Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Poem 455" from "The Poems of Emily Dickinson"

It was given to me by the Gods –
When I was a little Girl –
They give us Presents most – you know –
When we are new – and small.
I kept it in my Hand –
I never put it down –
I did not dare to eat – or sleep –
For fear it would be gone –
I heard such words as “Rich” –
When hurrying to school –
From lips at Corners of the Streets –
And wrestled with a smile.
Rich!  ‘Twas Myself – was rich –
To take the name of Gold –
And Gold to own – in solid Bars –
The Difference – made me bold –

I am going to interpret this poem as a declaration poem. In this poem, Emily is saying she got her poetical gift as a young girl--she knew it was presented to her "by the Gods -/ When I was a little Girl -".  And she was scared to lose this present.

She kept it in her possession at all times, she "never put it down".  And she worked hard at the writing --for she "did not dare to eat - or sleep -/ For fear it would be gone -".  She was given a gift--but she knew what she had to do to keep the gift in her--work like hell.

And then--she got rumors from others --of the concept of wealth--of the word-- "Rich".

She defined herself--as rich but not the way the others used the word. The difference in how she used the word---that willingness to risk calling herself wealthy --in a different way than others meant the word--she says it "made me bold". And she was bold. She had a right to be bold.  She knew she was rich in talent and that she was making "solid Bars" of "Gold to own" in poems.

In this poem--Emily is declaring to the world--her genius. She is unequivocal here.  Shamelessly bold--she tells us she was given her poetical gift as a child, she tells us she "never put it down" but worked hard to keep it with her--fearing its disappearance--she hardly slept or ate, and she knew her wealth.

With this sort of inner confidence--what need had she for the world's approbation? She knew her own worth. Once you know your own worth--in gold standard writing--what need you for verification from the lesser gods?

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