Wednesday, November 3, 2010

~~~Poem a Day~~~There's something quieter than sleep 45/1775

picture is a depiction of Georgics Book III, Shepherd with Flocks, Vatican

There's something quieter than sleep by Emily Dickinson

There's something quieter than sleep
Within this inner room!
It wears a sprig upon its breast —
And will not tell its name.

Some touch it, and some kiss it —
Some chafe its idle hand —
It has a simple gravity
I do not understand!

I would not weep if I were they —
How rude in one to sob!
Might scare the quiet fairy
Back to her native wood!

While simple-hearted neighbors
Chat of the "Early dead" —
We — prone to periphrasis
Remark that Birds have fled!

Emily Dickinson

Dear friends of Emily Dickinson; to be honest; this is a very complicated poem in the fact that the word "periphrasis" refers to detailed grammatic syntax.
Aside from complex allusion by Miss Emily to such a "heady" concept, we can define "periphrasis" simply for economy. The term "periphrasis" can be simply defined as;

periphrasis, from periphrazein "speak in a roundabout way," from peri- "round about" (see peri-) + phrazein "to express. circumlocutio; a loan-translation of Gk. periphrasis) "speaking around" (the topic), from circum- "around". — “Online Etymology Dictionary”,

Throughout the many poems read to date, noted is the use of "periphrasis" or roundabout discussion of certain subject matter. Here, Miss Emily is hedging (as she is so wont to do) about her own literary style. Being "non-direct" in regards to subject matter is a way of creating an atmosphere of illusion typical of 18 century pastoral poets who's use of periphrasis is artful.

What exactly in Miss Emily referencing in her didactic periphrasis? Certain evident would be the "hand of death" a prevalent theme in Emily's work, and in the very nature of her mid-eighteenth hundreds, the 19th century fare.

"Some chafe its idle hand —"

There is undoubtedly a morbidity in this concept of periphrasis, sounding like a form of deliberate paralysis of the straight-forward intent. There is a dreamy sense here, a feeling that there is indeed

"something quieter than sleep"

What would be quieter than sleep? Perhaps death? I would definitely adhere to this analysis.

Anyway you deduce the meaning here and the mysterious and esoteric;

"sprig upon its breast"

Death is undeniably the periphrasic word and method here. Death as a metaphor to something unspoken, kept silent but ever present and ever vigilant; trying aptly to
become much more than a passing fancy or "sprig" one wears in grief for the newly departed.

"While simple-hearted neighbors
Chat of the "Early dead" —"

Unusual phrase here "Early dead" and why is it "quoted"? Must be a famous line from a eighteenth century poet or writer of which I can only guess; Edgar Alan Poe? No, he was in the eighteen hundreds! Here, I'll research "Pastoral Poets - 18th Century" Here is the Wikipedia definition;

Pastoral literature began with the poetry of the Hellenistic Greek Theocritus, several of whose Idylls are set in the countryside (probably reflecting the landscape of the island of Cos where the poet lived) and involve dialogues between herdsmen.[2] Theocritus may have drawn on authentic folk traditions of Sicilian shepherds. He wrote in the Doric dialect but the metre he chose was the dactylic hexameter associated with the most prestigious form of Greek poetry, epic. This blend of simplicity and sophistication would play a major part in later pastoral verse. Theocritus was imitated by the Greek poets Bion and Moschus. The Roman poet Virgil adapted the genre into Latin with his highly influential Eclogues. Virgil presented a more idealised vision of rural life than Theocritus and was the first to set his poems in Arcadia, the favourite location of subsequent pastoral literature. He also included elements of political allegory.[3]

Italian poets revived the pastoral from the 14th century onwards, first in Latin (examples include works by Petrarch, Pontano and Mantuan) then in the Italian vernacular (Boiardo). The fashion for pastoral spread throughout Renaissance Europe. In Spain, Garcilaso de la Vega was an important pioneer and his motifs find themselves renewed in the 20th Century Spanish language poet Giannina Braschi. Leading French pastoral poets include Marot and Ronsard.

The first pastorals in English were the Eclogues (c.1515) of Alexander Barclay, which were heavily influenced by Mantuan. A landmark in English pastoral poetry was Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender, first published in 1579. Spenser's work consists of twelve eclogues, one for each month of the year, and is written in dialect. It contains elegies, fables and a discussion of the role of poetry in contemporary England. Spenser and his friends appear under various pseudonyms (Spenser himself is "Colin Clout"). Spenser's example was imitated by such poets as Michael Drayton (Idea, The Shepherd's Garland) and William Browne (Britannia's Pastorals). The most famous pastoral elegy in English is John Milton's Lycidas (1637), written on the death of Edward King, a fellow student at Cambridge University. Milton used the form both to explore his vocation as a writer and to attack what he saw as the abuses of the Church. The formal pastoral in English died out in the 18th century, one of the last notable examples being Alexander Pope's Pastorals (1709). The form was parodied by writers such as John Gay (in his Shepherd's Week), criticised for its artificiality by Doctor Johnson and attacked for its lack of realism by George Crabbe, who attempted to give a true picture of rural life in his poem The Village (1783). Pastoral nevertheless survived as a mood rather than a genre, as can be seen from such works as Matthew Arnold's Thyrsis (1867), a lament on the death of his fellow poet Arthur Hugh Clough.

[edit] Pastoral romances
Italian writers invented a new genre, the pastoral romance, which mixed pastoral poems with a fictional narrative in prose. Although there was no classical precedent for the form, it drew some inspiration from ancient Greek novels set in the countryside, such as Daphnis and Chloe . The most influential Italian example of the form was Sannazzaro's Arcadia (1504). The vogue for the pastoral romance spread throughout Europe producing such notable works as Montemayor's Diana (1559) in Spain, Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1590) in England, and Honoré d'Urfé's Astrée (1607–27) in France.

