Dickinson’s Prosodic Music: Subtlety and Exuberance
This essay explores Dickinson’s prosodic music by evidencing its expressions of subtlety and exuberance. The essay unfolds in four steps. The first step finds the poet’s prosodic music in distinctive word arrangements with these three features: interlaced phonic echoes, the rhythms of short-lined verse where rhyme marks stanzas, and the motions of intonation. The second step instances Dickinson’s prosodic subtlety in one of her envelope poems, “A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring” (Fr1545B). The third step identifies Dickinson’s prosodic exuberance in two of her bee poems, “There is a flower that Bees prefer” (Fr642) and “I suppose the time will come” (Fr1389). In this step, we discern a hermeneutic key to Dickinson’s lyric art: when a sound in the world catches her ear, the poet’s prosodic music intensifies to reflect her enchantment. The essay’s last step applies the hermeneutic key to a superlative sound in Dickinson’s poetry, that of the wind in “Of all the Sounds despatched abroad” (Fr334).
Dickinson, Emily. “George Gould letter to Emily Dickinson,” Emily Dickinson Collection, Amherst College Digital Collections, Amherst College Library, Amherst College, file no. 12708, acdc.amherst.edu/view/ asc:12708/.
Dickinson, Emily. The Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward, Harvard UP, 1958. 3 vols.
Dickinson, Emily. “Of all the Sounds despatched abroad,” Emily Dickinson Archive: An Open-Access Website for the Manuscripts of Emily Dickinson, edited by Leslie A. Morris, Houghton Library, Harvard U, file no. 12174442, www.edickinson.org/editions/1/image_sets/ 12174442/.
Dickinson, Emily. “A pang is more conspicuous in spring,” Emily Dickinson Collection, Amherst College Digital Collections, Amherst College Library, Amherst College, file no. 3765, acdc.amherst.edu/view/ asc:3765/.
Dickinson, Emily. The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Harvard UP, 1955. 3 vols.
Dickinson, Emily. Poems by Emily Dickinson, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd and T. W. Higginson, Roberts Brothers, 1890.
Dickinson, Emily. The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, edited by R. W. Franklin, Harvard UP, 1998. 3 vols.
Dickinson, Emily. “What I can do – I will,” Emily Dickinson Archive: An Open-Access Website for the Manuscripts of Emily Dickinson,” edited by Leslie A. Morris, Houghton Library, Harvard U, www.edickinson.org/ editions/1/image_sets/12175391/.
Farr, Judith. The Gardens of Emily Dickinson. Harvard UP, 2004.
Fried, Debra. “The Stanza: Echo Chambers.” A Companion to Poetic Genre, edited by Erik Martiny, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 53–63.
Karlin, Daniel. The Figure of the Singer. Oxford UP, 2013.
Miller, Cristanne. “Dickinson and the Ballad.” Genre, vol. 45, no. 1, 2012, pp. 29–55, doi:10.1215/00166928-1507029.
Miller, Cristanne. Reading in Time: Emily Dickinson in the Nineteenth Century. U of Massachusetts P, 2012.
Mitchell, Domhnall. Measures of Possibility: Emily Dickinson’s Manuscripts. U of Massachusetts P, 2005.
Pugh, Christina. “‘Criterion for Tune’: Dickinson and Sound.” The New Emily Dickinson Studies, edited by Michelle Kohler, Cambridge UP, 2019, pp. 66–81.
Pugh, Christina. “Ghosts of Meter: Dickinson, After Long Silence.” The Emily Dickinson Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, 2007, pp. 1¬–24, Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/ edj.2007.0011.
Sewall, Richard B. The Life of Emily Dickinson. Harvard UP, 1980.
The English Bible: King James Version. Vol. 1: The Old Testament, edited by Herbert Marks; vol. 2: The New Testament and the Apocrypha, edited by Gerald Hammond and Austin Busch, Norton, 2012.
Werner, Marta. “Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope-Poems.” The Gorgeous Nothings, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin, Christine Burgin/New Directions, 2013, pp. 197–223.
Copyright (c) 2021 Jefferey Simons
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors retain publishing rights and grant ES Review. Spanish Journal of English Studies right of first publication.
Simultaneously, all articles and reviews published in ES Review will be available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial (CC-BY-NC) license, by which others are allowed to share and use their work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this journal.
In addition, ES Review allows authors to arrange additional contracts for the non-exclusive publication of the journal’s published version of the work (e.g., in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. In such a case, authors are required to approach the editor(s)/publisher to request permission.