The Soul has Bandaged moments-
When too appalled to stir-
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her-

Salute her- with long fingers-
Caress her freezing hair-
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover- hovered - o'er-
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme - so - fair -

The Soul has moments of Escape -
When bursting all the doors -
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings upon the Hours,

As do the Bee - delirious borne -
Long Dungeoned from his Rose -
Touch Liberty - then know no more -
But Noon, and Paradise -

The Soul's retaken moments -
When, Felon led along,
With shackles
on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the Song,
The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue-

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Many of human experiences can fit well into Emily Dickinson's poem. Living a life as rich and colorful in its spiritual detail and as desperately sensitive to meaning and context, it was as quiet in its conduct as it was unremarkable in its demographics. She lived in Amherst, Massachusetts and composed a great deal of terse poetry, dense with metaphor about the human experience, and about coping and managing in the loneliness of her isolation.

There are two internal figures here, one godly one demonic, vying to conquer the soul. She is not only bandaged because of some hurtful wound but also bandaged as enslaved or caught up in the pain. A classic battle between good an evil. She begins the first stanza from within herself frightened by her fear, then imagines her fear personified in the second verse as some entity that has taken her captive; the self is numb to itself. By the third stanza, as she does so brilliantly well, she uses nature as metaphor in her landsacpe with a happy moment of escape; the 'bee who swings upon the hours' Emily collects the 'fuzz ordained' only to be caught again by shackling and stapled fears in the fifth stanza. A wonderful contrast of the human condition; a way of putting two elements side by side using one to highlight the other then finally she sums it all up with a compressed, hard, and blazingly vivid stanza she laments in this tiny poem, they are to "not brayed of Tongue" perhaps because to her these moments are too horrible and personal to tell to just anybody.

By using the context of the history of ideas from Calvinism to Transcendentalism she shows us the tension between the affirmative and the negative which is at the core of her work as a writer. By 1862, she had written nearly half of her work and at his time suffered a great loss. "I had a terror," she told Higginson her mentor and friend, "I could tell to none." It easy to understand her detachment and the desire for silence, a seeking for understanding.

Less than a dozen of Dickinson's poems were printed during her lifetime -- some without her permission, some were full of radical "improvements” "Publication - is the auction of the mind..." she noted, with haughty resentment, maybe in some way trying to comfort herself, and she tied her poems in bundles and put them in a drawer.


Blackheath Poetry Society:

Salon | Classics Book Group: Galway Kinnell on Emily Dickinson: 1997/11/cov_03kinnell.html

For copyright information please see my write-up under Emily Dickinson.

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