Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Little Madness in the Spring

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown -
Who ponders this tremendous scene -
This whole Experiment of Green -
As if it were his own!  
~~Emily Dickinson

For several years now,every April during my spring vacation I visit Emily Dickinson's garden at The Homestead. Emily is my neighbor to the southeast, less than a half hour's drive from where I live. This is one of my top favorite places in Western Massachusetts.


 Since childhood I've been fascinated by The Belle of Amherst. Her reclusiveness has been speculated upon by all manner of scholars, some of whom have made it their entire life's work to study her poems and letters, in an effort to understand who she really was.

A very private person, obviously. By her own instructions, her letters were burned after her death by her younger sister Lavinia, who while doing so, came upon a box of 1700 of Emily's poems. During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson felt uneasy about publishing her very personal and highly passionate writing. Perhaps she felt secure that her tiny bundles of poems, sewed together into little books, would one day be discovered and found to have merit.

I've always entertained a suspicion that Emily's reclusiveness was not a result of serious mental illness as was once highly speculated. The old stereotype of her as a frail, perhaps frigid spinster have more recently given way to a view of Emily much more after my own heart!  In thinking of someone like Dickinson, we assume that she was like a little mouse, never speaking to anyone, holing up in her upstairs bedroom to write, paranoid that anyone was watching her. In fact, Emily interacted fully with her own family, having close relationships with both her siblings and an adoration of her nieces and nephews. She tended the family garden and baked the family bread daily. Eccentric, yes. Yet busy and productive, with a sharpness of mind that is one of the trademarks of her poetry.

That her poems reveal, at times, a smoldering physical passion is obvious. Her relationship with God and religion  tentative and questioning, she was most comfortable worshiping nature in her garden. Her father and brother Austin, prominent citizens of Amherst, helped to found the Congregational Church, just across the street from the Dickinson home. Emily never stepped foot inside of it.


"I feel that the world holds a predominant place in my affections. I do not feel that I could give up all for Christ, were I called to die" (L13)

 I have not gone into a full biography, as others have done a much better job of it than I could possibly. For everything that is known about Emily, please visit The Homestead website, linked above. For many things speculated and invented, read Jerome Charyn's delightful novel The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson.

Here some more photos of Emily's garden in April, 2011. If you visit last year's post on this subject, you will notice a difference in how the garden is blooming. Spring is here, albeit somewhat delayed.




Scilla

Spring comes on the World—
I sight the Aprils—
Hueless to me until thou come
As, till the Bee
Blossoms stand negative
Touched to Conditions
By a Hum. 
~~Emily Dickinson



A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown -
Who ponders this tremendous scene -
This whole Experiment of Green -
As if it were his own!



 The path from the Dickinson Homestead to The Evergreens, Austin and Susan Dickinson's home.


Magnolia

Hyacinth
 
 
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!


Linking to That's My World

20 comments:

  1. I first encountered Emily's poetry when I was 13 or 14 - school is still good for a lot of things :-)

    What a marvellous neighbour to have!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, and the photos are marvellous - particularly the last two!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Francis - About middle school is when ED's poetry is usually introduced. And yes, school is good for some things.

    I have a second-grade student (8 years old) whom I refer to as our classroom poet laureate. When I introduced him to a bit of ED's poetry, he scrunched up his nose and said - "my mom's already tried to have me read that lady!" ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is a beautiful garden. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with Emily Dickinson's poems, as that part of my education seems to have been skipped. But one of these days I plan to read some of them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Having one member of our family here who would gladly never go anywhere, and would love the routine of daily bread, daily walks, gardening, books and creating, I don't doubt for a minute that Miss D was quite normal but satisfied with what she had, restless for things she did not think she could possess, and swept up in the intensity of the details of her existence. Allowed to remain at home, she did. Some people need to wander the infinity of the universe for novelty and inspiration - others (like our oldest and ED) can find infinity in the surroundings of their everyday life, and will marvel at the miracles that most of us overlook.

    The poems you added to your post are all memorable. Again, like our oldest, no wasted words, and usually layers of meaning. They craft gems, utter or write them, and whether anyone notices or reads them is up to other people. Seeds cast on the wind...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow a tremendous post. Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, I see there is a big difference in the April pictures taken last year and this one. I've traveled far and enjoyed many places but if one were to long for a home (which I do) The Emily's house and lifestyle would be high among my choices. You've chosen some wonderful poems this time too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It seems she led a full life, doing the things she loved, surrounded by family. That's not a bad way to live.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Spring a time for cleaning a time for pagan festivals. a good week for you

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a beautiful place to visit. Good post about Emily Dickinson.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Awesome, well researched (as is typical of you) post.

    Now, I'm very curious about Ms. Dickinson. I always had this impression of a very timid person. So, this alternate version is interesting.

    Great photos!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for taking us on this field trip. I needed a break from the present.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Steve - such a beautifully written comment, as always. A bit of a recluse myself, I can easily imagine a life like Emily's. It's wonderful that you allow your daughter her natural inclinations. For some, staying close to home affords the most freedoms.

    Too many others to thank today. Thank you again and again for enriching my experiences with your comments.

    All the love,
    Pagan Sphinx

    ReplyDelete
  14. excellent post.

    with the right title,
    like 'Emily Dickinson' might be perennial search 'hit'



    should be...



    Warm Aloha from Honolulu


    Comfort Spiral

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    ReplyDelete
  15. Beautiful, love that house.

    Having trouble with my net connections at the moment, keeps popping on and off a lot.
    Got Virgin coming out thurs, hoping to have it fixed and working all the time.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Well said, PS - and nice photographs to make us feel like we're visiting her along with you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh Joy! I am so glad that I looked back. I love E.D.'s poetry and have always wondered what her home looked like. How wonderful that you are so near. I think that your suspicions as to her true character are probably right. Her mind and imagination are too astute for a recluse - too sharp and 'of this world'. Wouldn't it have been great to meet her'? But then, you almost do in treading her territory and becoming immersed in it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Actually, it's our oldest son who is the one to stay at home... Daughter is away and doing more than is humanly possible, a force of nature. A little like your daughter-in-law, I think.

    And I wanted to come back and echo the Cunning Runt - your photos were perfect on this post. Almost like being there.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Steve - a male Emily. :-) A Force would be my older daughter. Though my daughter-in-law is not far behind. :-) Movers and shakers. Neither of my daughters were ever content with being home. I love being home, keeping a tranquil pace, puttering, gardening, reading, even hanging out clothes to dry. I love it but I also like packing up and going. I could never, ever be a happy traveler if I didn't have a home to return to.

    ReplyDelete

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