First Series commentary

I never read prefaces or afterwords, before I read the text. Sometimes, I agree with the opinions, sometimes I do not. Therefore, this commentary is more of a reader and translator story: I share my associations and observations, without claiming insight into the poet’s mind. Of poetry, we anyway “have what we take”, as there never is going to be a master key or blueprint to allow universal interpretation. This is what I like about poetry. Naturally, objective regards as credibility of sources for the author’s works remain important.



Views on Emily Dickinson’s poetry were under an immense revision, when Thomas H. Johnson published The poems of Emily Dickinson in 1955, after Harvard University received her poetry manuscripts in 1950, as a gift from Gilbert H. Montague. Amherst College was given a collection by Millicent Todd Bingham in year 1956.


It was after Johnson’s print that comments came, on an “extensive” or even “pervasive” custom for dashes, “unconventional” or “unexpected” use of capital letters, or an “idiosyncratic poetic practice” by and large, in Emily Dickinson’s verses.


Emily Dickinson’s poetry was a success with people of her times. She, as well as her readers, would know proper spelling and punctuation, even by just having awareness of the founding texts as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, or Bill of Rights.


In the Declaration, John Dunlap’s peculiarity would have been in capitalizing all nouns, phrases to have nouns for their heads, and forms deriving from nouns — yet he did that according to quite a prevalent and known printing custom at the time.


Outside the custom, we have capital letters to specify on terms. John Carter capitalized the Constitution as that of the United States. Referring to particular States, he spelled the word “constitution” with a small letter. Today, specificity is the very reason to capitalize business contract Parties.


Emily Dickinson certainly did not mean her poetry for only a joke, though her poems show she had a sense of humor as well. Her works were first printed in year 1890, prepared by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, who knew the poet in person, that is, they knew how she made notes or drafted her poems, as well as what a clean copy was to look — according to herself. Their edition does not have the “idiosyncrasies”. Those occurred with the Johnson print, in year 1955.


Well, would Emily Dickinson have tried telling about some very specific or special Bees, Birds, or Ears?
Light laughs the breeze
In her Castle above them—
Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,
Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence—
Ah, what sagacity perished here!

(Safe in their alabaster chambers, Time and Eternity, IV).


Let us think about prosody. Big letters can help visualize prosody, for making the poetic contour, thinking up how vowels might transcend from low qualities to high, for example.


Here, “extensive” or “pervasive” underscore can be of real help. Over the Internet, we can have a glimpse at sample F124C, a draft of Safe in their alabaster chambers in Houghton, one of the libraries within Harvard University. We can doubt, if the marked spaces are dashes. We might call the marks contour lines as well. They accompany the words crescent and them, further, arcs, row, drop, and then doges and surrender, to return to snow.


Houghton sample F124C; click to enlarge


The habit of the hand has an open ε, most probably to reflect on the role of the vowel in the overall contour of the poem. We can compare diadεms, Dogεs, and soundless. The matter is not in word stress and thus vowel length, if we compare the handwriting in the Renunciation, printed with the First Series.



The speech sound [e] can result in a central quality, in a mid position between front and back, as well as low and high vowels. Let us give this mid the symbol з. In some phonetic scripts, it may be interpreted for the shwa, ə.


Evidently, spoken language mattered in Emily Dickinson’s notation. Why? We can further think about her inspiration with Greek and Latin, too.


Now, to continue with the analysis of manuscript physical qualities, let us have a look at another sample from Houghton library, F124B. The poem is Safe in their alabaster chambers, still.


Houghton sample F124B; click to enlarge


The habit of the hand does not have the characteristic T, and F124B is closer to a fair copy than F124C. Theories on Emily Dickinson’s worsening eyesight fail with an important regard: the writing characters in F124B are not larger, or separated more broadly. We can recur to F124C and compare.


(TH) in Houghton sample F124C; click to enlarge


The shape of the letter T did not belong with drafts only. More, as it usually has been with us humans, the letter T grows — and does not diminish — along with Emily Dickinson’s finalizing the text. We can recur to the Renunciation for the words there, thought, or that, for example.


Emily Dickinson’s handwriting published with the First Series; click to enlarge


This is not the only strange thing with Houghton samples. Let us analyze Houghton F67A and F67B, copies of the poem Too Late. They show the text re-written almost consistently with Higginson-Todd print.


