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Emily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson
I.Background, life

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 on the quiet community of Amherst, Massachusetts, the second daughter of Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Emily, Austin (her older brother) and her younger sister Lavinia were nurtured in a quiet, reserved family headed by their authoritative father Edward. Throughout Emily's life, her mother was not "emotionally accessible," the absence of which might have caused some of Emily's eccentricity. Being rooted in the puritanical Massachusetts of the 1800's, the Dickinson children were raised in the Christian tradition, and they were expected to take up their father's religious beliefs and values without argument. Later in life, Emily would come to challenge these conventional religious viewpoints of her father and the church, and the challenges she met with would later contribute to the strength of her poetry. The Dickinson family was prominent in Amherst. In fact, Emily's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, was one of the founders of Amherst College, and her father served as lawyer and treasurer for the institution. Emily's father also served in powerful positions on the General Court of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts State Senate, and the United States House of Representatives. Unlike her father, Emily did not enjoy the popularity and excitement of public life in Amherst, and she began to withdraw. Emily did not fit in with her father's religion in Amherst, and her father began to censor the books she read because of their potential to draw her away from the faith. Being the daughter of a prominent politician, Emily had the benefit of a good education and attended the Amherst Academy. After her time at the academy, Emily left for the South Hadley Female Seminary (currently Mount Holyoke College) where she started to blossom into a delicate young woman - "her eyes lovely auburn, soft and warm, her hair lay in rings of the same color all over her head with her delicate teeth and skin." She had a demure manner that was almost fun with her close friends, but Emily could be shy, silent, or even depreciating in the presence of strangers. Although she was successful at college, Emily returned after only one year at the seminary in 1848 to Amherst where she began her life of seclusion. Although Emily never married, she had several significant relationships with a select few. It was during this period following her return from school that Emily began to dress all in white and choose those precious few that would be her own private society. Refusing to see almost everyone that came to visit, Emily seldom left her father's house. In Emily's entire life, she took one trip to Philadelphia (due to eye problems), one to Washington, and a few trips to Boston. Other than those occasional ventures, Emily had no extended exposure to the world outside her home town. During this time, her early twenties, Emily began to write poetry seriously. Fortunately, during those rare journeys Emily met two very influential men that would be sources of inspiration and guidance: Charles Wadsworth and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. There were other less influential individuals that affected Emily, such as
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Samuel Bowles and J.G. Holland, but the impact that Wadsworth and Higginson had on Dickinson was monumental. The Reverend Charles Wadsworth, age 41, had a powerful effect on Emily's life and her poetry. On her trip to Philadelphia, Emily met Wadsworth, a clergyman, who was to become her "dearest earthly friend". A romantic figure, Wadsworth was an outlet for Emily, because his orthodox Calvinism acted as a beneficial catalyst to her theoretical inferences. Wadsworth, like Dickinson, was a solitary, romantic person that Emily could confide in when writing her poetry. He had the same poise in the pulpit that Emily had in her poetry. Wadsworth's religious beliefs and presumptions also gave Emily a sharp, and often welcome, contrast to the transcendentalist writings and easy assumptions of Emerson. Most importantly, it is widely believed that Emily had a great love for this Reverend from Philadelphia even though he was married. Many of Dickinson's critics believe that Wadsworth was the focal point of Emily's love poems. When Emily had a sizable backlog of poems, she sought out somebody for advice about anonymous publication, and on April 15, 1862 she found Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an eminent literary man. She wrote a letter to Higginson and enclosed four poems to inquire his appraisal and advice. Although Higginson advised Dickinson against publishing her poetry, he did see the creative originality in her poetry, and he remained Emily's "preceptor" for the remainder of her life. It was after that correspondence in 1862 that Emily decided against publishing her poems, and, as a result, only seven of her poems were published in her lifetime - five of them in the Springfield Republican. The remainder of the works would wait until after Dickinson's death. Emily continued to write poetry, but when the United States Civil War broke out a lot of emotional turmoil came through in Dickinson's work. Some changes in her poetry came directly as a result of the war, but there were other events that distracted Emily and these things came through in the most productive period of her lifetime about 800 poems. Even though she looked inward and not to the war for the substance of her poetry, the tense atmosphere of the war years may have contributed to the urgency of her writing. The year of greatest stress was 1862, when distance and danger threatened Emily's friends - Samuel Bowles, in Europe for his health; Charles Wadsworth, who had moved to a new pastorate at the Calvary Church in San Francisco; and T.W. Higginson, serving as an officer in the Union Army. Emily also had persistent eye trouble, which led her, in 1864 and 1865, to spend several months in Cambridge, Mass. for treatment. Once back in Amherst she never traveled again and after the late 1860s never left the boundaries of the family's property. The later years of Dickinson's life were primarily spent in mourning because of several deaths within the time frame of a few years. Emily's father died in 1874, Samuel Bowles died in 1878, J.G. Holland died in 1881, her nephew Gilbert died in 1883, and both Charles Wadsworth and Emily's mother died in 1882. Over those few years, many of the most influential and precious friendships of Emily's passed away, and that gave way to the more concentrated obsession with death in her poetry. On
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June 14, 1884 Emily's obsessions and poetic speculations started to come to a stop when she suffered the first attack of her terminal illness. Throughout the year of 1885, Emily was confined to bed in her family's house where she had lived her entire life, and on May 15, 1886 Emily took her last breath at the age of 56. At that moment the world lost one of its most talented and insightful poets. Emily left behind nearly 2,000 poems. As a result of Emily Dickinson's life of solitude, she was able to focus on her world more sharply than other authors of her time - contemporary authors who had no effect on her writing. Emily was original and innovative in her poetry, most often drawing on the Bible, classical mythology, and Shakespeare for allusions and references. Many of her poems were not completed and written on scraps of paper, such as old grocery lists. Eventually when her poetry was published, editors took it upon themselves to group them into classes - Friends, Nature, Love, and Death. These same editors arranged her works with titles, rearranged the syntax, and standardized Dickinson's grammar. Fortunately in 1955, Thomas Johnson published Dickinson's poems in their original formats, thus displaying the creative genius and peculiarity of her poetry. II.Works, literary view, literary style She composes a poem earnestly in lonely, leaves behind poem manuscript 1775. She has 7 poems to be transcribed by the friend before her death from her letter be publicated. When she creates, Emerson leads “ultra examines the principle” the movement to leave the Amherst not far Concord to emerge, she is young when once contacted Emerson's thought that Emerson opposed that the authority, the calamity still the intuition viewpoint, caused her to have the conflict with the legitimate religious sentiment, is to the religion reverent and in the suspicion contradiction. Her poem mainly writes arrogantly lonely, to the religious pursue disappointed, dies serenely and so on, has reflected the complex psychology. The Dickinson passed away in May 15, 1886. Her relatives and friends once compiled her to lose the poem, prints out 3 volumes in 19 century's ends, but the manner put behind gradually. Gets up until the American modern poetic inspiration, she only then obtains the warmly welcome as the modern poem's trail blazer, to her research US modern literature criticism popularity. From 1921, the Dickinson correspondence compiles the publication one after another. And many display the riddle general interest which is similar with her poem, this also explained that her life content is too narrow. Emily Dickinson led one of the most prosaic lives of any great poet. At a time when fellow poet Walt Whitman was ministering to the Civil War wounded and traveling across America--a time when America itself was reeling in the chaos of war, the tragedy of the Lincoln assassination, and the turmoil of Reconstruction--Dickinson lived a relatively untroubled life in her father's house in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she was born in 1830 and where she died in 1886. Although popular myth often depicts Dickinson as the solitary genius, she, in fact,
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remained relatively active in Amherst social circles and often entertained visitors throughout her life. However, she was certainly more isolated than a poet such as Whitman: Her world was bounded by her home and its surrounding countryside; the great events of her day play little role in her poetry. Whitman eulogized Lincoln and wrote about the war; Dickinson, one of the great poets of inwardness ever to write in English, was no social poet--one could read through her Collected Poems--1,776 in all--and emerge with almost no sense of the time in which she lived. Of course, social and historical ideas and values contributed in shaping her character, but Emily Dickinson's ultimate context is herself, the milieu of her mind. Dickinson is simply unlike any other poet; her compact, forceful language, characterized formally by long disruptive dashes, heavy iambic meters, and angular, imprecise rhymes, is one of the singular literary achievements of the nineteenth century. Her aphoristic style, whereby substantial meanings are compressed into very few words, can be daunting, but many of her best and most famous poems are comprehensible even on the first reading. During her lifetime, Dickinson published hardly any of her massive poetic output (fewer than ten of her nearly 1,800 poems) and was utterly unknown as a writer. After Dickinson's death, her sister discovered her notebooks and published the contents, thus, presenting America with a tremendous poetic legacy that appeared fully formed and without any warning. As a result, Dickinson has tended to occupy a rather uneasy place in the canon of American poetry; writers and critics have not always known what to make of her. Today, her place as one of the two finest American poets of the nineteenth century is secure: Along with Whitman, she literally defines the very era that had so little palpable impact on her poetry. Emily Dickinson is such a unique poet that it is very difficult to place her in any single tradition--she seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. Her poetic form, with her customary four-line stanzas, ABCB rhyme schemes, and alternations in iambic meter between tetrameter and trimeter, is derived from Psalms and Protestant hymns, but Dickinson so thoroughly appropriates the forms--interposing her own long, rhythmic dashes designed to interrupt the meter and indicate short pauses--that the resemblance seems quite faint. Her subjects are often parts of the topography of her own psyche; she explores her own feelings with painstaking and often painful honesty but never loses sight of their universal poetic application; one of her greatest techniques is to write about the particulars of her own emotions in a kind of universal homiletic or adage-like tone ("After great pain, a formal feeling comes") that seems to describe the reader's mind as well as it does the poet's. Dickinson is not a "philosophical poet"; unlike Wordsworth or Yeats, she makes no effort to organize her thoughts and feelings into a coherent, unified worldview. Rather, her poems simply record thoughts and feelings experienced naturally over the course of a lifetime devoted to reflection and creativity: the powerful mind represented in these records is by turns astonishing, compelling, moving, and thought-provoking, and emerges much more vividly than if Dickinson had orchestrated her work according to a preconceived philosophical system. Of course, Dickinson's greatest achievement as a poet of inwardness is her
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brilliant, diamond-hard language. Dickinson often writes aphoristically, meaning that she compresses a great deal of meaning into a very small number of words. This can make her poems hard to understand on a first reading, but when their meaning does unveil itself, it often explodes in the mind all at once, and lines that seemed baffling can become intensely and unforgettably clear. Other poems--many of her most famous, in fact--are much less difficult to understand, and they exhibit her extraordinary powers of observation and description. Dickinson's imagination can lead her into very peculiar territory--some of her most famous poems are bizarre death-fantasies and astonishing metaphorical conceits--but she is equally deft in her navigation of the domestic, writing beautiful nature-lyrics alongside her wild flights of imagination and often combining the two with great facility 1. Success Success is counted sweetest By those who ne'er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the pruple host Who took the flag today Can tell the definition, So clear, of victory,

As he, defeated, dying, On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Break, agonized and clear.

The speaker says that "those who ne'er succeed" place the highest value on success. (They "count" it "sweetest".) To understand the value of a nectar, the speaker
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says, one must feel "sorest need." She says that the members of the victorious army ("the purple Host / Who took the flag today") are not able to define victory as well as the defeated, dying man who hears from a distance the music of the victors. The three stanzas of this poem take the form of iambic trimeter--with the exception of the first two lines of the second stanza, which add a fourth stress at the end of the line. (Virtually all of Dickinson's poems are written in an iambic meter that fluctuates fluidly between three and four stresses.) As in most of Dickinson's poems, the stanzas here rhyme according to an ABCB scheme, so that the second and fourth lines in each stanza constitute the stanza's only rhyme. Many of Emily Dickinson's most famous lyrics take the form of homilies, or short moral sayings, which appear quite simple but that actually describe complicated moral and psychological truths. "Success is counted sweetest" is such a poem; its first two lines express its homiletic point, that "Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne'er succeed" (or, more generally, that people tend to desire things more acutely when they do not have them). The subsequent lines then develop that axiomatic truth by offering a pair of images that exemplify it: the nectar--a symbol of triumph, luxury, "success"--can best be comprehended by someone who "needs" it; the defeated, dying man understands victory more clearly than the victorious army does. The poem exhibits Dickinson's keen awareness of the complicated truths of human desire (in a later poem on a similar theme, she wrote that "Hunger--was a way / Of Persons outside Windows-- / The Entering--takes away--"), and it shows the beginnings of her terse, compacted style, whereby complicated meanings are compressed into extremely short phrases (e.g., "On whose forbidden ear").

2. Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

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Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, That sings the tune without the words, That never stops at all.

The sweetest in the gale is heard, And sore must be the storm, That could abash the little bird, That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land, And on the strangest sea。 。 Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me. The speaker describes hope as a bird ("the thing with feathers") that perches in the soul. There, it sings wordlessly and without pause. The song of hope sounds sweetest "in the Gale," and it would require a terrifying storm to ever "abash the little Bird / That kept so many warm." The speaker says that she has heard the bird of hope "in the chillest land-- / And on the strangest Sea--", but never, no matter how extreme the conditions, did it ever ask for a single crumb from her. Like almost all of Dickinson's poems, "'Hope' is the thing with feathers--..." takes the form of an iambic trimeter that often expands to include a fourth stress at the end of the line (as in "And sings the tune without the words--"). Like almost all of her poems, it modifies and breaks up the rhythmic flow with long dashes indicating breaks and pauses ("And never stops--at all--"). The stanzas, as in most of Dickinson's lyrics, rhyme loosely in an ABCB scheme, though in this poem there are some incidental carryover rhymes: "words" in line three of the first stanza rhymes with "heard" and "Bird" in the second; "Extremity" rhymes with "Sea" and "Me" in the third stanza, thus, technically conforming to an ABBB rhyme scheme.

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This simple, metaphorical description of hope as a bird singing in the soul is another example of Dickinson's homiletic style, derived from Psalms and religious hymns. Dickinson introduces her metaphor in the first two lines ("'Hope' is the thing with feathers-- / That perches in the soul--"), then develops it throughout the poem by telling what the bird does (sing), how it reacts to hardship (it is unabashed in the storm), where it can be found (everywhere, from "chillest land" to "strangest Sea"), and what it asks for itself (nothing, not even a single crumb). Though written after "Success is counted sweetest," this is still an early poem for Dickinson, and neither her language nor her themes here are as complicated and explosive as they would become in her more mature work from the mid-1860s. Still, we find a few of the verbal shocks that so characterize Dickinson's mature style: the use of "abash," for instance, to describe the storm's potential effect on the bird, wrenches the reader back to the reality behind the pretty metaphor; while a singing bird cannot exactly be "abashed," the word describes the effect of the storm--or a more general hardship--upon the speaker's hopes.

