Sunday, January 24, 2010

Emily Dickinson and War, in 7 Words

In my American Civil War reading (I do some research and writing in this area) I came across a reference to an Emily Dickinson quote...something about immortality or death "striking sharp and early." She lived and wrote during and after the time of that war. 

To track this down, naturally I did a Google search, whereby I encountered the site Early Women Masters , which contains the quote I was seeking.  The quote was, surprisingly, not in a poem but rather in one of her letters to a literary friend, who was then serving in the Union army.  The full quote reads:

Perhaps death gave me awe for friends, striking sharp and early, for I held them since in a brittle love, of more alarm than peace.

And then this, later in the same letter, which in 7 words may come closer to the meaning of war than any other 7 words in the English langauge:

War feels to me an oblique place.

So now death has struck, sharp and early, in that oblique place, for some 4377 US personnel in Iraq, and for some 977 US personnel in Afghanistan.

Now I must read 1) a bio of Ms. Dickinson, 2) her published works, and 3) her letters, which appear to have been separately published by various recipients.  So much to read and so little time....

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