After Great Pain
By Emily Dickinson
After great pain, a formal feeling comes --
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs --
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
The Feet, mechanical, go round --
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought --
A Wooden way
A Quartz contentment, like a stone --
This is the Hour of Lead --
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow --
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --
"Dickinson's prolific, experimental oeuvre results in a low batting average: a few solid thwacks among many pinging mis-hits. Yet in the 1970s, every Dickinson poem seemed to get hallelujahed by the feminist critics then in ascendancy," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Bless them for prying open the canon to Dickinson's genius, but they did praise some of her most tiresome noises. There is constriction in Dickinson's work. Women in her day were corseted to live extra-small. Her finest poems force the reader to a crawl, creating a cramped, psychological space best traversed slowly."
Karr believes Dickinson's poems require concentration to affect the reader "as you're trying to figure out what she means," such as in the poem above, "the void of love lost through death or disaffection...for the Nerves to 'sit ceremonious like Tombs' blends three ideas in one puzzling phrase. Then from that stasis comes a mechanical move from Earth to open space to 'Ought' (ought also suggesting what one should do). This freefall is countered by a heaviness 'like a stone' echoing the Tombs of the first stanza. The final line is broken into a stumbling step -- two beats, then three beats, then five. The beloved is wrenched away through paralyzing cold, for which the poem is warming balm."
Daniel had his last day of volunteering at Hebrew school for this school year, and after he got out, we went to Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Virginia, which was having a Market Fair as it does three times a year, but we've never been before...in fact, the only time we've ever been to the farm was when Paul's company picnic was held at Turkey Run Park, which is adjacent to the farm and also part of the National Park Service. This fair wasn't quite as large as the Colonial fair hosted by Mount Vernon in the summers -- the farm is pre-Revolution era, so it doesn't attract so many military reenactors -- but it had lots of inexpensive food and vendors and kids' activities and at least a third of the visitors were in period costume. I did things like make a potpourri bag, try on hats and look at imported dolls and tea sets, though the kids were more interested in the blacksmith, the joyners, the chandler, the surveyor, and of course the sheep shearing.
Another woman sold both dyed yarn and natural wool and dye ingredients.
These women demonstrated basket weaving in front of the print shop...
...while the potter explained how to spin cups and jugs...
...and the blacksmith demonstrated how he fashioned hooks.
These girls served fresh lemonade while their parents squeezed and mixed it in the back.
But of course it wasn't all work. These couples demonstrated Colonial dancing in front of the ale house.
When we got home, we watched the second part of "Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane," since we missed it on Sci-Fi last night. I love that show so much! Not since Xena have we seen a woman mentoring a younger woman so consistently, and there isn't all the baggage that Xena had with Lao Ma, let alone the nightmare that was Gabrielle's Hope. Sarah Jane is like my fantasy teacher except that Maria does a fine job behaving like a peer -- Andrea seems so pathetic talking about her selfish choices because she didn't want to die at 13, because Maria's been so level-headed and taken such risks, even though it's really perfectly reasonable of young Andrea to have panicked and then wanted to forget the whole thing.
I snickered a bit when the Grim Reaper character said that after he was done destroying Earth, he was going to come back and make Sarah Jane help him wipe the Doctor out of existence, but really I wouldn't care if the Doctor was never mentioned on this show...it stands absolutely fine on its own for me. And anyone who's still going on about it being a kids show is just not watching. The themes are all about adult regret and making choices and how you look back and realize that some of them were bad ones, so you try to think of it as an adventure and a journey. In a lot of ways this is a gutsier series than the more cliche-ridden Torchwood.
Then we watched "The Unicorn and the Wasp," which is hugely fun -- not one of my favorites and I could really pass on any more storylines in which the Doctor has to help out some brilliant historical woman, but still, lots of wonderful details. I enjoyed all the Agatha Christie references (and I really thought the butler did it for a while). It would have made me much happier if Agatha was the one to figure out that something supernatural had to be going on, and if we didn't get so much sniveling over a cheating husband and, worse, her thinking her writing isn't any good.
On top of which we get Donna giving the glowing "you'll meet a man who will change everything" speech in which she's referencing the Doctor, though we also get yet another "not married" moment. I do forgive them for the kiss because it's such a contrast to Martha's and Rose's swooniness at such moments, done in the name of shock while she's screaming at him and misreading his pantomimes for an antidote...perfectly hilarious scene. And, you know, the hot gay boys and mysterious jewel thief and the aristocratic lady's naughty past and all the drawing room and library scenes were extremely enjoyable, and I predicted nearly everything wrong (I thought the jewels were going to be hidden in that teddy bear). Really, the episode did not need a giant wasp as far as I'm concerned!