Emily Dickinson, “As willing lid o’er weary eye” (1050)

Lately, I have not been looking at nature too closely. It feels a blur of bugs and heat, an encompassing disorder I must move through. At this moment, though, I’m sitting at the computer. Unless I bring to the screen a particular focus, it is a blur of letters with a blue glow.

I don’t feel compelled to move. Rather, I’m in the mood to master a virtual space without having any idea what it is or what I’m doing. Identification with a willing lid o’er weary eye is easily had, as something makes me tired, but what?

As willing lid o'er weary eye (1050)
Emily Dickinson

As willing lid o'er weary eye
The Evening on the Day leans
Till of all our nature's House
Remains but Balcony

Half the poem consists of a simile pointing to a day’s work requiring rest: As willing lid o’er weary eye / The Evening on the Day leans. The Evening leans—it’s weary, it’s tired, it’s willing to embrace sleep. But what work was done? Anything?

I can’t help but think that nothing was attempted or accomplished. It may have been a day not unlike ours, shut down on account of worry and disaster. An overarching anxiety born of our stars, a mixture of expectations and fate, frustrations and hopes. That’s the only thing which feels real and thus remains: Till of all our nature’s House / Remains but Balcony.

Still, the optimism of the last two lines shines through. Starlight merely signifies the “Balcony” of “nature’s House.” A greater, grander mystery can be envisioned. If the day felt full of failure, why can’t the imagination be trusted? Why can’t the night be seen as a blank canvas for a most beautiful day?

I’m not sure what to say at this juncture. On the one hand, it’s nice to think that “trying” is a process conditioned by hope, dependent on a realm rich with possibility. An optimistic logic can thrive on destroying pessimistic, defeatist claims which usually go unchallenged. I grew up with a relative who would always scream about how the economy was going to collapse. It never did, but his arguments were never attacked despite the large assumptions they made and their inability to identify what was actually important in a given situation. At times, just pushing back against the gloom he conveyed made life a lot less taxing.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what I myself am doing in this virtual space. Reading a few poems? Writing a few words? If that’s the case, going to sleep is perfectly logical, no? Nothing is being done. Maybe I need to step aside and note that the outline of a house illumined by stars is a bit more than a minor miracle. The possibility of “nature’s House” may not be realized on any specific day, but is just as real–if not more real–than our fears and frustrations.

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