She had tried society and the world, and found them lacking. She was not an invalid, and she lived in seclusion from no love-disappointment. Her life was the normal blossoming of a nature introspective to a high degree, whose best thought could not exist in pretence.

Storm, wind, the wild March sky, sunsets and dawns; the birds and bees, butterflies and flowers of her garden, with a few trusted human friends, were sufficient companionship. The coming of the first robin was a jubilee beyond crowning of monarch or birthday of pope; the first red leaf hurrying through "the altered air," an epoch. Immortality was close about her; and while never morbid or melancholy, she lived in its presence.

Mabel Loomis Tood.
Amhesrt, Massachusetts,
August, 1891.

    SHE sweeps with many-colored Brooms--
    And leaves the Shreds behind--
    Oh Housewife in the Evening West--
    Come back, and dust the Pond!

    You dropped a Purple Ravelling in--
    You dropped an Amber thread--
    And now you've littered all the east
    With Duds of Emerald!

    And still she plies her spotted Brooms,
    And still the Aprons fly,
    Till Brooms fade softly into stars--
    And then I come away--

    Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

After her death, and against her dying wishes, Emily Dickinson's poems were made available to the public by her sister Lavinia along with the help of a friend and neighbor, Mabel Loomis Todd, and the clergyman Thomas Wentworth Higginson with whom Emily had corresponded for 20 years. It was Higginson to whom she petitioned for commentary about her work and following a vacuous and condescending reply from him she kept her work to herself.

Of nearly eighteen hundred poems, only seven were in print during her lifetime. Six collections were published after her death. One of the first examples still in existence is embroidered on a sampler made sometime during her mid-teens. Apart from a small group of love poems, which have been the source of many theories about her innermost feelings, Dickinson's main subject was the self and its ultimate destiny. Her style is matchless - unbalanced, broken, hesitant; she surveyed what was before her eye with images of surprising imagination and an ease of weighty states of despair, awe and longing. Many were written during the Age of Expansion:

    This was during the first half-century after the Civil War to the First World War which was approximately 1865-1915. American writers progressively moved from romanticism to realism (Perkins 870). (It was) a much more realistic interpretation of humanity and its destiny (Perkins 870). This new approach addressed a larger and more general audience than the writings of the Romantic era (Perkins 870). Although Dickinson is considered a writer from the Age of Expansion, her style of writing combined elements from the Romantic and Realism era.

Dickinson regularly identified nature with heaven, the result of her unique relationship with God and the universe. By regarding nature as almost sacred she venerated nature throughout her poetry depicting the scenes from an artistic point of view. Visibly fixated with the minute details of nature she paid close attention to things such as hills, flies, bumblebees, and eclipses. From these small things, Dickinson brought into being manifestations of the universal and an awareness of the harmony that binds all things together.

She sweeps with many colored brooms appears to have been composed sometime between 1858 and 1861 and published in the early 1920’s in a collection titled Complete Poems. The tiny facets and particulars that caught her eye are semblances of brief dramas in reality. Like an infinitesimal micro-chasm each poem testifies to Dickinson’s life as a recluse. Using everything from the images, the precise words she picks for impact composes a moving picture. Dickinson’s created dramas were not stagnant and only somebody with original creativity and the observational powers like Emily Dickinson could glimpse a sunset as something so distinctive and refreshing.

Her mood is playful as she compares the sunset to a woman tidying her house. High-spirited and ingenious fun beams through the common thread of how the whole of humanity has observed heaven’s many sunsets. The setting sun radiates different hues in the sky coloring the clouds and countryside. Duds in this sense means clothing and themes of domestic life and housewifery are displayed in jest, nature is a show to which she has gained admission. The poet moves the sun across the sky as it descends in the west, looks back and paints images as each physical change occurs.

Dickinson saw friendship, irony, and amusement in the world of trees, birds, and grassy meadows. She sweeps with many colors is a brilliant example of Dickinson’s communion with nature. By regarding the words she crafted her poetry with as living entities that could have being, growth, and immortality she gave rise to a new idea that a word arrives from the experience behind it that takes precedence.

Able to stand out as a bright woman in an unsteady and chauvinist time in American history Dickinson addressed three main themes through her figurative language: death, love, and nature. Bedridden for two years before her death from Bright's disease, she requested that her manuscripts be destroyed, but confronted with over seventeen hundred poems her sister couldn’t bring herself to burn them. Mabel Loomis Todd and Higginson abridged them several years later in three volumes during the 1890s.

Note from public domain source: "(These) poems... have been corrected to agree with reproductions of Dickinson's original Fascicles. In those cases the spelling, capitalization, wording, and of course punctuation are accurately hers, and not the 'improvements' of later publishers."


Emily Dickinson:

Higginson, T.L. and Loomis, Mabel, Poems by Emily Dickinson Second Series, 1892.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:


CST Approved.

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