(Dec. 10, 1830 - May 15, 1886)
Emily Dickinson was a reclusive, unknown poet who lived in the middle of the nineteenth century. She was unpublished in her lifetime, preferring to wait for fame posthumously. Sure of her own place in history to come, she waited for the world to discover the beauty and wisdom of a master craftsman. Unhappy with the world’s imprisoned word meanings, she needed but a simple lexicon to fashion her new gems, her crystals of reflected word meanings, glistening in light and color. Living only for beauty and only for truth. she haunts us today with eerily beautiful and mysterious poetry from deep within her mind and soul. All of the poems in this chapter are taken from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas Johnson, 1st copyright 1890. First we will look at Emily's prophecy of her own death.
Emily Prophecies her own death
ED#24 There is a morn by
men unseen –
1858 Whose maids upon remoter green
Keep their Seraphic May –
And all day long, with dance and game,
And gambol I may never name –
Employ their holiday.
Here to light measure, move the feet
Which walk no more the village street –
Nor by the wood are found –
Here are the birds that sought the sun
When last year’s distaff idle hung
And summer’s brows were bound.
Ne’er saw I such a wondrous scene –
Ne’er such a ring on such a green –
As if the stars some summer night
Should swing their cups of Chrysolite –
And revel till the day –
Like thee to dance – like thee to sing –
People upon the mystic green –
I ask, each May Morn.
I wait thy far, fantastic bells –
Announcing me in other dells –
Unto the different dawn!
This poem was written early in Emily’s career in 1858. The "maids upon remoter green" are angelic transports (seraphic) to the next world. Emily asks the seraphs "each new May morn" if they are ready to come and take her so she can join them and play with them "all day long," with "dance and game." She asks these angels for passage to the next world "remoter green" each and "every new May morn" because she knows she is to die in May, but doesn’t know what year.
ED #50 I haven’t told my
garden yet –
1858 Lest that should conquer me.
I haven’t quite the strength now
To break it to the Bee –
I will not name it in the street
For shops would stare at me –
That one so shy – so ignorant
Should have the face to die.
The hillsides must now know it –
Where I have rambled so –
Nor tell the loving forests
The day that I shall go –
Nor lisp it at the table –
heedless by the way
Hint that within the Riddle
One will walk today –
In #50, Emily doesn’t tell her "garden," the "Bee," the "hillsides," or the "forests" because the foreknowledge of her death is a secret, but she foretells that someone "will walk in" or solve the riddle someday.
ED #160 Just lost, when I
1858 Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with Eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!
Therefore, as One returned, I feel
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some Sailor, skirting foreign shores –
Some pale Reporter, from the awful doors
Before the Seal!
Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By Ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by Eye –
Next time, to tarry,
While the Ages steal –
Slow tramp the Centuries,
And the Cycles wheel!
Here, Emily goes to heaven, the place where ear has not heard and eye has not seen what God has prepared (New Test. KJV Bible) for His children, just as Enoch and some other prophets have, to receive a revelation of certain aspects of future history. Since Emily has wanted to go and stay in heaven, she is disappointed when she returns and is lost when almost saved by being returned from heaven after having been taken there. After having received her revelation and returning she has "odd secrets of the line to tell!" She is a terrified at what she has seen (see #443 regarding Bomb) and thus is a "pale Reporter" of the events she has witnessed before the "Seal" of Revelation. She consoles herself because she knows that "next time" she goes to heaven, she will have died and will be able to "stay" for good, some May day.
ED #412 I read my
sentence – steadily –
1862 Reviewed it with my eyes,
To see that I made no mistake
In its extremest clause –
The Date, and manner, of the shame –
And then the Pious form
That "God have mercy" on the Soul
The Jury voted Him –
I made my soul familiar – with her extremity –
That at the last, it should not be a novel Agony –
But she, and Death, acquainted –
Meet tranquilly, as friends –
Salute, and pass, without a Hint –
And there, the Matter ends –
In #412, Emily "reads her sentence," which is her death sentence. She reads it over and over to be sure of "the Date and manner" of her death which is seen as a "shame" to those of this life. She turns the experience over in her mind to "familiarize" her soul with death, which is the most "extreme" of circumstances. She becomes "acquainted" or comfortable with the idea of dyeing and she continues on, "tranquilly" turning to other things.
ED #443 I tie my Hat – I
crease my Shawl –
1862 Life’s little duties do – precisely –
As the very least
Were infinite – to me –
I put new Blossoms in the Glass –
And throw the old – away –
I push a petal from my Gown
That anchored there – I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
I have so much to do –
And yet – Existence – some way back –
Stopped – struck – my ticking – through –
We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman – When the Errand’s done
We came to Flesh – upon –
There may be – Miles on Miles of Nought –
Of Action – sicker far –
To simulate – is stinging work
To cover what we are
From Science – and from Surgery –
Too Telescopic Eyes
To bear on us unshaded –
For their – sake – not for Ours –
’Twould start them –
We – could tremble –
But since we got a Bomb –
And held it in our Bosom –
Nay – Hold it – it is calm –
Therefore – we do life’s labor –
Though life’s Reward – be done –
With scrupulous exactness –
To hold our Senses – on –
In #443, Emily stands in front of a mirror exactly "tying her hat" and "creasing her shawl" to distract herself from the terror of her revelation and to keep busy because "life’s Reward," her poetry and prophecy, are now completed. She weighs the "time ’twill be till six o’clock" because that will be the hour of her death for which she will wait patiently, as her primary service to God "her Errand" which "she came to Flesh upon" is complete. She understands that between "errands" there is a lot of waiting and occupying of oneself during "Miles on Miles of Nought." She feels she has to pretend or "simulate" to "cover what" she is because she knows that the worldly and dissecting eyes of scientists and doctors (surgery) would be startled and shaken (’Twould start them) by the realities with which she has lived her life. And she doesn’t want to disturb their restricted, overly skeptical world view when that same world possesses "a Bomb"-- nuclear implied, we can guess. (discussed later)
ED #1422 Summer has two
1877 Beginning once in June –
Beginning in October
Affectingly again –
Without, perhaps, the Riot
But graphicker for Grace –
As finer is a going
Than a remaining Face –
Departing then – forever –
Forever – until May –
Forever is deciduous –
Except to those who die –
In #1422, Emily states that summer has two beginnings "once in June" in the northern hemisphere and once in October in the southern hemisphere. She then reflects that summer’s grace is best appreciated in its leaving, rather than its coming. She switches gears to human life and death, and decides that death is finer than her remaining errand-less life, she is just "a remaining face" that endures until a future May takes her in death forever to where there are no "deciduous" cycles of birth and decay, just ever expanding realms of infinity.
