Category Archives: Salvador Dali

‘Twas later when the summer went

The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dali
Background Image: The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dali

Maybe I just have a poor sense of keeping track of when things happen, but I’ve tried diagramming the order of events in this poem and can’t figure it out. Does the cricket come before or after summer, and does the cricket leave before or after winter? Of course I think this is part of her point about “Esoteric Time” only making sense to whoever winds that “pathetic Pendulum”.

Emily is referring to the pathetic fallacy in which we attribute human emotions to nature or inanimate objects, such as how Shakespeare using the storm in King Lear to describe Lear’s inner turmoil, but even more deeply in how Heidegger described how in the pre-modern era humanity’s relationship with nature was fundamentally different than it is now – he described how at some point we began to see nature as a resource and not as part of our own world which has led to humanity believing themselves to be outside of nature and not a part of nature.

Emily seems to be intuiting this relationship with nature in how it’s difficult to pin down when events are occurring in the poem. Perhaps a mathier person than me can apply a formula to this poem and explain it, but for most anyone reading this the first time through you’d be hard pressed to determine the order of events. And I think that’s on purpose so she can describe our unusual relationship with time and nature as being something we are in tune with but also hard pressed to actually understand. We know when we are supposed to be “Going Home” when a winter storm is coming on, but we do not know when we are “Going Home” as in the day we die. Thus nature is a “pathetic Pendulum” in that in one sense it tells us when the regular seasons are coming and going and that will affect our daily and mortal routine, but it’s a “pathetic” (excuse for a) reliable “Pendulum” in that it does not let us know when we are going to leave this world.

Thus our place in nature is unsure and uncertain and our ability to determine anything is unreliable at best since that “Esoteric Time” is kept by a clock maker who does not easily reveal their secrets to us.