Emily Dickinson by Joan Kirkby (auth.)

By Joan Kirkby (auth.)

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Sample text

The poem conveys the sense that language is the power and glory of God on earth. In the absence of Christ's presence language is 'the word made flesh'; it is 'Cohesive as the Spirit' (as in 'Was not') and 'Has not the power to die'. Only the advent, the condescension of Christ from the privileges of superior rank and dignity, could displace the power of the word. However, Dickinson's sense of the language based self is not a complacent one. Dickinson was also crucially aware of the limits of language, as in Poem 407: 'It is the Ultimate of Talk - / The Impotence to Tell - ' and Poem 1668: But when I cannot make the Force, Nor mould it into Word, I know it is a sign That new Dilemma be From mathematics further off Than from Eternity.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh I felt Siroccos - crawl Nor Fire - for just my Marble feet Could keep a Chancel, cool - And yet, it tasted, like them all, The Figures I have seen Set orderly, for Burial, Reminded me, of mineAs if my life were shaven, And fitted to a frame, And could not breathe without a key, And 'twas like Midnight, some When everything that ticked - has stopped And Space stares all around Or Grisly frosts - first Autumn morns, Repeal the Beating Ground But, most, like Chaos - Stopless - cool Without a Chance, or Spar Or even a Report of Land To justify - Despair.

For Dickinson the order imposed by language is never fixed, final and unalterable; time and again she underlines the temporary and provisional nature of all our articulations. 'We see - Comparatively - ' she writes in Poem 534; 'I see - New Englandly -' and 'The Queen, discerns like me - / Provincially' (285). One is always a 'Term between' (721). The mind must constantly adjust its meanings and articulations because experience constantly precipitates 'internal difference where the Meanings are'.

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