When they dislocate my Brain!
Amputate my freckled bosom!
Make me bearded like a man!
Blush, my spirit, in thy Fastness –
Blush, my unacknowledged clay –
Seven years of troth have taught thee
More than Wifehood ever may!
Love that never leaped its socket –
Trust entrenched in narrow pain –
Constancy thro’ fire – awarded –
Anguish – bare of anodyne!
Burden – borne so far triumphant –
None suspect me of the crown,
For I wear the "Thorns" till Sunset –
Then – my Diadem put on.
Big my Secret but it’s bandaged –
It will never get away
Till the Day its Weary Keeper
Leads it through the Grave to thee.
In #1737, Emily describes her loneliness and lack of human recognition (unacknowledged clay) during her life of her self-sacrifice in the flesh. Her "errand" is a lonely "burden borne so far triumphant." "None suspect" her of her "crown" of chosen-ness to do God’s most important work. Like the great Prophets of Old, the glorious crown feels sometimes like Jesus’ painful crown, of sacrificial "Thorns." Notice, Emily wears her crown of thorns till sunset, which will accompany her death sometime in May at 6 o’clock pm. Her "secret" ministry is bandaged because it has caused a wound that cannot be shown to anyone yet and so it is "bandaged" to conceal itself. Her secret is "Big" and she vows to never let it get away "until the Day its Weary Keeper," "leads it through the Grave to" an unspecified "Thee"; the reader, we presume.
We will soon discuss some of her "Big" secrets hidden in her poetry. The following quote is from her brother’s (Austin) diary on the day of her death. Unaware of Emily’s "secrets", Austin writes:
May 15, 1886 "The day
was awful. She ceased to
breathe that terrible breathing just
before the whistles sounded for six"
(Quote from Richard B. Sewell’s,
The Life of Emily Dickinson.)
One can be quite sure that the sun was setting when Emily died at 6 p.m. in May, 1886. Note that Emily prophesied the month and hour of her death in poems written nearly thirty years (1858) prior to the event. This is a demonstration of the validity of her prophetic revelations.
Emily tells us in her poetry that she has a special "errand" to do. The following poems shed some light on this idea.
not chosen me," he said,
1859 "But I have chosen them!"
Brave – Broken hearted statement –
Uttered in Bethlehem!
I could not have told it,
But since Jesus dared –
Sovereign! Know a Daisy
Thy dishonor shared!
From somewhere, Emily (Daisy) gets the information that Jesus chose his life’s mission for himself, rather than having it been chosen for him by somebody else. Emily says she "could not have told" this truth, which applies to herself as well, unless Jesus "dared" to say it first to lead the way. Chosen and elect are nearly the same word meaning and throughout scripture are symbolized by the wearing of a "crown" as it is here in Emily’s circumstance as well. God’s royalty is nothing like man’s royalty though, for the "greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is servant of all" and it is "the meek who will inherit the earth."
ED #356 The Day that I
1862 Was like the other Days –
Until the Coronation came –
And then – ’t'was Otherwise –
As Carbon in the Coal
And Carbon in the Gem
Are One – and yet the former
Were dull for Diadem –
I rose, and all was plain –
But when the Day declined
Myself and It, in Majesty
Were equally – adorned –
The Grace that I – was chose –
To Me – surpassed the Crown
That was the Witness for the Grace –
’Twas even that ’t'was Mine –
Before going any further, lets examine the use of the word "crown" within scripture.
Genesis 49:26 The blessing of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. (Joseph)
Leviticus 8:9 And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Isaiah. 28:5 In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, (the remnants)
Mark.15:17 And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,
1Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (The chief Shepherd Melchizedek crowns those who elect to do God’s will)
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Revelation 6:2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Melchizedek wears a crown and is called the Elect One on Enoch)
Revelation 14:14 having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. (Again, Melchizedek the reaper of the harvest)
Wisdom 5:16 Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them.
The crown symbolizes those whom elect and choose God’s Way as their own. Royalty in the Kingdom of heaven translates into suffering and persecution in the upside down Kingdoms of men.
In #356, Emily receives her crown. She has been chosen for a task of great importance to the development of the kingdom of heaven on earth and in the heart. Her poetry teaches about, and reveals in beauty, the kingdom of heaven within.
Excerpts are from the book The-Kingdom-of-Heaven-is-at-Hand, by Edmund J. Roache, MD.