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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

[Crumbling is not an instant's Act] - Emily Dickinson

Crumbling is not an instant's Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation's processes
Are organized Decays -

'Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust -

Ruin is formal - Devil's work
Consecutive and slow -
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping - is Crashe's law -


Emily Dickinson here makes the claim that failure is never instantaneous.  Whether we see it or not, there are always signs of our own decay and impending failures.  They can be as minute as a cobweb or mote of dust, as she makes clear in the second stanza.  There is always a root cause of our failures, something that is worked out, slow, and ordered.  "Ruin is formal - Devil's work" she writes.  It's not a sudden process, even if we do not see it as such.

As is typical of an Emily Dickinson poem, the meter is lilting and sing-song-y.  Read it out loud and enjoy the natural breaks and rhythm.  This might also be the only poem I know of in which the word "dilapidation" appears.  The language is clear and easy to understand, which lets the reader get to the meat of the issues faster.  I know personally, I began to think back on my own failures, and wonder what the seeds were for them.  I think that sort of introspection is Dickinson's goal, here.  The reader strives towards understanding the cause and effect of their actions, and even though the poem is rather fatalistic, it provides good food for thought regardless.

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