Emily Dickinson’s literary mentor

Though more conventional, Thomas Higginson’s poetry demonstrated the same eye for poetic detail and literary value

Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The Snowing of the Pines

  • Softer than silence, stiller than still air,
  • Float down from high pine boughs the slender leaves.
  • The forest floor its annual boon receives
  • That comes like snowfall, tireless, tranquil, fair.
  • Gently they glide, gently they clothe the bare
  • Old rocks with grace. Their fall a mantle weaves
  • Of paler yellow than autumnal sheaves
  • Or those strange blossoms the witch-hazels wear.
  • Athwart long aisles the sunbeams pierce their way;
  • High up, the crows are gathering for the night;
  • The delicate needles fill the air; the jay
  • Takes through their golden mist his radiant flight;
  • They fall and fall, till at November’s close
  • The snow-flakes drop as lightly-snows on snows. 

December

  • The evening sky unseals its quiet fountain,
  • Hushing the silence to a drowsy rain;
  • It spreads a web of dimness o’er the plain
  • And round each meadow tree;
  • Makes this steep river-bank a dizzy mountain,
  • And this wide stream a sea.
  • Stealing from upper headlands of deep mist,
  • The dark tide bears its icebergs ocean bound,
  • White shapeless voyagers, by each other kissed,
  • With rustling, ghostly sound;
  • The lingering oak-leaves sigh, the birches shiver,
  • Watching the wrecks of summer far and near,
  • Where many a dew-drop, frozen on its bier,
  • Drifts down the dusky river.
  • I know thee not, thou giant elm, who towerest
  • With shadowy branches in the murky air;
  • And this familiar grove, once light and fair,
  • Frowns, an Enchanted Forest.
  • Couldst thou not choose some other night to moan,
  • O hollow-hooting owl?
  • There needs no spell from thy bewildered soul;
  • I’m ghost enough alone.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) was an American poet and Unitarian minister. Although he was best known in history as an Abolitionist active in his fight to free slaves prior to the Civil War – and a solider in that war – he is also remembered as Emily Dickinson’s literary mentor. He guided her in her literary pursuits through an ongoing correspondence with the younger poet. After Dickinson’s death, he worked with Mabel Loomis Todd, literary editor (and paramour of Dickinson’s brother), to publish a volume of Dickinson’s verse. Higginson’s own poetry, while more conventional than Dickinson’s, demonstrated the same eye for poetic detail and literary value that helped introduce the Poet of Amherst to the world.

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