For all the time and energy spent on affairs of conscience and conscientious affairs, “The Spirit lasts — but in what mode — ” gives me the sense that destiny will have its way. Emily Dickinson’s poem suggests to me at least a temporary leave-taking from worry about outcomes and judgments.

The Spirit lasts – but in what mode –
Below, the Body speaks,
But as the Spirit furnishes –
Apart, it never talks –
The Music in the Violin
Does not emerge alone
But Arm in Arm with Touch, yet Touch
Alone – is not a Tune –
The Spirit lurks within the Flesh
Like Tides within the Sea
That make the Water live, estranged
What would the Either be?
Does that know – now – or does it cease –
That which to this is done,
Resuming at a mutual date
With every future one?
Instinct pursues the Adamant,
Exacting this Reply,
Adversity if it may be, or wild Prosperity,
The Rumor’s Gate was shut so tight
Before my Mind was sown,
Not even a Prognostic’s Push
Could make a Dent thereon –

I can’t imagine why I think this poem is more powerful read backward. Except that it reads to me like a who-dunnit. In this case, the mystery is what role spirit plays in the drama acted out by the body. 

The spirit cannot speak on its own. But, body, the speaker, is like a violin unable to provide music without it.

It might feel nice to touch a beautiful old violin discovered in my great aunt’s attic after a lifetime of silence. “… yet Touch / Alone — is not a Tune —”.

Perhaps my spirit and body have no grievance one with the other: “Like Tides within the Sea”. On the other hand, the two may be strangers, “estranged / What would the Either be?”

Either way, “Instinct pursues the Adamant / Exacting this Reply” from life itself. 

It matters not whether “Adversity if it may be, or wild Prosperity,” or, what others have to say. “Before my mind was sown,” not even the push of other’s expectations could have made “a Dent” on my destiny — to be the me who’s me.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your way

Advertisements