Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I died for Beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in theTomb,
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 –– the two 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. 
 ~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


  1. More from Emily, my favorite poet:

    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 drew 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 – in the Ground –

    Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
    Feels shorter than the Day
    I first surmised the Horses' Heads
    Were toward Eternity –

  2. I have known that poem since age 14, but am not familiar with that version, AOW.

    Here is what I learned and memorized early one:

    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 played
    Their lessons scarcely done --
    We passed the fields of gazing grain --
    We passed the setting sun.

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

    'Tis centuries since then,
    Yet each feels shorter than the day
    I first surmised the horse's heads
    Were toward -- Eternity.

    I suppose the version you have given is the result of "scholarship," and as such must be respected. Presumably, it's more authentic than earlier versions widely published in my young years and before.

    HOWEVER, there is much evidence that Emily regarded much if not all of poetry as a work in progress." Much that she wrote contained variations -- as though she were still experimenting and not quite sure what word she really wanted here and there.

    Had she lived in the twentieth century and been more assertive, she doubtless would have been published in her lifetime, BUT she would have been subjected to the grueling -- and I think nearly indecent -- process of being 'edited" for commercial publication.

    So, I am of two minds on the subject trying to find textual purity. Only the poet, himself or herself, knows for sure what his or her intentions are, and only he or she knows best how to fulfill them -- and even then he is never perfectly sure that it might not yet be put an even better way.

    We find these same issues and arguments arising constantly among musicologists and serious students of "performance practice." People get quite huffy puffy about it, I assure you.

    As for me, I go by one perilously simple motto when it comes to performing music, poetry and prose:

    "What SOUNDS best IS best."

    ~ Cecile Staub Genhart, renowned Professor of Advanced Piano Studies

  3. FT,
    I nabbed the version at Poetry Foundation.

    I've seen the version that you posted, too.

    Which one is THE ONE? I have no idea!

  4. I enjoyed this post tremendously, my friend.


  5. I am so glad you came to visit, Andie.

    I always enjoy your blog, because you have something intriguing, encouraging, inspiring, often beautiful to share. That's rare in the blogosphere today.


    AOW, I think the version you presented may be more "ip to date" than mine. A great deal of scholarship has been done on Miss Dickinson. Minute inspections of her manuscripts have yielded many curious variations from the texts I grew up with.

    I should be glad for these revelations, of course, but somehow find them disturbing.

    It's like the endless argments over what constitutes "correct" ornamentation in Bch and other early music.

    Myra Hess made, I think, the conclusive argument n that subject many decades ago. She made a point of performing one of the Bach keyboard suites - I think it ws the G-Major English Suite, but don't hold me to it -- at any rate, she performed all the ornaments "her" way and then "the scholarly correct" way on each repeated section.

    Apparently, NO ONE NOTICED. That amused Dame Myra, who had a wicked sense of humor, no end.

    The great harpsichordist, Wanda Landowska, who was also a formidably gifted pianist, often improvised unauthorized variations in her performance of Moart's piano works. She even went to far as to interpolate cdenzas here and there where Mozart left no instructions to do so.

    Landowska, one of the most vivacious, imaginative, stimulating artists who ever recorded, was severely criticized by the pedants and literalists, of course, but her recordings many made in the 1930's and '40's, remain fresh, alive and vastly entertaining all these years later.

    Mere "accuracy" is only the BEGINNING -- never the ultimate GOAL -- of true ARTISTRY.

  6. Ah, Thersites! I'm sorry you, apparently, regard the poem as "nonsense."

  7. Or did I misunderstand your reference to Dostoyevsky?

    Rarely do fail to force me to do a bit of research. I am not ungrateful, but I often wonder how anyone could know so much as to make the myriad quasi-cryptic references you provide?

    The scope of your knowledge is impressive.



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