Winter is good — his Hoar Delights
Italic flavor yield
To Intellects inebriate
With Summer, or the World —
Generic as a Quarry
And hearty — as a Rose —
Invited with Asperity
But welcome when he goes.
   Emily Dickinson
(via wood s lot, and I’m glad it’s finally started snowing here in the Berkshires)


  1. Going Dotty in Kansas says

    Have you visited the Dickinson Museum? It comes complete with creepy docents…and Emily’s voluminous scribblings, collated posthumously by her sister, or neice, or something.

  2. Yes I have, and my docent was very nice and helpful (and a published scholar), so I guess I lucked out.

  3. what does “italic” mean here. You may have discussed this before.

  4. Vance Maverick says

    Presumably “Italianate”, but I’m not sure in what sense. And does “generic” mean “generative”, i.e., fecund? That would be of a piece with the ironies of the rest of the second quatrain.

  5. Well, this seems to be all the remaining uses of italic(ize) in her poetry; if the poem (or fragment) is eight lines or less, I’ve given the whole thing. She certainly uses it idiosyncratically:
    This is a Blossom of the Brain —
    A small — italic Seed
    Lodged by Design or Happening
    The Spirit fructified — […]
    The Hollows round His eager Eyes
    Were Pages where to read
    Pathetic Histories — although
    Himself had not complained.
    Biography to All who passed
    Of Unobtrusive Pain
    Except for the italic Face
    Endured, unhelped — unknown.
    The last Night that She lived
    It was a Common Night
    Except the Dying — this to Us
    Made Nature different
    We noticed smallest things —
    Things overlooked before
    By this great light upon our Minds
    Italicized — as ’twere.[…]
    Glass was the Street — in tinsel Peril
    Tree and Traveller stood —
    Filled was the Air with merry venture
    Hearty with Boys the Road —
    Shot the lithe Sleds like shod vibrations
    Emphasized and gone
    It is the Past’s supreme italic
    Makes this Present mean —
    Did life’s penurious length
    Italicize its sweetness,
    The men that daily live
    Would stand so deep in joy
    That it would clog the cogs
    Of that revolving reason
    Whose esoteric belt
    Protects our sanity.

  6. Proserpine says

    A visit to the Evergreens, the house next to the Dickinson homestead, is worthwhile. It belonged to Emily’s brother Austin and his family, and she spent a great deal of time there before she became a recluse. When Dickinson’s eight-year-old nephew Gilbert died in 1883, the door to his room was closed. His things are still there, as he left them. The contents of the house as a whole were only minimally disturbed until conservation began in the 1990s. I was lucky enough to visit before the major conservation effort began, when the wallpaper was still peeling off the walls, and the abandoned clutter of late Victorian life still littered the rooms. A visit to that house should be fascinating and moving for anyone with an interest in the poet’s life as well as her work.

  7. Interesting trawl through the concordance there. I have a sense that the meaning ranges from “emphasized” (like italic type) to “epic / classic / magnificent” (the grandeur that was Rome). But I don’t think she was uncomfortable with indeterminacies or cruces in her texts.

  8. But I don’t think she was uncomfortable with indeterminacies or cruces in her texts.
    To put it mildly. I think that’s why she’s more kowtowed to than read, apart from the few anthology standards; people are uncomfortable with poetry that looks like it should be simple and “classic” (italic?) but isn’t.

  9. Here in the US midwest, we currently prefer:
    Ancient Music
    Winter is icummen in,
    Lhude sing Goddamm.
    Raineth drop and staineth slop,
    And how the wind doth ramm!
    Sing: Goddamm.
    Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
    An ague hath my ham.
    Freezeth river, turneth liver,
    Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
    Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
    So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.
    Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
    Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
    –Ezra Pound

  10. That was the poem that made me fall in love with Pound when I encountered it, quite by chance, in the college bookstore.

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