[edit] Pastoral plays
Pastoral drama also emerged in Renaissance Italy. Again, there was little Classical precedent, with the possible exception of Greek satyr plays. Poliziano's Orfeo (1480) shows the beginnings of the new form, but it reached its zenith in the late 16th century with Tasso's Aminta (1573), Isabella Andreini's Mirtilla (1588), and Guarini's Il pastor fido (1590). John Lyly's Endimion (1579) brought the Italian-style pastoral play to England. John Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess, Ben Jonson's The Sad Shepherd and Sidney's The Lady of May are later examples. Some of Shakespeare's plays contain pastoral elements, most notably As You Like It (whose plot was derived from Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance Rosalynde) and The Winter's Tale, of which Act 4 Scene 4 is a lengthy pastoral digression.

[edit] Pastoral music
Theocritus's Idylls include strophic songs and musical laments, and, as in Homer, his shepherds often play the syrinx, or Pan flute, considered a quintessentially pastoral instrument. Virgil's Eclogues were performed as sung mime in the 1st century, and there is evidence of the pastoral song as a legitimate genre of classical times.

The pastoral genre was a significant influence in the development of opera. After settings of pastoral poetry in the pastourelle genre by the troubadours, Italian poets and composers became increasingly drawn to the pastoral. Musical settings of pastoral poetry became increasingly common in first polyphonic and then monodic madrigals: these later led to the cantata and the serenata, in which pastoral themes remained on a consistent basis. Partial musical settings of Giovanni Battista Guarini's Il pastor fido were highly popular: the texts of over 500 madrigals were taken from this one play alone. Tasso's Aminta was also a favourite. As opera developed, the dramatic pastoral came to the fore with such works as Jacopo Peri's Dafne and, most notably, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. Pastoral opera remained popular throughout the 17th-century, and not just in Italy, as is shown by the French genre of pastorale héroïque, Englishman Henry Lawes's music for Milton's Comus (not to mention John Blow's Venus and Adonis), and Spanish zarzuela. At the same time, Italian and German composers developed a genre of vocal and instrumental pastorals, distinguished by certain stylistic features, associated with Christmas Eve.

The pastoral, and parodies of the pastoral, continued to play an important role in musical history throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. John Gay may have satirized the pastoral in The Beggar's Opera, but also wrote an entirely sincere libretto for Handel's Acis and Galatea. Rousseau's Le Devin du village draws on pastoral roots, and Metastasio's libretto Il re pastore was set over 30 times, most famously by Mozart. Rameau was an outstanding exponent of French pastoral opera.[4] Beethoven also wrote his famous Pastoral Symphony, avoiding his usual musical dynamism in favour of relatively slow rhythms. More concerned with psychology than description, he labelled the work "more the expression of feeling than [realistic] painting". The pastoral also appeared as a feature of grand opera, most particularly in Meyerbeer's operas: often composers would develop a pastoral-themed "oasis", usually in the centre of their work. Notable examples include the shepherd's "alte Weise" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, or the pastoral ballet occupying the middle of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. The 20th-century continued to bring new pastoral interpretations, particularly in ballet, such as Ravel's Daphis and Chloe, Nijinsky's use of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, and Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps and Les Noces.[5]

The Pastorale is a form of Italian folk song still played in the regions of Southern Italy where the zampogna continues to thrive. They generally sound like a slowed down version of a tarantella, as they encompass many of the same melodic phrases. The pastorale on the zampogna can be played by a solo zampogna player, or in some regions can be accompanied by the piffero (also commonly called a ciaramella, pipita, or bifera), which is a primitive key-less double reed oboe type instrument.

[edit] Pastoral art
Idealised pastoral landscapes appear in Hellenistic and Roman wall paintings. Interest in the pastoral as a subject for art revived in Renaissance Italy, partly inspired by the descriptions of pictures Sannazzaro included in his Arcadia. The Fête champêtre (Pastoral Concert) attributed to Giorgione is perhaps the most famous painting in this style. Later, French artists were also attracted to the pastoral, notably Claude, Poussin (e.g. Et in Arcadia ego) and Watteau (in his Fêtes galantes).[6]

Emily Dickinson was undoubtly influenced by the 18c Pastoral poets, and the early Greek poets at Amherst College. There would be an effort to research the entire cast of influences at this time. It is a start however! Confluence becomes complex for such seeming simplicity! Never underestimate a transcendentalist! They stay firmly rooted on terre firma against the many tides and sifted sands of infinite predecessors. Enjoy this one per your own intrepretation!

Chiccoreal's Animated End of A Tall Tale or Take Five for Fifty Periphrasis!

Silence is Golden; Fleeced and often flocked
never faked, never sought
knowing not what
we choose to forget
you'll find out soon enough
why wait til sprig?
cause i have a bad cause of periphrasis
and need to take a chill pill
to induce that heady sleep
known only when permanent lights
are OUT.
Peace knows no bounds then..
can you guess?

jane jones


  1. Milton's Lycidas is a good start! Read it here; or
    Theocritus The Psalm of Adonis - from 15th Idyll
    Garcilaso de la Vega

  2. insightful post.
    I love reading as well.

  3. welcome linking in a poem to our potluck today, Thanks in advance!

  4. How are you, friend?

    Glad to land on your exciting poetry land here.

    Welcome linking in a poem to our potluck today, Thanks in advance!

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