Emily Dickinson

Great Emily Dickinson.

Art & Poetry


“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

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Lee Remick reads This Is my letter to the world by Emily Dickinson

Two poems by Emily Dickinson:

This is my letter to the world

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me —
The simple News that Nature told —
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see —
For love of Her — Sweet — countrymen —
Judge tenderly — of Me


I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable, —and then
There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
could not see to see.

T. S. Eliot – The Dry Salvages (No. 3 of ‘Four Quartets’)


I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.
The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.
The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning from the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
The bell.


Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there and end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?

There is no end, but addition: the trailing
Consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable—
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.

There is the final addition, the failing
Pride or resentment at failing powers,
The unattached devotion which might pass for devotionless,
In a drifting boat with a slow leakage,
The silent listening to the undeniable
Clamour of the bell of the last annunciation.

Where is the end of them, the fishermen sailing
Into the wind’s tail, where the fog cowers?
We cannot think of a time that is oceanless
Or of an ocean not littered with wastage
Or of a future that is not liable
Like the past, to have no destination.

We have to think of them as forever bailing,
Setting and hauling, while the North East lowers
Over shallow banks unchanging and erosionless
Or drawing their money, drying sails at dockage;
Not as making a trip that will be unpayable
For a haul that will not bear examination.

There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing,
No end to the withering of withered flowers,
To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,
To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage,
The bone’s prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable
Prayer of the one Annunciation.

It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence—
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness—not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfilment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations—not forgetting
Something that is probably quite ineffable:
The backward look behind the assurance
Of recorded history, the backward half-look
Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.
Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony
(Whether, or not, due to misunderstanding,
Having hoped for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,
Is not in question) are likewise permanent
With such permanence as time has. We appreciate this better
In the agony of others, nearly experienced,
Involving ourselves, than in our own.
For our own past is covered by the currents of action,
But the torment of others remains an experience
Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.
People change, and smile: but the agony abides.
Time the destroyer is time the preserver,
Like the river with its cargo of dead negroes, cows and chicken coops,
The bitter apple, and the bite in the apple.
And the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.


I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant—
Among other things—or one way of putting the same thing:
That the future is a faded song, a Royal Rose or a lavender spray
Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret,
Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.
And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.
You cannot face it steadily, but this thing is sure,
That time is no healer: the patient is no longer here.
When the train starts, and the passengers are settled
To fruit, periodicals and business letters
(And those who saw them off have left the platform)
Their faces relax from grief into relief,
To the sleepy rhythm of a hundred hours.
Fare forward, travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you;
And on the deck of the drumming liner
Watching the furrow that widens behind you,
You shall not think ‘the past is finished’
Or ‘the future is before us’.
At nightfall, in the rigging and the aerial,
Is a voice descanting (though not to the ear,
The murmuring shell of time, and not in any language)
‘Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.
At the moment which is not of action or inaction
You can receive this: “on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death”—that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others:
And do not think of the fruit of action.
Fare forward.
O voyagers, O seamen,
You who came to port, and you whose bodies
Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
Or whatever event, this is your real destination.’
So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.


Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio,
Queen of Heaven.

Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea’s lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell’s
Perpetual angelus.


To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors—
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.
Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled,
Where action were otherwise movement
Of that which is only moved
And has in it no source of movement—
Driven by daemonic, chthonic
Powers. And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil.

T. S. Eliot

Robert Frost – Directive

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.


Robert Frost

Emily Dickinson – Death

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

Emily Dickinson

Dejan Stojanovic — An Interview with Charles Simic

Charles Simic, Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

Charles Simic (1938) is one of the most respected and beloved contemporary American poets. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his book The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Wallace Stevens Award, among many other honors. He was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2007. He has published more than 60 books.

Stojanovic: You arrived in America as a child. How did your assimilation into a new society turn out?

Simic: On a superficial level I felt quickly comfortable. My English improved to a point where I could read books, have friends and know what is going on in popular culture and so forth. That took two to three years. The rest of it came slowly as I lived the same kind of life my contemporaries did. I was in the army, then there was the Vietnam War, the 1960’s, etc. etc. After almost forty years in this country and all that history, I feel completely at home.

Stojanovic: You are the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. How much did getting so many awards affect you?

Simic: My books sell better. My poems are in more high school anthologies. People think I’m very smart. I’m not. Essentially, as our people say: “Every miracle only lasts for three days.”

Stojanovic: To what degree in America is there a balance between the hierarchy of values based on materialistic principles and those based on spirit?

Simic: There is no relationship whatsoever. America is not a country; it’s a continent inhabited by multiple traditions, cultures and religions, a place full of contradictions and paradoxes. The biggest one, I suppose, that we somehow get along together. That’s the only unifying vision. The idea of one people, united and different.

