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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. The Literary Society of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst presents New England anthology and expression and poetry of the American concept of the free man by writers who make use of the New England scene background or heritage. This program the fifth in our series will bring you the poetry of Adelaide Dickinson because of the calm temporary spirit of her verse. It's highly appropriate that Emily Dickinson who died in 1886 should be represented in this series of living the New England poets. The interpretation of her poetry which you will hear was originally undertaken by the late George F. which are known to Dickinson authority after his death it was completed by his son Stephen which are members of the department of a glacier at Smith Moore College and author of the recent study in the literature of the 19th century entitled freedom and fate and the inner life of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It gives us great pleasure to welcome Mr. Stephen Witcher
to our series. I'm particularly happy to be here with you to complete the program my father was especially interested in doing. The story of him with a concern present some of the most startling paradoxes in the annals of American poetry. She was a provincial spinster and recluse whose secluded life was ultimately a blank. Too simple and stoned to embarrass any as you put it. Yet her crime speak from a range and depth of experience beyond the capacity of most of her travel contemporaries even to understand the shining and seemingly humble Apprentice poet she meekly sought guidance from such a second rate magazine reputation of the day as the essayist and critic Colonel Thomas went with Higgins and yet she stubbornly held her own original practices despite all Higginson and others could do to discipline her into mediocrity and in so doing anticipated in many respects the principles and practices of modern politics. She lived under the medical restrictions
inevitable to us and I married a woman in New England in the last century and more that she imposed on herself. Nevertheless she wrote crimes that breed the spirit of emancipated independence and self-reliance. Beside which even such a priest of self-reliance as her contemporary Ralph Waldo Emerson looks a bit tame and conventional in view of the naturalness of her experience Mr. Frazier. How do you account for this death you speak of in a point that's not the sort of thing one can confidently explain. Clearly she was one of those rare people who are capable of taking the advice of the novelist Henry James being one of theirs and all nothing is lost. She could give her entire mind and heart to those primary experiences from which no one is shut off except by himself. I mean such things as a joy in nature and the grief of loss and death. So if none of the advice of a fellow New Englander Henry David thought to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life my own inclination
indeed is to ask grab the richness of her poverty primarily to her heritage as a New Englander. Would you explain what you mean by that. I mean a quality of mind bred into her by her environment. Let me read you a point that expresses it as I was trying to exactly what she was doing. On the bleakness of my lot room I strove to raise late my maker of a rock. You look great and nays saw a fleet of steadfast tilled will remain at the hand seemed of palm and sun for divide and sand we have here a poet who has been conditioned by generations of Calvinist ancestors to consider nothing more important than the state of the individual soul though she herself was never able to join the church and remained in her own words one of the lingering bad ones. Just tell us in the quality of her inner life most reproachful concern but only life that
mattered was that of our own mind and heart the great knowing that individual is generous and taught a similar doctrine for similar reasons. There isn't even a different spirit of goodness I thought it did not occur everywhere that you lost much in not pursuing outer experience. She founded experience enough for one lifetime. Cultivate your own few acres this entire concentration on the question of life that came my way. Here's one secret of her depth and force and is a trait she shares with other women poets and authors. I've always thought of Emily Dickinson's poems as tiny though perhaps exquisitely controlled. What is it that you mean by the depth and force. Well I noticed her awareness of tragedy for example and not merely her awareness but the discipline with clarity with which she anonymizer own pain. Could anything be more penetrating for instance than these eight short lines. The heart asks pleasure first and then.
Excuse from pain and then when there is little anodynes that dead suffering and then to go to sleep. And then if it should be the will of its inquisitorial the liberty to die. This seems to be a pretty terrible travesty of human life. You make it sound as if your whole life were just given the right to despair and she had to fight against her spare certainly but you never let it get the better of it. Displaying the disillusion was not the impression she made on kind of a concern when he visited her in Amherst in the summer of 1870. After eight years of magic correspondence tells of it 20 years later in the Atlantic Monthly. I've. Asked after many postponements when I was 16 1870 I found myself face to face with my head CORRESPONDENT It was at her father's house one of those lying inch square brick
mansions so familiar in our older New England towns surrounded by trees and blossoming shrubs without and it was then when X was let alone neat cool spacious and fragmented with flowers. I strode out of the way I had an extremely Fingleton pattering foot stuck like that of a child in the hall and him glided almost noiselessly up plain shiny little person in the face without a single good feature but the eyes as she herself said like the sherry and the glass that the ghastly and the small of the bounds of reddish chestnut hair. God was white because he was a blue not not worsted shawl. She came toward me was to tell you always what she put in a childlike way into my hand. These are my. Introduction. Forgive me if I am frightened. I never see strangers and hardly know what I say but you assume they're going to talk.
