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If you were coming in the fall -- Emily Dickinson

Guest poem submitted by Neha Kumar:
(Poem #529) If you were coming in the fall
 If you were coming in the fall,
 I'd brush the summer by
 With half a smile and half a spurn,
 As housewives do a fly.

 If I could see you in a year,
 I'd wind the months in balls,
 And put them each in separate drawers,
 Until their time befalls.

 If only centuries delayed,
 I'd count them on my hand,
 Subtracting till my fingers dropped
 Into Van Diemen's land.

 If certain, when this life was out,
 That yours and mine should be,
 I'd toss it yonder like a rind,
 And taste eternity.

 But now, all ignorant of the length
 Of time's uncertain wing,
 It goads me, like the goblin bee,
 That will not state its sting.
-- Emily Dickinson
While going over the Dickinson poems in the Minstrels archive I found this one
missing... it's one of my favorites from all of her works, I guess mostly for
its simple expression of undying, though unrequited, love.

Compared to most of her works, this poem is quite simply written, easy to
understand and easy to appreciate. I think it especially beautiful for how
effortlessly and effectively it captures the sands of time: ".. wind the months
in balls", "If only centuries delayed, I'd count them on my hand". This tone of
hope of the poem undergoes a change to one of despair in the key (last) stanza,
where the agony that remained successfully hidden in the rest of the poem is
finally expressed.

The style spelt out Dickinson to me, but I couldn't think of anything to say on
that. I thought it would be nice to see this on the mailing list. Dickinson
doesn't seem to be too popular there and I think that's a shame, for of the
roughly 1800 poems that she did write, there are a few that I feel are worth a
read still, to say the very least... I thought the above was one. And I remember
when we did Dickinson's works in High School, this one was introduced to us as
one of her best few and it was fun explicating it!

Neha.

PS. Van Diemen's Land - now Tasmania.

58 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Julian Tepper said...

Second, for those of you who tuned in "My Music" this morning, and listened
to the very end, you heard a beautiful rendition of one of last week's
poems, "The Lost Chord," as, previously mentioned, put to music by Arthur
Sullivan.

JT

Jeff LaBombard said...

I came to this page hoping to find out the reference to Van Dieman's
Land (though not really expecting to). Thanks for the note.
Though the poem is about unrequited love, it is still a beautiful love
poem, and I'm reading it in a wedding this weekend.
-Candice White

KjeldoranMage said...

Did anyone notice Dickenson's reference to Van Diemen's Land was actually a
riddle?? What I mean is that Dickenson says that "If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand, Subtracting till my fingers dropped, Into Van
Diemen's land," meaning that as her fingers dropped they went under (Van
Diemen's Land is in Australia, or down under). She uses a play on words and
not many people noticed it.

Dianna Ionescu said...

I think that the poem may have a dual meaning-- it could be about
unrequited love OR about two lovers, separated, who are uncertain of
the next time when they will be able to meet each other. That is the
meaning that it holds for me, but of course everyone can interpret it
depending on their state of mind and situation.

-x- di

"You live in fear of not being misunderstood."--Mandy Slade, The
Velvet Goldmine

SarahSherby2005 said...

Hi! I was wondering if you could explain the riddle in Emily Dickenson's "If
you were coming in Fall" to me? I don't quiet understand.

do you know why the goblin bee is a pun?

thanks!

Kicknbass34 said...

I am trying to interpret Emily Dickinson's poem "If you were coming in the
Fall" for an English assignment. I am totally lost. Can you help me with this
interpretation or can you refer me to another website for this help

Kevin Ketner

Diana Susa said...

my interpretation of this poem for my highschool class breaks it down stanza by stanza, hopefully this can help.

Stanza 1 - the reference to a house fly being brushed away is compared to the fashion in which Dickinson will get rid of the seasons between her and her lover.

Stanza 2 - She references that if her lover would be with her in a year, she would wind up the months that separated them so they could be together.

Stanza 3 - The Van Dieman land reference ( as stated above) is now Tasmania, and Dickinson acts in a childish way as she counts her fingers away.

Stanza 4 - Dickinson's typical death references come forward.She states that it when she died she could be with her lover, she would take her own life and live in eternity.

Stanza 5 - The last stanza, though confusing, I took to mean that the worst time frame of all is the not knowing. She says that it is a thorn in her side to not know when they will be together again and if she only knew she could make the time pass.

Diana Susa said...

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Shellpoohlewis said...

Interpet Emily Dickinson poem "if you where coming in the fall. nice poem.
appears to be a love that is unshakeable

Amazinapewoman said...

I am doing a presentation on "If you were coming in the Fall" and I please
need some help analizing it. Like...I have to tell poetic style, the meaning,
literary terms relevant to the poem, and how this poem is a part of
dickinson's contribution to literature........so please.....HELP!!!
~A.W.

Haresh Jani said...

ok ok so this is NOT the original version of the poem. Her wonderful slant rhymes have been transformed for the sake of rhythmn. WHY??

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for the help, I am loving this poem,

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Anonymous said...

Van Dieman's land, besides being the old name of Tasmania, also refers to those places on the globe farthest away from the united states. therefore, Van Dieman's land is a theoretical place of long distance.

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