Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dickinson's God vs Herbert's God

Did Our Best Moment last—
'Twould supersede the Heaven—
A few—and they by Risk—procure—
So this Sort—are not given—

Except as stimulants—in
Cases of Despair—
Or Stupor—The Reserve—
These Heavenly Moments are—

A Grant of the Divine—
That Certain as it Comes—
Withdraws—and leaves the dazzled Soul
In her unfurnished Rooms

- Emily Dickinson

This is an extremely daring version of a topic, a line of feeling, common enough in poets like Herbert and Vaughan, with this difference: that Herbert especially goes out of his way to make God's case sound reasonable if not generous. Emily Dickinson's God is a shrewd doctor with a certain interest vested in illness. He plays life and illness against one another, adjusting the proportions of each with a view to keeping himself in business, prolonging life only to the extent of ensuring a constant supply of bodies susceptible to illness. And the dazzled soul after each session of stimulation finds herself back in a "deep but dazzling darkness." And her room is bare. Emily Dickinson merely "gives the facts" without any comment except that implied by their choice and disposition. But by placing them halfway between the particular and the general, she makes it impossible for us to shrug them off either as loose generalizations or as exceptions to a divinely benign rule. - Denis Donoghue

No comments:

Post a Comment