And times for having to almost constantly pausing sometimes to beg that I would talk instead but rather recommencing around with loaded let on by me. She told me much about her early life and what your father was I was the chief figure evidently a man of the. Type. I view a roche of Puritanism. I have a brother and sister. My mother does not care for thought and father to go sit with his beliefs to notice what we do. He buys me many books but begs me not to read them because he fears they juggle the mine. They are religious except me and address an eclipse every morning when I call their father. Mistaken but I feel my starting to teach you. On the contrary if your father read nothing but his brains he reads on Sunday lonely and rigorous books when we were little he did not wish us to read anything but the Bible. When one day my brother asked and brought me home on fellows kavanah. He put it secretly under the
pianoforte cover and made signs to me and afterwards we go through at it and went to student of my father's brought me Mrs. Charles letters from New York and hid it in the great brochure tray box beside the front door. Do you know. I never learned to tell time by the clock till I was nearly fifteen. My father tried to explain it to me when I was a little child and I was afraid to tell him that I did not understand. And afterwards I was afraid to ask any one else lest he should hear of it. Yet I have never heard him speak a harsh word. What are your books now. For poets I have Keats and Mr Mrs Browning for prose Mr Reston Sir Thomas Browne and the revelations and Shakespeare I remember when I lost the use of my eyes. It was a comfort to think that there were so few real books
that I could easily find one to read me out of there. Afterwards when I began my eyes I read Shakespeare and thought to myself Why is any other book needed. If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold my fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel as if as if the top of my head well. I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way. None better I am sure there is in the poems of Mr. Whitman. I never read his book but was taught that it was disgraceful. Tell me mistaken some do you think it advisable. I speak as a friend of your poetry to live so much alone as you do. So I'm leaving your grounds and shining mine and I know they talk of hallowed things I love and embarrass my dog. He and I don't object
to them. If they all exist they are side. I think Carlo would please you. He was down and really are you not loan money. I find ecstasy in living when this sense of living is joy enough. But do not never feel a new round of employment. I never thought of conceiving that I could ever have the slightest approach to such a wanton or future talent. I feel that I have not expressed myself strongly enough. These are not the accents of one disaffected with all the uses of this world. Emily Dickinson's joys where his intentions are sought out. Does that joy ever show itself in her poetry. It does indeed take this plan in which she portrays herself as literally drunk with life. I taste a liquor never brewed from tankard script Im not aware of the facts upon the minute such an alcohol.
Yeah yeah my endeavor she of do reading through endless summer days from eons of wanton blue when landlords trying the drunken bee out of the foxgloves door the butterfly has renounced their drams. I shall but drink the mayor tell same of swimming in the snowy hat and sank just two windows run to see the little took place looming against the sun. Sometimes your high spirits he may just do a playfulness. But more commonly in the intellectualized form of wit to appreciate in meetings and sweat and how pervasive it is even in points on solemn subjects. I must be somewhat familiar with the mental idiom of New Englanders over time. But anyone can see the making fun in others eyes of this little introduction of herself. In this case by the way as will be true of coins later on this program. The threatening
nature of the dramatic speaker is so obvious that a man can hardly do the lines justice. Let us hear this one that you read in the voice proper to it. I'm not a body mind you are you nobody too. Then there's a pair of us. Don't tell they banish us you know how dreary to be somebody how public like a frog to tell your name the lives Landay to an admiring bog. And I don't think anyone can hear him on the locomotive. A novelty then an Amherst without feeling the delight in the sheer about two hours a day of what he was writing and then likely enraged of the chiding and hissing of the iron horse. I like to see a plaque for miles and lick the valleys up and stop to feed itself the tanks and then prodigious step around the pile of mountains and supercilious peering shanties by the sides of rooms
and then a cloth or a pair to fit its sides and cry a little between completing all the file and horrid haunting stanza. Then chase it sounds down hill and name right then punctual as a stop stop. Docile and buttoned at its own stable door. Though she is merely playful writing. Poetry. Through in the fine phrase punctual as a star Mr. Preacher you spoke of the mentality of a few winners. What exactly does that mean in terms of the Dickinson poems it means an introspective habit that results in a double or multiple awareness of facts and ideas for example. Then the fusion in a point of time where more levels of perception produces in Congress. Let's start a license with Emily Dickinson was a completely way out of the doubleness in her experience between and you know well the dream and desire.
