What I see not, I better see

Beatrice Addressing Dante, 1824, William Blake
Background Image: Beatrice Addressing Dante, 1824, William Blake

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 43, “When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see”. In his sonnet he describes the paradox of how when our eyes are closed (wink means to dream) that we see best in our dreams, that when it is dark it is actually most light and that in the light is when we can clearly see the absence of what we love. Emily agrees with Bill on this paradox, perhaps because no matter how well a poem can be written it can’t really do justice to the subject of the poem.

Emily begins by playing with the words “I” and ” Eye” and then makes a connection to the “Faith” which is something that can only truly occur when one cannot see; faith occurs in the absence of physical light (evidence) because it is its own source of light that can see past the darkness to reveal a greater truth. And to do so one must see with a different set of eyes, which Emily refers to as “My Hazel Eye” but not because her actual eyes were “Hazel” but because her “I” is “Hazel”, the “I” she truly sees with because the “I” has “Faith”.

However, I don’t believe she is limiting “Faith” to just a religious definition; she does not mention God or angles, rather she seems to be writing about the absolute form of “Grace”, not just any particular God’s “Grace” but pure “Grace”, the fullest expression of a benevolence that does not judge but rather grants an absolute salvation for anyone willing to accept it. And this “Grace” is, unlike the sun in “There came a Day – at Summer’s full” a light that can only be seen with “My Hazel Eye”, that “Eye” of the “I” which can “behold” the world which no physical light can illuminate.

For example, she writes that “my sense [is] obscured” when she is awake rather than when she is asleep during “periods of shutting” when the true “light” falls on “The Features so beloved”. She is saying that our senses are not capable of truly seeing the forms – such as the form of “Grace” – but that in our dreams we can comprehend them. Though she is asleep “in my Dream” she will “arise” which is a wonderful image and paradox of the sleeper arising, of being truly awake when one is asleep. No wonder she gets annoyed with her father when he tries to wake her up to early as in “Sleep is supposed to be” and “Where bells no more affright the morn” because to her the waking world is really when we are most oblivious to the wonder of “Grace”.

The same can also be said for the world of art and poetry. Dante wrote about his perfect love with Beatrice but could only express the pure form of that love by placing her in paradise, in other words by placing her in a work of art. And though he loved her when she was alive and could physically see her by the light of day, it was in his imagination and in art in which the fullest expression of his pure love to her could be expressed. The same holds true for Emily who sees the world must fully in her poetry and when her pen, not the actual sun in the summer’s sky, illuminates the world of the “perfectness” of the forms. Thus art is a form of “Grace” that we can see with both our “Eye” and our “I”, a “lid” which can be opened so that we can glimpse the beauty beyond. And this beauty is something she must “better see”, not just in the sense of it being more clear, but that she “better” do it because it is important, because to truly find one’s way to “Grace” one must learn to see with their “Hazel Eye”, with their “I” and not only their sensual “eye”.