Everything in its place

Morning is the place for dew,
Corn is made at noon,
After dinner light for flowers,
Dukes for setting sun!

~Emily Dickinson

One of the side-effects of growing up is that you start to inadvertently recall all the wise old sayings you detested as a child. When I read this poem, the one that springs to mind is, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” These lines aren’t concerned with human order, however–the artificial arrangement of our worlds–but with the natural order of things. Dew belongs in the morning. Corn ripens in the hottest part of the day, and the afternoon sun nourishes blossoms. They are followed by sunset, which is the place for dukes. Dukes may be human, of course, but this post by Susan Kornfeld makes an excellent argument for the Duke owl, which would of course emerge after sunset to hunt.

Nature has its perfect order. Everything is where it should be. There is a time for everything, a place for everything, and when everything is in its place, all is right with the world.

The parlor of the day

The day came slow, till five o’clock,
Then sprang before the hills
Like hindered rubies, or the light
A sudden musket spills.


The purple could not keep the east,
The sunrise shook from fold,
Like breadths of topaz, packed a night,
The lady just unrolled.


The happy winds their timbrels took;
The birds, in docile rows,
Arranged themselves around their prince
(The wind is prince of those).


The orchard sparkled like a Jew,—
How mighty ’t was, to stay
A guest in this stupendous place,
The parlor of the day!

~Emily Dickinson

First impressions: Oooh, colors! Imagery! This is good. Oh, wait, casual anti-Semitism. Ick.

Second-read impressions: I love all the color imagery. Sometimes Dickinson seems to be painting with words in an impressionistic sort of way, splashing them across the page for their affect as much as their precise meaning. “The sunrise shook from fold”–how do we read this? It seems meant to be felt as much as understood. Is it a sheep fold? or a fold of cloth? Regardless, we feel the essence of what she is getting at–something once contained, now freed.

And then there’s “The lady.” Rhythmically, this could just as easily be “A lady,” but Dickinson is specific. Which lady? Are we supposed to know this? Intuit it? Either way, the kernel of sense is clear.

And how do the birds arrange themselves “in docile rows” around the wind? Long experience observing chickens has taught me that birds + wind does not in any way equal anything remotely like “docile.” Again, it’s the feeling rather than the meaning that matters here.

We are always guests in the morning. We cannot remain in it, much as we might like to. It moves on–or we move on. One way or the other, our sojourn there cannot last.

Dawn

Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door;
Or has it feathers like a bird,
Or billows like a shore?

~Emily Dickinson

What if I did this? What if I rose before sunrise and flung every door wide? What if I waited, in the dew-chill silence of early morning, for the sunrise? What if I welcomed each day in like a long-expected guest?

Will there really be a morning?

WILL there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?


Has it feet like water-lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?


Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!
Oh, some wise man from the skies!
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies!

~Emily dickinson

Of course there will be a morning. We know this, logically. Sometimes, though, the heart needs the reminder. So here it is. Yes, there will really be a morning. Light will come again. The darkness is not forever.