Within my reach!

Greek fresco depicting the goddess Demeter, 1st century AD, Unknown
Background Image: Greek fresco depicting the goddess Demeter, 1st century AD, Unknown

I wonder if she is writing about Demeter? Looking ahead to tomorrow’s poem “So bashful when I spied her!” I thought perhaps she is writing about Hades and thus today’s poem deals with the rape of Persephone. The goddess was picking “Violets” (and Narcissus) when she was abducted and so I feel like Emily is combining Demeter’s search and Persephone’s abduction in one image.

The first three lines could be from Demeter’s point of view as she searches for her daughter “could have”, “might have chanced”. Even if it’s not, there is a longing here, a lost opportunity that seems to have gotten away.

The next three lines have a very unusual ‘s’ alliteration that could allude to Persephone as she and her friends pick flowers – the image of softness and a floating gentleness dominates these lines. However, even without the Greek allusion, there is a gentleness to this section that is calming and pretty and delicate broken only by the tension of “unsuspected” which hints at the possibility of something coming to shatter this calm.

The final three lines (especially the last two) commingles the image of the delicate fingers picking the flowers with the greedier hands of Hades as he abducts Persephone “striving fingers”. These lines could also be recalling the first three where again an opportunity is lost, but the image is unusual in that it feels as if the “Violets” have bloomed only an hour after the “striving fingers” have come through – as if something beautiful has gone unnoticed. This could be how Dickinson might feel about a lover who has just missed her acquaintance (she blooms but nobody sees her) and her desire is mixed in with Persephone who was greatly desired and carried off. Not that I’m suggesting Dickinson wanted a violent encounter, but the classical myth of the gods desiring each other is a powerful image.