Detail of an early spring blue flag ~ Iris virginica
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.
It waits upon the Lawn.
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.
Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —
A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.
~ Emily Dickinson
47 thoughts on “A Light in Spring”
Love that delicate purple — Emily’s and the iris’s.
The contrast between the yellow and the purple is quite stunning, beautiful indeed – Emily’s verse not so much.
Emily’s not for everyone. In fact, a good bit of Emily isn’t for me, either, but I do enjoy many of her poems, and I have readers who are great fans. One reason the combine images and poetry is that, most of the time, there’s something to please readers who can’t stand the poet or think the photo’s terrible!
Don’t you think the flower looks like it’s ready to dive into spring? It occurred to me that if you were to follow the curves, it would make a great pin for one of your shawls, too.
The lack of rhyme in the fourth line of the third stanza sent me searching for verification. Here’s what I found. There’s been a change of pronoun in the third line of that stanza, too.
The phrase “on the year” caught my attention because we would say “in the year.” Prepositions are fickle and idiosyncratic. Have you noticed that young people now say “on accident” instead of “by accident”? I wonder who the first person was who made the change, and why millions of people adopted that change.
What I found about the different forms of the poem is interesting. The version on Bartleby matches the one published by Project Gutenberg, but the punctuation seemed odd to me. Dickinson’s punctuation is idiosyncratic at best, but those tidy colons and semi-colons, and the lack of dashes, didn’t feel right. Then, I found this note on the Gutenberg site:
“As is well documented, Emily Dickinson’s poems were edited in these early editions by her friends, better to fit the conventions of the times. In particular, her dashes, often small enough to appear as dots, became commas and semi-colons.”
On another page, I found this:
“The poem doesn’t appear to be online anywhere already in the ‘correct’ form – i.e. how it’s rendered in the Complete Poems, with the right words capitalised and those trademark dashes in the right place.”
The version from the Complete Poems is the one I used here, complete with the unrhymed lines and the different pronouns. I found it on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, which seems to be trustworthy when it comes to sources and textual accuracy.
What I think is that the version posted on Bartleby was edited by someone who fixed it up a bit, cleaning up the rhyme and changing the pronouns and punctuation. In time, scholars/experts/whatever had reason to re-edit it, and that’s where my version came from.
The Dickinson Museum in Amherst was closed this afternoon, but I’m going to give them a call. I suspect theyll know what the story is, or can direct me to someone who does know.
I’ve never heard the phrase “on accident.” On the other hand, I’m starting to hear “He was embarassed of…” rather than “embarassed by.” That sounds odd to me, too.
I don’t believe I’ve yet heard “embarrassed of.” That example makes the same point, that prepositions are capricious and occasionally get changed for no apparent reason.
I’m eager to hear what you find out about the poem. I noticed the differences in punctuation and capitalization. My intuition is that original version had rhyme in every stanza. The oldest version I can find online is from the 1911 book Poems by Emily Dickinson, Third Series, which has this for the stanza in question:
It waits upon the Lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.
What a perfect combinaton — that gorgeous iris and Emily Dickinson! Lovely!
This little iris was all by itself, blooming by a stop sign out in the country. From the looks of things, it will have some companions soon, and they can greet spring together.
Your comment paints an enticing image – and the photograph really captures the delicate beauty of the iris. A lovely greeting to spring!
The iris really are special, aren’t they? The colors are curves are so enticing; I never get tired of them, and it looks as though this might be a good year for them.
The flower seems to have perked up its ears, and is listening to Miss Emily attentively. And I guess if flowers had eyes, it would be opening its pupils to read the poem with attention. It’s a great shot.
Images are so much fun. I’d see it as a bird with its wings extended backwards; now I see it facing the other direction, with those perky ears. There’s a slough where I found a big stand of the plants; if a goodly portion of them have blooms, it’s going to be quite a sight.
A painterly shot, Linda. You’ve captured this iris beautifully, with only a small section of the whole. The photo is a visual of the first line of the poem in perfect coordination of message.
I love looking at the details of flowers, and irises are particularly pleasing. They have so many curves, and such wonderful blends of color, even in a single bloom. As for the poem, I think some of Dickinson’s poems reveal just how much time she spent in her garden, and how sensitive she was to its changes; this is a great example.
And then there’s this little blossom.
A blue light special! Spring’s door seems to have swung open. despite what the calendar says. (trail rides in progress, so of course rain and chilly weather …)
Lovely picture- such color and details.Like a little kid going Nah-nah-nah-nah you can’t catch me.
That made me laugh. I couldn’t remember if K-Mart still was in business, and I was quite surprised to learn they’re closing (or have closed) one in Texas City.
It looks like things are going to clear up for the trail riders. I hope so — it’s one of the best events in town, and it would be great if they could have some sunshine this year. Maybe they could make some azalea garlands for the horses. Bluebonnets would be great, but apparently they’re toxic to horses.
