Tag Archives: Emily Dickinson

Truth’s Foul Venom — Stanza 38

Temptation scene, Sistine Chapel Ceiling - Michelangelo, 1508-12

Temptation scene, Sistine Chapel Ceiling - Michelangelo, 1508-12

Res Publica, Book One, Canto the First

38.

O mother! What secret phantom hid
behind those dark and lovely eyes!
What snake could stay so silent? What lies
could pass so long unnoticed ’mid
such pure and perfect love? And you,
dear father – years of kisses, they too
now chilled me, like lips on poisoned prey.
Kisses? An ‘h’ replacing the ‘k’ –
O how I shivered! How quick and easy
truth’s foul venom works! A wheezy
rattle of death ran through me. The others
had known – so why not me? My mother’s

Zireaux’s comments on this stanza
For my Tuesday Poem visitors, I present the best snake poem ever written, and one of the most striking examples (line five) of onomatopoeia in English poetry. My best readers will recall that darling demure Emily is mentioned in Stanza 10 (“I’m Like a Eunuch, or Mute Castrato“) of Res Publica: ‘Death can be the virgin’s cure / and leave its sperm on poets’ sheets. / Just look at Dickinson and Keats.’

The Snake
by
Emily Dickinson

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides–
You may have met Him–
did you not
His notice sudden is–

The Grass divides as with a Comb–
A spotted shaft is seen–
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on–

He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn–
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot–
I more than once at Noon

Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone–

Several of Nature’s People
I know, and they know me–
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality–

But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone–

Read from the beginning of Res Publica | Listen to the audio version (read by Stuart Devenie) | Buy a signed copy of the book

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I’m Like a Eunuch, Or Mute Castrato — Stanza 10

The Baptism Of The Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626

The Baptism Of The Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626

Res Publica, Book One, Prologue

10.

A proverb: Man can’t single-handedly
clap – or catch it.10 We can’t give birth
without seducing a publisher first.
As Mary said so candidly,
I’m like a eunuch, or mute castrato;
I’ve better chances winning the Lotto
than making art! My sheets are clean.
And may they always stay pristine;
and on death’s bed remain still pure,
for death can be the virgin’s cure
and leave its sperm on poets’ sheets.
Just look at Dickinson, or Keats.11

10‘Can’t catch it’ – in other words, this editor assumes, can’t catch the clap, a more vulgar term for gonorrhea. The reference is in keeping with the previous stanza, in which art is presented as a kind of disease.
11Poets Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) and John Keats (1795–1821) both received recognition for their work posthumously.

Zireaux’s comments on this stanza
Not just ‘publishers’ (however one defines that term these days) but the general concept of ‘just who are you’ — see dedication — will almost certainly carry over to the medium in which you, reader, are now engaged.

Take, for example, Wikipedia. In order for a book to appear on Wikipedia, it — or its author — must be considered ‘notable.’ Is Res Publica notable? Could it be considered otherwise? And yet Res Publica has no presence on Wikipedia. So it’s not notable? Or is it, perhaps, too notable? Too strange? Most important, do any of the discussions about its notability involve the book itself?

Here is a discussion about the entry “Zireaux” on Wikipedia (with yours truly contributing the last line):

Zireaux
Zireaux (edit|talk|history|links|watch|logs) – (View log)
(Find sources: “Zireaux” – news · books · scholar · free images)

* 11:26, 21 July 2008 FisherQueen (talk | contribs) deleted “Zireaux” ‎ (A7 (bio): Doesn’t indicate importance or significance of a real person)

* Fails WP:AUTHOR Adabow (talk · contribs) 08:02, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

* Delete Non-notable, appears self-promotional (single edit user). DerbyCountyinNZ (Talk Contribs) 09:54, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

* Note: This debate has been included in the list of New Zealand-related deletion discussions. Adabow (talk · contribs) 08:03, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

* Note: This debate has been included in the list of Authors-related deletion discussions. — • Gene93k (talk) 15:06, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

* Delete – I can find no reliable sources writing about this person. Radio New Zealand has devoted some time to a reading of one of her works, but that’s not sufficient to establish notability. — Whpq (talk) 16:30, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

* Delete Not notable. Polisher of Cobwebs (talk) 23:05, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

* This is Zireaux himself. Agree with others. I say delete it. I am in no way notable. (But for the record, I’m a “him” not a “her,” as those who’ve read my books or listened to my poetry — which may or may not be notable — will attest).

Read from the beginning of Res Publica | Listen to the audio version (read by Stuart Devenie) | Buy a signed copy of the book

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Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux