Monday, March 21, 2005

Now For Something Completely Different

I mentioned earlier that bebere is asking for your poetry thoughts; here's a favorite of mine, though it's probably too pedestrian a choice for the real connoisseurs. The poet is Emily Dickinson:

A CHARM invests a face

Imperfectly beheld,�

The lady dare not lift her veil

For fear it be dispelled.

But peers beyond her mesh,

And wishes, and denies,�

Lest interview annul a want

That image satisfies.

I find this short composition quite evocative; I was turned on to the many possible ambiguities by Roger Shattuck's fine survey, Forbidden Knowledge. Is it the lady's face that is imperfectly beheld because she is hiding behind the veil, or is the veil obsuring her vision of another? The entire meaning of the poem changes, depending on the interpretation (go ahead, try it both ways and see what I mean). Most critics say it's the lady's own face that is imperfectly beheld, and interpret the poem as a statement on the fragility of beauty, or the veil as a religious symbol that protects the artist's ability to weave magic, provided the spell is not broken, or...but then, isn't it the reader's interpretation that really matters? Then there's the multiple meanings of charm; is the charm a spell, an amulet, or just that certain je ne sais quoi...?

The beauty of this poem is contained in the first and penultimate lines...both 'A charm invests a face' and 'Lest interview annul a want' are quite unusual; indeed, one has to wonder if those exact phrases ever existed before uttered (or penned) by Dickinson. Regardless of the 'correct' interpretation, I find it a lovely expression of unfulfilled desire and longing, a charmingly discreet denial that's quite out of place in our celebrity culture. 'Lest interview annul a want that image satisfies'...that's quite breathtaking, really...

No comments: