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emily dickinson

Emily Dickinson(1830-1886)

Biographical introduction
born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a family well known for educational and political activity. educated at Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

Dickinson’s parents

Around 1850 started to write poems, first in fairly conventional style, but after ten years of practice began to give room for experiments. Only seven of her some 1775 poems were published during her lifetime.

After the Civil War began to live a secluded life / dressed only in white and saw few of the visitors\ but her letters reveal knowledge of the writings of many writers in English literature.
Dickinson’s friend and sisiter-inlaw: Susan Gilbert

Dickinson's emotional life remains mysterious, despite much speculation about two disappointed love affairs. (Charles Wadsworth / Ottis Phillips Lord )

Subjects and points of view
1. Religious poems: Calvinism with its doctrine of predestination宿命 论 and its pessimism pressured her and colored her work so that her basic tone was tragic. She wrote about her belief and doubt about religious subjects. While she desired salvation得 救 、 救 世 and immortality, she denied the orthodox view of paradise. Although she believed in God, she sometimes doubted His benevolence善念.

2. The largest portion of her poetry concerns death and immortality, themes which lie at the center of her world. Her views of death are rather contradictory. For Dickinson death leads to immortality; (“Because I could not stop for death”) death comes as imperceptibly无法察觉 as grief悲伤 and marks the beginning of a higher life; (“As imperceptibly as Grief”) But she often conceived of the process of dying in poems, and was sometimes skeptical 怀 疑 and ambivalent 矛 盾 情 绪 的 about the possibility of achieving immortality. (“I heard a fly buzz when I died”)

3. Nature Poems: more than 500 She sees nature as both gaily benevolent and cruel. On the one hand, she believed that a mythical神话的不存在的 bond between man and nature existed. On the other hand, she felt strongly about nature‘s indifference冷漠 to human beings. Dickinson managed to write about nature in the affirmation 肯定of the sheer joy and the appreciation. Her acute observations, her concern for precise details and her interest in nature are pervasive, from sketches of flowers, insects, birds, to the sunset, the fully detailed summer storms, the change of seasons; from keen perception to witty analysis. “ A Bird came down the Walk ” “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass”

4. Love poems: One group of her love poems treats the suffering and frustration love can cause. The other group of love poems focuses on the physical aspect of desire, in which she emphasizes the power of physical attraction and magnetism between sexes. (“Wild Nights– Wild Nights”)

5. On the ethical level she emphasizes free will and human responsibility. And she attacks over emphasis on materialism and commercialism. 6. Like Emerson, she held that beauty, truth and goodness are ultimately one. In “I died for beauty—but was scarce”, discussing beauty and truth, she concludes that the two are one. 7. Some of her poems are under the influence of transcendentalism: “The Brain—Is Wider than the Sky”

Features of her poetry
1. Due to her deliberate seclusion, her poems tend to be very

personal and meditative. She frequently uses personae伪装 假象 to make the tone more familiar to the reader, and personification to vivify some abstract ideas. 2. Her poetry is unique and unconventional in its own way. Her poems have no titles, hence are always quoted by their first lines. In her poetry there is a particular stress pattern in which dashes are uses as a musical device to create cadence 抑扬顿挫 and capital letters as a means of emphasis. Her irregular or sometimes inverted sentence structure also confuses readers.

4. A salient feature of her technique is the severe economy of expression. Her poetic idiom is noted for its laconic brevity, directness and plainness. 5. Defamiliarization. 6. Her poetry abounds in telling images. There often exists only one image in the poem. With Stephen Crane, she is the precursor of the Imagist movement. 6. Dickinson often used variations of meters common in hymn writing, especially iambic tetrameter. She frequently employed off-rhymes (半 韵).

Off-rhyme: A partial or imperfect rhyme, often using assonance or consonance only, as in dry and died, or groom and moon. Examples of off-rhymes include ocean with noon and seam with swim in the lines “Than Oars divide the Ocean, Too silver for a seam — Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon Leap, plashless as they swim” from the poem “A Bird came down the Walk.”

Defamiliarization is the artistic technique of forcing the audience to see common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar.

Dickinson used defamiliarization often in her poems.
Her poem “A Bird came down the Walk” also illustrates her use of defamiliarization: “A Bird came down the Walk— /...drank a Dew / ...stirred his Velvet Head” and then “unrolled his feathers / And rowed him softer home” while “Butterflies” leap “off Banks of Noon.”

A Bird came down the Walk
A BIRD came down the Walk— He did not know I saw— He bit an Angleworm in halves And ate the fellow, raw. And then he drank a Dew From a convenient Grass—— And then hopped sidewise to the Wall To let a Beetle pass— He glanced with rapid eyes That hurried all abroad,— They looked like frightened Beads, I thought— He stirred his Velvet head 鸟儿沿着小径过来 不知道我看见了它; 它把一条蚯蚓啄成两段, 把这家伙生的吞下。 接着从就近的草上, 它吸下了一颗露珠; 然后侧着身子跳向墙边, 为的是给甲虫让路。 转动着灵活的眼睛, 它扫视了四面八方—— 宛若是两颗受惊的珠子; 毛茸茸的头晃了晃。

Like one in danger; Cautious, I offered him a Crumb, And he unrolled his feathers And rowed him softer home— Than Oars divide the ocean, Too silver for a seam— Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, Leap, plashless, as they swim.

像人遇险时的模样, 我投点面包屑给它—— 很小心——它却张开翅 膀, 划桨似的扑翼回家。 但是比桨划水轻盈—— 一片银辉不留痕迹; 比中午岸边的彩蝶轻 盈—— 没浪花地划翼腾起。

Form: Structurally, this poem is absolutely typical of Dickinson, using iambic trimeter with occasional foursyllable lines, following a loose ABCB rhyme scheme, and rhythmically breaking up the meter with long dashes.

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
A narrow Fellow in the Grass Occasionally rides-You may have met Him-did you not His notice sudden is-The Grass divides as with a Comb-A spotted shaft is seen-And then it closes at your feet And opens further on-He likes a Boggy Acre A Floor too cool for Corn-Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot-I more than once at Noon

Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash Unbraiding in the Sun When stooping to secure it It wrinkled, and was gone-Several of Nature's People I know, and they know me-I feel for them a transport Of cordiality-But never met this Fellow Attended, or alone Without a tighter breathing And Zero at the Bone--

狄金森在诗中采用空灵婉约的表现手法,写蛇通篇却没有一 个蛇字。读者须 在读完全诗后,从那“像用梳子”被分开的 草丛和赫然出现的“斑斓的箭杆”等饱满形象以及那沁人心 骨的寒气重仔细品味,才能领悟到作者的用意。这种不离不 露的写法避免了平板的吟咏一物的俗套,产生了“不着一字, 尽得风流”的艺术效果。 蛇在圣经中代表罪恶,在现实生活中也往往给人一种恐惧的 感觉。而在狄金森笔下,蛇却成了她生活中的伙伴。她用点 石成金的手法把为一般诗人所不屑的事物 采撷入诗,变雅为 俗,使人感受到生活中开采不尽的美的源泉。

I died for Beauty, but was scarce
I died for Beauty, but was scarce Adjusted in the Tomb, When One who died for Truth was lain In an adjoining Room— 我为美而死,但是在墓里 还没有能怎么适应, 隔壁墓室里就埋下一位— — 为真理它现出生命。

He questioned softly why I failed?它轻声问我死去的原因; “For Beauty,” I replied—— “那是为了美,” 我说。 “And I— for Truth,—the two are “我是为了真理,这两者 One— 一样; We Brethren are,” He said—— 我们是兄弟,” 他说。

And so, as Kinsmen met a Night—— We talked between the Rooms—— Until the Moss had reached our lips—— And covered up— our names— —

我们就这样隔着墙交谈, 像夜里遇上了近亲—— 直到青苔掩上了我们嘴 唇, 盖没了我们的姓名。

The first and the third line: iambic tetrameter The second and the fourth line: iambic trimeter Rhyme scheme: a b c b Theme: beauty and truth are organically one which cannot be separated.

I heard a Fly buzz when I died
I HEARD a fly buzz— when I died— The Stillness round my Room Was like the Stillness in the Air Between the Heaves of Storm. The Eyes around— had wrung them dry— And Breaths were gathering sure For that last Onset, when the King Be witnessed in the Room. I willed my keepsakes—Signed away What portion of me be Assignable—and then There interposed a fly,
听到苍蝇的嗡嗡声—我死时 房间里寂静 犹如风起云涌之间— 空气中寂静— 眼四周—泪已干— 呼吸几乎停止 因最后一击—死神 亲睹—房间里— 我遗言把我的所有—放弃 我自己的一份 安排—随后 被一只苍蝇打断—

With Blue— uncertain, stumbling Buzz, Between the light —and me— And then the Windows failed— and then I could not see to see—

忧郁的—说不清的嗡嗡 声 在光—和我之间 窗随后消失了—随后 我不知如何去看

Summary: The poet is watching and recording her own process of death. Death seems so trivial and natural a thing to experience. The horror and bitterness lie on the part of the onlookers. Light: light from the outside; or light from Heaven. Fly blocking off the light: may imply the poet cannot see the opportunity of gaining immortality. Fly: sets off the stillness in the room / suggests a coming decadence.

丑陋的苍蝇出现在叙事者和光亮之间,成为死者离开人世前 看到的最后生灵。由于这一卑微生灵出现于预期中上帝出现 的庄严时刻,诗歌因此平添了一层讽刺意味。人生的结束没 有庄严的葬礼进行曲的陪伴,却在微弱的苍蝇叫声中戛然终 止。这样的处理充分体现出诗歌的戏剧性,使读者领悟到诗 人的蕴意:上帝从不垂顾弥留之际的受难者,而一向为人所 不齿的苍蝇却在这一刻表现祝勃勃生机和无限深情,与死者 逐渐消失的呼吸以及上帝的冷漠形成鲜明对照。诚然,苍蝇 的外观令人厌恶,然儿在她描写死亡这一庄严主题时却时常 引入这个相貌丑陋的生灵,这或许是因为苍蝇的叫唤声能有 效地调动起读者的联觉,激发他们去想象人们弥留之际的痛 苦和惆怅。本诗堪称狄金森死亡主题诗歌的精品。

Because I could not stop for Death—
Because I could not stop for Death— He kindly stopped for me — The Carriage held but just Ourselves And Immortality. We slowly drove — he knew no haste, And I had put away My labor, and my leisure too, For His Civility. We passed the School where Children strove At Recess—in the Ring— We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain, We passed the Setting Sun.
因为我不能等候死神— 他大度地为我停留— 马车载着的是我们— 和永恒。 我们慢行—他也不匆忙 我离去 我的劳碌,还有我的闲散, 因为他太客气— 我们走过校园,孩子们在追 赶 在深处— 在操场— 我们走过收获的田野— 我们走过落日。

Or rather, he passed us; The dews drew quivering and chill, For only gossamer my gown, My tippet only tulle. We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground; The Roof was scarcely visible — The Cornice —in the ground — Since then —’t is centuries — and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses’ heads Were toward Eternity.

应该说—他走过我们, 冰冷的露水,让人颤抖, 因我只着上了薄纱睡衣, 披肩—唯一的绢衣

我们在一房前驻足 好似土堆; 几乎看不到它的屋顶 屋檐— 到了地下 —

从那时— 到现在已几千年— 然而 感觉比一天更短 我猜想马头 正朝永恒走去—

Summary: The poet treats death light-heartedly. She has given up living on her own will and followed death because she believes that death is a necessary step towards eternity and immortality. Theme: death will lead to immortality.

This is My Letter to the world
This is my letter to the World, That never wrote to Me— The simple News that Nature told— With tender majesty. Her Message is committed To Hands I cannot see— For Love of Her—Sweet— countrymen— Judge tenderly—of Me. As a poet, Dickinson takes poetry as a medium to attain pleasure, to preach her doctrine, to express her comprehension of the world, but she is unable to know whom her readers are. Thus she pleads with them for a fair judgement.

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!

我是无名之辈,你是谁? 你,也是,无名之辈? 这就有了我们一对!可是别声张! 你知道,他们会大肆张扬! 做个,显要人物,好不无聊! 像个青蛙,向仰慕的泥沼在—整 个六月,把个人的姓名 聒噪—何等招摇!

Wild Nights─Wild Nights
Wild Nights─wild Nights! Were I with thee Wild Nights should be Our Luxury! Futile─the Winds─ To a Heart in port Done with the Compass─ Done with the chart! Rowing in Eden─ Ah, the Sea! Might I but moor─Tonight─ In thee!

暴风雨夜─暴风雨夜! 我若与您同在, 这样的夜 应是一种奢侈。 风啊,你无能为力─ 因为心已在港口回避 罗盘已不起作用─ 海图也不必再用! 泛舟游于伊甸园─ 啊,大海! 但愿今夜─我能─ 停泊在你的胸怀!

I years had been from home

I years had been from home, 离开家乡已多年, And now, before the door 终于又到家门前, I dared not open, lest a face 不敢敲门,生怕看到 I never saw before 一张陌生的脸。


岭外音书断,经冬复历春。 近乡情更怯,不敢问来人。

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