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Flashcards in As imperceptibly as Grief Deck (9)
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“As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away-
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy-“


—> emphasis on grief (not death), summer’s decay noticed by lack of summer (and not arrival of autumn),
—> betrayal of summer personifies it (and so lapsing away is death),
—> poem goes against classic light/dark metaphors instead representing summer (light) as grief (dark),
—> dashes perhaps show indecision,
—> seasonal change symbol of inner change for poet,
—> interest is stimulated by opening sentence being subordinate clause, contrast with usual positivity of summer


‘”A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon-“


—> depict personified nature in early autumn/late summer (a time for quiet contemplation) and longer twilights (nights), —> poet expresses darkness in terms of twilight (representing peace/seclusion),
—>personified Nature presented as a recluse (like poet herself) and is hidden away (Sequestered)


“The Dusk drew earlier in-

The Morning foreign shone-“


—> mornings look different, Dusk represented shortening days/mysterious mood (so poet seems poised between happy/unhappy),
—> dusk is at end of day yet poet speaks of it first (might reference light (Morning) coming later in winter),
—> foreigns placement is syntactically incorrect (conveys feeling of strangeness as seasons change),
—> alliterative d’s and assonant o’s add to rhythmic unity


“A courteous, yet harrowing Grace

As Guest that would be gone-“


—> oxymoron (harrowing Grace) conveys twofold nature of experience (undeserved blessing and parting (from mom) evokes strongly painful memories),
—> Summer personified further into a house guest that wants to leave (recluse),
—> Grace has religious connotations (perhaps in heaven now), distressing for poet they have left,
—> passing of Grief contrasts with feelings of guilt (forgotten them?),
—> enjambed lines linked by Grace + Guest (and so rhythmic and appropriate link for poem about change)


“And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful”


—> poignant, leaving without means of transport indicates death, Beautiful and Wing have religious connotations, gender of summer perhaps indicates who poet is talking about (mom), “and thus” indicates changing attitude (ie acceptance), another interpretation is that Summer cannot guide herself, Beautiful could indicate autumn (more beautiful than summer?) and in context heaven (but also lack of grief), perhaps poet has accepted that lack of grief is not forgetfulness, “light escape” has ethereal quality


Form and Structure:


—> The poem consists of four quatrains, which in itself gently suggests the four different seasons (though the poem discusses only the transition between summer and autumn).
—> lack of rhyme could indicate an ending which arrives without being heard (imperceptibly)// Ballad rhyme scheme ABCB (not full sounding but rather slant/ near rhymes). Subtle matches the description of the ‘imperceptible passage of summer to autumn and life to death. Lack of matching rhymes creates an overall doubtfulness about the mysteries of life
dashes break up poem into isolated ideas which are continuous in their development


Good old context:

  • Dickinson’s friendships: Letters written by Dickinson between the ages of 11 and 25 indicate she gave and demanded more from her correspondents than she received. On occasion she interpreted her correspondents’ laxity in replying as evidence of neglect or even betrayal. Indeed, the loss of friends, whether through death or cooling interest, became a basic pattern for Dickinson. Much of her writing, both poetic and epistolary, seems premised on a feeling of abandonment and a matching effort to deny, overcome, or reflect on a sense of solitude.
  • Dickinson and death: Dickinson (aged 14) was traumatised when her second cousin and a close friend Sophia Holland grew ill from typhus and died in April 1844. She became so melancholic that her parents sent her to stay with family in Boston to recover. In 1850 she was similarly affected by the death of Amherst Academy principal Leonard Humphrey.
  • Dickinson and Charles Wadsworth: In 1855 Dickinson visited Philadelphia, where it is thought the poet heard the preaching of Charles Wadsworth. A correspondence arose between them, and Wadsworth visited Dickinson in Amherst in 1860 and again in 1880. After his death in 1882, Dickinson remembered him as “my Philadelphia,” “my dearest earthly friend,” and “my Shepherd from ‘Little Girl’hood.” There is much speculation about the nature of their relationship, but it is often assumed that the abject and pleading drafts of letters penned by Dickinson to a loved but distant unidentified person refered to as ‘Master’ were intended for Wadsworth. Master’s failure to return Dickinson’s affection, together with together with her sister-in-law and closest friend Susan’s absorption in her first childbirth, contributed to a piercing and ultimate sense of distress. In a letter, Dickinson described her lonely suffering as a “terror—since September—[that] I could tell to none.”
  • Dickinson’s seclusion: As she grew older, Dickinson socially withdrew and lived mainly in the confines of her own room. Dickinson’s seclusion during her later years has been the object of much speculation. Scholars have thought that she suffered from conditions such as agoraphobia, depression and/or anxiety, or may have been sequestered due to her responsibilities as guardian of her sick mother.

Summary context

Emily Dickinson (1830-86), lived in same house for 15 years, when she got older barely left room, most friendships/relationships carried out via correspondence, fascinated with death/sickness (as all Victorians), final draft of poem written after mother's death, 5 stages of grief (Kübler-Ross model)
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

Imperceptible/y = so slight, gradual, or subtle, as not to be perceived.

Lapsed = vanished or expired

Perfidy = Deceit

Distilled = Purification of a liquid OR having been shortened so that only the
essential meaning remains.

Sequestered = Isolated and hidden away.

Courteous = Polite

Harrowing = Distressing

Keel = Part of a boat (or just a boat) OR a ridge along the breastbone of many birds to which the flight muscles are