Robert Bray
Illinois Wesleyan University

Why Thoughts Are Better Than Music
Emily Dickinson's Fascicle 18
as a Lyric Sequence

"I am conscious always of power and design."
-Sherlock Holmes

Recently, an old argument concerning the existence of God has made a comeback: the "Argument from Design." Some scientists, physicists and biologists especially, have declared that the cosmos, from tiniest micro to uttermost macro, not only reveals a design, but one so complex as to be impossible by accident, hence entailing a designer. From perceived real design they infer an imperceptible ideal designer-God the Creator. Invert this and you have the position in which I find myself while studying Emily Dickinson's "fascicles" (a frankly ugly and pseudo-technical name for a beautiful phenomenon in poetry). The physical evidence of the sewn, unsewn and finally "resewn" fascicles, or packets of poems, strongly suggests a designer; and I have heard of no good reason not to assume ED herself as the designing woman. And so we hasten on to find the poetic evidence that will illuminate the structure and function of a design worthy of the great designer. Do we find it? Of course: because we want to.

Beware this place of desire! I must remind myself. Admiring Emily Dickinson and her poetry as I do, I wish it so-that the fascicles, any and all, extend the creative world-making of the 1775 atomic lyrics to a macrocosmos of all the poems. Yet that same biologist who now repudiates Darwinian evolution by chance in favor of God's universal design does so only after his conversion to evangelical Christianity: beforehand, design mattered most, and he was at best agnostic on the question of a designer. Likewise, I need to be careful about asserting what I want because I want it. That alone is reason for diffidence on the fascicles. What is more: reading a poem like "After great pain, a formal feeling comes-" (341) puts me to silence; reading it as number 11 of 17 within Fascicle 18 really tightens my censors, like the saint in the Zurbaran painting who cut out his tongue rather than blaspheme and stands there holding it in ecstatic Spanish gothic goofiness. But, caveats noted, I shall speak, tonguing in such small voice as I can summon in the presence.

One of the best books on modern poetry that I know is M.L. Rosenthal and Sally Gall's The Modern Poetic Sequence (1983). What the authors argue is that, beginning near the middle of the 19th century, British and American poets sometimes formed extended lyric sequences out of individual poems. They define the new form as "a grouping of mainly lyric poems and passages. . . which tend to interact as an organic whole. . . . Intimate, fragmented, self-analytical, open, emotionally volatile, the sequence meets the needs of modern sensibility even when the poet aspires to tragic or epic scope."1 And the poetic end of a "modern lyric sequence" they describe as "neither to resolve a problem nor to conclude an action but to achieve the keenest, most open realization possible" (italics in original). 2 Following the publication of R. W. Franklin's edition of the fascicles in 1981,3 Rosenthal and Gall were among the first to treat the groups of poems as larger "organic wholes." They demonstrated remarkable critical skill in applying their formal template to Dickinson's Fascicles 15 and 16,4 while for the most part resisting the pull of autobiographical reduction-E.D., this is your life, right here in these funny little markings! In fact, the authors of The Modern Poetic Sequence avoid charting any narrative in the fascicles. The concentrate instead on the poetic means toward the end of "the keenest, most open realization possible."

Dickinson studies needs new ways to counter the "Horticultural Fallacy" ("by their fruits shall ye know them"), which has led to too much bickering for too long over the poet's body rather than the body of poetry; and I am therefore very much in sympathy with Rosenthal and Gall's concept and method. Yet before experimenting with the theory myself, I am bound to ask, "realization" of what? R & G's answer is suggestive as regards the part-whole relationship of single lyric to sequence, but hardly clear about what the sequences represent: "the poems penetrate a life of secret turmoil, each striking a certain held pitch of awareness; and the fascicles mobilize these little systems of subjective energy into larger ones, permitting a more complex equilibrium among affects."5 Let's call what's represented states of being, what's "realized" a "complex equilibrium among affects." The form and power of the sequence are not narrative, not linear, not additive. To indicate form, permit me the caprice of an analogy: "isot(r)opic instability." And I can think of only one positive term for the power: synæsthesia.

How the Great Designer achieves this . . . I don't know and probably never shall. But I can offer a schematic for Fascicle 18 that I hope may begin to subtend the alien territory and outline a possible "design for the design."

