My first reading of Emily Dickinson is not actually in this collection selected by Ted Hughes. They were love poems called Wild Nights! Wild Nights! and I cannot live with you. I knew then that this poet is going to be one of my favorites. The imagery she paints is just too unique and original that reading them over and over again can produce different meanings for the reader.
In this collection, Ted Hughes, also a notable poet, not least because he was married to Sylvia Plath, selected 40-plus pages of Emily’s poems, the ones he liked best out of 1,775 that she wrote. That’s one thousand seven hundred and seventy five! One of my favorites is this verse about Truth and Beauty:
I died for beauty-but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an Adjoining Room-
He questioned softly ‘Why I failed?’
‘For Beauty’ I replied –
‘And I – for Truth – Themself are One-
‘We Brethren are,’ He said-
And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night-
We talked between the Rooms-
Until the moss had reached our lips
and covered up- our names-
The dash in Emily’s poems are all hers. Hughes recounts in the introduction that it used to be edited heavily, substituted with commas and semicolons until some critics pointed out that the dashes are part of her method and style. So soon after the poems were re-edited and published in their original forms.
One of the famous poems about love is also in this selection:
That Love is all there is
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.
I liked this one because of the use of the word freight, which is unusual in describing the weight and intensity of the act of love and groove, which, though not unheard of, is again, another unique way of talking about the act.
Other poems made me smile:
I fear a Man of frugal Speech—
I fear a Silent Man—
Haranguer—I can overtake—
But He who weigheth—While the Rest—
Expend their furthest pound—
Of this Man—I am wary—
I fear that He is Grand—
And still others are just unforgettable:
The heart asks pleasure first
And then, excuse from pain-
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;
And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.
I will never get tired of reading Emily’s poems. Her selection of words and their arrangements is a gift to any reader who could use some fresh inspiration. Highly recommended to new readers of poems.