Rethink.

Ora sono ubriaco d'universo. (Ungaretti)

Category: dickinson (page 1 of 13)

Hannah Stephenson, “Weeding” & Emily Dickinson, “What I can do – I will” (361)

Weeding (from The Storialist)
Hannah Stephenson

The gardener shows the seeds
that they are embers

There is a flowerflame sleeping inside them

All things being equal
which they are not

All things which come from the same thing
and are also distinct

A large part of the gardener’s work
is also to discourage growing
without remorse

Comment:

The gardener, in weeding, discourages growing without remorse. But before we are presented with that conclusion, we are shown growth a curious way. The flower that grows toward the sun is also a flame rising. That flame, which reaches upward and can be thought spiritual power, will by implication also consume the flower.

This description, which concerns how striving, beauty, and decay link, is then put aside to reconsider the problem from what seems to be the gardener’s vantage. Things are not equal. Unequal things are distinct, regardless of origin. We end on a note which strongly suggests that the fact of difference means some things must perish. “Difference,” then, is not an abstract logical category: it comes from directly from our changeable world.

Even before the gardener’s mind speaks about “all things,” the seeds are “embers” holding a sleeping “flowerflame.” The seeds are personified, as they are shown something by the gardener. Perhaps what is most important: seeds and flowers are completely independent of the gardener, free to live and die, be defective or perfect, on their own. Their spirit in asserting themselves mirrors his in cutting them down. This leads us to wonder how the spirit of both gardener and garden can be “the same thing” which is “also distinct.” Is our willfulness just another part of an overarching differentiation and decay?

One might think this line of questioning a bit overblown. It could be said to be kind of “reasoning” that is more a trap than anything else. I’ve certainly been moody recently and finding it difficult to weed out negative, despairing thoughts from ones that are genuine insights. I do ultimately think the problem which Stephenson presents serious. It has a precedent in Xenophon. Isn’t a horse’s spirit comparable to that of a man? (cf. “Art of Horsemanship”) To elaborate a bit more, Anthony Masterson and I revisited Dickinson’s poem 361 yesterday:

What I can do — I will —
Though it be little as a Daffodil —
That I cannot — must be
Unknown to possibility —

Dickinson, on our reading, was playing a game of the following sort. She does so little, so little as a daffodil, that she cannot be possibly said to fail. Growth looks like the only way of truly accounting for her doing, but growth contains a dark irony of its own. The more one commits to saying “I’m growing” as opposed to “I’m doing something of note,” the more “cannot” must be “unknown to possibility.” In other words, when we think we’re growing, we as a matter of course discount failure.

So there is some kind of link between a natural growth, a natural spirit, and our pretensions. And that link causes us to act in ironic ways and see less even as we’re doing more or less. The weird thing about wanting self-knowledge is that there has to be a self that is knowable. How exactly one gets that self may not be the most pleasant, insightful, or meaningful process.

Emily Dickinson, “Whoever disenchants a single human soul” (1451)

Whoever disenchants a single human soul (1451)
Emily Dickinson

Whoever disenchants
A single Human soul
By failure of irreverence
Is guilty of the whole.

As guileless as a Bird
As graphic as a star
Till the suggestion sinister
Things are not what they are —

Comment:

I’ve been dealing with a lot of people who might as well be gurus recently. I know, pot-kettle, but still – this gets annoying fast. There was the crazy lady who thought that corporations can screw us however they want (true, but…), and therefore people are moving from the U.S. to Russia all the time, as there’s more equality and opportunity there (um). I used up my “getting into a really stupid argument” card on her because I was moody. Then there’s a number of people giving me practical advice, 99% of whom are absolute gems. I am doing whatever they say pretty much without question, because I’m grateful for the support and the concern. However, a few are thinking that success must result, and the proof I did things wrong is a lack of success. Again, I’m not sure how in a world where great civilizations rise and fall, where saints are martyred, where the best people can die before they’re even born – I’m not sure how success is the metric for things done right. And I’m not sure how an obsession over certain details creates success. I guess America is the land where everyone is a self-help guru, whether they know it or not.

And then there’s something else I’m dealing with. Almost ready to go is an essay on lack of acknowledgement, because I’m wondering why it hits like a truck. People who don’t want to deal with you are the ultimate gurus: they teach you your place.