Figure 1

Figure 1 is an x/y graph of the 17 poems within the sequence. The horizontal (x) axis simply records the train of individual lyrics, from 495 ("It's thoughts-and just One Heart") to 503 ("Better-than Music! For I-who heard it-"); no attempt is made to differentiate the poems by length or by any other criterion: they are just one after another. The vertical (y) axis bears the burden of "qualitative" differentiation, and this is where my own readerly judgment comes into play. Finally, this judgment is subjective; to give it a degree of objectivity requires the ìendorsement of a community of readers (which of course I do not have, though would like to, which is the reason I'm doing this!). Before explaining the y-axis categories and the relative values assigned to the poems, I should say why I chose this mode of graphing in the first place-always with the understanding that I am employing one metaphorical structure to simplify a star-cluster of others.

Circles, wheels, circumference: fascinations of the poet in her poetry. Figure 2 is a circle with a unitary radius (r=1). The angle a forms from two projected radii, b and d; the intersections of b and d with the circumference forms the arc bd; and the ratio of lines c to b in the triangle bcd is the sine of a. All eroded elements of high school trigonometry, and I can't remember enough to extend the lesson onto spheres, where the real complexity commences ("I alone-/ A Speck upon a Ball-/Went out upon Circumference-" [378]). So what's the big deal? Well, if we rotate radius b in either direction around the circle, the resulting route of the c/b ratio through 360 degrees (or more) is also that of the function y=sin x, which is the graph at the head of this discussion. What the graph describes is the periodicity of simple harmonic motion-the kind that occurs in natural forms such as sound, music, waves, etc. Mathematicians name functions like y=sin x "transcendental" (which is quite an irony in this context or else a stunning correspondence). Now Emily Dickinson's sequences, while in some sense "transcendental," when tracked appear to be anything but "simple harmonic motion." To a tuning fork she is a violin: the A 440 is "in there" but we hear best the overtones. The physical principle holds that any periodic motion, be it ever so complex, may be expressed as a sum of harmonic motions. And when we apply harmonic analysis to "natural systems" (why can't poetry be included?), there are two counterforces at work: inertia, or the tendency to keep on keeping on; and the restoring force, which tries to bring the system back to equilibrium (or zero). The general rule stipulates that the greater the movement from equilibrium (inertial force), the greater the needed restoring force.

Figure 2

What might the state of equilibrium be for a sequence like Fascicle 18? Let's look again at Figure 1. The y-axis shows "states of being" (what is represented). If the highest and lowest values of "y" (+1, -1) are "Gnosis, Bliss, Heaven" and "Agnosis, Anguish, Hell" respectively (extremes inferred from consecutive reading of all 17 poems in the fascicle, and contextual poems throughout ED's canonical 17756), the equilibrium point should be poems occupying an emotional and intellectual "middle landscape" between Heaven and Hell: the mundane, where we all mostly live, though ED more thoughtfully. Of the four poetic "variables"

1. Thematics/problematics
2. Voice/viewpoint
3. Image/tonality (functioning together, because practically inseparable)
4. Metaphor

the poem might show philosophical resignation, even positively making something of a "diminished thing," as Robert Frost put it, for 1; a generalizing, mildly hortative and deprecating 3rd singular/1st plural for 2; homely comfort and economy for 3; and for 4 (here's the miracle) some of the metaphors familiar from the most intense poems in this fascicle and common to others, but in this place domesticated (compare the "Mill" in stanza four with that in the 9th poem of the sequence, "Within my Garden, rides a Bird" [500]). I invite readers to read 495, "It's thoughts-and just One Heart," to decide for themselves whether any of this makes sense. And if they are willing to allow me an outsetting benefit of the doubt, continue reading along the downward slant of 337, 496, 338, to the bottoming out of 497, "He strained my faith-". "I know a place where Summer strives" (337) is a "Persephone" poem: 7 the "I" voice, herself disembodied and wintering in the neighborhood of Hell, projects the seasonal battle of Summer with "such a practised Frost"-this Frost is that "practised" that the strife is perennially in doubt. But after a while Summer will win for a while: she is the "I" voice's personification and will walk upper earth in good time: "It will be Summer-eventually. (342). Meanwhile, Persephone hibernates "As far from pity, as complaint-" (496) and resents her fate ("I know that He exists." [338]), until she can warm to anger (or use anger to warm) in "He strained my faith-" (497), a lyric of anguished incredulity about whatever "it" was that "He" did to "Her," yet with overtones of the indomitable, implying that this too shall rise. As sharply it does in 339 , wherein the "I" tends garden for her "Bright Absentee" and catalogues the flowers that live gaily personified in summer or hothouse gray inside in winter, like the personalized daisy-calyxed, unfolded blossom-". . . modestly-alway-/Thy Daisy-Draped for thee!" The stoical coping with absence in 495 had not sustained; equilibrium was broken and the slide toward Hell commenced; now in a single poem the restorative force of flowers tended hopefully/ironically pushes the sequence back to equilibrium and above-for the first time into the positive realm, pointing toward the possibility of Heaven.