F67A differs from Higginson-Todd in two words, joy and remaining; F67B only with the word joy. Looking to rhythm and rhyme, we can see the word does not fit.


Delayed till she had ceased to know,
Delayed till in its vest of snow
Her loving bosom lay.
An hour behind the fleeting breath,
Later by just an hour than death, —
Oh, lagging yesterday!


Could she have guessed that it would be;
Could but a crier of the joy (?) [H-T: glee]
Have climbed the distant hill;
Had not the bliss so slow a pace, —
Who knows but this surrendered face
Were undefeated still?


Higginson-Todd has the word glee, where later edits have the word joy. It is hard to believe the author would have re-written the poem entire a few times, with one non-matching word, moreover, in a different hand. Radiocarbon dating might prove precious, along with C14 for the ink. Would the material have come from times later than Emily Dickinson, the result would end all speculation she might have authored such a version of the poem.


Also in her times, the word glee might mean a song, and this is how I translate it:

Czy herold z pieśnią mógł był stanąć
Na wzgórz wysokiej dali…


Later, “glee and glory”, the song and fame theme of Anglo-Saxon legends, became much less familiar to the average reader. Today, it is practically a subject for university study. The word joy in the place of glee would lose the potential association, and it might even imply the “loving” person enjoyed the death of the “loved” one (hence the quotation marks).


The poem, though ironic, does not support any such inference. The verse may suggest prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, whose marriage with queen Victoria was surrounded with a propaganda of family tremendous happiness, questioned in the queen’s times, as well as later. The present day, we can read the doubt by historian Jane Ridley, via BBC News. It was during queen Victoria’s reign there came another tension between the United States and Britain, in the Trent Affair. Prince Albert died in December.


To think about the poetic matter on paper, we may consider the Bequest (Love, II): there is something particular about its meter. I attach a NOTE to the poem, to explain further on the Greek “tessellation”.


If we regard vowel reduction, natural in English, and thus consider vowel lengths in the prosodic pattern, the Bequest will give us two stanzas of 8 and 5 lengths. Ancient canons allowed to “sum up” vowel length, in the count. Boldface is to highlight prosodic stress. The asterisk marks vowels that would be the shortest, in proximity with prosodically prominent positions:


8    You    left    me,    sweet,    two    le_gз_cies, —
5    A    le_*gз_cy    *зf    love
8    A    Hea_*vзn_ly    Fa_*thзr    would    con_tent,
5    Had    He    *thз    of_*fзr    of;


8    You    left    me    baund_*dз_rēz    of    pain
5    *Cз_pa_*ciзs    as    the    sea,
8    Be_tween    e_tзr_nı_ty    and    time,
5    Your    con_*sciзs_*nзss    and    me.


In the word “boundaries”, the diphthong obviously does not make two vowels, but it can “add up” with the adjacent *з; in “eternity”, word stress is on the central з.


The “capital letters” in sample P90-28 on Houghton display, and the prosodic highlight I made — out of curiosity, without even having looked at the manuscript — converge considerably. It might have been for prosody that Emily Dickinson used the big writing characters. Looking at P90-28, one yet might expect there would be the “dashes”, the underscore we can see in the Renunciation above, as in a form still to use the big letters. Feel welcome to the Bequest and the note on “tessellation” and poetry.



All the above together, the prints of today would present draft versions for Emily Dickinson’s poems, more, some re-written in another hand, with accuracy that reasonably can be doubted — and some manuscripts even could be first-print based fabrications; after all, it takes only practice, merely to pen on paper, after another person — whereas a specially capitalized Bee or Ear are not going to make sense for poetic appeal, anyway.


To think about the poet herself simply as a human being: we might agree for a friend or acquaintance to gather on our papers, if our own condition is not good. Mabel Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson knew Emily Dickinson’s notation. Their first print does not have the features of draft versions. We yet would not agree to have even an expert presentation of our drafts as finished forms, not for our school essays or term papers — and poetry happens to outlast the author. Worse still, some of the drafts might be products of another hand.


