Sunday, September 23, 2012

All men for Honor hardest work

[Long story short, I came to realize that I had come up with a 'close reading' of a wrong Emily Dickinson poem. This monstrously cringe-worthy mutilation of a brilliant work is thus presented here. For your face-palming. Cheers!]

All men for Honor hardest work (1193)

All men for Honor hardest work
But are not known to earn —
Paid after they have ceased to work
In Infamy or Urn —
This is one of Emily Dickinson’s short poems. It follows ABAB style of rhyming.

Analysis of the poem:

The poem talks about all people who work for Honor.
Honor, here, can be taken to mean honorable work, charitable work, work carried out for the benefit of others, the general public. It represents a sacrificial type of work that transcends banal occupations carried out solely to acquire money or achieve fame and fortune for oneself.

Emily says that such virtuous people are not known to earn.
Earn, in the way it is used, can refer to earning money, physical or material comforts or luxuries. It can also refer to earning of accolades, adulation, praise, rewards for the honorable work done.

Emily indicates such people are rewarded or paid only after they have ceased to work.
It is when the men retire from service and are no longer seen to be beneficial, to be of any further productive value; only then she says that the public will rise to take note of them.

The rewards and payment indicated in the poem, doled out to such men who gave their all towards Honor, at the end of their tenure, according to the poet, are usually infamy, harsh criticism, dishonor, notoriety or in the some cases even death.

Death is signified by the word Urn in the poem. Getting paid in urn here can be interpreted in three different ways.

Since the poem by itself strikes a melancholy note throughout, firstly, it can be taken to imply that the hard work of the people was never appreciated and was actually considered to be against the public interest and such people were put to death and their ashes contained in an Urn.

Secondly, paid in an Urn could mean that the person working towards Honor, did just that till his own death and his only reward was death itself, naturally knocking on his doorstep.

Or thirdly, taking the ever slightly positive note – it could be interpreted to mean that the selfless person’s work is appreciated at last, after his death and he is rewarded posthumously. But the initial interpretations gel better with the mood of the poem.

The righteous people who work the hardest, while doing honorable, selfless deeds seldom garner earnings of any sort during the course of their duties. It is only after they stop being beneficial, they are paid by dishonor or death.

Possible Interpretations:
This poem might be slightly autobiographical.
The men working hard towards Honor can be taken to represent Emily herself. As, even though she composed over eighteen hundred poems, in her lifetime she saw only a very small handful of those poems published.
She did not gather any recognition as a poet while she was still alive, nor did she earn anything from her work.
The poem might be an indication of her realization that probably after her own death, when the people did discover her work she might live in history, in infamy at least.

PS: Parallels:
This poem reminds me of the poem “The Patriot” by Robert Browning wherein a similar theme is portrayed.
The patriot is elected joyously, and even after he works hard and accomplishes tasks that no others would have done, his achievements are not recognized and he is sent to hang. At the end, the man does feel a sense of relief that since his achievements were not paid for by the world – God will have to answer in heaven.

1 comment:

roses said...

Brilliant stuff!