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Alabaster Chambers and Hope's Feathered Wings: A Contrast/Comparison of Two Dickinson Poems.

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Alabaster Chambers and Hope's Feathered Wings: A Contrast/Comparison of Two Dickinson Poems ENG 311A Summer 2001 In a world of literary geniuses such as Emerson, Whitman, Poe, and Longfellow, it is Emily Dickinson who is considered to be one of the greatest nineteenth century poets of all time - perhaps even the greatest. Her simple yet elegant use of the English language has captured the imaginations and hearts of innumerable readers for well over a hundred years. Within her writing career, Dickinson quite literally wrote thousands of poems on many different topics. Love and hate, life and death, hope and hopelessness - Dickinson explored all of these and more in her often-short poetic works. Though each poem is unique, she employed many of the same literary techniques throughout them all. Dickinson's poems "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers" and "'Hope' is the Thing with Feathers" are two poems worth studying. Both have quite a bit in common, and further examination of their language, structure, and meanings is worthwhile. Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two poems is their contrasting themes. "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers" is a dark poem. The subject of discussion is immediately obvious upon even the first reading; it is a poem about death. ...read more.


The use of alliteration is also present. Alliteration is the combination of words that begin with the same consonant sound, such as the line "Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear" (Meyer 934; line 9) and "Light laughs the breeze" (Meyer 933; line 7). Dickinson's usage of this technique interjects an almost fun note into her otherwise dismal poem. Another technique that Dickinson employed is the art of imagery. Consider, for example, the line "Rafters of satin" (Meyer 933; line 5). These three words conjure up the perplexing image of high-set rafters nestled up in a ceiling that are actually made of smooth white satin - an oddly intriguing image. The language in "'Hope' is the Thing with Feathers" is quite as effective, but with a different intent than that of "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers." Dickinson's careful choice of words for this poem is obvious, for every word is rich with feeling and emotion. The idea that "Hope...perches on the soul" is a wonderful statement on how entwined hope is with a person's being. The claws of hope's great, feathered creature dig into a person's soul, refusing to let go, offering a sense of permanence, of constancy. To further that sense of constancy, we are offered the following line: "And sore must be the storm/that could abash the little Bird" (Hollander 565; lines 6-7). ...read more.


The meter of the lines is iambic, meaning one stressed syllable is followed by one unstressed syllable, which in turn is followed by a stressed syllable, etc. This organization of stanzas, syllables, and meter are greatly beneficial to the reading process, although some difficulty remains with the reading of this poem. In conclusion, since Emily Dickinson wrote both of the poems discussed, it is no surprise that there are similarities in their construction. These likenesses are mainly the utilization of such techniques as imagery, personification, and near rhymes. One must look closely to see these connections, however, especially when one is faced with more obvious dissimilarities. By reading through each poem and comparing the flow and rhythm of both, one can see that the differences in structure are quite noticeable; one is very choppy, uneven, and the other is much smoother. Finally, the most important difference between these two poems is the difference between their themes. In this regard, they are as different as night and day. "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers" is quite certainly about death, while "'Hope' is the Thing with Feathers" is clearly about life and the hope that one has in his or her life. Both poems are fascinating, and a joy to read. The unique way that Dickinson possessed of arranging mere words into thought-provoking, emotion-filled, and meaningful poetry is what makes her the greatest poet of the nineteenth century. http://www.night-writer.net/Academics/dickinson311a.html ...read more.

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