Sunday, October 30, 2016

Emily Dickinson: The Sky Is Low--The Clouds Are Mean... / El Cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes...

The Sky is low — the Clouds are mean.
A Travelling Flake of Snow
Across a Barn or through a Rut
Debates if it will go —

A Narrow Wind complains all Day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like Us is sometimes caught
Without her Diadem.

Emily Dickinson

El cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes... 

El cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes.
Un copo viajante de nieve considera
si a través del granero o por una rodera
se irá.

Todo el díá se queja el viento estrecho
sobre cómo por alguien era maltratado.
Como nosotros, no coronada se puede atrapar


E. A. Costa October 30, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua
N. B.: This poem (1075) of Dickinson is, on the one hand, a close to perfect illustration of John Ruskin's pathetic fallacy—and that surely intentionally--and, on the other, a subtle and ironic reversal of it, then itself reversed. In his Modern Painters, a book Dickinson much admired, Ruskin defined the so-called fallacy (here meaning falseness) thus: “All violent feelings...produce impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as 'The Pathetic Fallacy'.” Here Dickinson plays with the idea, with among other things masterly ambiguity, where a “low” sky and “mean” clouds can be perfectly and scientifically descriptive, while even the howl of the wind may sound querulous. Anyone who has lived in New England for any time will recognize just such mean and low days, especially in late Fall or early Spring, in which even the wind seems to have something to complain about. Importantly, Ruskin did not discountenance the use of the pathetic fallacy, as long as it was not false, that is, did not falsely attribute to nature attributes that were genuinely the subjective effect of pathos in the observer. Dickinson here expands the figure not to something violently pathetic, but to the observation that both human beings and nature have undiademed days, ordinary and mean, when they are not at their best. The clincher here is the snowflake, potentially a more than ordinary or mean image, especially being singular, which cannot make up its mind which way to go off, thus mirroring the Ruskin's “web of hesitant sentiment, pathetic fallacy, and wandering fancy”, alloyed with “all manner of purposeful play and conceit” (also in Modern Painters)--which is almost an exact description of Dickinson, at work and play and feeling in and on this poem. To say that the poem is ironic and playful, which clearly it is, is not to discount seriousness and sadness--here with Dickinson herself, in one role at least, as the snowflake, and also solitary and unwed, thus balancing against one another the two necessary levels of all irony, surface and underlying meaning.

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