s home, and started ferociously writing poetry.
Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were carried out by correspondence.
Although there is a long-standing myth that the catalyst for this was her falling in love with a man who rejected her, it is more likely that it was a combination of several factors.
“Austin Dickinson married Emily’s very close friend, Susan Gilbert, but the marriage soon became an unhappy one, and Emily’s friendship with Susan eventually dissolved because of it. In addition, in late 1855, Emily’s mother fell ill with an undiagnosed illness, and from then until her death in 1882, she was essentially bedridden, and Emily and Lavinia had to devote a great deal of time to caring for her. This was especially taxing on Emily, who found all domestic chores stifling, and who was not very close to her mother. Finally, between 1851 and 1854, as many as thirty-three young acquaintances of Emily’s died, including her good friend and cousin, Emily Lavinia Norcross.
Emily began to dress only in white, and would see no one but her family, meeting visitors only through screens or behind doors. She wrote prolifically, writing almost 1800 poems in her lifetime, but her genius was never recognized in her lifetime. She published only seven poems while alive, all anonymously, and all heavily edited. Only after her death from kidney disease in 1886 did her sister find her poems. Recognizing their genius, she convinced her brother’s mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd, to help her publish them. The first book was published in 1890, and met with great success.” (Biography of Emily Dickinson – GradeSaver Online)
Until the 1955 publication of Dickinson’s Complete Poems by Thomas H. Johnson, her poems were considerably edited and altered from their manuscript versions. Since 1890 Dickinson has remained continuously in print.
Below are four small poems authored by Emily Dickinson which depicts the delicate and exquisite style of her work. (Emily Dickinson (1830–1886). Complete Poems. 1924.)
A Word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Unto my books so good to turn
Far ends of tired days;
It half endears the abstinence,
And pain is missed in praise.
As flavors cheer retarded guests
With banquetings to be,
So spices stimulate the time
Till my small library.
It may be wilderness without,
Far feet of failing men,
But holiday excludes the night,
And it is bells within.
I thank these kinsmen of the shelf;
Their countenances bland
Enamour in prospective,
And satisfy, obtained.
Hope is a subtle glutton;
He feeds upon the fair;
And yet, inspected closely,
What abstinence is there!
His is the halcyon table
That never seats but one,
And whatsoever is consumed
The same amounts remain.
For more gorgeous poems written by Emily Dickinson, please click here. Today is Sunday, a day to worship the Good Lord, meditate, and to read soothing literature for the soul. Good Day.