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569Emily Dickinson's biography: 1862, the Change, and the White Dress

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  • hrhrdk
    Jan 13, 2011

      Hi, Dickinsonians.

      Poem 640 (Johnson) was written by Emily Dickinson,
      manufactured into booklet 9, circa 1862. Emily Dickinson
      placed it into a series of her love letters to the world,
      and made it explicit the "Master" was *not* Jesus, and yet
      the poem clearly is about her Secret "Sir/Master:"

      I cannot live with You--
      It would be Life--
      And Life is over there--
      Behind the Shelf

      The Sexton keeps the Key to--
      Putting up
      Our Life--His Porcelain--
      Like a Cup--

      Discarded of the Housewife--
      Quaint--or Broke--
      A newer Sevres pleases--
      Old Ones crack--

      I could not die--with You--
      For One must wait
      To shut the Other's Gaze down—
      You--could not--

      And I--Could I stand by
      And see You--freeze--
      Without my Right of Frost--
      Death's privilege?

      Nor could I rise--with You--
      Because Your Face
      Would put out Jesus'--
      That New Grace

      Glow plain--and foreign
      On my homesick Eye--
      Except that You than He
      Shone closer by--

      They'd judge Us—-How--
      For You--served Heaven--You know,
      Or sought to--
      I could not--

      Because You saturated Sight--
      And I had no more Eyes
      For sordid excellence
      As Paradise

      And were You lost, I would be--
      Though My Name
      Rang loudest
      On the Heavenly fame--

      And were You--saved--
      And I--condemned to be
      Where You were not--
      That self--were Hell to Me--

      So We must meet apart--
      You there--I--here--
      With just the Door ajar
      That Oceans are--and Prayer--
      And that White Sustenance--

      --Emily Dickinson

      No doubt, for Dickinsonians, this poem will ring true for the Truth of 1862,
      when she and her Master, Samuel Bowles, were "Oceans...apart," he in Europe
      and she in Amherst, and she already dressed in white, hidden behind doors,
      so that when he returned that fall, Emily Dickinson was already in selcusion.

      We are still on square one: Love :)

      Bill Arnold

      Bill Arnold
      MFA, U-Mass, Amherst
      Dickinson Scholar
      Independent Scholar
      Independent Scholar, Modern Language Association
      Professor of world literature classics
      Author, EMILY DICKINSON'S SECRET LOVE: Mystery "Master" Behind Poems,
      230 pages, 1998.
      ISBN 1-892582-00-7

      "There is magic in the web" Shakespeare (Othello, Act 3, Scene 4)