Monday, April 12, 2010

A little madness in the spring

Smart Guy sent me this picture, which he found on Reddit. It made me laugh, so I hope it will make you laugh too. I've actually seen that scenario happen, just today in fact, while waiting for the bus.

The title of this post is from a poem by my favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. Emily was a very interesting person, who got a little eccentric as she got older. She never left her father's house in Amherst, and her older sister Lavinia discovered her poems in a box after Emily died in her early fifties. From the Wikipedia link:
Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence.
But her poems, nevertheless, have always impacted me very deeply. Sometimes I have wondered if there is something about them that makes me particularly susceptible. I do know that only a few of her poems were published during her lifetime, and they changed the wording, punctuation and capitalization to make them more like standard nineteenth-century poetry, and I can't imagine how that made her feel. They really ruined them to make them conform to somebody's idea of what they should be like. She didn't become a noted poet until long after her death. She used dashes and very unconventional capitalization, as seen in this image from the above Wikipedia link. Today, Emily Dickinson's poetry has many scholars who have devoted their entire lives to their study, so I don't feel at all out of place because of my love of her poems. Her body of work is taught in American literature and poetry classes here and around the world. Someone who was unknown during her lifetime has now become as well known today as any poet, living or dead.

When I used to go on solo overnight hikes into the wilderness, I would take along a set of her poems to memorize to keep me company. Some are well known, but I think the ones I know by heart are not that popular. I just memorized the ones that kept coming to me in snippets. This is one of my favorites, with her dashes and capitalization intact:
A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown -
Who ponders this tremendous scene -
This whole Experiment of Green -
As if it were his own!

Emily Dickinson, c. 1875


  1. I missed out on studying poetry... I went to a French High School so my litterary studies were mostly French, and mostly prose (with a bit of theatre thrown in for Molière). I remember asking my English teacher why we couldn't do a little Shakespeare (I was jealous of my sister studying Hamlet in her British school) and she reminded me the rest of the class wasn't up to it. Sigh! I've never really learnt how to appreciate poetry...

    On a funnier note, that photo reminds me of the hats that are part of schoolkids' uniforms in Australia! Or at least in Tasmania where I saw them. Cap with large front bill and then a neck flap to protect from the sun on both sides! They are awefully close to the ozone hole down there...

  2. I burn my candle at both ends;
    It will not last the night.
    But, oh, my foes, and, oh, my friends,
    It makes a beautiful light!

    I believe that is one of hers as well.

  3. Whoops, I was wrong. that's Edna St. Vincent Millay! Duh!

  4. Lovely post. I'm sorry to say I have very little command of poetry and therefore only enjoy it when someone like you uses it. Lovely.

    You need to try knitting fingerless gloves for your next knitting candy. They are more useful than you'd think.

    You should also try knitting socks. There are so many good tutorials on Y-Tube it's like being in your own private class. Those will take you more than two days to knit.

    If you haven't already signed up for Ravelry (it's free)you need to. You'll find a world of patterns there for knitting candy.

  5. I was so busy checking out the cute guy, I don't have an opinion on the sunshade thing... Emily was one of my favorite authors as a teenager. Of course my mother provided most of my books so they were censored. I should read some again and see what I think now?

  6. I am not much of a poetry person, but I admire the person can write it or interpret it.

  7. I love her poetry, but I can't stop thinking of your "solo overnight hikes into the wilderness"...DJan you are one brave person!


  8. I heard about Emily Dickinson but haven't read any of her poetry even about her autobiography. I didn't know that she became popular only after her death, and I guess she is at peace now considering her poetry were meant to inspire people like you. Thanks for sharing DJ.

  9. I like my poetry pretty daughter is an aspiring poet..she loves all the poets..and loves to teach poetry sections in her English Composition classes. I can always tell when she is teaching poetry..her soul just sings with the thrill of the words. Thanks for the info on Emily I know something about her! :)

  10. One thing I really love about coming here, DJan, is that you bring me new and different things. I mean, the everyday is fine as well but I love to learn and I get that here.

    Thank you for honoring this incredible woman and leaving her way of writing intact. How sad that we spend so much of our lives trying to be what others desire. I can understand why she became a recluse and kept her friendships to the written page. Isn't that what many of us do out here? I am MUCH more ME when I organize 26 letters in different order on a page.

    And the guy in the hat? Apparently cool trumps vision - and brains.

  11. Emily Dickson has always been among my favorite poets, I remember that verse. Your post is a lovely tribute to her memory. Her poetry would have been a perfect companion for wilderness camping, I always had wildflower books in my pack.

  12. That's so interesting. And the photo is funny. I always laugh at people who are slaves to fashion. Like wearing furry ug boots when it's 90!

  13. I like poetry but I am more familiar with French poetry. Lately whenever I am at a book sale or secondhand bookshop I try to find poetry books to get more familiar with the English language ones. The one you posted is quite nice.

  14. Nice to have a favourite poet. Your post about Emily was interesting. I'd never heard of her til I came over here.
    Blessings, Star

  15. I love poetry and I love her!!


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