This poem got me to crack a smile. I don’t know why it’s felt rough the last week or so, but it has felt rough. Still, I can acknowledge being guilty of the sin of the first stanza. I’ve got my vision of the “whole” and I take it too seriously (“failure of irreverence”). I don’t think I’ve pushed so far as to disenchant someone, i.e. turn them away from wonder, or just a lighter approach to life. Some of the best people I know are receptive to intellectual things because they’re trying to lead graceful lives. They’re too good to take me seriously.

On that note, it’s really amazing how far a little cheerfulness, a little reaching out to someone, a little of pretending life makes sense goes in that direction. I don’t want to say a good thinker can’t be serious or moody or cheerless. Sometimes truth is hard, sometimes we have to deal with awful situations. But I can’t say there’s absolutely no link between how one approaches knowledge and one’s character or attitude.

It’s that link which provokes some people, including myself, to “failure of irreverence.” The link is sketchy, but that doesn’t stop some people from thinking that there are intellectual failures which are the worst sins, or that there is a thought or series of thoughts which produce a virtuous life. I remarked to Nathaniel how right he was about Xenophon’s insistence that knowing something is not the same as doing it. We like to say that if you really know, you’ll do it, but that’s crazy for the most part (though: it implies a heroism where one can be as good as one’s word). I think we agree that Xenophon insists knowing isn’t the same as doing with regard to virtue precisely to guard against the notion that there is some perfect thought alone which makes us perfectly whole, or variants of that.

Instead of placing all the weight on the unity of our understanding, we must turn to experience, the practice of living. Dickinson’s poem, after condemning one who may be “guilty of the whole,” starts describing someone. Is that someone “disenchanted,” a victim of a dogmatic accounting? Or is that someone the disenchanter? Either way, here’s the description:

As guileless as a Bird
As graphic as a star
Till the suggestion sinister
Things are not what they are —

This can easily describe the “disenchanted soul.” Presumably they were naive, “guileless.” They stood out like a star, determined by position. And for them, yes, “things are not what they are” is not life, like it is for most of us, but a “sinister” suggestion, that they have to rollback a lot of dogma they bought into.

But this could grammatically link with “whoever,” the disenchanter. He too is guileless, but agile and soaring above. “As graphic as a star” is a spectacular comparison. Not merely standing out, not just determined by position, but a power which demonstrates the laws of the cosmos. Removed from humanity, but with purpose writ large. What could possibly be the suggestion sinister for such a one?

It can’t be that he starts waking up and seeing the world as is. That’s not how powerful cognitive biases work, and truth be told, we’re all dogmatic to a degree. Seeing the world as it actually is would require us to be God. Perhaps Dickinson plays with a sly and wishful humanism here. “Things are not what they are” is a dramatic climax. Birds don’t consistently recognize human beings, and stars of course never do. To realize you’ve been treating other people as things, if not objects, would indeed be quite an awakening. And yes, from my vantage, wishful thinking.

Emily Dickinson, “Your thoughts don’t have words every day” (1452)

Thanks to Adam Cooper – would not have seen this otherwise

Your thoughts don’t have words every day (1452)
Emily Dickinson

Your thoughts don’t have words every day
They come a single time
Like signal esoteric sips
Of the communion Wine
Which while you taste so native seems
So easy so to be
You cannot comprehend its price
Nor its infrequency

Comment:

“Your thoughts don’t have words every day” lends itself to two readings because of the very next sentence, “They come a single time.” What comes a single time? Thoughts which have words accompanying them? A plausible reading, as it initially seems rare thoughts so easily find appropriate words.

Thoughts with precise wording are “like signal esoteric sips of the communion wine.” They are singular but holding something secretive. Divine, they do not stay external to us. Brought inside, they make another manifest. It is like truly hearing the Word. One’s life can be transformed in an instant.

All is well and good, no? Thoughts with words are rare but beautiful occurrences, if not only one occurrence. They feel “native,” making life “so easy so to be.” The “price” and “infrequency” of such an experience should be self-evident.

Yet Dickinson’s speaker insists that it is not self-evident. It is, in fact, beyond our comprehension. Thoughts which have the right words may contain a mystery, but are a still larger mystery themselves. They may point to the price of revelation. To be blessed with an immediately useable thought is a divine burden; one’s life finds itself subject to it.

However, the question on my mind: are immediately articulated thoughts actually a product of thinking?

