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Now you can try and translate Dickinson's poems into Russian yourself.
You left me, sweet, two legacies,--(Bequest)
Mine-by the Right of the White Election!
Mine-by the Right of the White Election!
When Night is almost done-
A precious-mouldering pleasure-'tis-
I gave myself to him,
The value might disappoint,
Depreciates the sight;
At least, 'tis mutual risk,—
The Civil War and the “Gilded Age”
I. Read the text and answer the questions:
1. What themes of Emily Dickinson’s poetry are mentioned in the passage?
2. Why did these themes appear in her writing?
3. Why does the author say that “she had the least influence on her time”?
4. How do you understand the term, used by Dickinson, “prop" for the soul?
5. Why do you think the author called her “the modern Existentialist”?
6. Can you explain the title of the passage?
II. Make a summary of the text.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was another New England woman who wrote during the Civil War era. But we find no mention of the war or any other great national event in her poetry. She lived a quiet, very private life in a big old house in her little hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts. Of all the great writers of the nineteenth century, she had the least influence on her times. Yet, because she was cut off from the outside world, she was able to create a very personal and pure kind of poetry. Since her death, her reputation has grown enormously and her poetry is now seen as very modern for its time.
At first this might seem surprising. Like Anne Bradstreet and the other old Puritan poets, Dickinson “seldom lost sight of the grave”:
I heard a fly buzz when I died.
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see.
Dickinson’s own Calvinist childhood gave her this way of looking at life in terms of death. In nineteenth-century America, with its steam engines and big factory chimneys, such a view probably seemed old-fashioned. It did, however, allow her to see things freshly. As one recent critic notices, she seems to be looking at the world “for the first and last time”.
Although she rejected her family’s old-fashioned religion early in life, she made the “search for faith” one of the great themes of her work. Apart from the Bible, her most important guide in this search was the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Many, in fact, try to classify her as one of the Transcendentalists. Like the Transcendentalists, she saw “the possible” as more important than “the actual”. She felt that people had to “move outward towards limits shrouded in mystery”. To grow as human beings we must be brave, because we can “cling to nothing". This idea comes from Emerson's Self-Reliance. Dickinson never came to any firm conclusions about the nature of faith. In one famous poem, she seems to think of it as a temporary “prop” for the soul. After it grows stronger, the soul (seen here as a house) no longer needs this prop of faith at all. As always, she writes in the meter of the hymns of her childhood church days:
The props assist the house
Until the house is built
And then the props withdraw
The house supports itself.
In 1879, she returned to the subject of faith. Sometimes her definition is far less confident (or “self-reliant”). Still, it is quite characteristic of her own personality:
Not seeing, still we know –
Not knowing, guess –
Not guessing, smile and hide
And half caress
Dickinson’s poetry is filled with images and themes taken from Emerson’s essays. But almost always, she gives them a new and exciting interpretation. In the early 1860s, however, a rather different theme began to show in her work: pain and limitation. With Emerson these things were hardly ever discussed. (Melville once described Emerson as “a man who had never had a toothache".) This new theme in Dickinson was her way - probably her only way - of expressing the terrible suffering of the Civil War. But with her, it was always the pain of the lonely person at night, never that of the whole battlefield. It was the pain of the modern Existentialist. The world is "a place where God and nature are silent", and the universe is a "design of darkness".
An American Renaissance.
I. Read the text and answer the questions:
1. What ideological border existed between the western and eastern parts of the country?
2. What were some young people disappointed by?
3. Where did they look for new ideas?
4. What philosophies did the Transcendentalists reject? Why?
5. What was the main idea of the Transcendentalists?
II. Make inferences about:
1. What ideas were writers trying to find in the west?
2. Why did the author call this time “An American Renaissance”?
In the 1830s and 1840s, the frontier of American society was quickly moving toward the west. Following in the path of Brackenridge and Cooper, writers were beginning to look at the western frontier for ideas for a literature about American life. But in the cities along the east coast, the older ideal of the nation as an Atlantic community was still very much alive. The feeling there was that the cultures of Massachusetts and Virginia ought to be the models of national culture.
At this time, Boston and its neighboring towns and villages were filled with intellectual excitement and activity. Harvard, in nearby Cambridge, was no longer the only place deeply interested in education. The powerful (and now rather conservative) North American Review, founded by Harvard professor Edward Channing in 1818, was also busily spreading ideas. And since 1826, traveling lecturers had been bringing knowledge about culture and science to both the city and the New England countryside…
Among the younger people, there was much talk about the “new spiritual era”. The young intellectuals of Boston were dissatisfied with the old patriotism. America’s power and wealth did not interest them. They wanted to explore the inner life. They studied the Greek, German and Indian philosophers. Many kept diaries about their lives and feelings. Others became vegetarians or nudists.
In the center of this activity were the Transcendentalists. They formed a movement of feelings and beliefs rather than a system of philosophy. They rejected both the conservative Puritanism of their ancestors and the newer, liberal faith of Unitarianism. They saw both religions as “negative, cold, lifeless”. Although they respected Christ for the wisdom of his teachings, they thought of the works of Shakespeare and the great philosophers as equally important.
The Transcendentalists tried to find the truth through feelings and intuition rather than through logic. Orestes Brownson, and early Transcendentalists, defined the movement as “the recognition in man of the capacity of knowing truth intuitively … an order of knowledge transcending the senses". Henry David Thoreau put it more simply: ‘Wisdom does not inspect, it beholds.”
The Transcendentalists found God everywhere, in man and in nature:
Sea, earth, air, sound, silence,
Plant, quadruped, bird,
By one music enchanted,
One deity stirred.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
In many ways, nature itself was their "Bible". Birds, clouds, trees and snow had a special meaning for them. Natural images like these created a kind of language. Through this language they discovered ideas already planted in the human soul:
All things in nature are beautiful types to the soul that will read them.
Every object that speaks to the senses was meant for the soul.
In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) published Nature, the clearest statement of Transcendentalist ideas. In it he stated that man should not see nature merely as something to be used; that man’s relationship with nature transcends the idea of usefulness. He saw an important difference between understanding (judging things only according to the senses) and “Reason”:
When the eye of Reason opens … outlines and surfaces become transparent and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best moments of life are these delicious awakenings.
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