So I’m looking for the perfect epigram for an almost-complete book of poetry, because yay epigrams! I’ve been reading lots of favorite poets and coming up mostly dry — only a couple of quotes that might work, by which I mean it would be impossible to justify their use. Because with epigrams, it’s either a perfect fit or you don’t use it.
After a couple of days of searching, I remembered Emily Dickinson. I said to myself, I will open the complete poems at random and find the perfect quote. It was 11:30 at night, so I couldn’t go retrieve my copy of the R. W. Franklin edition from my parents’ house, but this morning I got Mom to give it back, and without any special ritual, prayer or preparation, I opened the book at random. Now, keep in mind that this is a hardcover book with a sewn binding, so it does pretty much open at random despite how many times it’s been read. And would you believe it? The very first poem my eyes lit upon was indeed the perfect epigram for my book. If and when I get it published, you’ll see what I mean.
Now I’m sure those of you with a more skeptical cast of mind are probably suspicious right now, but I swear to Darwin this is true. One possible explanation that occurred to me afterwards is that maybe it’s not so unlikely statistically speaking: maybe there are a number of Dickinson’s poems might work as epigrams for this collection, given a certain overlap of subject-mater and her unique skill with pithy, gnomic lines. So I spent the next ten minutes flipping through Franklin and seeing if there were any other quotes that might work. Didn’t find a one.
It is the case, however, that I’m a credulous sort — and a poet besides — so you can take all this with a grain of salt if you like. For example, I’m too superstitious to say much more about the manuscript, or even supply the Dickinson poem I found for an epigram, at this stage. (Later on, don’t worry: you will hear PLENTY about it, I promise.) But for once, here is what I am NOT guilty of this time:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –