Emily Dickinson might be called an artisan, since most of her poems have fewer than thirty lines, yet she deals with the most deep topics in poetry: death, love, and humanity’s relations to God and nature. Her poetry not only impresses by its on going freshness but also the animation. Her use of language and approachness of her subjects in unique ways, might attribute to why “Hope is the thing with feathers” is one of her most famous works. Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830.
Born to Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson, she was the second of three children. Her brother was named Austin, and her sister was named Lavina. Her father, Edward, was a Whig lawyer, who served as treasurer of Amherst College. He was also elected to one term in Congress. Up until Dickinson was ten, she lived in a mansion, built by her grandfather. She often was seen as frail by her parents; therefore, kept home from school.
The religious faith that resided in the Dickinson household was one called evangelical Calvinism.
Evangelical Calvinism is a belief that humans are born totally depraved and can be saved only if they undergo a life-altering conversion, in which they accept the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Habegger n. p. ). Neither Emily nor Lavina married; however, when Austin married, him and his wife lived next door to his parents. Emily Dickinson excelled in subjects such as Latin and the sciences. After determining that Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (the college she was going to at the time and is now Mount Holyoke College) was uncongenial, she left the college.
Her writing mostly consisted of letters until she was in her mid-20s. The poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson was the first poetry Emily Dickinson had the pleasure to be introduced to by one of her father’s law students, Benjamin F. Newton. The works of Elizabeth Barret Browning played a formative role for Emily, confirming the idea of female greatness and stimulating her ambition. Restricting social activity, she cultivated epistolary relationships with a few people. In 1855, Edward, Lavina, and Emily left the house and headed to Washington D. C.
On return the sisters made a trip to Philadelphia, where the poet heard the preachings of Charles Wadsworth. Seventy years later, Emily’s niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, claimed that Emily had fallen in love with Wadsworth, who was married. Later Bianchi believes that Dickinson grandly renounced him. This story is not credited because there is no evidence that the minister returned the poet’s love (Habegger, n. p. ) After Wadsworth’s death in 1882, Emily remembered him as “My Philadelphia,” “My dearest earthly friend,” and “My shepherd from ‘Little Girlhood’ (Habegger n. p. ).
Events such as: a bitter Norcross family lawsuit, financial collapse of local railroad that had been promoted by her father, and a religious revival that renewed the pressure to “convert”- made the years 1857 and 1858 deeply troubling for Dickinson and promoted her withdrawal. In 1862, Dickinson wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. She sent him four of her poems asking ‘Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive? ’ (Pearson Education). Although he didn’t encourage her to publish her work, she still continued to write poetry in her own style. Emily Dickinson’s was probably one of the most private literary careers.
One poem, A Valentine, was in the Amherst College Indicator in February 1850. Another Valentine was published in the Springfield Republican newspaper in February 1852. Various times throughout the 1860s, Republican would print four or more of her poems, out of the nearly forty poems she sent to Samuel Bowles, one of the papers editors. Among the four were three of her most famous works: I taste a liquor never brewed, Safe in their Alabaster Chambers, and A narrow Fellow in the Grass. Another poem was published in 1866 in a New York journal called The Round Table. Success is counted Sweetest was the last poem published which was in 1978.
Over her entire lifetime, Emily Dickinson only published eight of the 1,775 poems she is known to have written. Emily Dickinson died May 15, 1886. After her death, Lavina found manuscripts of her sisters poems and looked to Mabel Loomis Todd for help in the publication. Much poetry still unpublished, a quarrel over real estate led to an estrangement, both in possession of a portion of the manuscripts. The love affair between Mabel Loomis Todd and Austin, Dickinson’s brother, not only affected the families of both but also the posthumous editing and publishing of Emily’s poetry (Pearson Education).
Dickinson used imagery and metaphor to help describe why hope is the thing with feathers. In the first stanza, the metaphorical image of a bird is given as an abstract idea of hope. By giving hope feathers, Dickinson created an image of hope in our minds. The last three lines of the fifth stanza she metaphorically describes what a person who destroys hope feels like. “And sore must be the storm. ” “That could abash the little bird. ” “That kept so many warm. ”(Essortment). Someone who destroys hope with a storm of anger and negativity feels the pain they cause in others.
Dickinson uses a powerful image of a person abashing the bird of hope that gives comfort and warmth to most. In the second stanza, “That perches in the soul,” is an example of imagery that is used to desribe hope. That particular line is used to imply that hope perches or roots in our soul. The soul is the shelter for hope. The imagery of a bird’s continuous song is used in the third and fourth stanzas, “And sings the tune without words,” “And never stops at all,” to represent eternal hope. Also Dickinson uses a line from the fifth stanza,”And sweetest in the gale is heard,” to describe that a gale’s song of hope is the sweetest in the wind.
Emily Dickinson’s poem form and use of voice is one that is very unique. Her dramatic monologues, always with herself as personas, portray rich complexities of human emotion- elation and depression, faith and doubt, hope and despair. Although her unusual word usages and oblique approaches to a subject call for multiple readings and multiple interpretations, her direct, first-person voice makes a lot of her poetry easily accessible. Although Emily Dickinson did not use an exact rhyme (see, tree), she still used forms of rhyme, yet they weren’t regularly used by modern poets.
Her poetry shows what fine effects can be accomplished with these rhymes. Dickinson worked with identical rhyme (sane, insane) often. She also worked with eye rhyme (though, through), and vowel rhyme (see, buy) (Dickinson Oerview). The word trick most people believe Dickinson used is very effective because it expands contexual possibilities, increases the reader’s awareness, and deepens the emotional experience poems recreate. The content and ideas being discussed in the poem are really understandable.
The idea of hope in “extremity” and hope in the “chillest land/And on the strangest sea,” is a quite abstract way of distinguishing the world. There is a definite comparison within the poem between hope on one side expressed with words like “warm,” “soul,” “sweetest,” and pain of life expressed in words like “storm,” “gales,” “chillest. ” (Gray, n. p. ) Although there is a clear struggle between these two elements, it is clear which one comes out above as the voice of hope can still be heard through the gales and storms. Throughout the poem, it is clear that whatever the battles we may confront, hope conquers through in the end.
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