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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Friday, 11 July:Comtemplate the two Emily's (while I stir the soup)

Busy with last minute touches to the birthday luncheon, so make yourself comfy in the sitting room and comtemplate the two great Emily's of literature. Gal and Trist will keep you company while I stir the soup and pop the garlic loaves into the oven.

Emily Bronte (1818-1848) lived on the windswept Yorkshire moors in isolation from any intellectual buzz except for the company of her brother and sisters. Her attempts at employment as a governess failed; her life was cut short at thirty and she only wrote a single novel. But what a story that was! Wuthering Heights just simmers with passion, frustration and turbulence. As the wind wuthers across the Yorkshire moors, so does it wuther in the emotions of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. (Do you remember that Dickon in The Secret Garden talks of the wuthering wind?) Neither Heathcliff or Cathy are favourite characters of mine, too cruel and capricious, but I love the way Emily created the bleak, grim atmosphere of Wuthering Heights.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) lived most of her life in self-imposed isolation in Amherst, Mass. She was reclusive, eccentric and dressed mostly in white. In later life, she hardly left her room. But like all great writers she understood the psychology of the human heart so well, too well. She wrote over 1 800 poems, many about death and immortality. I was endeared to Emily in the days and months after my husband died. I find these lines searing even after five years...

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth -

The sweeping up the heart
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

This Emily Dickinson poem is especially for Alexandra.

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door:
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperior is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I've know her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.


KarenHarveyCox said...

Happy Birthday Eleanor. I love the post, you have chosen two of my favorite authors. I hope that you have a very special birthday. Blessings, Karen

HiHoRosie said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ms.Daisy said...

Happy Birthday, Eleanor, I'm here to help you celebrate. Thanks for inviting me. I saw the movie,"Wuthering Heights" but never read the book. I just bought a copy at a flea market so I have put that on my books to read list.
Emily Dickinson is one of my favorites, too. I like her poetry - short, and to the point.

Janet said...

Happy Birthday Eleanor, hope it was a great one. How could it not be with the Emilys and Garlic Bread, lol.


Mary said...

Happy Birthday, Eleanor!!! I hope you had a wonderful day, filled with all your favorite things. :)

As a child, I remember watching the movie version of Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier. He was my romantic ideal for many years! LOL

I have always been in awe of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Her poems are stark, beautiful, uncompromising -- not always easy to face, but unforgettable.

Happy birthday!

Eleanor said...

Thank you all for the birthday wishes and the trouble you took to visit on the day! You are all so thoughtful! Had a really happy day and will post something about it over the weekend. Lots of love Eleanor

Tracy said...

Happy Birthday, Eleanor! Hope you had a lovely day! Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson...two of my favourites! Your fashion/flashback posts are such fun, and I loved the ode to Vita Sackville-West! Great to catch up with you here. We're just back from England, and had FABULOUS time in London! Now resting travel-weary feet and doing lots of laundry--LOL! Happy Days ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

Thank you, dear one. What a lovely poem.
Hugs ~

willow said...

This is a marvelous Dickinson post! The portrait, photo and poem are perfect.

I enjoy the film version of Wuthering Heights with Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes. She has a soliloquy, looking out over the moor, that is fabulous.

Hope you enjoyed your birthday weekend, dear friend!!!

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Love both Emilies! I wonder how much the revival in interest in Emily Dickinson's body of work, is responsible for the resurgence in popularity of the name "Emily".

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