Why then is this Garden (as positive place), this gardening (as restorative action) so provisional, as if uncertainly founded? I think because beauty, whether natural or cultural-especially beauty as rankly sexual as ED's flowers "gone to seed" can be-is insufficient or of the wrong category for transcendence. Sublimity is what's essential. ED liked to play with the "two-term æsthetic" of beauty and sublimity that pervaded New England painting and literature in the first half of the 19th century. 8 In the 18th century thinking of Edmund Burke, and in the Romantic revisions of Burke and others by William Wordsworth, sublimity became a matter of consciousness terrified by the infinite, by God and, ultimately, by itself. The Dickinsonian sublime can originate on either the + or - side of equilibrium (whereas the beautiful is + only), its valence a function of the soul's relative preparation for meeting the absolute. While Fascicle 18 provides no poems of the "negative terror" 9 of the Romantic sublime to equal the great lyrics of madness staring at the blank face of infinity (for instance, "The first Day's Night had come-" [410] and "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain," [280]), the sequence holds, and may be held by, what surely is ED's greatest poem treating the aftermath of hellish sublimity ("After great pain, a formal feeling comes-" [341]-of which more below). Since there is no such thing as "negative transcendence," only annihilation, the point of the poetry on the -y axis is survival: and the potentiating elastic force that might catapult the just-living soul back heavenward. I said above that beauty if it is relevant at all is so only on the + side, where it serves as a necessary condition for transcendence. Sublimity, however, is both necessary and sufficient.

Before tracing that labored ascent, which comprises the last 6 poems of the sequence, I'd like to dwell briefly on 341, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes-". Its value is -1, the anæsthetic point-an existential absolute zero where all feeling, knowing, being cease to exist. Yet a truer graph-point might be -.999, since whatever "negative sublimity" the sequence's poetic consciousness has undergone, it has "outlived" (barely). Being still is and the rebound potentially transcendent (three poems beyond, at the second-highest point on the graph, the voice can declare, "My Reward for Being, was This." (343) But there is another reason that 341 is a "hellish" poem: it is anomalous in ED's work, not in matter but in manner. Look with me at the reproduced manuscript page appended to the essay (fig. 3) 10.

Figure 3
Figure 3

In the context of ED's manuscripts "After great pain" looks like any other poem; yet read it as it is printed, hear it as written, and a single aspect leaps to the eye and reminds the ear: this is a mostly pentameterical poem and such are "unheard" of in ED's work. The first stanza is two couplets of iambic pentameter:11

After great pain, a formal feeling comes-
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs-
The stiff Heart questions "was it He, that bore,"
And "Yesterday, or Centuries before"?

-so far so good, if most unusual. The second section (it can't properly be called a stanza) seems to be a syntactic mess, though we may be able to resolve it); and the third stanza, irregular as regards the first but nonetheless akin, concludes with another couplet of iambic pentameter:

As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow-
First-Chill-then Stupor-then the letting go-

The jumbled second section bothered the poet, and I think for metrical as well as syntactic reasons. Note her marginal numbers 1, 3, 2, 4 at the heads of the lines. Rearrange accordingly, and we have

The Feet, mechanical, go round-
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought-
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone-

which doesn't really advance the sense but is perhaps more fluid. Allow me a bit of license with line-order and breaks:

The Feet, mechanical, go round-of Ground,
Or Air-or Ought-a Wooden way regard-
Less grown, a Quartz contentment, like a stone-

and we can see the poet's difficulty: she has 30 syllables, 15 feet, all iambs, and no way to put them into regular 5-beat lines. So she ended up with a 4, 3, 2, 2, 4 arrangement that served metrically if not syntactically (by the way, if anyone is interested, I vote for "Feet" as having grown "regardless" and therefore wandering the land of Ought-perhaps just Nwhat the synecdochic "Foot" in the previous poem, "Is Bliss then, such Abyss," (340, and the third equilibrium point in the sequence) had warned the voice and "Boot" about! Where all this might go, critically, I confess I don't know. Yet that 341 is anomalous in manner, relative to other poems in the Fascicle (and in fact to nearly all the rest of ED's work) is significant. Is pentameter somehow the only appropriate measure for "the Hour of Lead"? With this question I must leave the poem-to go to Heaven.

