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Emily Dickinson 311

September 7, 2015

311

It sifts from Leaden Sieves–
It powders all the wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles in 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 deals Celestial Vail

To stump and stack–and stem–
A summer’s empty room–
Acres of Joints, 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–

Emily Dickinson ~1862

COMMENTARY: “They are all religious, except me, and every morning address
an Eclipse which they call father.”–>This line, from a letter to *The
Atlantic Monthly*, (which happened–the fools–to reject the above) says
something subtle yet telling about Dickinson‘s outlook, philosophic and
poetic. On the one hand, it is a  direct dismissal of traditional pieties,
but, on the other, the word “eclipse” is loaded. An eclipse is not an
absence but an invisibility, a hiddeness. Dickinson saw the world as full
of eclipses–unnamable somethings behind namable something elses.

The eclipse in this poem is the word “it.” At first, seeing behind the
shadow is hardly difficult–snow, passed through the spectrum of metaphor,
takes on a variety of shapes: flour, fleece, veils, fabric–but, as the
poem reaches the last stanza, and the imagery moves from the concrete
(neighboring fields and fence-posts) to the suggestive (artisans,  ghosts),
the possibility rises that there is more to it than “it.” If the flour and
the fleece, in other words, stand for snow, what does the snow stand for?
The last line, “denying they have been,” is both the evidence-less
stillness after snow and, maybe, the disappearing act of the meaning
itself, a crafty melting away of the riddle’s obvious solution.

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