“A Vision in a Dream”

Liza Meyers
Poem 233

A Slash of Blue! A sweep of Gray!
Some scarlet patches – on the way –
Compose an Evening Sky –

A little Purple – slipped between
Some Ruby Trousers – hurried on –
A Wave of Gold – a Bank of Day –
This just makes out the Morning Sky!

Literal representation : the watching of the colors change as the sky is in its sunset and sunrise – the waking up of morning and closing down to night – and how layering of those colors move and unfold.

Tone : her tone is matter of fact, she writes things as she sees them; “This just makes out the morning sky!” However her usage of explanation points shows that she is in awe of the beauty of what she sees, she is captivated by the sublime – perhaps even the sublime turn.

Style : the in between time from sunset to sunrise is rushed with one line, “A little Purple – slipped between.” This is a brilliant mechanism because Dickinson is highlighting the way colors work to create a vision and the transition of the sky, and its multiple faces – its “many colored lenses” (Emerson) – even more so. She is personifying the sky in her metaphor of “Some Ruby Trowsers – hurried on.” Her capitalizations such as “A Slash of Blue!” or “A Wave of Gold – a Bank of Day” are used for emphasis. She capitalizes mostly all the colors she mentions and the sharper sounding words, words that are naturally given more emphasis anyway. Another thing to note is the rhyming pattern, AABCDAB; the point in which the pattern breaks parallels what she is saying. The word painting springs into action from the phrases “slipped between” and “hurried on;” for the lines in which those phases are shown match the action they make. “A little Purple – slipped between” is literally in the center of the poem, and is where the pattern of rhyming breaks, also as stated above this line illustrates that moment of the sky becomes stagnant in morphing.

Figurative Language : The entire poem could be taken as a metaphor for painting; the imagery of the piece’s “sweep of Gray!” and “Some scarlet patches – on the way” is very much so along the lines of Turner. It is as if Dickinson is recreating Turner’s process of recreating to make one of his pictures of art.

Form : Her words and form and rhyme scheme are not used in conventional terms and that mimics the way in which we see her message of vision which is vision as manipulative – and nature as such. But her words are used calculatingly creating an image that picks up on certain cues, however it is not an exact representation either because both objectively and subjectively a vision of a sunrise (set) is never the same, and she gives us portions of that vision anyway, fragmentations – like her sentences.

***Her knowledge, which is at once literal, is a subjective experience and this poem is her process of understanding the image before her eyes – to take it in by recording it. And as she records she can make sense of things she sees. She is showing the messy stuff that the “image standard” omits. Dickinson promotes the creation of the image thyself by writing this poem and by making this poem a fleeting thought to quickly capture; this fits in with Goethe’s method or model of vision and the “after image.” Emerson writes in his essay “Goethe; or the writer,”
This striving after imitative expression, which one meets everywhere, is significant of the aim of nature, but is mere stenography. There are higher degrees, and nature has more splendid endowments for those whom she elects to a superior office; for the class of scholars or writers, who see connection where the multitude see fragments, and who are impelled to exhibit the facts in order, and so to supply the axis on which the frame of things turns (Emerson).
Dickinson’s poem is promoting the action of this passage, she writes fragmented in order to connect the figurative pieces of the puzzle; and that is why the reader recognizes what she writes as the imprint of a sunrise or a sunset – she is drawing on the cues of the objective but she is showcasing a subjective vision. “All Circumstances are the Frame/ In which His face is set –” (Dickinson 1113).
Not only is Dickinson picturing the process of an image unfolding in her mind, she is also tracing an actual picture that is in the state of evolving itself. The sunrise (set) is a metaphor for the “after image” unwinding and reeling through the projection of the brain.

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