March 25, 2016
I don’t know about you, but I always think of Emily in her late, reclusive years. A kind of white clad angel-scribe, observing all of nature, and all the human heart can hold –
from a 3X5 foot window on the second floor of her house on Main Street in Amherst.
Sweet hours have perished here;
This is a mighty room;
Within its precincts hopes have played,-
Now shadows in the tomb.
Your orchids, your trunk of poems, your quiet mysteries.
* * *
Though Emily wrote thousands of poems that the world never saw until her death, she was sharing words with audiences of one, all the time; Emily wrote thousands and thousands of notes and letters.
Juliana Hall, one of our commissioned composers has set one such letter. It was written in 1851 to Emily’s brother, William Austin Dickinson when Emily was 21 (thus, nearing what would be her middle-age). She had yet to begin her intense writing period that would commence in her mid twenties and last a decade. So here she is at 21, just warming up…
It might not come amiss, dear Austin, to have a tiding or two concerning our state and feelings. Our state is pretty comfortable, and our feelings are somewhat solemn. We are rather a crestfallen company, what with the sighing wind, the sobbing rain, and the whining of Nature. We are enjoying this evening what is called a ‘northeast storm’ – a little north of east in case you are pretty definite. Father thinks it’s ‘amazin’ raw,’ and I’m half disposed to think that he’s in the right about it, though I keep pretty dark and don’t say much about it! Vinnie is at the instrument, humming a pensive air concerning a young lady who thought she was ‘almost there.’ Vinnie seems much grieved, and I really suppose I ought to betake myself to weeping; I’m pretty sure that I shall if she don’t abate her singing.
* * *
Come to hear “A Northeast Storm” by Juliana Hall, and hear more letters from more fascinating people at Lyric Fest’s Letters Concerts, April 2nd and 3rd. We hope to see you there.
P.S. And if your interest is piqued by the belle of Amherst, indulge yourself by browsing around this extraordinary website, hosted by the Emily Dickinson Museum. Visiting the real thing is definitely on my bucket list.