Let’s start over again. This time, “your thoughts don’t have words every day” refers to that which is not yet or can’t be properly spoken. Maybe there are inchoate thoughts, more intuition and emotion than proposition. Maybe there are thoughts, on the other end of the spectrum, which are fully formed, transcending us, leaving us with only partial comprehension. Either way, such thoughts fuel something eventually more articulate, and the interesting thing is their singularity prior to our verbiage. Most days we have too many words in our head. To really think, to struggle with thinking, is unique. Given the emphasis on this happening once, I wonder if Dickinson is speaking of thinking itself as rebirth.

On my second reading, the poem stays radical. “Like signal esoteric sips / Of the communion Wine” – before, thoughts had words and the only problem was within the words. Now the problem is that of the self. We are talking about thoughts which stand on their own, prior or beyond words. To “sip” of them, to be in communion with them, is to try to ingest the self to understand it. It’s a grotesque image, but not coincidentally the problem of self-knowledge. You try to know yourself and all you get are images of yourself, images that might be best realized in other people. It looks like, on this reading, the overtones of divinity are emblematic of a power beyond us, within us, and not at all purposive. If anything, we’re pulling ourselves apart in different directions.

How does this feel “native,” though? How could it be “so easy so to be?” I don’t think we have to throw this reading out because there isn’t enough of a struggle on the speaker’s part. Nor do we have to say, in the tritest of fashions, that some struggles are perfectly natural.  Rather, the emphasis falls to “while you taste” – our deepest struggle is, for a time, like a drug. Contemplating images of yourself could lend itself to thinking you relate to everybody when you really relate to nobody. The feeling of having a serious thought apart from speaking is not characteristic of true thinking. One does have to assert oneself and face the consequences of that self-assertion.

Whether we speak of thoughts that find articulation immediately or thoughts which stand apart from speech, there is a price and rarity attached to both. That price and rarity is beyond our comprehension either because of revelation, or because our truest thinking exists in a vacuum where it cannot properly be called thinking. I should go further at this point and say this: Dickinson is not really talking about God with “communion wine.” She simply means the instances where we think we’ve had our “Eureka!” moment, where we can explain ourselves perfectly. With that in mind, the problem of “revelation” should actually merge with that of pre-verbal thinking.

Something I’m playing with: you can’t merge the problem of speaking properly (i.e. “I know how we can always be articulate and truthful”) with the problem of thinking prior to speech (i.e. “I have a theory about how we form our thoughts and how they come to be spoken”). United, we’re talking about human reason. It looks like there should be merger: reason can articulate things! Thinking happens, and it makes itself manifest in speech! – That’s about all the unity one can get. The obstacle to any greater unity is that thoughts don’t have words every day. What they are in essence is unclear, and thus they have a radical character in our everyday lives. They’re almost not of this world. -

Emily Dickinson, “I have no Life but this” (1398)

I have no Life but this (1398)
Emily Dickinson

I have no Life but this —
To lead it here —
Nor any Death — but lest
Dispelled from there —

Nor tie to Earths to come —
Nor Action new —
Except through this extent —
The Realm of you —

Comment:

At first glance, a love poem of the “you are my everything” sort. It starts with a pathetic plea, “I have no Life but this.” Then things get peculiar: “To lead it here?” The phrase comes out of nowhere and makes little sense. All we can say is that the speaker’s life leads something “here.”

That does not seem like much of a life, but the speaker lacks death too. Unless “dispelled” – not quite expelled, but the use feels the same – “from there.” Huh? I thought she was bringing something “here!”

So where does this riddling immortality reside? It isn’t bound to any particular future, or anything the speaker does from now on. It is dependent on someone we assume a beloved. Going back to the first stanza, a lover drags her life into the immediacy of the present, puts herself and all she knows under a spell.

This is a sort of immortality, but it is a stasis. There is no forethought or action apart from the beloved. But if the beloved accepts, then the lover is no less a prophet, a creator (“tie to Earths to come”/”action new”). Yes, it is a love poem – one about how crazy love is.

Emily Dickinson, “We never know how high we are” (1176)

We never know how high we are (1176)
Emily Dickinson

We never know how high we are
Till we are asked to rise
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies —

The Heroism we recite
Would be a normal thing
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
For fear to be a King —

Comment:

We set standards. But we don’t merely judge ourselves in this life by those standards, if at all. Our desire is also to be judged after our lives are complete, with regard to whom we tried to become. We use the uncertainty of who exactly judges (God? the public? ourselves?) to advance a hope. Because of the lack of knowledge, because of our fears now, we can know we will be that much greater in the future.