And I knew well the fact she would not favor either at the expense of the other she some of the best of us. Concave and convex witness and enjoy drawing out their conflicting testimonies. It was vital to the method to bring fact into a paradoxical conjunction with thought not so much to maybe or reconcile the two as to establish their dramatic interplay. So I give a few examples. Here is one you know of that nature would describe in such a way that it becomes a jibe at human nature. The sky is low the clouds mean traveling flake of snow across a barren north through rock debate see if it will go and never complain. How someone treated him. Nature or like us is sometimes caught without her diadem.
Then again Beth is a very different thing from housekeeping by the time my back together in the metaphor of the following point which is essentially a metaphor for the subject is too poignant for laughter. The bustle in the house the morning after death is solemn list of industries and acted upon earth. The sweeping up the heart and putting love away we shall not want to use again until eternity. How easy it would have been to write until the Judgment Day and so secure a normal rhyme but you know Emily Dickinson instinctively shuns the thumping banality of such a final line. Was the meaningful reading of the dim. And until eternity let us look at a third point by the way to say implicit in what is not said but it can easily be missed IMO surface this point can be taken as a specific application of
color ridges line and he prayed with best who loveth best All things both great and small. But Emily Dickinson is a poet. I was surprised at the spidery as an artist has never been employed though his so passing let us freely certified by every blooming Brigit throughout the Christian land neglected the son of genius. I take thee by the hand. What makes us confident that an artist is first rate. Is it not the approval of people who know about any kind of serious delusion experts. But here the situation is mischievously reversed rightists marriage is proof when it rises the active disapproval of every problem when Bridget is of conventional orderliness and sheer ignorance and Livingston is saying that in a Christian land you can she be referring to in like New England a genuine artist may be recognised by the violence of Philistine
attacks on his work. A decade after her death I ask around and question to being widely hailed as the greatest poets of that time were delighting to say much the same thing by such a test we have more genuine itis today than ever before in history. Mr. Webster when you mention to them Lee Dickinson anticipated some practices of modern poetry What did you mean specifically. Like any first rate I just wanted to better their own time and of all succeeding times but in a special sense it may be. Now that she was a front runner one of the front runners called Modernist poetry. Let me illustrate. When she was writing in the fashion characteristic of our generation she produced some brochures on a hummingbird beginning. With. My God writes a big hit upon a single wheel who spoke so does the music make as twat a travelling meal. He never stops but slackens above the right distro partakes
without alighting and praises as he go tell every spice is tasted and then his family Gabriel's in red Munster atmospheres to be read you get to town loosely descriptive fancifully adorned. Nobody could possibly be electrified by such work as this but some twenty years later the subject of the Humming-Bird and this time she produced a masterpiece is a truly modern point. Evanescence with a reviving real. Resonance of Emerald a rush of cook a meal and every blossom on the bush adjusts its tumbled head the mail from Tunis probably an easy morning's ride precisely rendered in the first four lines of the sensations which add up to hummingbird Evanescence Coconino as an object of notation of the Notting
blossoms and I knew that a political comment on the total experience. No explanations not an accessible to achieve such absolute functional intensity and poetry is equivalent to breaking the sound barrier in aviation. Would you say that her poems suggest modern techniques in other ways. Yes in a good many ways for example one of the first poets to explore the possibilities of imperfect rhyme or take the letter from Della's repond and teach you know so many modern points to the editor with. The magazine back in 1915 where they list the qualities of sound modern poetry. Plain language of speech I can the intensity simplicity and hardness significant rhythm precision to the objectivity and complete avoidance of literary cliches. Thirty years earlier Emily Dickinson had attained all these qualities. But more important is the template
for mind which was experimental and skeptical though she longed for ultimate certainty she'd never let wishful thinking for she needed nobody to tell her that she was getting only dusty answers. We can see this for example in her prime time religious faith and doubt she was capable of writing. I never spoke with God nor visited in heaven yet so am I of the spot as if the chart were given more characteristic of her than this. Confidence however whether instinctive loyalty to the life she knew whatever her need to believe in another then she could reject the traditional oil of joy from wanting the assurance that the last time in heaven. They are the height in heaven comforts not their glory not to me. It was best imperfect as it was. I am finite. I can't see the house of supposition
but good morning from the Scotch think acres of. Perhaps to me and secure the well if I hadn't contented me if twas a meaner size than I had come to that until it pleased my. Eyes better than learned to value however true they show this timid life of evidence keeps pleading. I don't know. This is not the point of a dogmatic mind. No doubt she found that the making of plans was what Robert Frost calls a momentary state against confusion momentarily because to the Puritan temperament life was a continuous adventure and never secure. As usual Emily Dickinson's has it for us. I stepped from plank to plank so slowly went cautiously the stars about my head I felt about my feet. The
