by Mary Oliver

Page 1

For my part in this celebration I wanted to begin by reading four poems of Emily Dickinson. I think I got the good spot. I'm going to read one, at least, of the very well known poems and three not so well known. There are, in this book, something over seventeen hundred poems and I've had fun in the last week doing my homework, as it were, and found some delicious things that I wasn't that familiar with. This is a fairly early poem, 1861, and I thought it was kind of nice to read for two reasons. It describes New England, which was Emily Dickinson's home, of course, and is also mine, and there's something at the end of it that I liked so much, sad, but very human touch. She is, after all, a mystery as well as a miracle, and it's kind of nice to get this sense of her as a person, which she herself gave us, rather than what we are exploring about her.

What is - "Paradise" -
Who live there -
Are their "Farmers" -
Do they "hoe" -
Do they know that this is "Amherst" -
And that I - am coming - too -

Do they wear "new shoes" - in "Eden" -
Is it always pleasant - there -
Wont they scold us - when we're hungry -
Or tell God - how cross we are -

You are sure there's such a person
As a "Father" - in the sky -
So if I get lost - there - ever
Or do what the Nurse calls "die" -
I shant walk the "Jasper" - barefoot -
Ransomed folks - wont laugh at me -
Maybe "Eden" a'nt so lonesome
As New England used to be!

(JP 215)

This is a later poem, 1883, quite a late poem.

There came a Wind like a Bugle -
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost -
The Doom's electric Moccasin
That very instant passed -
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived - that Day -
The bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told -
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

(JP 1593)

  next page
about the author
audio version
table of contents
search the archives

  Titanic Operas Main Page
Copyright 1999 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Rebecca Mooney  <>
Last updated on March 10, 2008
Dickinson Electronic Archives