“Charm” has many faces. Women’s fashion in America has periodically defined it with veils. In the poem, “A Charm invests a face”, Emily Dickinson uses an easy-to-imagine veiled face to allude to the desire to keep others, and, more importantly, self, from peering into parts of my life, my dreams, or history. 

Remembrance itself may serve as a thin barrier, similar to that of mystery.  Both are incomplete, prone toward sentimentality and controlled in perception by the owner.

Anyone who can recall her own lost childhood, her own home, and all the good of the past, knows it is all the more precious because it can never be re-lived. If the “face” of the past were to be recreated, it is unlikely it would be as we choose to remember it. What is better? To go through life imagining how things “might have been?” Or, to confront reality?

A Charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld –
The Lady dare not lift her Vail
For fear it be dispelled –

But peers beyond her mesh –
And wishes – and denies –
Lest Interview – annul a want
That Image – satisfies

Ignorance is bliss, the poem seems to say. Without promoting self-delusion or the incurious, the poem simply describes a fact.

Often I am not aware of hiding behind my fantasies, refusing to give up my idea of someone or some condition. It is so easy to criticize the custom of wearing headdresses we see worn by Muslim women in accordance with hijab (the principle of dressing modestly), which are sometimes referred to as veils. The khimar is a type of headscarf. The niqāb and burqa are two kinds of veils that cover most of the face except for a slit or hole for the eyes. The Afghan burqa covers the entire body, obscuring the face completely, except for a grille or netting over the eyes to allow the wearer to see. I, for one, would rather avoid reading extensively to fully understand a culture so different from mine. “Lest Interview – annul a want/That Image – satisfies”.


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way