Saturday, November 19, 2016

Emily Dickinson 1830-1886 - Wild Nights - Wild Nights!

Canton Library, Vadianische collection, VadSlg Ms. 302, detail of f 120v (Samson). Rudolf von Ems,  Zurich, c. 1300

Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (249) by Emily Dickinson 

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 moor – Tonight –
In thee!

When the 1891 edition of Emily Dickinson's (1830-1886) poems was being prepared, Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote to his co-editor Mabel Loomis Todd, "One poem only I dread a little to print--that wonderful 'Wild Nights,'--lest the malignant read into it more than that virgin recluse ever dreamed of putting there. Has Miss Lavinia (Emily Dickinson's sister) any shrinking about it? You will understand & pardon my solicitude. Yet what a loss to omit it! Indeed it is not to be omitted."

During her lifetime as the daughter of Amherst's most prominent & conservative man, she was famously reclusive -- and alluring. She lowered notes & treats from her window on a string. She carried on conversations with guests through a door kept barely ajar. She was a master at controlling others by withholding herself.  Emily Dickinson announced, “I have dared to do strange things—bold things;” asserted her independence “and have asked no advice from any;” and declared she succumbed to temptation “I have heeded beautiful tempters.”  None of this would have been acceptable in her narrow society in Amherst. 

Her friend & first editor, Higginson, reflected that her "wantonness of overstatement" exhausted him. “She was much too enigmatical a being for me to solve in an hour’s interview, and an instinct told me that the slightest attempt at direct cross-examination would make her withdraw into her shell; I could sit and watch, as one does in the woods; I must name my bird without a gun, as recommended by Emerson.”

Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much Sense - the starkest Madness-
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent - and you are sane-
Demur - you're straightway dangerous-
And handled with a Chain-
Emily Dickinson 1830-1886

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