By Joan Kirkby (auth.)
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Extra resources for Emily Dickinson
3 Inevitably, many of Dickinson's poems take language as their subject. Poem 1342 re-works Genesis 5: 24 - 'And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him' - drawing out a linguistic parable from the passage. In the poem language is seen as cohesive of the sense of self in precisely the sense that the Biblical story is; both imply larger systems that give significance and meaning to human experience: "Was not" was all the Statement. The Unpretension stunsPerhaps - the Comprehension They wore no Lexicons But lest our Speculation In inanition die Because "God took him" mention That was Philology - (1342) 'Was not' conveys an emptiness, a void, an absence where before there was presence.
Similarly in Poem 906 death is the experience above all others that 'Reorganizes Estimate' and it is to be valued accordingly: THE GRAMMAR OF THE SELF 29 'Tis Compound Vision Light - enabling Light The Finite - furnished With the Infinite - (906) In the prose fragment that appears as the epigraph to this chapter, she writes of that dangerous but enlarging moment when life is perceived without meaning: 'Tis a dangerous moment for anyone when the meaning goes out of things and Life stands straight and punctual - and yet no content(s) (signal) come(s).
The box further suggests confinement and enclosure. However, release is at hand: 'Then Space - began to toll'. Her senses are scrambled and she is precipitated into the presence of pure space and pure sound. It is a place empty of human 'sense', without form, attributes or qualities perceptible to the human. Temporarily overwhelmed by the loss of a sense of significance, she is a receptive Ear, 'wrecked', 'solitary'. The last stanza depicts an Alice in Wonderland fall from significance. A 'Plank in Reason' breaks, suggesting that the premises on which she had constructed her world have collapsed.