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675 Essential Oils — are wrung

Emily Dickinson

Essential Oils — are wrung —
The Attar from the Rose
Be not expressed by Suns — alone —
It is the gift of Screws —
The General Rose — decay —
But this — in Lady's Drawer
Make Summer — When the Lady lie
In Ceaseless Rosemary —


Hubert ClolusHubert Clolus    Wed, 04/01/2023 - 20:38

Poem 675 F772 ‘Essential Oils _ are wrung’
On the surface the first stanza accurately states that the ‘attar of roses’ perfume can
only be produced from rose petals by the sun making the rose grow and the petals
then being screwed down in a press to distil the perfume. But Emily has already told
us in poem 448 that the poet too can be said to distil an attar as he makes his poems,
so that we may take the ‘Essential Oils’ produced as being poems as well as perfume.
They also need both the sunshine of inspiration and the hard labour of distillation.
Similarly on the surface the second stanza says that although ordinary roses in the
garden decay, the rose which has been turned into a sachet of attar oil in some Lady’s
drawer may still smell of summer even when the Lady herself lies buried in the
endless rosemary of remembrance. But this process is also a true forecast of what can
happen to perfectly distilled poems, including Emily’s. Indeed she literally stored her
poems away in a drawer for Lavinia to find after her death, but they will go on
making summer long after the poet herself is dead.
This poem may have been suggested by Thomas Higginson’s precept that
‘Literature is an attar of roses, one distilled drop from a million blossoms,’ contained
in his Letter to a Young Contributor of April 1862.

Hubert ClolusHubert Clolus    Wed, 04/01/2023 - 21:19

Essential oils - are made in a fruit press.
The attar of roses cannot be extracted only by the sun .
It is also the gift of the fruit press.

Any banal rose will perish
But this one, the poem, in the lady's drawer,
Will be an eternal summer even when the lady lies
Under endless rosemary fields.

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