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The cricket sang -- Emily Dickinson

Not cricket? You decide...
(Poem #950) The cricket sang
 The cricket sang,
 And set the sun,
 And workmen finished, one by one,
    Their seam the day upon.

 The low grass loaded with the dew,
 The twilight stood as strangers do
 With hat in hand, polite and new,
    To stay as if, or go.

 A vastness, as a neighbor, came,--
 A wisdom without face or name,
 A peace, as hemispheres at home,--
    And so the night became.
-- Emily Dickinson
One of Dickinson's many impressive poetic talents is the ability to write in
a wonderfully and deliberately quirky style, and yet not have that
quirkiness become the focus of the poem, or overshadow its more 'poetic'
aspects. Today's poem doesn't *quite* succeed in that particular regard -
the convoluted syntax is obtrusive, and forces several readings of the poem,
but that is not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed, the poem itself is
quite beautiful, packing several layers of imagery into a few
precisely-chosen words.

The images themselves are original and evocative (and sometimes even both
<g>) - the cricket singing the sun into setting (compare Thomas's "wild men
who caught and sang the sun in flight"), the workmen seaming[1] up the day,
the startlingly apt comparison in the second verse, and the unoriginal but
very well executed last verse.

Note, too, the deceptively regular-seeming verse, both in terms of metrical
structure and rhyme. Particularly impressive is how well the short first
verse blends into the longer (by a whole line[2]) second and third verses,
though the varying rhyme scheme is handled perfectly too.

[1] though I am unable to decide quite what Dickinson intended here - there
is the obvious sense of stitching, but the OED also gives "Agric. A furrow,
(seed) drill.", and the more I think about it, the more appropriate a usage
it seems in context.
[2] if you count lines one and two as a single, broken line

Links:

  Set to music by Ernst Bacon:
    [broken link] http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/d/dickinson/cricket.html

  Biography:
    Poem #92

  Dickinson poems on Minstrels:
    Poem #92, "There's a certain Slant of light"
    Poem #174, "A Route of Evanescence"
    Poem #341, "The Grass so little has to do -"
    Poem #458, "The Chariot"
    Poem #529, "If you were coming in the fall"
    Poem #580, "Split the Lark"
    Poem #687, "Success is counted sweetest"
    Poem #711, "I'm Nobody! Who are you?"
    Poem #829, "It dropped so low in my regard"
    Poem #871, "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain"
    Poem #891, "A Doubt If It Be Us"

  And the cricket theme:
    Poem #946, Sir Henry Newbolt, "Vitai Lampada"
    Poem #947, John Kendal, "Ballad of a Homeless Bat"
    Poem #948, Julia A. Moore, "Grand Rapids Cricket Club"
    Poem #949, Andrew Lang, "Brahma"

-martin

35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Carl said...

Excellent to read The cricket sang, good lyrics also great to share.
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or overshadow its more 'poetic'
aspects. Today's poem doesn't *quite* succeed in that particular regard -
the convoluted syntax is obtrusive

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packing several layers of imagery into a few
precisely-chosen words.

Anonymous said...

Classic , absolute cert

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