Departed to the judgment,
A mighty afternoon;
Great clouds like ushers leaning,
Creation looking on.
The flesh surrendered, cancelled, ~Emily Dickinson
The bodiless begun;
Two worlds, like audiences, disperse
And leave the soul alone.
At numerous times over the course of this year-long Emily Dickinson project, I have suspected that I am gradually becoming stupider. Some of Dickinson’s poems hit me like a flash of insight, clear and bracing. Others completely befuddle me, to the point that I wonder if I have forgotten how to word.
The first stanza of this poem is very straightforward. Of course it’s about death! The second stanza? Tricksier. Okay, death means the surrendering of the flesh, the beginning of a bodiless state. But what are the “Two worlds” that “disperse” “like audiences”? Has she named two worlds?
Maybe the two worlds are a reference to the “clouds,” representing heaven, and “Creation,” representing this life, in the first stanza. If this is the case, then what is Dickinson saying about death? That the soul after death has nothing to do with either this world or the next? It’s almost like this woman was not raised by a preacher. Or like she’s the stereotypical P.K., pushing allll the boundaries and challenging alll the beliefs.
To help our bleaker parts ~Emily Dickinson
Salubrious hours are given,
Which if they do not fit for earth
Drill silently for heaven.
Puzzling over this one. I had to look up “salubrious”–it means “healthy” or “health-giving.” What kind of experiences are healthy for “our bleaker parts” and prepare us for heaven rather than earth? This feels like possibly some Puritanical justification of suffering, but I’m not completely sure. This may be because it’s the second day of the school year. The first day was great, but afterwards it hit me just how much I’ve taken on. My bleaker parts could definitely use some help, and I’m not sure my brain is firing on all cylinders. So I’ll leave this poem for now, and go seek out some salubriousness of my own.
Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.
Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church, Our little sexton sings.
God preaches,—a noted clergyman,— ~Emily Dickinson
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I’m going all along!
In deep summer, evenings in the woods behind my house are punctuated by the liquid silver songs of wood thrushes. It’s impossible to do justice to the sound; the best I can do is to say that if you had been trudging across a desert without water for hours under the heat of a burning sun and suddenly a pitcher of water miraculously appeared in front of you–if that experience was a sound, it would be the song of a wood thrush.
It is impossible not to be awed by this music. It’s unearthly, beyond perfect–divine. The notes tumble down on you from the branches of an ancient oak or the fierce straight column of a walnut tree, bathing you in sound. You do not see the thrush–you only believe it is there. And it is. For a moment, it is everything, every sense, feeling, thought, desire. Nothing else remains. The seconds of the thrush’s song are rare moments of perfection in a glaringly imperfect world.