4. The Homestead: Flower Garden 3

A photograph of a twig in the falling snow. The twig is forked, with a bright pink magnolia flower on each end, emerging from beneath a gray, fuzzy bud.

Look back at the Homestead. Imagine what Emily Dickinson might have seen, smelled and heard from this vantage point to inspire her poetry. 


Emily Dickinson wrote close to 1,800 poems during her lifetime.  Nature intrigued her, and she wove flowers, fungus, fauna, gardening, agriculture and the seasons into her poetry. And she wasn’t alone—it was a common literary subject during the nineteenth century.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay entitled “Nature” in 1835, when Emily Dickinson was just five years old. Twenty years later, Henry David Thoreau camped out at Walden Pond just 75 miles from Amherst and published a book about it. But Emily Dickinson’s poetic voice was truly unique in its insight and economy and in expressing her affinity for the natural world. 


Changes in nature especially captivated her: weather, times of day, transitions from season to season. In a letter she described the effects of an unseasonably cold June on her garden:

 

Three dazzling Winter Nights have wrecked the budding Gardens, and the Bobolinks stand as still in the Meadow as if they had never danced – (L901)


During a hotter summer, she mused:


The weather is like Africa and the Flowers like Asia.(L650)

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Dickinson’s poems about the seasons are rich in imagery and imagination. Here are two of these poems. It might help to know that the word “Marl,” in the second poem, refers to a mixture of clay and lime.  


The name - of it - is "Autumn" -

The hue - of it - is Blood -

An Artery - opon the Hill -

A Vein - along the Road -


Great Globules - in the Alleys -

And Oh, the Shower of Stain -

When Winds - upset the Basin -

And spill the Scarlet Rain -


It sprinkles Bonnets - far below -

It gathers ruddy Pools -

Then - eddies like a Rose - away -

Opon Vermillion Wheels -


(F465)


A Visitor in Marl -

Who influences Flowers -

Till they are orderly as Busts -

And Elegant - as Glass -


Who visits in the Night -

And just before the Sun -

Concludes his glistening interview -

Caresses - and is gone -


But whom his fingers touched -

And where his feet have run -

And whatsoever Mouth he kissed -

Is as it had not been -


(F558)

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