Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm nobody!

Today, a reprise post of Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who are you?". In two versions - the original first, and a later version (which is more widely quoted). I confess to liking the way the lines skew in the first version better, and her use of "one's name" in the second stanza, which feels very much like Emily Dickinson to me somehow. As always, Miss Dickinson's poems are best when read aloud, with pauses given at all punctuation points, dashes included, although in this case I think that the dashes in the second line are there to add weight to that "Nobody" in the middle. I sense her landing on it with attitude somehow. (Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I don't put it past Miss D. to have quite an edge to her now and then. Which is why I hear a rather scathing tone when she hits that "Somebody!" at the end of the first line of the second stanza.)

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
by Emily Dickinson

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

And now, the revised poem - not sure if it was Emily herself who revised it, or someone else. A number of her poems were "improved" by editors without her knowledge or approval. Still, since I know that some folks only know the second version, here it is:

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you Nobody too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be Somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring Bog!

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