Reflections and Remembrance of Things Past

This world can be a raucous place.

I try to go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what
peace there may be in silence.

Much that comes to us is held for a short time and then it’s gone.
I have a few once insignificant things set significant by death.
My mother’s crocheted pot holders, my father’s pocket knife;
These are a few of my favorite things.

A friend’s wife lost a child of her first marriage by murder.
Now some 25 years later the 11-year old girl’s bedroom
is a time capsule, looking as if she just left for school in the
morning and will return in the afternoon.

Death Sets A Thing Significant, is a poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Dickinson’s poem “Death Sets a Thing Significant”
comments on the way in which we find value in the
possessions of our loved ones after they have died,
and how even the most insignificant things become
meaningful after a loved one is gone.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of poetry, you’ve most likely heard of
mid-19th century poet Emily Dickinson.

Born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson spent most of her
life completely isolated from the outside world. [She never married and
lived in her parents house her entire life] Her work was heavily
influenced by the metaphysical poets of the 17th century England,
as well as her Puritan upbringing.

Upon her death in 1886, members of Dickinson’s family found her
hand-bound collection of 40 poetry volumes containing nearly 1,800 poems.
Dickinson’s poems have had a major influence on poetry ever since.

DEATH sets a thing significant
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly

To ponder little workmanships 5
In crayon or in wool,
With “This was last her fingers did,”
Industrious until

The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves, 
And then ’t was put among the dust
Upon the closet shelves.

A book I have, a friend gave,
Whose pencil, here and there,
Had notched the place that pleased him,
At rest his fingers are.

Now, when I read, I read not,
For interrupting tears
Obliterate the etchings
Too costly for repairs.

Emily Dickinson spent most of her life completely isolated
from the outside world. She never married and lived in her
parents house her entire life. She had other relatives that
lived nearby.

Her poetry was heavily influenced by the metaphysical poets of
17th Century England. Especially these:

Also Puritan poet Edward Taylor (1642-1729) who penned
these words:

“Ye Angels, help: This fill would to the brim
Heav’ns whelmed-down Crystal meal Bowl, yea and higher,
This Bread of Life dropped in thy mouth, doth Cry:/
Eat, eat me, Soul, and thou shalt never die”

The metaphysical conceit in Edwards poem is to view the earth’s starry and clear night sky as a “Whelmed-down crystal meal bowl.” Try it some clear night out in the country where dark sky reigns supreme and you will understand.

That British poets were held in high esteem and American Puritan poets were not is shown by the fact every one of the British Metaphysical poets sat for their portrait, as shown in the array above. That no image of Edward Taylor exists, at least none free of suspicion, also show that the Puritans were no much interested in such worldly things as portraits.  Jonathan Edwards (“sinners in the hands of an angry God…”) Cotton Mather and Increase Mather must have sat for their portrait, at least one or two exist which could even be legitimate.

Upon her death in 1886, members of Dickinson’s family found her
hand-bound collection of 40 poetry volumes containing nearly 1,800 poems.
Dickinson’s poems have had a major influence on the world of poetry ever since.

This world can be a raucous place.

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