The Saddest Noise The Sweetest Noise Essay

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1 The Saddest Noise, the Sweetest Noise

2 The Saddest Noise, the Sweetest Noise
The saddest noise, the sweetest noise, The maddest noise that grows, -- The birds, they make it in the spring, At night's delicious close. Between the March and April line -- That magical frontier Beyond which summer hesitates, Almost too heavenly near. It makes us think of all the dead That sauntered with us here, By separation's sorcery Made cruelly more dear. It makes us think of what we had, And what we now deplore. We almost wish those siren throats Would go and sing no more. An ear can break a human heart As quickly as a spear, We wish the ear had not a heart So dangerously near

3 AnalysisBlue pen: which technical features and meaning can you find?

4 Analysis Black pen: Can you find: enjambment
syntax - error or line of interestsibilancemodalityparadoxtetrametertetrimeterinternal rhymelexical chain

5 AnalysisRed pen: add the missing technical details and ideas.

6 The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,
The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.

7 sibilance in line 1sibilance draws our attention to the sound of the line and slows the paceThe saddest noise, the sweetest noise,The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.

8 sibilance in line 1sibilance draws our attention to the sound of the line and slows the pacerepetition of noisefurther draws our attention to soundThe saddest noise, the sweetest noise,The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.

9 sibilance in line 1sibilance draws our attention to the sound of the line and slows the pacerepetition of noisefurther draws our attention to soundThe saddest noise, the sweetest noise,The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.full rhyme lines 2 & 4draws attention to the increasing sound without yet stating what the noise is

10 sibilance in line 1sibilance draws our attention to the sound of the line and slows the pacerepetition of noisefurther draws our attention to soundParadoxhow can something be both sad and sweet?The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.full rhyme lines 2 & 4draws attention to the increasing sound without yet stating what the noise is

11 sibilance in line 1sibilance draws our attention to the sound of the line and slows the pacerepetition of noisefurther draws our attention to soundParadoxhow can something be both sad and sweet?The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.full rhyme lines 2 & 4internal rhymedraws attention to the increasing sound without yet stating what the noise isincreases the sound devices in this opening stanza and draws attention to the opening paradox

12 sibilance in line 1sibilance draws our attention to the sound of the line and slows the pacerepetition of noisefurther draws our attention to soundParadoxhow can something be both sad and sweet?The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,The maddest noise that grows, --The birds, they make it in the spring,At night's delicious close.full rhyme lines 2 & 4internal rhymedraws attention to the increasing sound without yet stating what the noise isincreases the sound devices in this opening stanza and draws attention to the opening paradoxallusion to loversbirds, spring and night all remind us of lovers

13 Between the March and April line --
That magical frontierBeyond which summer hesitates,Almost too heavenly near.

14 Between the March and April line --
That magical frontierBeyond which summer hesitates,Almost too heavenly near.lexical chainlinks the change of season with geographic or political borders; ‘between’ suggests a no-man’s-land

15 personificationsummer is personified as someone just out of reachBetween the March and April line --That magical frontierBeyond which summer hesitates,Almost too heavenly near.lexical chainlinks the change of season with geographic or political borders; ‘between’ suggests a no-man’s-land

16 syntaxenjambment of 2nd and 3rd increases pace which is then slowed by comma after ‘hesitates’ causing the reader to hesitate at the end of the linepersonificationsummer is personified as someone just out of reachBetween the March and April line --That magical frontierBeyond which summer hesitates,Almost too heavenly near.lexical chainlinks the change of season with geographic or political borders; ‘between’ suggests a no-man’s-land

17 syntaxenjambment of 2nd and 3rd increases pace which is then slowed by comma after ‘hesitates’ causing the reader to hesitate at the end of the linepersonificationsummer is personified as someone just out of reachBetween the March and April line --That magical frontierBeyond which summer hesitates,Almost too heavenly near.lexical chainlinks the change of season with geographic or political borders; ‘between’ suggests a no-man’s-landmodalityneutral and high modality of ‘almost’ and ‘too’ juxtaposed echoing the paradox of ‘saddest’ and ‘sweetest’ in stanza 1

18 It makes us think of all the dead
That sauntered with us here,By separation's sorceryMade cruelly more dear.

19 narrative voiceuse of 1st person plural includes reader in the emotional experience of the poemIt makes us think of all the deadThat sauntered with us here,By separation's sorceryMade cruelly more dear.

