Monday, January 13, 2014

Emily Dickinson

This is another of Emily Dickinson 's many poems on death.  It focuses on death as a being restful, a safe shore--a common theme in her poetry.

On this wondrous sea
Sailing silently,
Ho! Pilot, ho!
Knowest thou the shore
Where no breakers roar --
Where the storm is o'er?

In the peaceful west
Many the sails at rest --
The anchors fast --
Thither I pilot thee --
Land Ho!  Eternity!
Ashore at last!

-- Emily Dickinson --
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Edited by Thomas H. Johnson
Poem 4, pages 6-7

Death here is seen as a safe harbor, welcomed after the storm of life--one of the most common themes found in her poetry.  I found the reference to the "peaceful west" also intriguing.  Perhaps it has to do with the image of the setting sun, signalling the end of the day, which is also a common image used by many poets--our life span seen as a day.  For example, one finds this in Shakespeare's Sonnet LXXIII; in fact both the setting sun and the west are present.

"In me thou see'st  the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest."

Although the poet is not speaking directly of death, death is lurking in the background for this time is that time just before death, the twilight of one's life.  And, we see similar elements here: a time of rest and a reference to the west. 

While I am clearly in the autumn of my days, I am not looking forward to a rest, just yet. 


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