Category Archives: Sisley, Alfred

It’s all I have to bring today

Landscape at Louveciennes, 1873, Alfred Sisley
Background Image: Landscape at Louveciennes, 1873, Alfred Sisley

The only cure for writer’s block is to keep writing.

The poem opens with Emily telling us that “It’s” is all she has to “bring today”. What this is is, most likely, this poem itself. She has nothing more to offer than “this” little poem, but it is more than enough.By starting out with only being able to offer a few lines of poetry ends with her creating a scene in which the “Bees” “dwell” in the “Clover”. From a distance – and when you sit on the wrong end of writer’s block – it can be difficult to see anything in the field of creativity, yet when you pick up the pen and write, you will discover that the field is full of “Clover” and that there are “Bees” hard at work in there. Just as the “Bees” are hard at work, so too is Emily writing her poetry.

This poem offers some insight into how she writes a poem. By starting small, she allows the poem to open up by including “my heart” in the second line. What starts as just a line of poetry – words on a page – now includes her emotions. In the third and fourth lines, she places her poem and her “heart” in “all the fields” and “all the meadows wide” and then ends the fourth line with a dash to allow the scene to remain open to all possibilities.

The fifth line sees a shift, and I like to read this as her reminding us, the reader of this poem, to keep “count” of each word and each line of the poem, to make sure we keep track of what’s going on less she get lost in the world she left open with the dash at the end of line four. She’s counting on us to see what she sees and it’s up to us to “tell” “some one” else about this little poem which includes her “heart” and “all the Bees” who work “in the Clover”.

In other words, she wants us to read her poem and she wants to share with us what she sees. And “It’s all” she has to bring today, not because she can only offer so little, but because she is offering us the whole world in a poem and she wants us there with her.

A sepal – petal – and a thorn

Sahurs Meadows in Morning Sun, 1894, Alfred Sisley
Background Image: Sahurs Meadows in Morning Sun, 1894, Alfred Sisley

This is a joyful poem, even though there is a very slight allusion to mourning with her use of the wordplay of “morn” when coupled with the rhyme of the “thorn”. She very often mixes emotional states in her poems and so adding a thorn to an otherwise delicate flower gives it a hardiness and an insular nature that is difficult to penetrate. Emily was, after all, a complicated person capable of feeling many different things at the same time and expressing that complex overlay in most of her poetry.

Yet in this poem she is “a Rose” who enjoys “a common summer morn”, the “flask of Dew” collecting in the petals of her flower as if she were drinking the nectar of the gods and then passing on her vitality to the bees who have come by to dine with her.

The most remarkable line – and one of the most imaginative I’ve ever read – is the “caper in the trees”. You can almost hear the “Breeze” rustling through the leaves (an image she has, quite literally, built up in the first line with “sepal” and “petal”), but it’s not just a common breeze, there is joy and even a mischievousness to that breeze as it engages in a “caper” among the tree tops. The simple line transports us from the ground where the rose lives, to the sky where we float along with the bees as we “caper” about and frolic, perhaps even drunk of some of the “dew”.

The final line also contains a hint of word play in “I’m a rose” which can be read (in the Gertrude Stein sense – which, though it’s not related, was published in her work titled “Sacred Emily”) of ‘arose’, as in she is risen, not just with joy, but right up into the sky to be carried upon the “breeze”. Emily loves to imagine transformations, especially as nature relates to the spiritual world, and here she combines the two into an ecstasy that seems to exist somewhere in the currents of air between heaven in earth.