viernes, 19 de abril de 2013
EMILY DICKINSON: A GOTHIC GIRL OR A MYSTIC?
In her recent review about the Collected Poems (Poesía completa) by Emily Dickinson, translated by Enrique Goicolea, Ainhoa Sáenz de Zaitegui (El Cultural 8-3-2013) writes "she was a woman with a mission"; "If the had lived in the Twenty-First Century, she would have been a Gothic poet, dressed in black, her lips in black lipstick."
I am afraid that Zaitegui does not quite understand Emily Dickinson and she is committing the usual mistake of reading authors from the past through the lens of twenty-first century. At the end of her life, Dickinson dressed in white, she was known as "The Lady in White." Was the colour of her garment an allusion to the crowd dressed in white mentioned in the Book of Revelations by Saint John? Was her white dress the colour of her shround, reminiscent of one "of the meek members of the Resurrection," who await patiently the day thet will risen from the dead. The cultural journalist forgets that Emily Dickinson had a deep knowledge of religion and lived during the Second American Religious Revival.
Therefore, my view is that Dickinson is more a mystic thatn a gothic poet. Death is the substance of her poetry, but was death a part of the everyday life of people of nineteenth century and present in the poetry in English from both sides of the Atlantic (Tennyson, Rossetti, Browning...). For Cristina Rossetti, death was a liberation ("Sleeping at last, trouble & tumult over/Sleeping at last, the struggle & horror past/Cold & white out of shigth of friend & of lover/Sleeping at last." C. Rossetti, 1896)
Rossetti clearly believed in the Afte- Life but did Dickinson? There are volumes of criticism written about this. Int the introduction about her in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, the critic writes that "she was fully capable of moving within the same pome from religious consolotation to rejection of doctrinal piety." And so she did, but, in my opinion, Emiy Dicksionson dd believe in God and in Immortality, despite her doubts. Here are some lines which point in this direction:
I know that He exists.
Somewhere -in silence-
He has hid his rare life
From our gross eyes
'Tis and instant's play -
'Tis a fond Ambush-
Just to make Bliss
Earn her own surprise!
But -should the play
Prove piercing earnest -
Should the glee -glaze-
In Death's -stiff -stare -
Would not the fun
Look too expensive!
Would not the jest -
Have crawled too far! (1862)
In the the first line, Dickinson seems to be echoing the words of Job, which are beautifully sung in Haendel's oratory "Messiah": "I know that my Redeemer liveth, " and, therefore I shall live too.
When she says "He had hid his rare life/From our gross eyes," it reminds me Pope Bendedict the 16th when he said, just before abdicating, that "sometimes God seemed to be asleep." The reality of death, says Dickinson, is cruel, but the inextistence of a Beyond would be an even crueller joke.
And what do you think? Do you thinks Emily Dickinson believed in God and immortality?
To end this entry, I would like to thank the group of enthusiastic and innovative students (Elena, Álvaro, Georgiana, Olga and Mª José) from my English Literature class (Languages & Commnication degree) for the amazning presentation they have delivered today about Emily Dickison!! Elena's impersonation of Emily Dickinson, has confirmed my idea of the American poet as a kind of mystic, a St Theresa living in the US during the nineteenth century.
Here is the link if you would like to enjoy it:
PRESENTATION ABOUT EMILY DICKINSON