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Emily Dickinson's "The Gentian weaves her fringes"

Emily Dickinson's poems inform my own worldview as a poet and scholar. They dramatize the human spirit via deep attention to life's details.

This daguerreotype is likely the only extant authentic image of the poet.

This daguerreotype is likely the only extant authentic image of the poet.

Introduction and Text of "The Gentian weaves her fringes"

Emily Dickinson kept the Sabbath by staying home, as she so colorfully expressed in her poem, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church." But while others were content to participate in the traditional church services, Dickinson created speakers who marveled in the natural surroundings to the point of uplifting those natural creatures to divine entities in the rarified spiritual air.

As most readers know, Emily Dickinson lived a cloistered life resembling that of a monastic, earning herself the title, "Nun of Amherst." Her poem, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” celebrates this cherished belief held by “the nun of Amherst” that merely staying home and worshipping could lead one to heaven instead of waiting for death.

In the "Some keep the Sabbath" poem, the speaker creates her own church with a bird serving the position of the choir director and fruit trees serving as the roof of her church. And a the sermon is preached by none other than "God"—"a noted Clergyman."

Like "Some keep the Sabbath," the poem, "The Gentian weaves her fringes," also finds the speaker creating her own church along with a church funeral service that she employs metaphorically as the death or departure of the summer season. The echo of a traditional prayer caps the little drama with beauty and leaves the reader in highly the spiritual atmosphere of the divine little Dickinson created church.

The Gentian weaves her fringes

The Gentian weaves her fringes –
The Maple's loom is red –
My departing blossoms
Obviate parade.

A brief, but patient illness –
An hour to prepare,
And one below this morning
Is where the angels are –
It was a short procession,
The Bobolink was there –
An aged Bee addressed us –
And then we knelt in prayer –
We trust that she was willing –
We ask that we may be.
Summer – Sister – Seraph!
Let us go with thee!

In the name of the Bee –
And of the Butterfly –
And of the Breeze – Amen!

Reading of "The Gentian weaves her fringes"

Musical Rendition of "The Gentian weaves her fringes"

Commentary

The departure of summer may be felt and likened to losing a loved one to death by those cherish that season. Such is case for this speaker, who fashions complete funeral service for the season, complete with a closing prayer.

First Stanza: Observation of the Departing Blooms

The Gentian weaves her fringes –
The Maple's loom is red –
My departing blossoms
Obviate parade.

The speaker observes that the Gentian flower that grows billowy edges has been weaving those edges while the red maple tree remains looming overheard. But then she reveals that she is reporting not a simple celebration of blooming plants, but instead she will be describing the departures of "blossoms." Those blooming flowers are departing because summer is coming to an end.

The speaker’s intense observation of the plants, their colors, what they are doing demonstrates the intensity of her feelings about the impending change of season. The summer parade of things in bloom have held sway but now are closing their heralding beauty.

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Second Stanza: Drama of a Church Service

A brief, but patient illness –
An hour to prepare,
And one below this morning
Is where the angels are –
It was a short procession,
The Bobolink was there –
An aged Bee addressed us –
And then we knelt in prayer –
We trust that she was willing –
We ask that we may be.
Summer – Sister – Seraph!
Let us go with thee!

The speaker then creates a fascinating scenario calling the short summer season a "brief, but patient illness." Of course, it is the grieving speaker who feels the illness that her beloved summer with all of its warmth, colors, and other myriad satisfying sense pleasures will soon be departing. Thus, she is metaphorically likening the end of summer to the end of the life of a beloved friend or relative.

And she is doing so for a very specific reason. Just as the speaker averred in "Some Keep the Sabbath," she is creating a special church service. This time it is a funeral service that includes "the Bobolink" and "an aged Bee" who offer eulogies for the departing loved one.

The speaker then proclaims that the funeral attendees all "knelt in prayer." The prayer expresses the wish that the departing soul is doing so willingly. She then offers a startling remark, naming the departing one not only "Summer" but also "Sister" and "Seraph." This departing soul is as close as a sister and as beloved as an angel. Thus this speaker expresses the wish to accompany Summer on its departing journey.

Third Stanza: A Final Prayer Offering

In the name of the Bee –
And of the Butterfly –
And of the Breeze – Amen!

The completion of the prayer echoes the many prayers that are offered weekly in most churches. But instead of "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," this speaker's created natural church prayer pays homage to the natural creatures, Bee, Butterfly, and Breeze. She then appends the same devotional closing found in most if not all Christian prayers, "Amen!"

The speaker has lovingly paid tribute to her beloved season, including many of "nature’s creatures" that she also adores. As she enjoys the seasons and their attributes, she feels obliged to elevate their status and presence by dramatizing their natures and their activities through her little dramas. And as she often does, she elevates her subject to the divine level of being, offering her efforts to the Creator of all things, growing in the gardens of the seasons.

Finding Emily Dickinson in the power of her poetry

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on December 04, 2019:

You're welcome, marilynpoy! It's always heartening to find out that my commentaries have helped readers. Emily Dickinson's poems do have a lot to offer, and she does required a bit of effort at first to get oriented to her special voice. Her minimalist approach can be quite daunting upon first encounter.

Thank you for your comment, marilynpoy! Enjoy studying Emily Dickinson; she's always worth the effort.

marilynpoy on December 04, 2019:

This is great!! Thank you so much...I am reading Emily Dickinson's Poems As She Preserved Them by Christanne Miller and was confused because in the book the first stanza "The Gentian Weaves her fringes" is contained as its own poem. It makes more sense now that it is part of the other poems to come. Thank you so much for your analysis, it really helped me a lot. :)

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