This is not a problem limited to thinking about the Christian afterlife. This is actually the more general problem of nobility. We set the standards we want to be judged by? We assume the judgement of others will be our own, before even accounting for falling short of our own mark? Compounding the issue: nobility is the heart of morality. Nobility ends in self-sacrifice. Something is known to be moral when one will die for it.

What’s funny is the hubris of our standard-setting. We see ourselves as humble throughout the process. Our time as Heroes, reciting our stories to ourselves, should continue uninterrupted. It’s normal enough to us. But something broke that normalcy and spurred this poem.

“Did not ourselves the Cubits warp” – the Biblical measure of “cubit” is the distance from the elbow to the middle finger’s tip. As mortals, we do not provide a consistent measure or ability to measure. There is more. Our lack of measure is “for fear to be a King.” Not death, change, decline, or failure alone awoke the speaker. It was the pretended/not-so-pretended humility that provoked. We want our standards, we want judgement, but we don’t really want the responsibility entailed. No one really plays God. That is realized once one thinks he’s playing God.

Emily Dickinson, “The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman” (1487)

The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman (1487)
Emily Dickinson

The Savior must have been
A docile Gentleman —
To come so far so cold a Day
For little Fellowmen —

The Road to Bethlehem
Since He and I were Boys
Was leveled, but for that ‘twould be
A rugged billion Miles —

Comment:

This is about religious experience. Our marking of Christ’s birth is held, for us, during a cold time of year. We make Him come to us; we feel He does. Only instead of the Son of Man, on a divine mission to redeem the world of its sin, we get a “docile Gentleman.” The world is too much with us, as this is our imagining. There is nothing docile about the Prince of Peace: justice must run down as waters, righteousness an ever-flowing stream. And “gentleman” is the ultimate construct of civil society. We dictate what man ought to be to painful extremes, so much so we demean ourselves, put ourselves in a lower class.

So much for the first stanza. Peculiar about this popular vision of Christianity is that, in a way, it was intended. Maybe there is nothing problematic about Christ as a docile gentleman. The prophet declared the Lord would make every mountain and hill low (Isaiah 40:4). That leveling unifies a number of disparate times: we, hundreds of years removed from His adolescence, are the children come unto Him. We’re there, equal with Him through such direct access. Only, a slight problem – it is, in effect, a wide, easy road. “A rugged billion miles” may overstate how difficult it sometimes can be to achieve a proper, true, moral vision, but then again, a rugged billion miles is literally life on earth.

Emily Dickinson, “Luck is not chance” (1350)

Luck is not chance (1350)
Emily Dickinson

Luck is not chance —
It’s Toil —
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned —
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned —

Comment:

The opening of this poem sounds like a slogan, something like Harvey Dent’s “you make your own luck” from The Dark Knight. Except initially, it seems a lot less serious than that:

Luck is not chance —
It’s Toil —

So what is meant by “luck?” “Chance?” We have to start listing the things thought about both. By “luck” we can mean only the result: he got lucky. By contrast, we can also mean simply having an opportunity, having a chance: “luck is not chance” fails to contradict that because it is so general.

Either way, the slogan runs over any attempt to make a distinction. Luck is toil. Your mistake was in thinking it was anything other than work. If you were unsure of this, think of luck as a goddess. Here’s how and when she reacts:

Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned —

The goddess Fortune requires a lot of wealth just to smile. It’s like there is no such thing as luck, there is only toil. Perhaps you do make your own luck, get your own results. Only, there is just this one thing: if Fortune smiles, is the wealth only paying for the smile? In other words, is toil at best an opportunity?

The last lines clarify the problem through further obscurity, as is always the case with Dickinson. What does the following thought have to do with anything?

The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned —

Typically, the ore from a mine is prior to a coin being formed. But here the process is reversed. The “old-fashioned Coin” fathers the mine. And somehow, we spurned that coin, which is even stranger. This is America. We spurn wealth?

