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|موضوع: Emily Dickinson 15/12/09, 12:20 am|| |
Safe in their alabaster chambers,
Untouched by morning and untouched by noon,
Sleep the meek members of the resurrection,
Rafter of satin, and roof of stone. Light laughs the breeze in her castle of sunshine;
Babbles the bee in a stolid ear;
Pipe the sweet birds in ignorant cadence,--
Ah, what sagacity perished here!
Grand go the years in the crescent above them;
Worlds scoop their arcs, and firmaments row,
Diadems drop and Doges surrender,
Soundless as dots on a disk of snow.
This poem is ironic, starting with the first line. In what sense or way are the dead "safe"? Is this the way you would like to be safe? "Alabaster" has two meanings; alabaster is expensive and beautiful; it is also cold and unfeeling. "Chambers" begins the metaphor of the tomb being a home and the dead being asleep; the satin "rafter" lines the coffin lid, and the tomb is stone. If the sleepers are "members of the resurrection," why are they still sleeping or buried in the ground? why are they not risen? Why does time ("morning" and "noon") pass them by? The terms "resurrection" and "meek" call up the promises of Christ that the meek would inherit the earth and enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Stanza two describes the indifference of nature to the dead; it is spring or summer, whose rebirth or fulfillment contrasts with the isolated dead. They do not hear the joyful sounds of nature, for their ears are "stolid" (stolid: unemotional, unresponsive). The birds are ignorant in that they know nothing of the dead. The gifts and accomplishment of the dead are buried too; does this suggest that these gifts and accomplishments are ultimately meaningless? Why does Dickinson use the word "perished"?
It is possible that Dickinson, raised in the Puritan tradition, also has in mind the idea that God's will can be seen in the working of nature. The Puritans saw in every fact of nature the working of God's law; every physical happening paralleled and revealed a spiritual law. If Dickinson was thinking of nature symbolically for signs of God's will and presence, then nature's indifference reveals God's indifference; the references to nature become even more ironic in that case.
The last stanza portrays the "grand" passage of time and the movements of the universe ("world" and "firmaments"). Human history undergoes revolutions: kings lose their "diadems" or crowns; doges, the former rulers of Venice, lose wars. Humanity is indifferent to the dead. They have no effect on or relationship to life in this world, just as they have none to an eternal one. They sleep on; there has been no resurrection. Christ's promise is false.
The last line is baffling, "Soundless as dots on a disk of snow." Frankly, I don't know what it means, nor have any explanations I've heard or read convinced me. This line has received a considerable amount of attention. I do find the image somehow moving and effective and am willing to join those critics who say that it speaks to us at a non-linguistic level. So I leave you to puzzle out a meaning--or not--for this line.
Though I classify this poem under the theme of "God," it obviously discusses death, immortality, and fame as well.
I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth,--the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms.
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.
Both speakers die "for" either beauty or truth. The primary meaning of "for" is "in the cause of." It has a secondary meaning, which is "to achieve" or "to have as a goal." Which meaning is appropriate here, or can both be meant?
Dickinson associates beauty and truth in this poem. The speakers' deaths are described in parallel language; they are buried in "adjoining" rooms and are "brethren" and "kinsmen." These descriptions also make clear that they are not identical; otherwise they would be buried in the same room and be twins.
The ending is subtly prepared for with the question "why I failed?" The crucial word is "failed," rather than "died." Their deaths and any hopes of succeeding in their goals are futile. The moss covers their lips and their names on the grave marker; death has ended all communication and effectiveness. With this image Dickinson shows the powerlessness of the human condition and the relentless indifference of nature to human beings, who are obliterated at death. The speakers are never named; they are anonymous. Is it ironic that the only life in the poem is the moss?
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|موضوع: رد: Emily Dickinson 15/12/09, 03:23 am|| |