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Posts Tagged ‘American literature’

‘The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise’ by Emily Dickinson is a poem of contrast and paradox. The “noise” of the title is the birdsong that haunts the poet, reminding her that although the seasons continue, individual immortality does not exist. The beauty of nature is both intensified and undermined by the memory of lost friends and family.
The setting of this poem is the edges, the in-between places, the “magical frontier” between Winter and Spring; and the moment before dawn, “night’s delicious close”. These edges are, according to British myth, the realm of faery so these allusions bring with them an air of beauty tainted with mischief and loss.
In the same way, the beauty of the changing seasons is tainted by the knowledge of that which cannot and will not be renewed: the lives of lost lovers. The memory of whom is “cruelly dear”.
Unlike other Dickinson poems, the persona here is neither childlike nor innocent, she is fully aware and even world weary. Yet in spite of this she can still appreciate and connect with nature. Her feelings, too, are on the edges. She hesitates, she “almost wish”es and Summer is “almost too heavenly near”. That last line conveys the awkwardness and anticipation of the emotion rhythmically.
Finally, the poet finds herself separated from those she loves and cruelly reminded of this fact by nature. But she is not alone. The poem uses inclusive language, particularly first person plural, to generalise the experience. We, too, have lost loved ones and must suffer through reminders of that loss as the seasons change.

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