I’ve long admired the fearless, even reckless way Emily Dickinson flings metaphors around. “It sifts from Leaden Sieves” is a perfect example. This short poem about snow which never actually mentions the word throws together leaden sieves, alabaster wool, wrinkly roads, unbroken foreheads, and celestial veils —
all within the first three verses. Each metaphor makes sense when taken apart and examined on its own, and the accumulation of them — four or maybe five more follow — piling up one on top of the other, results in a blizzard of symbols that somehow cohere. The poem sounds and moves like a snowfall — the quiet repetition of “it,” the unhurried pace, the echoing rhymes and slant rhymes “face” and “east” and “room” and “them.” The last two lines are a brilliant sleight of hand, whipping the rug out from under all the poetic artistry that went before and leaving us alone with the hushed beauty of freshly fallen snow.
It sifts from Leaden Sieves – (291)
by Emily Dickinson
It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road –
It makes an even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain –
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again –
It reaches to the Fence –
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces –
It deals Celestial Vail
To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
A Summer’s empty Room –
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them –
It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen –
Then stills its Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –
What a breathtaking portrait…
Thank you, Anders.
I love this, it brings up so many different images in my mind. It’s a lovely poem to see today, thanks for sharing, Liza.
So nice to hear from you, cuz. Hope you’re keeping warm!
What a beautiful poem, thank you for sharing it.
I love your analysis and explanation.
I’m guessing your are surrounded by “it” at La Ferme!
Thanks, Kate. The leaden sieves have been busy in the Berkshires!
Thanks for sharing this….you could have a future as a professor of poetry!
… and if you teach poetry in NYC, may I sit in the front row??
Absolutely — I’ll start my syllabus right now!