Dickinson’s Prosodic Music: Subtlety and Exuberance
Keywords:Dickinson, prosody, sound, textual scholarship, hermeneutics
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).
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