Posts Tagged ‘Emily Dickinson’
This striking portrait of a Thai woman lost in her book is one of an extraordinary series collected by Steve McCurry at “To Light a Fire” (after Victor Hugo’s “To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”)
Many more at McCurry’s blog…
*There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
- Emily Dickinson
As we part the pages, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Amantine (also “Amandine”) Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant– though best known by her pen name, George Sand; she was born on this date in 1804. A prolific novelist and memoirist, she was well known and well regarded in her time; and indeed more recently: writers from Walt Whitman to A.S. Byatt have alluded to Sand’s writing in their own work. But she was in her own time probably equally renown as a free-thinker. Married at 18, she had two children– then, at 27, embarked on a five-year period of what she called “romantic rebellion”… during which she had affairs with Frédéric Chopin, Jules Sandeau, Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset, Louis-Chrysostome Michel, Pierre-François Bocage, Félicien Mallefille, Louis Blanc, and (probably) the actress actress Marie Dorval. The French took all of this in stride; it was her wearing of men’s clothing (which she justified as far sturdier and less expensive than the typical dress of a noblewoman at the time) and smoking in public that sullied her image.
“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
Emily Dickinson is, of course, renown for her verse; but acclaim for her poetry was largely posthumous. In her lifetime, she was probably better known as the quiet-but-kindly lady who would lower baked treats from her kitchen window to Amherst children. Her Rye and Indian round bread won second prize at the 1856 Amherst Cattle Show (though in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that Emily’s sister Lavinia was one of the judges). And when the Dickinson family’s housekeeper quit, Emily took it upon herself to bake the family’s daily bread– a responsibility she retained even after a replacement was hired, in deference to her father’s preference for her bread over all others.
Even as her dough rose in the kitchen, so did her inspiration, which often struck as she baked. So she would draft poems on wrappers and other kitchen papers; her poem, “The Things that can never come back, are several,”
The Things that never can come back, are several—
Childhood—some forms of Hope—the Dead—
Though Joys—like Men—may sometimes make a Journey—
And still abide…
…was first composed on the back of a friend’s recipe for Coconut Cake.
God gave a Loaf to every Bird —
But just a Crumb — to Me —
I dare not eat it — tho’ I starve —
My poignant luxury —
To own it — touch it —
Prove the feat — that made the Pellet mine —
Too happy — for my Sparrow’s chance —
For Ampler Coveting —
It might be Famine — all around —
I could not miss an Ear —
Such Plenty smiles upon my Board —
My Garner shows so fair —
I wonder how the Rich — may feel —
An Indiaman — An Earl —
I deem that I — with but a Crumb —
Am Sovereign of them all —
As we reach for the oven mitts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1306 that Robert I (aka Robert the Bruce) was crowned King of Scotland… at Scone.
Readers may recall that L. Frank Baum was famous before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz– he was a celebrity in the then-emerging world of consumer marketing, one of the first great window dressers.
Baum’s art flourished as retailing grew, finding its apotheosis on the Christmas displays that graced department stores around America. Now, thanks to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, readers can take a stroll past the Holiday windows and Christmas store displays of yore…
As we channel Ralphie’s Red Ryder lust, we might raise a cup of testimony tea to Emily Dickinson, who was better known during her life as a gardener and botanist than as a poet; only 7 of her 1775 poems were published in her lifetime– which began on this date in 1830.