Can we honestly believe Emily Dickinson meant to publish verses about special, big-letter Bees or Ears? I cannot, taking the print habits of the times, along with the poetic content that capitalization of this sort could not help promote. In such a circumstance, the first print is my only resolve. Aware that manuscripts in their possession are not all genuine, Amherst College inform on their website that recovery of the manner the poet worked on language may be impossible today: the original material is too modest.


I agree the first print stanzas are not fit at times, their shape yet only continues to prove that Mabel Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson did not want to change the poetry and had little experience with Emily Dickinson publishing, as she hardly ever did publish. Since the stanza needs to be an integral unit of word sense within the poem, I propose thematic stanzas, on which I expand right after this brief review on poetic punctuation.



Punctuation is to delineate semantic scopes. In poetry, the text comes in verses, and their ends may work as commas. This means there may be no comma written or printed at the end of a verse, but we get the text as if there were one. Let us put text in one line, to see the comma and verse roles.

I died for beauty, but was scarce adjusted in the tomb…


We might get the impression a person hardly fitted in a coffin. The verb to be and the grammatical number can help make out word sense, for verse. S/he is scarce / They are scarce would bring senses as rare or few for scarce, and human parsing of language will pause a little, for the end of the line. Let us think now about punctuation and poetry,

I died for beauty, but was scarce, adjusted in the tomb…


Indeed, the poetic person does not have spatial concerns, and soon gets company (Time and Eternity, X, I died for beauty).


Commas and other punctuation marks, in poetry, can help highlight (Time and Eternity, XXXIII, Along the Potomac):

To look at her; how slowly
The seasons must have turned…


Finally, good poetry requires skill, but it is not a device to deny common sense. In The lonely house (Life, XV), the suspicion, whatever way to try it for poetic, that the Sun might have been capable of opening the door, allows for the thought something yet has been stolen from the household:

While the old couple, just astir,
Fancy the sunrise left the door ajar!


When the day also makes noise coming near, the verses may be worth thinking with a dash or — most probably — a comma:

While the old couple, just astir,
Fancy the sunrise, left the door ajar!


There is no certainty the first print was done perfectly and it sure did not “lose” a comma somewhere. With these observations, let us continue, to consider the thematic stanza.



Emily Dickinson’s thoroughly authorial decision on her poetry was impossible already with the first print. The health condition did not let the poet even title all her poems.


I do not take her free verse for lack of perfection; to translate her poetry, I put prosody first as I thought she had, and squared the vowel length or syllable count only where I thought it might do good, as in the Bequest or Playmates, for example. I definitely wanted to rethink the stanza, however.


Stanzas need to be integral units of word sense within the poem. The wind (Nature, XXIV) encourages a consideration of the stanza as a thematic structure.


Of all the sounds despatched abroad,
There’s not a charge to me
Like that old measure in the boughs,
That phraseless melody
The wind does, working like a hand
Whose fingers brush the sky,
Then quiver down, with tufts of tune
Permitted gods and me.


When winds go round and round in bands,
And thrum upon the door,
And birds take places overhead,
To bear them orchestra;


Having compared other poems, we can end the stanza with the semi-colon here: it delineates a description of the circumstance, a thematically self-contained structure. We are not able to follow Higginson-Todd as much in Success (Life, I). Here, the comma marks semantic elements the poem continues to develop:


not one / can tell / the definition / of victory/ comma/ as he


Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,
As he,
defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear!


The verse was published in “A Masque of Poets”, at the request of Helen Hunt Jackson, the author’s fellow-townswoman and friend. It brings a picture of enemy brief and transient victory. Making my decision on the unitary, short form layout, I could follow the Houghton 72S-700 print image, as presented also in Wikipedia.


However, I keep the semantics of the Higginson-Todd as the one to make sense. In records and media, mistakes have happened since their beginnings. The final words as in the Masque of Poets would have success defined by a person to experience uttermost failure: the enemy takes the flag and the lead character dies, hearing shouts of triumph, the distant strains of triumph break, agonizing clear.


Opposite semantics yet never becomes misnomers, in Emily Dickinson’s writing, and Higginson-Todd has the lead character lose the flag, yet it is not far away he can hear the enemy defeated:

The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.