20 narrative voiceuse of 1st person plural includes reader in the emotional experience of the poemIt makes us think of all the deadThat sauntered with us here,By separation's sorceryMade cruelly more dear.lexical chain‘sorcery’ links with ‘magical’ of previous stanza

21 narrative voiceuse of 1st person plural includes reader in the emotional experience of the poemIt makes us think of all the deadThat sauntered with us here,By separation's sorceryMade cruelly more dear.lexical chain‘sorcery’ links with ‘magical’ of previous stanzatetrameter/tetrimeterfinal only scans if ‘cruelly’ is pronounced with 3 syllables dragging the word out and drawing attention to it

22 narrative voicesibilanceuse of 1st person plural includes reader in the emotional experience of the poemcreates hissing, playing with sound and complementing the harshness of the imageIt makes us think of all the deadThat sauntered with us here,By separation's sorceryMade cruelly more dear.lexical chain‘sorcery’ links with ‘magical’ of previous stanzatetrameter/tetrimeterfinal only scans if ‘cruelly’ is pronounced with 3 syllables dragging the word out and drawing attention to it

23 It makes us think of what we had,
And what we now deplore.We almost wish those siren throatsWould go and sing no more.

24 narrative voiceuse of 1st person plural continues to include reader in the emotional experience of the poemIt makes us think of what we had,And what we now deplore.We almost wish those siren throatsWould go and sing no more.

25 narrative voicealliterationuse of 1st person plural continues to include reader in the emotional experience of the poemof ‘w’ increases pace by gliding from one word to the next and further emphasises the plural 1st person voiceIt makes us think of what we had,And what we now deplore.We almost wish those siren throatsWould go and sing no more.

26 narrative voicealliterationuse of 1st person plural continues to include reader in the emotional experience of the poemof ‘w’ increases pace by gliding from one word to the next and further emphasises the plural 1st person voiceIt makes us think of what we had,And what we now deplore.We almost wish those siren throatsWould go and sing no more.pronoun repeated emphasising the depth of sorrow and pain

27 narrative voicealliterationuse of 1st person plural continues to include reader in the emotional experience of the poemof ‘w’ increases pace by gliding from one word to the next and further emphasises the plural 1st person voiceIt makes us think of what we had,And what we now deplore.We almost wish those siren throatsWould go and sing no more.modalitypronoun repeated emphasising the depth of sorrow and painhigh modality of ‘deplore’ reveals strength of emotion

28 narrative voicealliterationuse of 1st person plural continues to include reader in the emotional experience of the poemof ‘w’ increases pace by gliding from one word to the next and further emphasises the plural 1st person voiceallusionIt makes us think of what we had,And what we now deplore.We almost wish those siren throatsWould go and sing no more.Greek sirens who lured sailers to their deathsmodalitypronoun repeated emphasising the depth of sorrow and painhigh modality of ‘deplore’ reveals strength of emotion

29 An ear can break a human heart
As quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.

30 paradoxhow can an ear break a heart? links to ‘saddest sound’ ‘sweetest sound’ of opening line = “I love you”An ear can break a human heartAs quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.

31 kinaesthetic imageryparadox‘breaking’ sudden and violent yet echoes cliché of broken hearthow can an ear break a heart? links to ‘saddest sound’ ‘sweetest sound’ of opening line = “I love you”An ear can break a human heartAs quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.

32 kinaesthetic imageryparadox‘breaking’ sudden and violent yet echoes cliché of broken hearthow can an ear break a heart? links to ‘saddest sound’ ‘sweetest sound’ of opening line = “I love you”An ear can break a human heartAs quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.alliterationbreathiness of aspirated ‘h’ suggestive of sobbing?

