The Sound of One Leg Rapping

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cricket song in the summer, particularly at night, is one of the wonders and pleasures of the season.  Their sweet tinny chorus rises and falls resonantly,  is the soundtrack for a host of happy outdoor activities this time of year, and often lulls us to sleep at night. Sometimes one cricket soul is permitted a lonely solo in the deep late night and its ring and rasp seems to contain something ineffable yet significant about life on this green planet.

The great 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson was quite a fan and patron of all of nature’s performers, finned, furred, scaled … just everything that walks, creeps and crawls, including insects.  In the following poem she captures the haunting sacred music she perceived in deep summer when the cricket contingent is at its most populous and in full throat.   So moving and resonant did she find their music that she chose carefully and deliberately sacred, liturgical figurative language for the poem in order to render the impression it made on her one summer night long ago in Amherst, Mass.

It’s one of my favorite Dickinson poems and tonight my woods are absolutely resplendent with symphonic cricket exaltation celebrating their joie de vivre.  I must say that I, like Dickinson, feel transported by their heartfelt performance and sense in it too something of a sacred sacramental orison praising the creation and its maker.

Happy summer, everyone. Goodnight, sleep tight.


Further in Summer than the Birds

Pathetic from the Grass

A minor Nation celebrates

Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen

So gradual the Grace

A pensive Custom it becomes

Enlarging Loneliness.

Antiquest felt at Noon

When August burning low

Arise this spectral Canticle

Repose to typify

Remit as yet no Grace

No Furrow on the Glow

Yet a Druidic Difference

Enhances Nature now



Zen koan “The sound of one hand clapping”

“A Valentine for Emily Dickinson”


[FYI–In Dickinson’s time, in the popular “guides” to nature, crickets and insects were referred to as among nature’s “minor nations.”]

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers, admittedly a small group, but my kind of people, who are interested in literary things. A serious collector of modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger.
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3 Responses to The Sound of One Leg Rapping

  1. Mathew Paust says:

    Our crickets compete with the frogs that mate, loudly, this time of year. They all seem to be competing to see which can be the loudest. Doesn’t put me in a poetic mood, unfortunately. ;-)


  2. J.B. Long says:

    A minor Nation (in the grand scheme of things) celebrates tonight. Thank’s for sharing.


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