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.
I’m constantly taken aback by how great a poet Emily Dickinson is. There’s so much going on in these eight lines I could spend the rest of the day mulling them over as I look out the window at the snow being eroded by January rain.
“…welcome when he goes.”


  1. As far as “hoar” goes — I tend to read it as a cliche in poetry, but twice recently we had a freezing mist at night, and the next day every branch of every single tree was frosted white. I like the textures of the branches of bare winter trees anyway, but frosted they are breathtaking.
    In the poem, “quarry”, “rose”, and especially “italic” are mysterious to me.

  2. dave zacuto says

    Nice selection, LH. What I like about the rose line is its resistance to the tendency of similes to be used as mere intensifiers; there is some way in which Winter echoes with a heartiness that is roselike, but it’s not because Winter is extremely delicate, or deep red, or fragrant.

  3. Exactly — and we have some roses growing against the side of our house that were amazingly tenacious as the year narrowed to its close, so that simile rang particularly true to me.
    John: To me, the effect of those frosted branches is somehow represented by the image of italic type (which is how I read the word at the moment).

  4. When I saw this post in my newsreader, I thought that it looked pretty much as some lines which spammers add to fool the filters.

  5. “Hoar Delights” brought to mind memories of Turkish delight (rahat lokum) and “Italic flavors” recalled Italian ices and gelato, continuing the ice-as-food metaphor.

  6. For Narnia fans, “hoar delights” might conjure up images of the Turkish delight dispensed by the White Witch in the midst of the Hundred Years of Winter.
    Was C.S. Lewis an Emily Dickinson fan?

  7. “Yield” means “provide” or “supply” here, doesn’t it? “Italic” might mean “pythagorean” — thus winter philosophically cools down minds drunk on earthly delights. But why the quarry should be generic, I am naturally puzzled — unless “quarry” is used archaically to mean “square.”

  8. Generic in the sense of belonging to a genus might go with quarry in the sense of an animal being hunted. Belonging to the same genus as that thing the intellects are hunting, maybe?
    Generic as in “non-brand name” usage came in more recently than Emily Dickinson’s time.
    There is a Quarry Road in Amherst, which probably means there was or is a quarry there, so maybe she was referring to a specific quarry (granite, sand and gravel, whatever– our New England soil grows rocks). Though a specific (as in belonging to a species) quarry wouldn’t fit with a generic (belonging to a genus) quarry … stop me before my head starts spinning.

  9. Another interesting thing: I always thought that referring to types of fonts (or operating systems for that matter) as flavors, for example, “…there is also an Italic flavor too… both are TrueType fonts.” was a relatively modern usage. Was Dickinson ahead of her time?

  10. Janet — roses aren’t really hearty because of the proverbial thorns, yet they are beautiful to see and smell. We should expect a similar paradox in the previous line. I’m writing off my guess and picking yours. Unfortunately I know very little about hunting. Do hunters always chase a particular creature, as in fox or bird or boar hunting? If yes, then their quarry isn’t generic; or, perhaps, only dead animals are truly generic.

  11. I would submit that “generic” refers to the generative potential of the quarry, from which stone is hewn to create and construct with. This reading is supported by the fact that “hearty,” referring to the rose, is not necessarily paradoxical (cf. the many various OED defenitions of the word “hearty”).

  12. I like that: winter and the quarry are both superficially forbidding, dead, but both have the potential for generation.

  13. Yes LH. Myself, I certainly like the stone-quarry reading. Generic need not be taken as meaning only generative, but also quite “canonically” undifferentiated, and full of so far merely latent diversity. David still lies concealed. The quarry is the womb of the world – or the world of artistic creations, at least.

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