sea I knew. Not but the next would be my final image. This gave me that precarious gait. Some call experience. She lived the risk the gamble the better we come to know the man realize that her life a pathway so protected was full of mental risks taken and surmounted love. For example though by deprivation rather than by fulfillment she separated from the faithless faithlessness of French she first repeated agonies of movement and the invisible menace of annihilation. She could describe it with much less pain. You see the. News that follows the shock of pain but greatness lies as much in her resolute sublimation of personal disasters as in the amazing artistry of her best climbs. Let me say good right. My life has been the point I would have read but I could not with lives and I read what
Emily Dickinson could do both letters clothes were three intensely personal points chosen from the finest she composed. They require little comment The first is a statement of absolute commitment to one elected saw a plan remarkable for its success in placing the most intimate of subject in sufficient aesthetic perspective so that it may be objectively discussed. That Stam create. I have elected one in sense from spirit fire away and subterfuge has done that which pleases and back which was a part intrinsic stand and this brief tragedy of flesh is shifted like a sand in the face. Of a right. Front and just carved away the whole of the atom. I prefer
to old the lists of play. Out of a double the reason then she rings one of the most effective epigrams my life closed twice before its close it yet remains to see if the talent to unveil a sad event to me so huge so hopeless to conceive as these the twice B fellow parting is all of heaven and all we need of him. Finally one of the most extraordinary plans on nature the expression of a nameless sense of terror. I remember coming because I can only be candid between the lines. There's a certain slant of light on winter afternoons that presses like the wake of Cathedral your own heavenly heart. It gives us
we can find no scar. But I am trying no difference where the meanings are teach it anything to use the seal of despair. And. Reflection sent us of the air. When it comes to landscape lessons. That owed their breath when it goes it is like the distant on the love of death. Like Melville Emily Dickinson knew the terror of the inscrutable and finished it without his flamboyant defiance. Mr. Cherry you really mad at the beginning of this broadcast and the contrast between the restricted life and the spirit of independence and self-reliance we find in her poems. Yet you've read us nothing that speaks of these things as does an awesome self-reliance aof as well then how do you account for that. I could ensure that I did not have to select the point of the book
but a better answer would be that Emily Dickinson with a woman sense of true value was was more interested in the practice of living than in doctrines about it. The impress of her actual self reliance her honesty her resilience and fortitude her zest for life was stamped on all she wrote and her success like that of a letter to New England authors you mentioned is one of character. Like Then when she came to maturity at the moment when the uncertainties that had sustained her parents and ancestors were losing credibility for many thinking people in New England like them she was thrown back on our own resources or character unlike them she did. Not trying to doctrines of an old person or an everlasting something for support but remaining suspended in doubt right fronting and face to face with the facts. To paraphrase stuff it is a tribute to him and to the doing the bridge but she triumphantly met this superior test and lived to the end as your poems
testify. I live as honest as it was hard as balanced as it was intense. If you're going to speak for yourself realize that they all speak from it. Thank you very much Mr which aired. This program was presented by the Literary Society of the University of Massachusetts. It was produced by the National Association of educational broadcasters under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. This is the fifth in a series of programs untitled New England and policy and expression and poetry of the American concept of the free man by writers who make use of the New England scene background or heritage project supervisor It was Robert tuckered production director was at the newsagents technical assistance for W. wester Smith at William Alford Emily Dickinson was played by Shirley Hastings. Colonel Higginson by Clarence chute. So I'm not mistaken since pointers were read by Doris
Abramson. INTERVIEWER was Leon Baron. This program was produced on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Your narrator was I-30 Dick this is the ne e b network.
New England anthology
Emily Dickinson
Producing Organization
University of Massachusetts
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, with readings by Dickinson scholar Stephen Whicher.
Series Description
A series featuring New England poets who read and discuss their own works.
Broadcast Date
New England--Poetry.
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Actor: Hastings, Shirley
Actor: Shute, Clarence
Narrator: Niedick, Arthur
Performer: Whicher, Stephen E. (Stephen Emerson), 1915-1961
Producing Organization: University of Massachusetts
Speaker: Barron, Leon
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-9-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:39
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Chicago: “New England anthology; Emily Dickinson,” 1955-04-17, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “New England anthology; Emily Dickinson.” 1955-04-17. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: New England anthology; Emily Dickinson. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from