To summarize where we are: the speaker started from a slogan saying there was no such thing as luck. That mellowed a bit with the image of Fortune smiling. Luck may be a goddess, exacting work, making us pay. Now we wonder about a mine and coin, means and ends. The funny thing about a coin is that while it is a result – while it is wealth – it is also merely a means. Wealth, not just luck, conflates means and ends, opportunities and results. Something about values is at stake here. Given that the speaker is changing how she sees the situation, how she sees her own luck, this is just not a critique of particular perceptions or opinions. She’s wondering about how she values things in the first place.

We see a good or a possibility and only then wonder where it came from. Nobody just went and dug a hole in the ground for no purpose. The mine only exists because of the coin, but ay, there’s the rub: someone went and dug a hole in the ground after seeing a good or possibility. All the effort exerted in getting more coins is not a cause of the coins. The coin was “spurned,” so to speak, in thinking mining came first. The original cause was the good glimpsed. When that is understood, luck is understood. It really is nothing but toil, but not because we make our own luck, but because we are made by it.

Emily Dickinson, “A face devoid of love or grace” (1711)

With thanks to Temperance Dewar & Margaret Mahoney

A face devoid of love or grace (1711)
Emily Dickinson

A face devoid of love or grace,
A hateful, hard, successful face,
A face with which a stone
Would feel as thoroughly at ease
As were they old acquaintances —
First time together thrown.

Comment:

The toughest thing to do in discussing a work of art is articulate the problem it introduces and its relevance. When I first read this poem, I thought it was an elaborate way of saying the speaker wanted to throw a stone at someone’s face.

That is, in essence, the drama of the poem. But it is a bit more complicated than that. “A face devoid of love or grace, / A hateful, hard, successful face” – this is all the speaker’s imagination. Nowhere is any particular physical feature mentioned. More importantly, the whole image depends on a rather curious thesis. Devoid of love or grace? Stoking the fire of one’s own hate? That yields hardness and success.

It looks like the speaker is imagining a face for a particular purpose. The face she wants to throw a stone at is most likely her own. The second part of the poem warrants close attention:

A face with which a stone
Would feel as thoroughly at ease
As were they old acquaintances —
First time together thrown.

A stone feels “thoroughly at ease” with the face imagined. In fact, it’s like they were “old acquaintances,” those thrown together who realized how similar their souls were. A friendship might be forged between hate and anger! The drama of the poem, in my view: the speaker is putting on what she thinks is a hateful face to achieve something. She is not entirely comfortable with herself doing this.

But why is it relevant? The drama of the poem can only suggest the larger issue. Margaret made some suggestions that got me thinking if the speaker is trying to get herself to break up with someone. Small faults have to be exaggerated even in more reasonable break ups. While there doesn’t have to be hatred, the whole process is hateful. I think that’s the correct line of thought, but the problem is more general. In life, we have to do hateful, cold things against others. Those things don’t have a “love” or “grace” as regards others, but do have a logic and even a kinship of their own. It’s like there’s a set of rules we work ardently to deny, but at times they assert their necessity, and we wonder what we’ve become. The irony is “first time together thrown:” the speaker knows too much for that to be true.

Emily Dickinson, “A lane of Yellow led the eye” (1650)

A lane of Yellow led the eye
Emily Dickinson

A lane of Yellow led the eye
Unto a Purple Wood
Whose soft inhabitants to be
Surpasses solitude
If Bird the silence contradict
Or flower presume to show
In that low summer of the West
Impossible to know —

Comment:

For the wanderer, time passed. The day’s yellow became the purple of the wood. Even as one who would rather see for himself – know through experience – there was the distance of seeing and an anticipation. The “soft inhabitants” to be are the darkness of night. Somehow sleep and death connect; that much he knew. But how sleep’s “soft inhabitants,” those who are and will be, relate to death and nothingness – well.

The only hint of the question’s power: the soft inhabitants surpass solitude. This is mysterious, as it unites sleep and death in a whole beyond one’s perception. It makes no sense to talk about a producer of images (sleep) or not-being as the whole. The wanderer recognized what we slowly realize, that the “solitude” surpassed is his own. That sleep and death are an incomprehensible whole is exactly the problem.

He moved away from himself to try and view it, and perhaps himself, better. But the natural world in the face of a dying light is powerless. Every song or shriek of a bird seemed to be absorbed by silence. A flower’s growth and display meant nothing as the sun grew dimmer. One thing stood out for him as he reflected, “the low summer of the West.” Summer can be associated with intense passion, and perhaps none is more intense than that which would lead one to link sleep and death. I’m doing a close read of Macbeth with a friend; it is stunning how many times various characters muse on sleep, death, and the state of their ambition.