"This World is not Conclusion" (501) rests on the y-axis at zero, the fourth and last such point of equilibrium and the second in three poems. It rolls out a calm but firm declaration of Heaven's reality (Platonic ideality, not, in the main, Christian), which the 3rd person "objective" viewpoint maintains by means of "Faith" and intuition as opposed to "Philosophy" and "Sagacity." The former of these latters "don't know," while "Sagacity" in the end must go "through a Riddle" if it would arrive at the truth. Yet an allegorized Faith is timid and unsure and needs directions. Getting merely "Narcotics" from the "Pulpit," however, she is left at the end of the poem weaker than the positive assertion with which it began: "Narcotics cannot still the Tooth/ That nibbles at the soul-". As balances go, this is queasy, and needs shoring. A smidgen of help (two ticks on the scale) comes from "It will be Summer-eventually." (342), another imagined prolepsis of summer-in-winter, full of deceptively conventional images: "Ladies-with parasols-", "Sauntering Gentlemen-with Canes-", etc. Yet the voice (again, scrupulously 3rd person) predicts more than the returning season: "The Bees-will not despise the tune-/ Their Forefathers-have hummed-," and summer will work its miracle and retire "When Sacrament-is done-". These "Bees," so familiar, domestic and gay in ED's poems generally, have already appeared twice in the Fascicle (339 and 498); what they were doing both times, pollinating, was as natural as Eden, but the act was over- shadowed: the gardens in which they moved were over-shadowed: by the shroud of the gray calyx the gardener drapes herself in in 339, and by the startling kairos of the double imperative in the last stanza of 498:

Yet interdict-my blossom-
And abrogate-my Bee-
Lest Noon in Everlasting Night-
Drop Gabriel-and Me-

Now, over on the plus side, the bees of summer are, or will be, busy humming tunes, fantasias on "Faith of Our Fathers" (it could be!); helping the investiture of Summer after winter, their music the type for the heavenly investiture the proud "I" foresees for herself in 343 ("My Reward for Being, was This." But she's not "there" yet. Having been "elected," or so she claims, the bodily phase of the journey out still must come. It is an "outside" story. Sentimental villagers (it's because of sentiment and, for once, narrative that 344 is "positive") watch her corse [sic] along "the old-road-through pain-", follow her "little tracks" to the end of the trail," find "Her little Book-/ The leaf-at love-turned back-", her "very hat" and a "worn shoe" that "just fits the track" (this the Boot that contained the Foot that either did or didn't cross the abyss to bliss when earthly, that grìew regardless of terrain when walking "after great pain," and now is left behind as a memento mori). Now that she imagines herself as one of "Those fair-fictitious People" she'd mused over in poem 499, the "I"-voice (though smugly not appearing, body or soul, in 344) is ready for transportation.

But Calvinist "election" is an occasion of hubris: the candidate really doesn't know, and early affirmation presages a fall ("Dewey Defeats Truman!" "ED Saved!"). What is she when she is neither alive nor dead nor Alive? In the last limbo of despair, "At least-to pray-is left-is left-/ Oh Jesus-in the Air-" (502). Even in dire distress the "I" voice won't surrender everything for salvation. She keeps writing. 502's word-play subverts the ontological emergency: Is it Jesus "in the Air" or herself in Alice-like freefall? Why does she appeal to a god of wrath ("Thou settest Earthquake in the South-/ And Maelst‚rom, in the Sea-"for sweet succor ("Say, Jesus Christ of Nazareth-/ Hast thou no Arm for Me?")? Or is she asking rather for a weapon?

The pride of being is the pride of knowing: the voice knows justice even if god isn't saying. Then, as if such stubborn knowing is after all the ticket, suddenly, dramatically, ecstatically, she has it: "Better-than Music! For I-who heard it-/ . . . / . . . 'Twas Translation-/ Of all tunes I knew-and more-" (503). From 502 to 503 is the steepest and quickest upward leap in the entire sequence. To give a value of perfect 1 is once again to fudge. It is not yet Heaven, for the tense is past and she is still among us. But gnosis is once and for all possible. She has "heard it;" it is better than music because sublimely uncontained ("'Twasn't contained-like other stanza-"); and music is the best we have from which to make Heaven's "Counterfeit-/ We would not have Correct-"-and so we reconnect with »the equable first poem of the Fascicle, "It's thoughts-", where we mainly live, but knowing we can stand elsewhere (ex-stasis) in other rooms (stanzas). Likewise, the "feet" of the Eden digression (lines 9-16), "feet-that would-not-fly-" (do the dashes suggest "would and wouldn't," "would or wouldn't" fly? See the manuscript page, figure 4 below) re-act with the other "feet" in the sequence, with the regardless "feet, mechanical,"-a quantum relation between 1, -1. The Composer of this music better than music is a "perfect Mozart;" that composed, a "Keyless Rhyme!"whose secret perished with him. Wouldn't ED have agreed with Eudora Welty that when something is lost everything is a sign? And that that's why we cast a wide net? Having heard "it," the rest of life is well spent "rehearsing:" "Let me not spill-its smallest cadence-/ Humming-for promise-when alone-/ Humming. . . ." Humming: as the bees, within the flowers, color and aroma, nectar on the tongue], simple harmonic motion: synæsthesia.

Humming. . . bird. I guess in attempting to show that Fascicle 18 is a "modern lyric sequence," something other than narrative, I've been making up a story about it that treats it like a story. All right, maybe this isn't to be helped. Yet I'll risk a concluding try to avoid mere lining out. "Within my Garden, rides a Bird" (500) I have only mentioned, though as the second most "positive" lyric in the sequence, and the most beautiful, it deserves praise. My fascination with 500 comes from its epitomizing, encompassing (oh, that "circumference" were a verb with a participle!) image/metaphor of the hummingbird:

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel-
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill-

Now this is not quite so easy to visualize as the "Route of Evanescence/ Witeh a revolving Wheel-" from ED's other, better known hummingbird poem (1463).12 I think the reason is that 1463, though it continues the wheel metaphor, approaches the purely imagist: breathless: its colorfully seen bird there and gone in a flash ("The Mail from Tunis, probably,/ An easy Morning's Ride-"); 500 is a meditation on the "senses of wholeness." I imagine a hummingbird that appears to move on the circumference of a circle ("single Wheel"), though the radius of its strobing wings actually generates that circle: the bird in motion is the wheel (I never imagine a hummingbird at rest), and the illusion of wings as spokes radiating all around the circle and all at once and making it turn is what hums "dizzy Music" in the summer air, as the bird glides from flower to flower and "praises as he goes." There are five enjambments in the twelve lines trackingh the bird's flight (a very high number for a Dickinson poem13). Isn't this an indication of the poet's desire to represent ineffable motion in a seamless, stopless way? Afterward, the voice and her dog "perplex us" (them) whether what they thought they saw, they saw. Mistress is doubtful; perhaps "the Garden in the Brain" "bore. . . This curiosity"; but dog is "the best Logician" (scientist? worker with words? attuned to the Word?) and points his nose at traces of Logos in the Garden, "just vibrating Blossoms!/ An Exquisite Reply!" Here is what Dog knows, Mistress learns: If Circumference is sublime possibility, center beautiful actuality, and radius the means of transition, the hummingbird-from the sequence's poet's thoughts' perspective-has it all. Nature and Transcendence, though this latter he cannot know he has. The poet provides the paradox: she knows hge has, she hasn't, but just might. To know something's lost isn't to say that it can't be found, only that it hasn't been. Quantum physicists look for the uttermost particle that will order all the rest. Cosmologists, while insisting that the "universe" is stranger even than we can imagine, keep trying to look into the "literally" unlookable black holes to "see" if gravity will be the "thing" that explains it all. Poets, though, are the best lookers: they can almost, not quite repeal the law of contradiction. If "The Brain-is wider than the Sky-", it contains the latter; that is, the brain is the place and the space of the sublime (the stage on which Wordsworth enacted his "apocalypse of the mind"). So this poet graphs a hummingbird's life as she can't her own-yet: as y = sin x, simple harmonic motion.

Figure 4

Figure 4, page 1

Figure 4, page 2

Figure 4, page 3


1M. L. Rosenthal and Sally Gall, The Modern Poetic Sequence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 9. (back)

2Rosenthal and Gall, 11. (back)

3R. W. Franklin, ed., The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 2 vols. (back)

4See Ch. 3, "American Originals II." (back)

5Rosenthal and Gall, 48. (back)

