Sophia and Olivia learned about Emily Dickinson and six of the poems she wrote as part of their homeschooling this year.
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. According to Wikipedia, Ms. Dickinson was "born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, [and] lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life."
Her neighbors thought she was rather eccentric; and "she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence," Wikipedia continued.
Although she was a prolific poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published while she was alive. Of those poems, all were significantly altered by publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Many of her poems referred to immortality and death. These topics also freqently were written about in letters to her friends as well
When she died in 1886, her sister (Lavinia), discovered Emily's cache of poems. Although a heavily-edited version of her poems was published in 1890, a complete and mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available in 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickinson was published by scholar Thomas H. Johnson. Dickinson is now considered to be a major American poet.
If I Can Stop
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Sophia thought “I liked it because it showed that she wants to live a full life and do good things in her life.”
Olivia thought “I liked the part about the robin because it’s cute to see a baby robin.”
Hope is the Thing with Feathers
"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea,
Yet never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Sophia thought “It was okay. I don’t really get it.”
Olivia had trouble understanding this one as well.
I'm nobody! Who are you?
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
Sophia thought “I liked it because in her own way she told what she was like. We know now that she is quiet and likes to be left alone to write poems.”
Olivia thought, “I like it because it’s about someone who is nobody. I like the part about the frog in the bog. Hey! That rhymes!”
A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
A narrow fellow in the grass
You may have met him, did you not,
His notice sudden is.
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
Sophia thought “It was okay. It was kind of interesting. It’s supposed to be a mystery about who is in the grass.”
Olivia thought “It was kind of interesting because it talked about someone in the grass. But I don’t know who was in the grass.”
I Had Been Hungry All the Years
I had been hungry all the years-
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.
'T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.
I did not know the ample bread,
'T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature's dining-room.
The plenty hurt me, 't was so new,--
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.
Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.
Sophia said, “I think it was a way of saying that she was poor and didn’t have a lot of money. She lived in the streets. She shared food with the birds. She hasn’t tasted wine. She wasn’t rich and she lived in the streets.”
Olivia thought that the writer “…was poor and she needed food. It [the poem] sort of feels sad. She needed food and couldn’t get it because other people owned it.”
If You Were Coming in the Fall
If you were coming in the fall,
I'd brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.
If I could see you in a year,
I'd wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen's land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I'd toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time's uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.
Sophia thought, "The poem was strange. She was sort of saying that as all the months go by and she was putting them in drawers. She’s waiting for her beloved.”
Olivia thought “It was interesting because it explains about waiting through the years and months. She is thinking of her husband.”