It’s hauntingly beautiful.
When I try to remember the tune later on, though, I have difficulty. What I hear instead is the Gilligan’s Island theme song. This is because of what happened to me in college, where my fellow English-major geeks and I were taught that any Emily Dickinson poem can be sung to the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
As did the “Brady Bunch”
theme song. And many others. And so we’d sit around the cafeteria singing Dickinson’s poem #479 to all that we could think of.
(Try this yourself–it’s entertaining.)
Why do Dickinson’s poems translate so well into music? Because she wrote her poems in what’s sometimes called “hymn meter.” (It’s also sometimes called “common meter” or “ballad meter.”) As Poets.org writes in “Issac Watts & Emily Dickinson: Inherited Meter:”
A renegade in American literature, Dickinson rejected the iambic pentameter line, which had been the dominant poetic mode for hundreds of years, in favor of the hymn meter, which better suited the revolutionary nature of her expression. An avid reader, Dickinson would have been well aware that this formal choice was rather subversive. Indeed, she undermined the popular poetic style of the day with her use of the hymn meter, loading her own “hymns” with confrontational and startling imagery while employing an often jagged rhyme scheme marked by “slant rhyme,” as opposed to “perfect rhyme,” — destabilizing the form even as she perfected it.
Or, to sum-up, Emily Dickinson was a Kick-Ass Poet.