Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Ceaseless Rosemary"

Emily Dickinson has a clever trick of writing absolute nonsense. (Perhaps this is part of the reason why her poetry expresses so much of the inexpressible.) She also breaks the rules of writing by inventing new phrases. These are usually phrases we have never heard before -- phrases that don't make sense. How then, is it that we know exactly what she means?

"Essential oils -- are wrung --
The Attar from the Rose
Be not expressed by Suns -- alone --
It is the gift of Screws.

The General Rose -- decay--
But this -- in Lady’s Drawer,
Makes Summer -- When the lady lies
In Ceaseless Rosemary."
-Emily Dickinson

In reading the poem above, I found something particularly intriguing about the beautiful phrase at the end of the poem: "Ceaseless Rosemary." It's certainly a new phrase- I mean, who ever heard of Eternity referred to as "Ceaseless Rosemary"? I decided to do some research on the topic and came up with interesting results: It turns out that the word "Rosemary" is actually commonly used in old literature to symbolize remembrance. Shakespeare says: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember;" "Ceaseless" is literally defined as "endless" or "constant." Hmm...so I guess that "Ceaseless Rosemary" not only sounds good , but it makes sense too!

If I researched every unusual phrase in Emily Dickinson's poetry, I'd probably end up with quite a tidy little collection of facts...

Seize The Day!


Jocelyn said...

Very good...I haven't read anything by Emily but I've wanted to. You really did a lovely job explaining and writing out your thoughts. I enjoyed reading about this...

I also linked the Inklings over at my hsb2 blog - if you want to come look.

Hope you are well, dear friend!

Love, JoyfulVictory

Anonymous said...


This is HRTF from over at homeschoolblogger.com/hrtf. I had a quick question that I cannot seem to answer: are you "Frodo" or "Legolas"?

Tenna ento lye omenta,

Mandy Grace said...

Hello! I enjoyed reading your explanation of that Emily Dickinson phrase. Her poetry does take a lot of thinking. :-)