It probably started out as a shortcut.

A caveman or other harried breadwinner not wanting to ignore beauty, but unwilling to submit beneath a panoply of imagery, gave to posterity the familiar, “Look at that sunset!” 

A more mindful Emily Dickinson gave us “They called me to the Window, for”.

They called me to the Window, for
” ‘Twas Sunset” – Some one said –
I only saw a Sapphire Farm —
And just a Single Herd –

Of Opal Cattle – feeding far
Opon so vain a Hill –
As even while I looked – dissolved –
Nor Cattle were – nor Soil –

But in their Room – a Sea – displayed –
And Ships – of such a size
As Crew of Mountains — could afford –
And Decks – to seat the Skies –

This – too – the Showman rubbed away –
And when I looked again –
Nor Farm – nor Opal Herd – was there –
Nor Mediterranean –

Initially in language that appeals to my identification with a passive or ill family member, the first verse puts “they” in the helpful, caring, active role of drawing me out of my blindness. 

The poem directs me toward a continuation of my heedless choice to ignore what others see. When “I only saw a Sapphire Farm — ” it’s not diminutive but focal, like the precision of the best camera lens.

The sun setting is as a servant, capable to transform a simple farm into “.. Sapphire.. ”. An unremarkable “single Herd — ” of cows have been converted to “Opal Cattle — feeding far”.

Then, gently, but matter-of-fact, the poem reminds me of the transitive nature of this and all forms of beauty with its implicit vanity. For “Opon so vain a Hill — As even while I looked — dissolved — ”. (My underline.)

Another lesson in accepting Nature as an instrument of change is taken up when the sun’s inexorable procession renders the cattle outmoded when “a 
Sea…/And Ships…/And Decks… ”
take their place: ”But in their Room — … ”.

This poem loves the sun for its talent as “the Showman… ” who amplifies, effects color changes, and tenderly bestows qualities on the landscape that are temporary, never to be exactly as shown this time ever again: “And when I looked again — / Nor Farm — … ”.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

 

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