Emily Dickinson and the conscious mind

My website translating Emily Dickinson's poetry.
My website translating Emily Dickinson's poetry. | Source

We can get much about Emily Dickinson the recluse mystic, Emily Dickinson the woman with an attraction for death, as well as Emily Dickinson the neurotic. We do not get much about Emily Dickinson ― the conscious mind.

I take this imaging Emily Dickinson for a preference by the reader. It could not be so strange a woman lived by her family, did not get married, and busied herself with belles lettres. Her times the same as present day, you do not get men as well as women certain to live married and with children. You do not have to wait till your forties to know that human sexual needs have happened to be exaggerated, mostly by theorists interested in selling hypotheses. There are no recipes for happiness and affectionate relationships.


Emily Dickinson learned English and classical literatures, Latin, Greek, botany, geology, history, arithmetic, and "mental philosophy," as Wikipedia cautiously puts in quotes. Education is not the only ground to think she was a conscious mind.

First Series, Time and Eternity, XXVI, Lost

I lost a world the other day.

Has anybody found?

You'll know it by the row of stars

Around its forehead bound.

A rich man might not notice it;

Yet to my frugal eye

Of more esteem than ducats.

Oh, find it, sir, for me!

I lost a world

Observably, Emily Dickinson was aware in her use of the articles. I lost a world does not proclaim the end of the world. A look of agony rejects fondness: we would have the look of agony, then. The phrase the members of the resurrection localizes an event: all people supposed to be resurrected, according to the Christian creed, had not even been born yet.

The "odd, big letters"

Part the air of oddity about Emily Dickinson's writing relates to "her spelling". Many people, also after a long day of work, would sit and read poetry. But ... to read about special Bees, special Birds, or special Ears?

Houghton archive for Emily Dickinson
Houghton archive for Emily Dickinson | Source

We are not going to be arbitrary, to view the author as a person of her times. Emily Dickinson was certainly aware of writing and print conventions in the founding American texts. We can compare the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. As certainly, she did not mean a joke on those documents and styles.

Let us connect the person, her education, and her times. We can look to Greek and Latin.


God permits industrious angels

Afternoons to play.

I met one, — forgot my school-mates,

All, for him, straightway.

God calls home the angels promptly

At the setting sun;

I missed mine. How dreary marbles,

After playing Crown!


ἰσότυπος, isotypos, shaped alike;

συνυπόπτωσις, synypoptosis, simultaneous presentation to the senses;

ποπτερνίς, upopternis, knob (a kind of a button that can twirl, in the modern use);

πo, upo, below, looking a picture up and down (as Brazil on a map).


cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman;

Latin and Greek


collusor, companion at play;

condiscipulus, school-mate;

angelus, a messenger, an angel;

lapillus, small stone, pebble;

lusus, a game;


ὁμηλυσία, omelusia, companionship;

First Series, Life, XII, I asked no other thing

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?”

Intellectual inspiration

We do not need to look for language "systems" to appreciate the language skill. Emily Dickinson evidently used Latin and Greek word build for inspiration. In linguistics, we may refer to moprhophonemics.

As by the American Heritage dictionary, morphophonemics can show the influence neighboring speech sounds have on one another, as well as changes that come with function as speech parts, when we compare the noun a house with the verb to house, for example.

Safe in their alabaster chambers, autograph.
Safe in their alabaster chambers, autograph. | Source

Emily Dickinson marked speech sound qualities. We can compare the words "crescent" and "firmaments" for example, in her autograph of Safe in their alabaster chambers. Would Emily Dickinson's big letters be part graphemic? A graphemic big letter would mark a word for speech and language qualities. It would not work as a mark for proper nouns. First let us yet consider what version of poetry by Emily Dickinson we could stay with.

Why is stay with the first print

The handwriting as well as speech sound qualities have made me stay with the Higginson-Todd, first print. Johnsonian and later edits were based on a manuscript find. It is not only the shape of the letter T not to make the picture.

Graphemics of T, photo 1, graphite autograph


Graphemics of T, photo 2, ink copy


Graphemics of T, photo 3, first print autograph facsimile

There is a most strange thing about two copies of Too late, Houghton archive F67A and F67B. F67A has the words joy and remaining, and F67B only the word joy ― inconsistent with the Higginson-Todd, that is, first print.

The word joy might have occurred in some preliminary form for the poem. Looking to the rhyme and rhythm, it was bound to go, anyway.

Glee, as in the first print, is a close synonym. It could not be that Emily Dickinson was unable to find the synonym and thus re-wrote the entire piece. Could it be a matter of a poetic device?

I use a device with my translation of Our share of night to bear.

Naszą nocy część nosić,

Naszą część świtania,

Swoje miejsce w szczęśliwości zająć,

Swoje miejsce w potępieniu. (The close form would be potępianiu).

The lines would rhyme with a paradigmatically close form. Suggestion of the paradigm is to work as emphasis on the difference: scorning, the original form, does not tell the theta roles, whether one is to condemn or to be condemned, for example. Potępianie would tell we are to condemn. Potępienie says we might be condemned.

The device yet could not work for joy and glee: they are semantically, not paradigmatically related. "Going away from rhyme" does not provide the emphasis.

Houghton archive for Emily Dickinson
Houghton archive for Emily Dickinson | Source

How certain it is the copies are true?

Emily Dickinson was not a graphomaniac. More, not even a student of no talent or skill at all would re-write a work entire with one word only from a draft. The question is, if the samples were tested with C14. I doubt they are authentic.

The big letters remain a fact

... BaRs Cannot Conceal!
Mine, here in Vision and in Veto!
Mine, by the gRaVe’s Repeal
Titled, ConfiRMed, — deliRious chaRteR!

To translate Mine into Polish, we might feel like marking speech sounds. The two languages differ much, but the graphemic marking resembles that in the Johnsonian edit. In the light of all above, I think Higginson-Todd merely ignored the draft characteristics of the poetry. Well, we do not have the draft of the Declaration of Independence for the proper document, either.

Mine, Wikisource
Mine, Wikisource | Source


The autograph "low dashes" are not hyphens. They mark the rhythm, refer to the language phrase.

Feel welcome to read about the uncouth love theme in Emily Dickinson's poetry, too.
Feel welcome to read about the uncouth love theme in Emily Dickinson's poetry, too. | Source

Higginson-Todd was not a perfect print

However it could make little sense to try to become the poet herself and decide on capital letters regardless of the first print, we cannot stay by the Higginson-Todd stanza. It is arbitrary. Emily Dickinson was not able to prepare her poetry for print. She had not even titled all her pieces, before death.

With my translation, I propose a thematic or semantic stanza. Feel welcome to read about the uncouth love theme in her poetry, too.

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