Nov 8, 2017 in Literature

The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

The Romantic Movement in American Literature

Romanticism is an ideological movement in literature, science and art that emerged in the late 18th century in Europe. The peak of the Romantic Movement in American literature falls at the middle of 19th century.

Romantic writers and poets proclaimed the idea of free expression of their feelings. They stated that literature, especially poetry, should be the spontaneous abundance of human feelings (Brantley 21). The Romantics had a strong belief in the importance of nature. The world of men was estranged for them. As a result, they believed that a connection with nature was morally and mentally healthy. Nature was a source of inspiration. Nature was a source of satisfaction and nourishment for the soul, where one can fulfill his/her potential.

The Romantics asserted the idea that self-confidence and human intuition were in conflict with social and religious believes. The authors denied rationalism and religious intellect. They stated that one was able to stay in a more intimate relationship with God than he/she previously was.

Thus, Romantic American literature is characterized as personal, emotional, intense, and sensitive, having a deep connection with nature.  

The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

The poetry of American female poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is an excellent example of American Romantic literature. She lived a unique life and held unconventional points of view. Emily was studying in Amherst Academy. Then, she graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (Brantley 34). As a result, her ideas about religion and society differed much from those of her community.

Emily devoted her later years to writing poems. Having written poetry, Dickinson released from pain. She escaped from the pain of the deaths of loved ones, from her doubts concerning God, from the horror that she saw in others and the outside world.

Dickinson did not publish her verses, though she wrote over 2,000 poems. A style of her writing was experimental and highly original. The content of her poems always complemented the form. Her poetic gift appeared in her ability to use daily background to present complex ideas in her small but sharp-edged stanzas (Brantley 58).

She put a deep sense into a small number of words. Thus, her poems are hard enough for understanding on the first reading. On the other hand, when the meaning of a poem expresses itself, it bursts in mind all at once. The lines, which have been confusingly perceived by the readers, become very clear. The readers are charmed by the extraordinary ability of the author to observe and describe.

Themes of the Poems

The peculiarities of Romantic Movement are represented in the poems of Emily Dickinson. The poems are written on different themes. Most popular themes are the theme of the inner world of the character, the motive of death and grief, the relationship between God and man, and the theme of nature. Let us explore these themes more widely.

The Emotions and the Inner World

One of her favorite themes was the theme of exploring inner world and emotions of a man. She displayed a struggle of individual consciousness. Her poem “The first Day’s Night had come” illustrates the way the character becomes mad after some crisis.

In the night, the author is “Grateful that a thing/So terrible – had been endured” (Dickinson). Meanwhile, it becomes clear that this unknown tragedy has not been endured. Her soul cannot even sing because the tragedy has damaged it: “She said her Strings were snapt –/Her Bow – to Atoms blown–” (Dickinson). Once again, the author believes that the treatment of her soul will take a night: “And so to mend her – gave me work/Until another Morn” (Dickinson).

When the morning comes, it becomes obvious that her pain doubles: “And then – a Day as huge/As Yesterdays in pairs” (Dickinson). The author is not able to cope with her tragedy. As a result, her brain divides from her personality and starts laughing.

Then we find out that this event has happened long ago, but the author’s “Brain keeps giggling – still,” (Dickinson). The poem is ended with the question concerning her robustness: “Could it be Madness – this?” (Dickinson).

Thus, the only way to escape from these sufferings is to leave the reality.

Death

Death is the highest touchstone for Dickinson. It expounds the genuine nature of God and the state of a human soul. Her attitude to death was ambivalent. On the one hand, death is a terror; a trick played on people by God. On the other hand, death is a blessed relief that leads the soul to heaven (Brantley 76). Emily Dickinson has written a great number of poems on this topic.  

Nature

Emily Dickinson was always charmed by the countryside and its beauty. Nature influenced her personal vision and nourished her inner world. In contrast to other romantic poets, her view of calming nature was balanced by a thought that nature can be elusive and destructive.

God and Religion

The theme of relationships between man and God followed Dickinson during all her life. Her family members experienced a grace and conversion to God. However, she never felt the call of God, and suffered because of it (Brantley 37). As a result, her attitude to God was different in her poems. It varied from amiability to anger.

Conclusion

Emily Dickinson was a famous American romantic poet. She reflected her inner feelings and thoughts in her poetry. It is doubtless that the biggest poetical achievement of Dickinson was her brilliant language. She put a deep sense in short lines. The themes of her poems are diverse.

Related essays