6Since these polarities along the "states of being" axis are mine alone-though not arbitrary, since induced from the poems-readers deserve a word of explanation. They are, like the graph itself, metaphors, or what ED herself calls in the first poem of Fascicle 18 counterfeits of transcendent states: they help us understand as they help her structure: getting at what it would be like to be. . . . By "Heaven" I mean the transcendental ideal of a "place" where purified consciousness is the person; by "Hell," the Platonic (or Ewmersonian!) "absence" of this Form. "Bliss" and "Anguish" are the emotions most keenly felt in participation in or approaching Form or its Absence. And I employ the very un-Dickinsonian Greek words gnosis and agnosis for two reasons: first, there is no good English opposite for "knowledge" ("ignorance" just doesn't cut it); and, second, the verb "to know" is too important in the poetry to be burdened with objects, implied or direct. When ED uses "to know" in the mode of "know that. . . ), or, rarest of all, intransitively, that to me conveys the state of gnosis (or agnosis, as in "And Finished knowing-then-" [280]). . (back)

7In her "contextualizing" study of ED's poetry , Judith Farr asserts the influence of the pre-raphælite poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti upon Dickinson's cultural milieu (if not upon ED herself). Farr especially notes the mid-19th century vogue for his poem and painting of "The Blessed Damozel"-a woman "who, like the Dickinson of poem 640, is obsessed with her lover, even in paradise." The Passion of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), p 38. Following her lead, I would suggest the influence of Rossetti's painting of Proserpina, and its accompanying sonnet: the auburn-haired, alienated goddess standing in resentful melancholy in a plutonian space, bitten pomegranate held to her breast: "Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing/ Strange ways in thought, and listen for a sign" (lines 9-10). (back)

8See Farr pp 82-85 for a characterization of ED's interior sublime. According to Gary Lee Stonum, in The Dickinson Sublime (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990), "In taking power as the object of cherishing . . . Dickinson opts for an esthetics of the sublime. . . . Dickinson clearly imagines the esthetic. . . as dividing between what she calls prose and poetry, the former given over to order and the latter to force. And in virtually every instance in which she is obliged to choose between them, Dickinson unmistakably prefers the sublime. . . ." Stonum argues that this "Dickinson sublime" was the essential structuring force for her poems, discrete lyrics and groups (and although Stonum does not discuss the fascicles as structures or designs, much of what he seems to me a good fit with the concept of "lyric sequences." Applying Thomas Weiskel's work in The Romantic Sublime: Studies in the Structure and Psychology of Transcendence (1976), Stonum demonstrates that ED's poems of ten pattern themselves according to Weiskel's "three phases" of the sublime experience: normative, traumatic and reactive. The end, poetic and personal, is "sublimation:" "the subject experiences elevation, empowerment, and a release from traumatic assault. The new state of consciousness may be regarded as the restoration of blocked or occluded power, and it may be regarded also as an influx of fresh resources. . . . [I]t is an exhilaration so powerful and vivid as to be self-evidently valid" (pp 68-9). ). (back)

9If this is a redundancy, it is one as Burke's "delightful horror" and ED's "'Tis so appalling-it exhilarates-" (281) are oxymorons: implying that there are indeed two sides to the sublime. (back)

10Franklin, I:395. I have just begun to read Paul Crumbley's Inflections of the Pen: Dash and Voice in Emily Dickinson (Lexington: the University Press of Kentucky, 1997, yet I can already see that it's going to take a lot of study on my part to "master" the theory and practice of "dashing." Which suggests a revised sub-title for Professor C.'s second edition: Dashing Voice in ED! I mean no disrespect: on the contrary, just getting us to look closely at the mss. is an important first step toward. . . something, I know not what, but thanks, Professor C., and I'll keep reading and thinking. (back)

11I have departed from the Johnson variorum in putting in the single-quotation marks that seem to be indicated in the ms. But given the typographical limitations of this word-processing program, dash is a dash is a dash! (back)

12Rebecca Patterson thought poem 500 "confused"-a hummingbird poem without color-and believed that 1463 was its revision-and its amelioration and clarification: "A striking difference is that except for the suggestion inherent in 'Ripest Rose' the early poem is barren of color, whereas the later version is, in her own words, a 'Resonance of Emerald-/ A Rush of Cochineal-'." Patterson also finds Huitzilopochtli, the hummingbird god of war and sun of the Aztecs, making his appearance in 1463, through the contextual agency of William H. Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico (1854) and a June, 1860, article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled "The Humming-bird" (Emily Dickinson's Imagery, Margaret H. Freeman, ed., [Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1979], pp 146-7. (back)

13If, as Crumbley argues, interposition of dashes "means" disjunction and indeterminacy, might not the converse-sustained enjambment-signify at least the possibility of continuity and coherence? (back)

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