Between my Curtain and the Wall

The Angle of a Landscape --
That every time I wake --
Between my Curtain and the Wall
Upon an ample Crack --

Like a Venetian -- waiting --
Accosts my open eye --
Is just a Bough of Apples --
Held slanting, in the Sky --

The Pattern of a Chimney --
The Forehead of a Hill --
Sometimes -- a Vane's Forefinger --
But that's -- Occasional --

The Seasons -- shift -- my Picture --
Upon my Emerald Bough,
I wake -- to find no -- Emeralds --
Then -- Diamonds -- which the Snow

From Polar Caskets -- fetched me --
The Chimney -- and the Hill --
And just the Steeple's finger --
These -- never stir at all --

Emily Dickinson - The Angle of a Landscape

* * * * *

“The Angle of a Landscape—”  brings together two of the most prominent themes in Emily Dickinson’s poetry—the variability of nature in the outside world, and the constancy of her own domestic surroundings. These take their form in the steadfast landmarks and changing seasons, viewed daily from Dickinson’s own bedroom window. Dickinson often fluctuates in her poetic works between a desire for confinement and an affinity for the boundless natural world. This particular poem, which encapsulates these two converse and seemingly irreconcilable extremes, implies that Dickinson may have found a way to rectify her indecision through her own self-expression. The nature of poetry itself and Dickinson’s own poetic form enable her to combine the static and the dynamic, without choosing between the two.

Upon waking, Dickinson’s “open eye” is “Accost[ed]” by “The Angle of a Landscape—,” which, presumably when she rights herself, turns out to be “just a Bough of Apples— / Held slanting, in the Sky—.” What is implied in this scenario is the importance of perspective and its effect on how one views both the nature of an object (or a person, or a place, or an idea), and its scale. Just by a “slant” of her head, which can also be taken as a “slant” in thought, what initially appeared to be a vast landscape is reduced to something else entirely—something much smaller in scale and closer in distance—a branch of apples, quite nearly within reach.

Dickinson plays with similar themes of perspective and scale, as well as passing time and constancy, throughout the poem. As time goes on, she views the landscape change. One day, the tree outside her window has “Emerald Bough[s],” and then, upon wakening, she finds these to be replaced by the “Diamonds” of snow. It seems both natural and fluid, the way “The Seasons—shift—[her] Picture—,” like a slideshow or a reel of film, and yet markedly, some things remain unaffected by the continuous cycle of nature— landmarks such as “The Chimney—and the Hill—” “never stir at all—.” All of this, meanwhile—the turning of the seasons (the passing of time) and the vast landscape (the outside world) she sees—fit, it seems, “Between [her] Curtain and the Wall,” what she calls “an ample Crack.” Thus, the expansive scale of the passing seasons and the landscape she describes, fill, to her eyes, the mere inches between where her curtain ends and her wall begins.

excerpt from the essay “These—never stir at all—”: The Static and Dynamic in Dickinson",
by Michele Buonanduci
read here


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