3. If "I'm nobody! Who are you?" I'm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too? Then there's a pair of us — don't tell! They'd banish us, you know. How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring bog! The speaker exclaims that she is "Nobody," and asks, "Who are you? / Are you-Nobody--too?" If so, she says, then they are a pair of nobodies, and she admonishes her addressee not to tell, for "they'd banish us--you know!" She says that it would be "dreary" to be "Somebody"--it would be "public" and require that, "like a Frog," one tell one's name "the livelong June-- / To an admiring Bog!" The two stanzas of "I'm Nobody!" are highly typical for Dickinson, constituted of loose iambic trimeter occasionally including a fourth stress ("To tell your name--the livelong June--"). They follow an ABCB rhyme scheme (though in the first stanza, "you" and "too" rhyme, and "know" is only a half-rhyme, so the scheme could
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appear to be AABC), and she frequently uses rhythmic dashes to interrupt the flow. Ironically, one of the most famous details of Dickinson lore today is that she was utterly un-famous during her lifetime--she lived a relatively reclusive life in Amherst, Massachusetts, and though she wrote nearly 1,800 poems, she published fewer than ten of them. This poem is her most famous and most playful defense of the kind of spiritual privacy she favored, implying that to be a Nobody is a luxury incomprehensible to the dreary Somebodies--for they are too busy keeping their names in circulation, croaking like frogs in a swamp in the summertime. This poem is an outstanding early example of Dickinson's often jaunty approach to meter (she uses her trademark dashes quite forcefully to interrupt lines and interfere with the flow of her poem, as in "How dreary-- to be--Somebody!"). Further, the poem vividly illustrates her surprising way with language. The juxtaposition in the line "How public--like a Frog--" shocks the first-time reader, combining elements not typically considered together, and, thus, more powerfully conveying its meaning (frogs are "public" like public figures--or Somebodies--because they are constantly "telling their name"-- croaking--to the swamp, reminding all the other frogs of their identities). Dickinson's works have had considerable influence on modern poetry. Her frequent use of dashes, sporadic capitalization of nouns, off-rhymes, broken metre, unconventional metaphors have contributed her reputation as one of the most innovative poets of 19th-century American literature. Later feminist critics have challenged the popular conception of the poet as a reclusive, eccentric figure, and underlined her intellectual and artistic sophistication. Some poems of Emily Dickinson seem to be transcendental, yet not quite. She appears to search for the universal truths and investigate the circumstances of the human condition: sense of life, immortality, God, faith, place of man in the universe. Emily Dickinson questions absolutes and her argumentation is multisided. The poetic technique that she uses involves making abstract concrete, which creates a striking imagery like that of a hand of the wind combing the Sky.

Although Emily Dickinson was a poet in the Romantic period, her poems are so informal and personal which makes her poems posses a unique style and artistic charming .the use of short words, capitalization, unusual pause and the techniques of off-rhymes all contribute to the particularity of her poems. Here I'd like to talk a bit about the techniques used in her poetry from two aspects: Formality and language. Let's start from the technique used in her verse form. 1.Stanza form

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The most important source of Emily Dickinson's verse form is the hymnal. Being greatly influenced by Christian, she liked to read "Bible" and listened to church hymns from which she took her meters with the rhyme scheme of either abcb or abab. 2.rhyme Dickinson was famous for using off rhyme or we call "near rhyme". The term off-rhyme means that rhyme word don't really rhyme with each other, it is only a close rhyme with which Emily tried to avoid dullness. 3.Pause The particularity of Dickinson's poem also lies in the original use of "dash". She repeatedly uses the dash in order to pursue freshness and dramatic effect. The dash helps to highlight important words by showing a pause of emphasis, anticipation, suspense, irony, imagination and mildness of tone. 4.Imagery and Figurative language Another feature of her poetry comes from her ideas like most poets, she realizes that she, as a poet, must suggest, and can't tell. She mustn't present her theme directly but do it indirectly through the use of imagery and symbols. She is good at the use of metaphors. To sum up, Emily Dickinson seems to be wholly original and developed her own poetic form with many peculiar features. These not only make her poetry sent forth a unique charming along with her keen observation, originality, imagination in the poetry garden but remains as an invaluable reference for the study of modernism of poetry. III.Place in literary history Amily Dickinson is one of American greatest poets, took the 20th century modernism literature the pioneer, her status has even dominated above Walter Whitman, on rein English's ability, some people places on a par her and Shakespeare, even also some people asserted, since she has been the 7th century B.C. ancient Greece Sa luck the Western greatest female poet. Dickinson publishes the work to be very few before death (merely eight), moreover majority is anonymous and without her permitted that publishes. She once wrote:“the publication, is the auction/person's mind - -/......Cuts cannot cause person's spirit/to suffer the price the shame.”Dickinson likes the words and expressions game and the riddle, she has also become a riddle and a mysticalness. Her life majority is posterity's extrapolation and the suspicion, is the legend and the myth, because the people know really few regarding this. She only saves the picture is she when 17 years old shoots. Her close 1800 poem created by heaven and earth is as if ordinary, cannot see any imitation the prototype or the
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progress, when they write down as if is so, also does not have any title and the writing date. This huge literature inheritance caused her and Walter Whitman is the same, has become the 19th century US one of greatest two poets.

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