Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Judge tenderly of me

Judge Tenderly of Me: The Poems of Emily Dickinson ~ afterword by Winfield Townley Scott, illustrations by Bill Greer, 1968, poems, 8/10

I've come across some long-lost things while unpacking boxes at my newest address.  This book is one of them.  Having loved some of Emily Dickinson's poems that I had to memorize as a child, I bought this book shortly after it was published.  The dust jacket was marking one of my favorites:
I'm Nobody!  Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one's name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!
Oh, dear!  My memory must be going.  I've been mis-quoting it for years, saying "the livelong day" — but where did "June" come from?  I'd forgottten, if I'd ever noticed, how much Emily Dickinson used the — um — dash.  When I looked up my NEW favorite from this book, someone had replaced all the dashes with appropriate punctuation, according to English teachers.  Here's what's in this book:
I've seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room —
Then Cloudier become —
And then — obscure with Fog — 
And then — be soldered down
Without disclosing what it be
'Twere blessed to have seen — 
I've thought of things like the last words a dying person speaks or, maybe, the last thing a person ever saw.  But Emily Dickinson wondered what it was that "dying eye" was looking for.  I wonder what I would want to see before I died.  Probably the faces of those I love.

Emily Dickinson lived December 10, 1830 to May 15, 1886.  This photo was taken around 1850.  How do I rate her work at this stage of my life?  Very good, or 8/10.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

I found something online about her comparison of "somebodies" with frogs:

Why does the speaker choose that amphibian as her representative of a public creature?

It's because frogs make a lot of noise. The poem says that frogs, though they can croak and make themselves heard and be noticed, are noticed only by "an admiring bog." The bog is the frog's environment, not the frog's friend. So who cares what the bog thinks?

That's what the poem says about being a "somebody" who gets noticed by an admiring public. Frequently, the relationship is impersonal and distanced, not like a real friendship. Somebodies may have many admirers, but they might not be able to make those personal connections that real friendship offers.

Amy said...

That is a really pretty book cover! Love it.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Oh, I am so not good with "older" poetry! And, let's be honest, only a little better with newer poetry. I do wish I had a better appreciation for Dickinson