Thomas Niles, the publisher, reportedly admitted in his letter to Emily Dickinson, “you have doubtless perceived [it] was slightly changed in phraseology” (as presented in Wikipedia, Sewall, Richard B. The Life of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003 (sixth edition): ISBN 0-674-53080-2). Despite praise, Emily Dickinson did not like to publish, and that might have been owing to publication errors.


It was thematic integrity to make me present the Psalm of the day (Nature, XII) as a 3×3 — 6 — 2×3 — 6 layout. Feel welcome.



It is natural, for a person with an affect for language, to study it to detail; and it can never do harm. Evidently, Emily Dickinson did such a study. Not only stanzas or syntax, words have constituents, too. For example, both Latin and Greek have a particle –lus-. We can look at particular poems and compare.


  • (Life, XI, Much madness is divinest sense) λυσσον, alusson, madwort, Farsetia clypeata; λυσσος, alussos, curing madness; λυσιδωτός, alusidotos, wrought in chain;
  • (Life, XXIII, Unreturning) ἀνάπλυσις, anaplusis, washing or rinsing out; ἀνήλυσις, anelusis, going up, return; λυσις, elusis, step, gait; lenunculus, a small sailing-vessel, bark, skiff (the toddling little boat).
  • (Love, IX, Have you got a brook in your little heart) rivulus, a small brook, petty stream; galgulus, small bird; aridulus, somewhat dry — in Latin, the particle worked not only for diminutives;
  • (Time and Eternity, V, On this long storm) ἐνηλύσιος, enelusios, struck by lightning;
  • (Time and Eternity, XVIII, Playmates) collusor, companion at play; condiscipulus, school-mate; angelus, a messenger, an angel; lapillus, small stone, pebble; lusus, a game; ὁμηλυσία, omelusia, companionship.


The presentation here is not all the occurrence. Overall, we can view it as a conscious use of language paradigms to encourage psychological perception. Bullets clip an angle (angellus, pronounced with double l in Latin), to introduce a spiritual view in Along the Potomac (Time and Eternity, XXXIII).

But proud in apparition,
That woman and her boy
Pass back and forth before my brain,
As ever in the sky.


In I asked no other thing (Life, XII), the language particle -upo/ypo-, in Greek as well as Latin, is to help build an abstract picture: ἰσότυπος, isotypos, shaped alike, συνυπόπτωσις, synypoptosis, simultaneous presentation to the senses, cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman, ὑποπτερνίς, upopternis, knob (a button that can twirl, in modern terms), and ὑπο, upo, below, looking a picture up and down (as Brazil on a map).


I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled


Brazil? He twirled a button,
Without a glance my way:
“But, madam, is there nothing else
That we can show to-day?”


Part the notation in Emily Dickinson’s draft versions for poetry might have reflected also on language morphology to include American English.



For thousands of years, language particles have been able to make more than one word, in more than one language. Already ancients viewed words entire as capable of making more than one sense. In Latin, the word praesentio did not refer only to presaging; it also meant perceiving in advance. The word spiritus might suggest a supernatural inspiration as well as human breathing. Praesens meant in sight, present. The form preasensus shared its shape with a form of praesentio. In poetry also today, a present tense may not tell anything actual. It can serve a presentation.


All the following poems were written in forms for the grammatical and psychological present. The poet also allowed them the word divine, in senses to be human and mean psychological, or select as the very good or proper. In the Exclusion (Life, XIII), the soul to decide on oneself follows own divine majority: the Latin word divinatio also meant a prognostication to decide who was the best to proceed, as in judicial contexts. The divinest sense of Much madness (Life, XI) brings on the human psyche as well.


The odors so divine in The grass (Nature, IX), the clew divine in The chrysalis (Time and Eternity, VI), and the divine intoxication in Setting sail (Time and Eternity, VII), all refer to exquisite and earthly experiences.


Emily Dickinson was educated in the classics, and her interest in the Antiquity definitely extended beyond regular school curricula.

A precious, mouldering pleasure ‘t is
To meet an antique book

(Life, X, In a library).


Some predicate forms in her poetry can be associated with ancient philosophers.

Captivity is consciousness,
So’s liberty.

(Time and Eternity, XXXV, Emancipation).


