My Papa’s Waltz” is unquestionably the most anthologized of Roethke’s poetry and a case can be made that much of the reason behind that omnipresence is the room provided within its ambiguity for a multitude of interpretations.
“you were so afraid
of my voice
i decided to be
afraid of it too”
Emily Dickinson possessed the gift of mystic vision, and that vision is displayed brilliantly in this fantabulous little poem that offers a little drama of two butterflies on a magical flight.
Two Butterflies went out at Noon—
And waltzed above a Farm—
Then stepped straight through the Firmament
And rested on a Beam—
And then—together bore away
Upon a shining Sea—
Though never yet, in any Port—
Their coming mentioned—be—
If spoken by the distant Bird—
If met in Ether Sea
By Frigate, or by Merchantman—
No notice—was—to me—
In Emily Dickinson’s “Two Butterflies went out at Noon” (#533 in Thomas H. Johnson’s The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson), the speaker dramatizes an imaginary flight of two butterflies that ease out on an amazing journey.
Emily Dickinson’s mystical vision is revealed in many of her poems, and this one serves as one of the finest examples of that vision. Her gift of mystical sight accompanies her gift for creating little dramas that feature snippets of that sight in poetic form.
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.
I will lend you, for a little time,
A child of mine, He said.
For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead.
One Sister have I in our house,
And one, a hedge away.
There’s only one recorded,
But both belong to me.
When I die I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more time
to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.
Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something-you don’t know what-has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood
you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone’s Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour
will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren’t supposed to hear what we are saying.
And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid