(c) Copyright 2017 Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved
Summer, The Dickinson Homestead, Amherst, Mass.
Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved and misunderstood poets was an astute observer and student of the natural world. Nature’s changing pageantry, big bold and colorful depending on the season, was just outside her windows and just beyond the door. This was the 19th century; most Americans were still engaged in farming, horse- and-buggy was a common mode of transportation, and everyone had a kitchen garden and a flower garden. Spring and Fall, planting and harvesting, were considered joyful times, times of celebrations and festivals marking nature’s bountiful fecundity and its reliable cycling through the underlying mysteries of birth, fruitfulness, decline and death, only to begin again.
Emily kept her eagle eye on this ever-changing scene, alternately mystified, rhapsodic, and pensive at what passed before and near the Dickinson Homestead. Not much escaped her line of sight that did not inspire her to record her impressions and interpretations in verse. The natural parade of different multi-colored foliage, “slants of light” and the distinctive sound and sense of each season were on the one hand mighty in themselves, and on the other hand deftly used by the poet as metaphors, figures of speech–even as allegories.
Of all the seasons, Summer held particular fascination for the poet because it was the apex, the high point of the growing season, and wherever one looked there were vistas of ripening grain and lush green crops, images of the invisible hand of Providence supplying the provisions necessary for the continuation of life for another year.
In a tribute of sorts to Dickinson’s innovative surprising “nature” poems, I feel honor bound as a life-long Dickinson understudy to exhibit them now and then, and to present, maybe introduce new readers for the first time to the teeming kaleidoscopic wonder of the world outside Dickinson’s family home. Some parts of them may seem somewhat obscure or her meaning opaque or enigmatic, but these poems repay frequent re-reading and soon unlock their secrets, yielding new and bountiful ways of seeing and feeling.
FURTHER IN SUMMER THAN THE BIRDS
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
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
[More to come.]