Emily Dickinson, “Spring is the Period” (844)

Spring is the Period… (844)
Emily Dickinson

Spring is the Period
Express from God.
Among the other seasons
Himself abide,

But during March and April
None stir abroad
Without a cordial interview
With God.


Each time the word “God” appears, a period is (expressly?) placed after it. We note carefully that “period” is a strange word: it is at least both a period of time and a punctuation mark. From The Free Dictionary:

Many may have wondered why the word period has the sense “punctuation mark ( . )” as well as several senses having to do with time. The answer to this question lies in one of the senses of the Greek word periodos from which our word is descended. Periodos, made up of peri-, “around,” and hodos, “way,” in addition to meaning such things as “going around, way around, going around in a circle, circuit,” and with regard to time, “cycle or period of time,” referred in rhetoric to “a group of words organically related in grammar and sense.” The Greek word was adopted into Latin as perihodos, which in the Medieval Latin period acquired a new sense related to its use in rhetoric, “a punctuation mark used at the end of a rhetorical period.” This sense is not recorded in English until 1609, but the word had already entered English as a borrowing from Old French in the sense “a cycle of recurrence of a disease,” first being recorded in a work written around 1425.

What is significant is the linkage between “words” and “time.” That is Christ, who presided over Creation and returned to redeem Creation. Period’s temporal sense, moreover, implies cycles: things blossom, decay, blossom again. These cycles “end” at various points; they do not necessarily end once and for all. There is a hint, in “period,” of the eternality of the world (to make a long story short: if the world is eternal, it could not have been created. If the world was created, it is not eternal).

And yet “Period,” in the poem, is just one Period, “express from God.” God simply remains/resides within “other seasons.” The other seasons most certainly exist, but they are not “from God” or “with God;” He is within them. For only two months, not 1/6 but 2/12 (Judah and Benjamin, perhaps?), “none stir abroad” without his “interview.” “Abroad” definitely implies distance between God and Creation. Because He is above, He can be cordial. “Interview” elaborates on that distance; the “view between” is what dispenses grace.

What is the grace given? Things are living, growing into their own. When God is latent – perhaps within Being – the world is wasteful and overabundant, or decaying rapidly, or simply dead. The time we are most conscious of God is when the fruits of Creation are obvious, and He is enjoying His own garden as are we. There are plenty of hints of unorthodox views: God as Mother can fit the second stanza well if one wants to press the issue (“Himself” does not occur in the second stanza; there is the theme of “readiness before creation”), and if the world is eternal, this poem stems from Creation considered simply, not from revelation itself. Still: this poem is unmistakably joyous, and that is a religious – if not the most religious – passion.


  1. To make a prairie

    Takes a clover and bee

    And reverie

    And reverie will do

    If bees are few

    A word or two may be askew in this Dickinson poem. I have no volume handy.

    However, in this poem, the idea is present that the Spring prairie may involve or exist in two phases or periods.

    The first is when the prairie is in full bloom in the literal sense, and the bee is working industriously within the cycle to perpetuate future prairies.

    The second is when the prairie is a concept. A spiritual creation. One equal to and, some would say, superior to the physical prairie which inevitably contains imperfections. Perhaps a sting.
    .-= beth charette´s last blog ..New Article: Elf Culture: One with Nature =-.

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