Saturday, October 24, 2009

“The name—of it—is ‘Autumn’”

It occurred to me the other day that we haven’t posted any Emily Dickinson poems here on Robert Frost’s Banjo for some time, & so I began the sometimes daunting task of flipping thru Dickinson’s Complete Poems—I always mean to dip into a good selected volume like Final Harvest, but somehow my hand always reaches for the more familiar if also more formidable tome.

The poem below—number 656 (composed around 1862 & standing just before the more well-known “I dwell in Possibility” in the Complete Poems) is a rather spectacular evocation of autumn; Dickinson could evoke more in 12 lines of her highly compressed verse than practically any other English language poet: we have the color red—a typical feaure of New England autumn—transformed to a vivid & disturbing memento mori, as the falling leaves become the blood from a severed artery. The final couplet is a pleasing poetic enigma: has this autumnal bloodflow been transformed to a rose that carries us off to some “better place?”

I find this poem quite fascinating. Hope you enjoy it too.

The name—of it—is “Autumn”—
The hue—of it—is Blood—
An Artery—upon the Hill—
A Vein—along the Road—

Great Globules—in the Alleys—
And Oh, the Shower of Stain—
When Winds—upset the Basin—
And spill the Scarlet Rain—

It sprinkles Bonnets—far below—
It gathers ruddy Pools—
Then—eddies like a Rose—away—
Upon Vermilion Wheels—

Emily Dickinson

The picture shows the Dickinson Homestead


  1. You are so right about Dickinson. AS a child, I couldn't understand her. I looked for sense in the usual sense; as an adult, I've learned to appreciate her by just breathing her in. That's when she makes the most sense of all.


  2. I'm so glad you posted this! I've never read it before, but it's an instant hit in my mind.

  3. This is new to me, too. I love those last two lines, especially. Maybe that's because we had a windstorm here yesterday afternoon.I saw a whirlwind down on Front Street pick up and carry (yellow, in this case) leaves into the air in a sparkling spiral.

  4. Much Better To Think Of Autumn As A Living +Red .A Moving LifeForce.Good Words!
    Have A Fine Weekend John.

  5. Hi Karen & Kat & Sandra &Tony

    Thanks to you all--it's suprising in a way that this one is obscure (I'd also not seen it before--can't recall if I said that).

  6. Great poem, John and what a fantastic looking house!

  7. I met Emily Dickinson before I was four years old - A bird came down the walk - he did not know I saw - in a three volume set of poems and stories, and she's been a favourite ever since. I didn't know this one, but it's a treat.


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