Posts Tagged ‘emily dickinson’

Autumn, in painting and poetry

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Autumn Landscape With Four Trees - Vincent van Gogh

Autumn Landscape With Four Trees - Vincent van Gogh

Autumn is here once again! The changing of the seasons is a favorite topic here at The Untended Garden, perhaps because so many artists have been inspired by the seasons.

Today I present a famous painting by Vincent Van Gogh, appropriately entitled Autumn Landscape With Four Trees (click the image for a larger view.) What’s most interesting to me about this painting is the ordinariness of the scene. He did not choose a majestic vista or mountaintop, as so many landscape artists do, he chose a clump of very ordinary, almost misshapen trees – one of them has even lost its leaves. And yet the artist saw something beautiful in them, and chose to immortalize this view forever, so that we could all experience this moment the way he did.

Likewise, Emily Dickinson captured her own particular notion of autumn in the poem below. Even though autumn is beautiful, she seems to say, it also portends a passing of time that is not so easily accepted.

* * *

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
“The Summer” than “the Autumn,” lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved —

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life’s Declivity.

– Emily Dickinson

* * *

I dreaded that first Robin

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Emily Dickinson

Today I’d like to share a poem by Emily Dickinson, one of her many works inspired by nature. Despite the pleasant imagery of birds and daffodils, it’s really a melancholy poem, describing how even the most beautiful things can be painful when you’re feeling sad. And the more beloved they are (the poet clearly loves the garden in springtime) the more piercing it is to look upon them.

Like all great poems, this one has been interpreted many different ways by different people. What do you think it means?

* * *

I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I’m some accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though —

I thought if I could only live
Till that first Shout got by —
Not all Pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me —

I dared not meet the Daffodils —
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own —

I wished the Grass would hurry —
So — when ’twas time to see —
He’d be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch — to look at me —

I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wished they’d stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?

They’re here, though; not a creature failed —
No Blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me —
The Queen of Calvary —

Each one salutes me, as he goes,
And I, my childish Plumes,
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking Drums —

* * *

The Nature of Emily Dickinson

Friday, January 8th, 2010

dickinson1bTo kick off this wintry new year, here is a poem by Emily Dickinson, who was no stranger to the outdoors. Throughout her roughly 1,700 poems, she described nature in her own singular way, as someone who has quietly observed it all her life. This particular poem is written as a riddle, never explicitly stating the subject, though I think you’ll guess.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem —
The summer’s empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

.