The philosophers organized concepts in categories. The Greek word katēgoria, meant a predication, a category; the verb katēgorein took after ageirein, to gather. We can interpret the lines above as captivity belongs with the category of consciousness; one is aware if captive, and it is the same with the state or condition of being free. We can find the logical predication in Aristotle, for example.


English is a non-flexing language. To say that consciousness is captivity, we would have to follow the regular word order and say literally,

*consciousness is captivity.



Beyond doubt, Emily Dickinson used the poetic person, the phrase to be my preference over the lyrical subject. However her poetry is not a confession, her way to present matters of faith always involves the human being as a feeling and thinking entity.


One may be mildly humorous (here, about oneself), yet if one thinks, one does not presume on the outcome or result of events.

For heaven is a different thing
Conjectured, and waked sudden in,

(Life, IV, Rouge gagne). We can compare The butterfly’s assumption-gown (Nature, XXIII), much to invoke a priori reckoning.


It is thinking to let one take comfort in reading:

And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

(Life, XXI, A book).


It is a human feeling, to want the affection to survive:

Before the judgment-seat of God,
The last and second time
These fleshless lovers met,
A heaven in a gaze,
A heaven of heavens, the privilege
Of one another’s eyes.

(Love, XV, Resurrection).


It is human feeling as well as thinking, to associate physical phenomena and emotional response, that with participation of language:

There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.


Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

(Nature, XXXI, There is a certain slant of light).


The ordinary, everyday human being can make a difference, without even appearing in the poem: belief in God is a human matter.

It makes no difference abroad,
The seasons fit the same…

(Nature, XX, Two worlds).


God or Heavenly Father, the words belong with human notionality, and the notionality happens to vary, as well as change over time:

You left me, sweet, two legacies, —
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content
Had He the offer of.

(Love, II, Bequest). By notionality, I mean the human ability to describe and refer using notions, that is, concepts on experience, knowledge, supposition, or creativity (Merriam-Webster dictionary online)


Finally, the word “God” may be a dictionary entry. We may try Webster’s Dictionary 1828.

Doubt me, my dim companion!
Why, God would be content
With but a fraction of the love
Poured thee without a stint.

(Love, V, Surrender).



The way we view the world comes with our perceptions and thinking, with our cognitive, also intellectual experiences. This cognitive experience may influence the way we comprehend language. Please mind, the observations are my cognitive position; I do not claim insight into the poet’s thinking.


There is a word taken much too neurophysiologically, in Emily Dickinson’s works, and the word is pain, a common noun.

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me.

(Love, II, Bequest).


Borders as above could be only incongruous, for a physical sensation. Even if one has not had experience with pain other or whatsoever more serious than milk tooth ache only, one knows people cannot swap or pass on physical sensations. It is early in life we people learn that our human bodies are individual. The poetic description of Bequest actually clarifies it is not physical pain the poem addresses.


If we combine the notions of content and dimensions, we may compare the Greek βαρύμοχθος, barymohthos, toilsome. English language has the phrase to take the pains, to express conscious effort. This needs not bring on physical, psychological, or literally any pain at all.


The ancient βαρύς, barys, could mean heavy, as well as deep, or strong: the term worked for mass, length, as well as intensity, also to an amplifying effect, as in βα^ραθρώδης, barathrodes, to mean abysmal with reference to a sea, or precipitous with regard to a way or path; see Perseus word study tool. The phrase βᾰρεῖᾰ προσῳδῐ́ᾱ, bareia prosodia meant the grave accent, a linguistic feature. Feel welcome to the NOTE attached to the poem.


Today, we can read about a fragmentary codex with ancient Greek epigrams that Yale University acquired in 1996. It forwards a story of a poet who, having lived “a pound of years” and worked on some toilsome grammar, was going to Hades — to counsel the dead. Kevin Wilkinson interprets the “pound of years” as about 70 years of life by Palladas.


For The mystery of pain (Life, XIX), we can try thinking about language as a cognitive device. Emily Dickinson would have been a precursor with the idea. The pain could not be literally any pain.
Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

(Life, XIX).


There is no pain, physical or psychological, without awareness of its beginning and source, in people capable of writing, at least. If we look to language paradigms, we notice that verbs as the English to ache, or boleć in Polish, do not have the Passive. We do not say *we are ached, or *jesteśmy boleni. If we think about a thing quite usual in language study, a conjugation chart, the places for the Passive would be blank.