An excellent pairing
Thanks, Derrick. It was much easier to put this post together than it has been to get your arbor constructed!
An Iris is such a happy-looking flower, isn’t it? Almost as if it, too, is delighted that Winter has passed and Spring has arrived. You’ve got a lovely detailed photo here, Linda, one that brightens up my gray day — gee, we’ve had a LOT of rain this winter!!
It’s been raining here all day long, too. In fact, I put off a necessary trip into Houston early this morning, and I’m glad I did, as there was quite a bit of street flooding I would have had to cope with.
I’m hoping that the sunshine we’re projected to get this week will encourage some of the iris buds I saw to open — and I hope I get back to them before they start to fade.
Outstanding!! Love the colors.
Thanks, GP. They’re a wonderful flower, whether wild or garden-bound. The garden iris come in so many colors, but I like the blues, lavenders, and yellows of the wild ones.
Thanks, M.B. There’s nothing like an iris to bring a smile to a winter-weary heart!
How DOES she manage to be so succinct, yet so profound?!
They’re truly elegant flowers: reminders of a time when Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn showed what simplicity could do.
The pale lilac color of the blue flag is so pretty. I remember, when as a child, I saw blue flags blooming in road side ditches. I am not sure how they got there but I am thinking that folks likely had a slew of rhizomes that had been dug to make way for plants deemed to be more valuable. Love the poem- it is a lovely accompaniment to the iris.
It may be that many of the flags you saw were natives. There are huge stands of them down in the San Bernard refuge and the surrounding territory, and ‘flag ponds’ were common even before Texas was a state. When I first read about someone being buried by ‘the flag pond,’ I thought the reference was to a pond with a flagpole next to it. Nope. It was a pond filled with native iris!
I’ve read a good many of Dickinson’s poems in the past year, and some just don’t make it for me. But I love this one. The light that lays on the land in spring is different, and beautiful.
That is a unique perspective on one of my favourite flowers. You have captured the colours and details beautifully.
Thanks, Pete. It may be true that the devil’s in the details from time to time, but there’s beauty in the details, too!
Thanks, Ellen. These flowers really do reward close examination.
How delicate, just like angel wings.xxx
What a wonderful vision, Dina! They do look as though they could take flight, don’t they?
Well, I am willing to go with simple on this. Flags/irises really are beautiful flowers and I like the way you have caught the beauty using only a portion of the flower, Linda. Ours are just starting to poke up. It will be a few weeks before they bloom. Peggy dug hers up and separated the bulbs in the fall. Now we will have an even more extensive iris garden. Good thing about irises is that deer apparently don’t like to eat them, or, I should note, the deer who live on our property don’t like them, at least for now. –Curt
I think you’re right about the deer, Curt. There are large stands of these down around the San Bernard wildlife refuge, and there certainly are plenty of deer there. I’ve never seen the flags browsed by anything, and if they were favored by deer, there would be evidence. They bud, bloom, and fade without anything seeming to bother them, apart from insects, I suppose.
I learned only recently that the iris probably was the model for the French fleur-de-lis, rather than the lily. Once I read that, it made sense. The three downturned petals, the ‘falls’ on an iris do look like that symbol.
Deer resistant around here is definitely a positive attribute! Although when I reseeded an area that the loggers used to put the dead trees they were pulling off of our property, I picked out a grass that the deer and other wildlife were said to like.
Interesting on the fleur-de-lis. It certainly makes sense. –Curt
Great close-up of the Iris Linda. I had no idea this E. Dickinson poem existed.
She was prolific: no question about that. Sometimes I just browse her Wiki site for a few minutes, to see what I’ve missed. There’s always something.
That’s a lovely closeup of the iris and a perfect example of the beard tongue.When in school we were forced to read some Dickinson and the poems chosen, long forgotten, became something I avoided later in life. The more I read your quoted selections the more I think it’s about time to get over the childish revulsion. We’ll see. I might even have to pay her homestead a visit.
I just had a discussion last week with someone who was trying to talk me out of my own revulsion when it comes to Brussels sprouts. I wonder if Emily ever wrote a poem involving Brussels sprouts. Somehow I doubt it, but she was so quirky — and such a gardener — it’s hard to say.
I’m off today to see if more of these wild iris are blooming. I came in on the tail end last year, and it would be fun to find a group of them. I know where there’s one large stand, but they’re quite a distance off the road, in water, and when I gave it a go the mud was so ‘sucky’ I decided not to go farther. When I have trouble pulling my feet out, it’s time to turn around.
I am not fond of Brussels Sprouts either although I’ve not minded them when marinated in balsamic and baked. Hides the smell and adds some flavor enhancement.
I’ve been mud mired a few times. It is a bit unnerving at first when it seems the boot will not come out and your foot seems like it will.
There another less traumatic but more embarassing kind of mud mire, of course. It’s the reason I give thanks for good ol’ boys with F150s, and always carry a tow strap in the trunk now.
It pays to be ready for all possibilities.