Guests in Eden


Strange "bulletins of immortality",
   Swift "bolts of melody" shot from the blue,
Describe the startling thoughts of Emily,
   Recorded as her magic pencil flew
Across a bit of paper haply found
   And tucked into a letter to some friends.
Rare images comprised THE SINGLE HOUND
   And other works, presaging modern trends.
In fact, our literary critics say
   Her metaphors and studied change from rules
Of verse, grown tired through usage of that day,
   Equipped New England's poets with fresh tools.
Time has enhanced her fame-not minimized
The stature of a genius crystallized.




Emily Dickinson, such a recluse that even Thoreau seems in comparison a traveler, scarcely left her father's house and grounds in Amherst for more than thirty years. She had been in love with somebody and had somehow lost him. The rec­ords agree on no other point. A secret in white, she moved about on the safe side of the threshold or risked the long dis­tance to the garden. To cross the hedge to her brother's house next door was an adventure. At times she preferred to send a letter. Her letters, once she had taught herself to write in her own way, were little more specific than her poems. She would fold a thought or a mood into words and toss it to a friend.

* Reprinted by permission from WHAT IS AMERICAN LITERATURE? By Carl Van Doren (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1935).

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Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
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Last updated on March 10, 2008

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