Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Sky Is Low

"The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How someone treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem."

Emily Dickinson was born on this date in 1830. Little of her poetry was published during her lifetime. After her death in 1886, her sister and her sister-in-law worked to change that - the first volume of her poetry was published in 1890 and has been in print ever since.

Dickinson was not one of my favorite poets, though I appreciate her, but she was a favorite of Kari and Preston's father, Dennis. (We're shown here in 1968 with Douglas and when I was pregnant with Kari.)

I do not know if his children knew this was his favorite poem. I've long thought of telling them, so if they didn't already know, they do now.

"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 in the Ground --
The Roof was scarcely visible --
The Cornice -- but a Mound --

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

One of my favorite quotes is from Dickinson's poem about hope:

"Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -


  1. I didn't know that--either that Dickinson was his favorite, nor that particular poem. What an odd thing for an English teacher to not share with his children. I remember talking about Kurt Vonnegut and Shirley Jackson, but not about any poets. I wonder if he really didn't talk about it, or if he did, but I only heard the recommendations I was interested in at the time?

  2. K - At the time when he and I discussed poetry you were very young or not born yet. He may have changed his mind about the poetry he liked or not even liked it at all by the time you were old enough to discuss books and poetry.