Few poets have carried tone and the sounds of words to the peaks reached by Emily Dickinson, Archibald MacLeish, Boylston Prefessor of Rhetoric and Oratory, said last night in the fifth lecture of his series, "Poetry and Experience."
Emily Dickinson frequently combines the abstract and the concrete in such images as "amethyst remembrance," and "the blue and gold mistake of Indian Summer," MacLeish noted. By skillful use of tone she is then able to make these sensual counterweights to her ideas seem true.
The poet of the private, inner world is both observer and actor, MacLeish continued. If his tone is false or selfconscious, his poem becomes unbearable. Emily Dickinson's poetry succeeds because she suffers but sees herself impersonally at the same time; "she is herself, and yet out of herself," MacLeish said, "dancing on the brink of self-pity, but rarely falling in."
Her poetry is both spontaneous and deliberately dramatic," he asserted. Although she often begins with the word "I," the reader is always conscious of her speaking directly to him and thus never feels that he is simply overhearing soliloquy.