Whether bird or flower were explicitly contradicted by day’s end is “impossible to know.” The wanderer’s passion set up the identification of sleep and death. He wanted to know how day’s end might reflect the end of himself and perhaps of all things. But knowledge doesn’t work that way; it does not necessarily come from what’s logical, i.e. that an end in time can inform one’s end or the end of time itself. The eye saw in “Yellow,” “Purple,” then soft inhabitants. It saw in color more than form, metaphor more than fact. The wanderer cannot get a certain knowledge from his sight, but then again, the fundamental issue is not knowledge.

Emily Dickinson, “Color – Caste – Denomination” (970)

Color – Caste – Denomination (970)
Emily Dickinson

Color — Caste — Denomination —
These — are Time’s Affair —
Death’s diviner Classifying
Does not know they are —

As in sleep — All Hue forgotten —
Tenets — put behind —
Death’s large — Democratic fingers
Rub away the Brand —

If Circassian — He is careless —
If He put away
Chrysalis of Blonde — or Umber —
Equal Butterfly —

They emerge from His Obscuring —
What Death — knows so well —
Our minuter intuitions —
Deem unplausible —

Comment:

Saw “Death’s large – Democratic fingers,” chuckled, said to myself I’m writing on this. I’m going to take this stanza by stanza strictly because I don’t know where it’s going yet.

So the first stanza starts simply enough. Racial, social/technical and religious distinctions are merely “Time’s Affair.” Which is a backhanded way of asserting their awful strength: we have to deal with these things, after all. In the face of death, they’re meaningless, but the speaker doesn’t say “death.” She says “Death’s diviner Classifying / does not know they are.” What is “Death’s diviner Classifying?” And what does it mean for such a thing to “know” our classifications?

“Death’s diviner Classifying” may have something to do with how we “divine” death. “As in sleep” brings up this question: who exactly is making the comparison? We’re the ones who think that just as hues are forgotten in sleep, death does not care about color. Similarly, we wonder if death will throw all our tenets aside as it establishes the ultimate democracy. Things burned into us don’t matter six feet under.

There’s hint of a critique that involves something like religion by second stanza’s end. We think we know death. We have our tenets and believe we have been tried by fire. But what we really have is a jumble of contradictions. Death is absolute in our minds and destroys our individuality and classification, except when it doesn’t. There are beliefs and assumptions we’re holding on to. At times, we’re even using the general idea of death to lay waste to other beliefs and assumptions while still clinging on to our own ideas, the only thing we feel we have in life. The “equality” of the first stanza is a joke; you can’t dissolve all distinctions among mankind by saying “we’re all going to die.” But the poem is going to move away from this theme somewhat and let us figure out mutual respect for each other on our own.

The third stanza talks about how “Death’s diviner Classifying” is careless of growth and change. It pays no heed to “Circassian,” things from the Caucasus – exotic and to be wondered at. The word refers to tulips. It’s like our assumptions about death “put away” a cocoon, completely ignoring what it can produce. We’re busy obscuring everything with “it’s all for naught,” yet change is happening right in front of us. The really interesting thought by Dickinson is the suggestion that our ignorance is causal (“obscuring”). On the one hand, this could be read cynically. I’ve always wanted to go to a certain group of people and say “I’m no genius, it’s just that you’re all idiots.” Similarly, an “equal butterfly” emerges from the darkness. Butterflies are equal, but we don’t really know that. Our focus has been on something else entirely.

On the other hand, Dickinson started two lines of the third stanza with “if.” Our ignorance causes us to do certain things that don’t merely reverberate later. When contradicted, they force us to see life and beauty, they force us to see nature. The case that we’re wrong is not just right in front of us: we caused it, too. We purposely ignored the tulips and shelved the cocoon. The tulips were dismissed as of a foreign land, the cocoon itself suggests that our obscuring things hid some kind of truth from us.

What does Death know well? Our minds gravitate toward “certainty,” but that describes death for us. What Death itself really knows is change. It knows life. This is what we’re rebelling against (“our minuter intuitions”) in assuming we know Death simply. We don’t like admitting that we change on terms not our own. Going back to the issue of equality at the beginning of the poem, we find that some small part of us doesn’t like that our consciences develop as time goes on.

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