Jeffrey Robinson: She dwelt among the untrodden ways

Spring '10 TOC

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
   Beside the springs of Dove.
A Maid whom there were none to praise
   And very few to love;

A violet by a mossy stone
   Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
   Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
   When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
   The difference to me!

*   *   *

And very few to love;
Is shining in the sky.
The difference to me!

Deform "She dwelt among the untrodden ways" by making new stanzas out of all the first lines, second lines, third lines, and last lines respectively: this is the new last-line stanza.  I like what I"ve just made; I like how the word "difference" is shorn of its questionably elegiac stature.  Reading this I see the standard assumption that the difference, to the speaker, of Lucy"s vanishing has little, or nothing, to do with lament, what I"ve always suspected, and much to do with acknowledgment as praise and love in the presence of the near absence of love.  Difference, now uncoupled from death, now leaps back to a celestial shining but framed by love intensifying through its growing scarcity.  Intensity lies in a betweenness.  A further deformation of the deformation:

                                    love     ;
            shining in
The difference
            !

 

 

 

A Maid whom there were none to praise
Fair as a star, when only one
But she is in her grave, and Oh!

A Maid
            a star,
                                                and, Oh!

                        there
            is                                  only one

Maid                                                                to praise
     a star
            in her grave

                        there were
     star                                      only
But                                                       Oh!

                        none

But she                        , and, Oh!

Fair                                                      praise
                        grave,

                    whom                  none
                        only one
                    in    ,      and,

Oh!

"The abrupt ending of the [penultimate] line with the gestural cry "oh" injects a sovereign implication that momentarily abolishes both meaning and subject; it is the one point in the poem where the material body inscribes a subject, not as a continuity or a self-consciousness, but as a pure operation of outlay.  In the gestural cry, and in a manner similar to laughter, the speaking subject is utterly decommissioned, and language as a semantic, restrictive economy is put in question."  (Steve McCaffery, "Writing as a General Economy," in Artifice & Indeterminacy, ed. Christopher Beach, Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1998, pp. 213–14)

 

"Abundance Recompense" (from "She dwelt. . .")

Star ceased to praise
Untrodden difference
But mossy love dwelt
Beside violet eye
Oh! Ways of love
When stone springs
When eye of stone is shining

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