While I was fearing it, it came,~Emily Dickinson
But came with less of fear,
Because that fearing it so long
Had almost made it dear.
There is a fitting a dismay,
A fitting a despair.
’T is harder knowing it is due,
Than knowing it is here.
The trying on the utmost,
The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.
I don’t know, Emily…
I mean, I can see what she’s saying. We can become used to the idea of something dreaded via long anticipation. It can become familiar, almost comfortable. There is a difference between the shock of sudden calamity and its long, inevitable approach.
But I don’t know. Is this healthy, this getting used to awfulness? There’s something horribly resigned about the idea. The phrase “had almost made it dear” combined with the repetition of “fitting” makes me wonder if the speaker of the poem is one of those people who loves her grief, who clings to it as if it is loss that makes her who she is. We’ve all known them–those people who love their privation, who boast of how awful things are for them. Is this what Dickinson is saying? Is she speaking for herself? I don’t know.
It’s so hard to know anything, really, about this poet. She died nearly a hundred years before I was born. We know her through fragments–the back of a recipe here, an envelope there. How do you reconstruct a life?