After selecting and reading numerous Emily Dickinson poems at random I began to see a pattern in that a majority of her poems were touching on the same subject in Death. Poem after poem death was her main focus and I didn’t know why. Being that I didn’t really have any previous knowledge of Dickinson’s work, besides the dialogue we had in class, I decided to look further into her life. I found that the later years of Dickinson’s life were primarily spent in mourning because of several deaths within the time frame of a few years. Emily’s father died in 1874, Samuel Bowles died in 1878, J.G. Holland died in 1881, her nephew Gilbert died in 1883, and both Charles Wadsworth and Emily’s mother died in 1882. Over those five years, many of the most influential and precious friendships of Emily’s passed away, and that gave way to the more concentrated obsession with death in her poetry. After suffering the loss of so many important people in her life, it would seem like Dickinson would despise death, but instead I got the impression that she not only had come to accept death, but she also admired it in her own little way. This sounded very awkward at first, but after spending several hours of absorbing her poetry, I think I began to understand where she was coming from. I don’t mean to say that she completely became in love with death, but I do think that a very strange fascination came over her. In many of her poems she talked as if she were present while some of these people were on their deathbed. This is where I think that Dickinson separated herself from other writers of her time, in that she made sure that as a reader one would also feel present as things occurred. She demonstrated this best in her poems “I’ve Seen a Dying Eye,” and my favorite, “So Proud She was to Die.” In the poem “I’ve Seen a Dying Eye,” Dickinson first introduces us to the nature of death. Immediately a sense of uncertainty and uncontrollability over death seems to exist:I’ve see a dying eyeRun round and round a roomIn search of something, as it seemed,Then cloudier become;And then, obscure with fog,And then be soldered down,Without disclosing what it be,’Twere blessed to have seen.
The observer’s speech sounds hesitant and unsure of what he or she is seeing. The picture that goes through my mind as I read this passage is that of a person lying on their deathbed as family and friends are present. Dickinson is present, but she really isn’t that close to the dying. I say this because of the way she describes this otherwise gut-wrenching scene. There seems to be no sentimentality involved what so ever. She seems as if she is simply in the background while all is happening, until something grabs her attention by surprise. What grabs her is the dying eye! It catches her attention as it dances around obviously in search of something. Here, it seems like Dickinson really seems to focus in on the eye, as she is able to see it become “cloudier” and “obscure with fog.” She sees that the expiring person seems to have no control over the clouds covering their eye. It is frantically searching for something that it can only hope to find before the clouds completely consume it. The most important part of the poem comes in the end when the eye closes and ceases to search the room. “And then be soldered down, /Without disclosing what it be/’Twere blessed to have seen.” The eye, as discussed earlier, seems to be agitated and searching desperately for something. The failing person’s eye is then “soldered down” and fails to let its observers know what was seen. The use of the word “solder” implies to me that whatever answer the eye found beyond the clouds is now permanently sealed away from us, and the rest of the living world.
It seems that we sometimes, as in the case of this particular observer, envy a dead person because they have discovered the answer to that haunting question. The