Stojanovic: What kind of a role is there for literature today in the most powerful country in the world?

Simic: Literature is not very important, especially poetry. I mean, it’s nothing in comparison to film, television, religion, sports. Still, we have a huge publishing industry. A lot of good books come out every year and many very bad ones, and there are readers for both.

Stojanovic: Are the intellectuals in America in a position to affect important trends in American society or are they predestined to live life in their intellectual enclaves?

Simic: There are always, of course, certain kinds of intellectuals who attach themselves to power, the political science types, the Russian experts from major universities, Kissinger, Bzezinski and that company . . . But the majority of us, thank God, stay home and write our books.

Stojanovic: Does technological progress, in this country and around the world, produce true wisdom, or is there a disconnect between the two?

Simic: Are you kidding? Technology is a product of little wisdom and a lot of greed and stupidity. In this country, for instance, we had the best train system in the world which we closed down so we could all drive big cars that use a lot of gas and pollute the environment. Los Angeles and its freeways is a monument to that folly.

Stojanovic: How much are these current times convenient and favorable for the world of art and progress in the deeper sense?

Simic: I’ve no idea. Our age is probably no worse than any other age. I don’t believe in Good Old Days, nor do I believe in Progress when it comes to the arts. I’ve no nostalgia of any kind.

Stojanovic: Do you think that Serbs who have prestige in the world can do more to better the picture and image of Serbia?

Simic: Only to the degree that they can occasionally correct in public some misinformation. You realize that Americans don’t care much about the events in Yugoslavia. This is to be expected. It’s a big world. There are a lot of troubled places out there, and we have plenty of our own problems, too . . . So it goes. I speak out but I’ve no illusion that I’m making a large impact.

Serbs are not well organized here and their lobby doesn’t have big money and therefore the clout that others have. If we could make a large campaign contributions to Senator Dole he’d change his tune about Kosovo, he’ll even put a picture of St. Sava on his office wall. These senators and representatives are like lawyers. Some of them are honest, and some are crooks. We pay them money and they represent our interests. American Congress is not interested in historical justice. It may say it is, but it is not. It simply represents powerful constituencies. Serbs with their perennial lack of unity do not represent one, and so they get no support.

Stojanovic: How do you view the current situation in Yugoslavia?

Simic: There’s nothing good to be said about people who hate each other and cannot get along. Now you have a civil war. I think all sides are to blame. All these Communists turned democrats, turned neo-fascists nationalists, and the rest. I think Yugoslavs are being fooled by the same people who fooled them and terrorized them yesterday. No one has much to be proud of. I see a lot of vileness and stupidity, and there is, of course, tragedy. People of good will and the innocent suffer as always.

Stojanovic: What, in your view, is most important for Serbia today?

Simic: Serbs cannot go on voting for the same old Communists. They will not get much sympathy anywhere that way . . . What Serbia needs is, of course, democracy and especially the so-called “formal liberties”: freedom of thought, expression, association, etc., the most one which is to say NO to the ones in power and suffer no consequences.

Stojanovic: Ideologies and leaders come and go, but central values stay and often remain the only light shining in an often foggy world. How does one return to the basic values that the Serbs hold to be true?

Simic: Serbs are talented people with an honorable history. They’ve produced exceptional individuals. They’ll survive. I have no worries about that.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of nationalist euphoria. Nationalism is the last refuge of scoundrels, as we know. I don’t care for that chest-beating either in America or in Yugoslavia. Nothing good comes out of it. That’s how tragic historical mistakes are made by countries and peoples. I wish they had more cool heads right now.

Stojanovic: There is no ideal society, and there are fewer and fewer ideals today in society in general. What kind of society would you fight for?

Simic: Democracy is an imperfect system, but there is no better one. You really have to be a first class idiot–and I met many among Western intellectuals, for instance–who used to assure me thirty years ago in Paris or New York that there was more freedom in Bulgaria than in Sweden. Or the argument, you hear from some Serbian politicians that now that Serbia is under attack democracy would be too divisive. American presidents during the Vietnam War and the Gulf War have used the same argument and were told to go to hell. Democratic institutions are the greatest strength a nation has. They require an alert, vigilant, well-informed, and articulate citizenry. That’s an ideal worth fighting for.

Stojanovic: What questions bother you the most–as a poet and as a man?

Simic: I have a grocer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from whom I buy Italian sausages and olive oil. He takes me aside at times and asks me in a kind of a whisper: “Professor, what does it all mean?” I tell him that I’ve no idea, but that I think about it all the time.

-Dejan Stojanovic

Dejan Stojanovic