Reviewed by Arlene Kramer Richards
The wind drew off
Like hungry dogs
Defeated of a bone
Through fissures in
The yellow lightning shone-
The trees held up
Their mangled limbs
Like animals in pain
When nature falls upon herself
Beware an Austrian.
Emily Dickinson Poem 1703 in: The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Edited by R.
W. Franklin. Cambridge MA: Harvard nd.
The storms clouds gathered in the presentiment of war and following
uneasy truce in Dickinson’s uneasy nineteenth century before and after the
War Between the States. They gathered again in Europe before and after the
First World War. And they gather now. Austria is the center of Europe-and
was especially so in 1919 when the divide between the Russian East and the
countries we know as Western Europe faced off against each other and
Russia’s revolution seemed to threaten the West as the West threatened
Russia. In that frightening atmosphere the Austro-Hungarian Empire looked
to Vienna for a center and a reason for being, Vienna trembled, and Freud
tried to figure out what was causing his patients’ anxiety and depression.
The first world war years were the background of the year 1919: war is
death and the anxiety of dying. That anxiety plays against the anxiety of
love. In Europe after the First World War as in Emily Dickinson’s New
England after the Civil War, when men go off to die, women are left to be
single for the rest of their lives.