33 kinaesthetic imageryparadox‘breaking’ sudden and violent yet echoes cliché of broken hearthow can an ear break a heart? links to ‘saddest sound’ ‘sweetest sound’ of opening line = “I love you”An ear can break a human heartAs quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.alliterationbreathiness of aspirated ‘h’ suggestive of sobbing?modalityfull rhyme and repetition of ‘heart’ in final stanza brings sound of poem to closure

34 kinaesthetic imageryparadox‘breaking’ sudden and violent yet echoes cliché of broken hearthow can an ear break a heart? links to ‘saddest sound’ ‘sweetest sound’ of opening line = “I love you”enjambmentAn ear can break a human heartAs quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.alliterationrushes us on to ‘quickly’ and ‘dangerously’breathiness of aspirated ‘h’ suggestive of sobbing?modalityfull rhyme and repetition of ‘heart’ in final stanza brings sound of poem to closure

35 kinaesthetic imageryparadox‘breaking’ sudden and violent yet echoes cliché of broken hearthow can an ear break a heart? links to ‘saddest sound’ ‘sweetest sound’ of opening line = “I love you”enjambmentAn ear can break a human heartAs quickly as a spear,We wish the ear had not a heartSo dangerously near.alliterationrushes us on to ‘quickly’ and ‘dangerously’breathiness of aspirated ‘h’ suggestive of sobbing?similemodalityspeed, violence and aggression of spearfull rhyme and repetition of ‘heart’ in final stanza brings sound of poem to closure

After finally finishing all 1,175 of Emily Dickinson's poems, I'm still left trying to make sense out of what I read. Too bad I'm no longer interested in formal education because I suspect I could actually have written a PHD thesis on Dickinson's poems. Joe Duemer's response to one of my earlier comments on Dickinson's poetry inspired me to buy Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays, part of New Century Views, a series apparently inspired by Twentieth Century Views, a favorite of mine because it offered such a wide range of views on an author. The 18 articles in this collection, which I've only had time to glance at so far, will probably inspire me to come back to Dickinson later.

Unfortunately, writing about Dickinson may serve more as a Rorschach test than as an accurate analysis of her ideas. Although our basic philosophies seem quite different, there is still much in her poetry I love. One of my favorite themes that continues to emerge in the later poems is the idea that the whole world can be found in the proverbial grain of sand:

By homely gift and hindered Words
The human heart is told
Of Nothing --
"Nothing" is the force
That renovates the World "

We tend to overlook the small, everyday things we do for each other, focusing, instead, on the "special," "dramatic," events in our life. Perhaps we should focus on the small, everyday things that people do for each other and the inarticulate ways we try to express our abiding love for one another. It is this kind of love that "renews" the world.

We do not have to sacrifice this life for a future life:

The Life we have is very great.
The Life that we shall see
Surpasses it, we know, because
It is Infinity.
But when all Space has been beheld
And all Dominion shown
The smallest Human Heart's extent
Reduces it to none.

Life after death may well dwarf the life we have lived here on earth, but the human heart's reach dwarfs time and space itself.

Refusing to accept the idea that earthly happiness should be sacrificed for heavenly success, Dickinson continually links heaven, and infinity, to now:

Who has not found the Heaven -- below --
Will fail of it above --
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove "

Those who sacrifice this life for "eternal happiness" may well be incapable of finding true happiness at all. If we cannot find joy in God's miracles here on earth, how can we hope to find happiness in Heaven?

Dickinson also seems to question the concept of "original sin" or, perhaps, the idea that our life is by its very nature "sinful," and, thus, unhappy:

Of God we ask one favor,
That we may be forgiven --
For what, he is presumed to know --
The Crime, from us, is hidden --
Immured the whole of Life
Within a magic Prison
We reprimand the Happiness
That too competes with Heaven.

Though there's certainly plenty of speculation about death and loss in Dickinson's poetry, there are also innumerable paeans to nature:

The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,
The maddest noise that grows, --
The birds, they make it in the spring,
At night's delicious close.

Between the March and April line --
That magical frontier
Beyond which summer hesitates,
Almost too heavenly near.

It makes us think of all the dead
That sauntered with us here,
By separation's sorcery
Made cruelly more dear.

It makes us think of what we had,
And what we now deplore.
We almost wish those siren throats
Would go and sing no more.

An ear can break a human heart
As quickly as a spear,
We wish the ear had not a heart
So dangerously near.

Joy and pain often seem inseparable in Dickinson's poetry, just as they do in life itself. This constant tension between joy and sorrow is part of what makes Dickinson's poetry so remarkably rich.

For Dickinson, of course, poetry itself seems to make everyday life so rich:

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry --
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll --
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.

Perhaps it is this very belief in the power of poetry, a power accessible to all, that most ties me to Dickinson's works.

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