To think about a cognitive implication: we do not have to learn everything by experience. For own good thought to motivate our lives — even if we take advice, it is our decision — we can consider matters and conclude without trial-and-error exploration. In particular, making a life painful could not make it meaningful.


Emily Dickinson was cognitive about the articles, a and the. The verse I like a look of agony in Real (Time and Eternity, XII) denies fondness: we would have the look of agony, then — the anguish is homely, the poem is about ordinary dying.


I like a look of agony,
Because I know it’s true;
Men do not sham convulsion,
Nor simulate a throe


The eyes glaze once, and that is death.
Impossible to feign
The beads upon the forehead
By homely anguish strung.

It is cognitively quite challenging, to think about the world without death; to wonder if there would be a person willing to stay on the planet eternally. To expand on the articles, I lost a world (Time and Eternity, XXXVI, Lost) does not pronounce the end of the world.


Cognitive individuality in picturing the world shows in The sea of sunset (Nature, XIII). The Yellow Sea is in the Far East. However, it is the Yellow River to feed the waters, coming — as geographically — from the west.


Saying, no human soul would know, we might be prone actually to mean nobody around knows. We can see this influence of human cognitive mapping on word sense in the May-flower (Nature, II). Thinking about every human being in the world does not happen every so often, and it could be even strange, when the focus is on the fauna, flora, and geography:
Next to the robin
In every human soul.



Poetry happens to be translated. This means it gets to exist in more than one linguistic reality. Language reality is not always a cognitive outcome, and grammatical gender can be an excellent illustration here. It is not only Polish to have the arbitrary grammatical ascription nobody takes sexually: books or bicycles are not girls or boys, and apples do not make a third gender. One does not think about a tuxedo for a French cahier, or about a robe, for a German Zeitschrift, either.


Among other things, I have worked on translating from American English to Polish; let me focus on that.


Translating Emily Dickinson, the grammatical gender of the bee requires a conscious approach. In Polish, the bee is a she. Not to “re-orient” the verses “sexually”, the translator may need to go “up the family tree”, that being the Apidae. In the Apotheosis (Love, XVIII), I use the Polish trzmiel, grammatically masculine. In the humorous Bee (Nature, XV) I prefix the biological taxonomy the way for human names, pan pszczoła; Polish does not require capitalization with such fabular uses, though Mr. Bee would in English. Two worlds (Nature, XX) have the Polish brzmik, as
His separation from his rose
To him seems misery


The way is “up the family tree” for translating the bobolink, as well. The local North American name (Nature, VI, A service of song, and XXII, A day) happens to be translated in ways to suggest the Middle or Far East: the Polish ryżojad implies an animal to feed on rice (Polish ryż). In America, bobolinks are known to eat seeds generally, and insects.


The “Linnaeus” classification for the bird comes from Europe. The label, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, is a Greek and Latin mixture, actually to look a joke. The morph dolicho– comes from the Greek dolichos, meaning “long”; the Latin -nyx yet adds up into “sort of long”. The Latin oryza and -vorus would make a new order, were there no trouble making ranivora: we can have the plural, omnivora and carnivora or herbivora, as animate life forms generally do not happen to be so tight on diet. See Wikipedia, on the Latin suffix -vorus.


The label was made after Linnaeus died. The original Regnum Animale does not have it. Fortunately, bobolinks have a large and international family, the Passeriformes. In Polish, the kin is known as wróbel and wróblaste, everyday birds, same as bobolinks are. Many languages have adopted the local and original name, bobolink; see on Wikispecies: Bobolink. The same can happen in Polish, which is yet up to publicists rather than translators to regard: a translator refers to language use.


To recur to grammatical gender, death is masculine in English and feminine in Polish, arguably, without a sex role, even if personified. Translation can simply reflect on personal pronouns, predicates, and declensions (Time and Eternity, XXVII, The Chariot):

Because I could not stop for Death,
He (She) kindly stopped for me…


Existence has taken on different paths in Polish and American English, since the ancient beginnings. Egzystencja has become to denote day-to-day living, often as part the phrase szara egzystencja, the gloomy, ordinary existence. It is the Polish istnienie, in the singular (genitive istnienia), to collocate with philosophy more (Time and Eternity, XXIV, Afraid?). The plural istnienia (genitive istnień) yet would imply more than one human being. To render the English plural, existences, we may resort to styles of existence, istnienia więcej niż jeden styl.


