Lately I have toyed with the idea of writing an ode to my favorite poet of all time, Miss Emily Dickinson. A quick study of odes found two poets that really stand out to me. Keats and Shelley. Keats mastery of assonance is simply not attainable, so here I focus on Shelley’s style that he used for at least two different odes that I know of. The ode inspiring my own attempt below was his “Ode to West Wind,” (Click here to see Shelley’s Poem) and it was written in terza rima, rhyming scheme a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-e-d, e-f-e, f-g-f, g-g.
Ode to Emily Dickinson
Oh dearest Emily, thou crafty pen aflare,
thine eyes once fell on nature’s things,
whose tamed songs you sang aware.
And in this world of hushed flusterings
where strife once owned thy soul
we’re left to dredge meanderings
to find thy rhyme of rhythm bold.
Whence thy soul passed thru those golden gates,
with lost loves safely a’stowed,
and earthly devils cracked thy crates,
and spil’t thy lifetime of prose,
did you think them once confederates?
Or old friends in beggars clothes?
That they should traipse your savored scripts
and in your death did’st fame arose.
My Emily, sleep thou safe in crypts,
Eternally rest thy tempest soul
Allow promises from my sparing lips:
That ever most dear my heart shall hold,
Thy words closer than any love e’er told…
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, and lived in the family home all of her life until she died at age 55 in 1886. Having spent her younger years at different learning institutes where she met and became friends with other poets and writers, she moved back to her family home and slowly became reclusive, communicating mostly by letter with her dear friends. Except for a younger sister, most of her family and friends passed away early in her life, leaving her sad and somewhat fixated on death. But I don’t think her poems are dark, just incredibly sensitive and emotional. She is my favorite poet who has ever lived. While alive she was able to publish only a handful of her poems, which were edited heavily by the publishers. Emily’s style was way before it’s time, and her poetry did not follow the normal standards of poetry in her day. So basically she was shunned in the field of literature, which is what irritates me about those who would attempt to define what poetry should or should not be. Emily was a prolific poet, anyone who knew her knew this about her. But after her death, everyone was surprised when two of her acquaintances found nearly 1800 poems stashed away in her home. The two published her poetry almost immediately, however they edited it heavily again to meet the poetic standards of the day, or they thought they were. In 1955 a historian Thomas Johnson published what what he believed to be a complete collection of her unedited poems, but no one really knows that for sure.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born fairly aristocratic in England in 1792 and died at age 29 in 1822. His fame was due in large part, (I believe) to his close friendship with fellow poets John Keats and Lord Byron. Shelley was a bit of a non-conformist as a young man, and even was expelled from college for his views. He married and his wife became pregnant, at which time he abandoned her and actually met and moved in with lover Mary Godwin, who later became his wife Mary Shelley. You might recognize her genius name as the author of “Frankenstein.” At some point his first wife was found dead, floating in a river, I think, which freed him to wed Mary. I think Percy was a bit of a social blundering idiot, even Mark Twain derided him publicly for abandoning his wife. I am of the same mind. I also think that he took his position in the literary world for granted, approaching it in a non-chalant way as if it was a natural order of things. Percy was an incredibly talented poet. But his life as a human is just sad to me.
|Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
© 2011 John Richter