Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Is she seeking to frighten the grown-ups?

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died – (591)

                 Emily Dickinson

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -
The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -
I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -
With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see –

"the Heaves of Storm" -- Such language. Is this how a little girl thinks poets emote?

"when the King/be witnessed in the room" - Ah, transgressive punk Emily shocks the grown-ups with profane musings. Get ready, grown-ups, rather than Jesus, the FLY is coming instead!  

"...and then it was..." etc.  Reading this for my students, I like to suddenly slow the cadence and narrow my eyes as I pronounce, "there interposed a fly."  Each syllable is fraught with diabolism that Milton's Satan might, erm, envy.

"...stumbling buzz" alliterates with the th in then, the "s" in windows and, after a fashion, the "s" in see (x2), which is anyway rhyming with Between/me/see/see, and so on.  Emphasizing the buzzing sounds is fun when teaching the poem, and (one wonders) presents an opportunity to act like a nut before a group of young people. Even more fun is concluding on this irreverent note: 

"The poem might be vaguely unwholesome if it wasn't so silly."

Emily Dickinson

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