Finally, the Polish language reality today is far more prescriptive than that for American English. In year 1996, the Polish Language Council was formed, to be the official language regulating organ for Polish. The Council decided the verb form „wziąść” (infinitive, to take) was non-paradigmatic and thus erroneous. The verb “to take” occurs in Emily Dickinson’s poetry.


Arguments invoked a speculative “Proto-Slavic” form “vzęti”, and shapes of the Polish language for which the XVI century was the most recent. The “Proto-Slavic” is especially speculative owing to [ę]: the quote for the first Polish sentence in writing, Daj, acz ja pobruszę, a ty poczywaj is a modern rendition of the Old Polish Day ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai. Wikimedia show the source.


Neither Russian nor Czech, or Slovak languages have [ą] or [ę]. The Lithuanian occurrence would show the sounds somehow bound to the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, where in 1364 the Jagiellonian Univeristy got found — to accept also French influences.


To think about the English-speaking reality, it would be like trying to invent a “Proto-English” form as “takkan” for the verb to take, to merge Old English with other influences in the etymology dictionary, and then trying to “regulate” irregular verbs.


The particularity about the Polish “wziąść” is that it was the form of preference by Mickiewicz, Słowacki, and many Polish authors at the time Emily Dickinson wrote, as well as later. “Wziąć”, the form recommended by the Council now, was considered phonotactically inept.


It was about the XVI century, when speakers of Polish began to mediate [ą] and [j] with the speech sound [ś]: the reason was a matter we can call passive velarity. Today as well, the back of the tongue evidently needs the time frame of two speech sounds, to produce [ą] or [j] with another sound passively to involve the velum, as [ć]. That accompanying speech sound is [ś], and this as often that one might write up a phonological rule about Polish language palatal economy. In short, the form “wziąść” occurred naturally in Polish, and it is likely to recur. Whatever way it may not be perfectly regular, it allows a perfect and effortless [ą], hence the phonotactic argument.


I decided to keep the form “wziąść” for Emily Dickinson’s poetry (Love’s baptism). Emily Dickinson definitely does not deserve insinuations of phonological demerit, and the form “wziąść” may naturally recur and stay. Part the prescriptiveness on the Polish language might be in abreaction to former times, when the Polish people were not as much in the position to decide on Polish matters generally. Established democratic patterns encourage balanced language approaches.


People interested in phonemics, also for poetry, may care to use my charts on irregular verbs.



I have read quite a few analyses about writers. The analyses differed as their authors did, and commentator own activity usually influenced his or her picture of a linguistically creative person. People who were not authors clearly allowed more speculation on mentality and comport. Overall, literary criticism has happened to ascribe even madness or drug use to writing, quite powerful odiums.


I am a linguist and a pragmatic. To me, linguistic activity is normal and ordinary, also my bread per file or word count regarding translation, obviously not to need phenomena supernatural or aberrating from norm. Simply to say it: some like to bake bread, some to make horseshoes, and some like to wield words.


On the side of simple facts, Emily Dickinson’s writing is sober. Her imagery is lexical, and the style does not have the prolixity, repetitive phonemics, or anaphora misuse we may get with persons who are mentally unstable or who use drugs. Her writing has awareness of the poetic person as a device, and employs no linguistic naivete.


Regarding recluse habits, there is a state of focus that solitude and silence encourage. It is especially desirable for language work; absorption with language matter can bring natural, emotional and intellectual rewards, to the language worker, as well as the reader. As eremite monks are not suspected, authors do not purpose to offend the world, as well. Solitude does not have to mean loneliness, and it is not a stand beyond the world:
I reason that in heaven
Somehow, it will be even,
Some new equation given;
But what of that?
(Time and Eternity, XXIII, I reason, earth is short). Enjoy and have pleasure: Emily Dickinson’s gift was the ability to join linguistic prowess with a simple allure of speech, to which we can return despite Johnson’s print.


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