Now you can try and translate Dickinson's poems into Russian yourself.
You left me, sweet, two legacies,--(Bequest)
Mine-by the Right of the White Election!
Mine-by the Right of the White Election!
When Night is almost done-
A precious-mouldering pleasure-'tis-
I gave myself to him,
The value might disappoint,
Depreciates the sight;
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At least, 'tis mutual risk,—
The Civil War and the “Gilded Age”
I. Read the text and answer the questions:
1. What themes of Emily Dickinson’s poetry are mentioned in the passage?
2. Why did these themes appear in her writing?
3. Why does the author say that “she had the least influence on her time”?
4. How do you understand the term, used by Dickinson, “prop" for the soul?
5. Why do you think the author called her “the modern Existentialist”?
6. Can you explain the title of the passage?
II. Make a summary of the text.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was another New England woman who wrote during the Civil War era. But we find no mention of the war or any other great national event in her poetry. She lived a quiet, very private life in a big old house in her little hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts. Of all the great writers of the nineteenth century, she had the least influence on her times. Yet, because she was cut off from the outside world, she was able to create a very personal and pure kind of poetry. Since her death, her reputation has grown enormously and her poetry is now seen as very modern for its time.
At first this might seem surprising. Like Anne Bradstreet and the other old Puritan poets, Dickinson “seldom lost sight of the grave”:
I heard a fly buzz when I died.
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see.
Dickinson’s own Calvinist childhood gave her this way of looking at life in terms of death. In nineteenth-century America, with its steam engines and big factory chimneys, such a view probably seemed old-fashioned. It did, however, allow her to see things freshly. As one recent critic notices, she seems to be looking at the world “for the first and last time”.
Although she rejected her family’s old-fashioned religion early in life, she made the “search for faith” one of the great themes of her work. Apart from the Bible, her most important guide in this search was the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Many, in fact, try to classify her as one of the Transcendentalists. Like the Transcendentalists, she saw “the possible” as more important than “the actual”. She felt that people had to “move outward towards limits shrouded in mystery”. To grow as human beings we must be brave, because we can “cling to nothing". This idea comes from Emerson's Self-Reliance. Dickinson never came to any firm conclusions about the nature of faith. In one famous poem, she seems to think of it as a temporary “prop” for the soul. After it grows stronger, the soul (seen here as a house) no longer needs this prop of faith at all. As always, she writes in the meter of the hymns of her childhood church days:
The props assist the house
Until the house is built
And then the props withdraw
The house supports itself.
In 1879, she returned to the subject of faith. Sometimes her definition is far less confident (or “self-reliant”). Still, it is quite characteristic of her own personality:
Not seeing, still we know –
Not knowing, guess –
Not guessing, smile and hide
And half caress
Dickinson’s poetry is filled with images and themes taken from Emerson’s essays. But almost always, she gives them a new and exciting interpretation. In the early 1860s, however, a rather different theme began to show in her work: pain and limitation. With Emerson these things were hardly ever discussed. (Melville once described Emerson as “a man who had never had a toothache".) This new theme in Dickinson was her way - probably her only way - of expressing the terrible suffering of the Civil War. But with her, it was always the pain of the lonely person at night, never that of the whole battlefield. It was the pain of the modern Existentialist. The world is "a place where God and nature are silent", and the universe is a "design of darkness".
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