Amherst, MA — Has Emily Dickinson been the victim of a grand literary negligence? A local hobbiest in Dickinsonian studies is claiming that poem #754 “My Life had stood — A Loaded Gun –” has been misquoted in the literary record for eighty-seven years due in part to a loss of freely available laudanum in pre-war London.
“Look at the poet’s original manuscript,” squealed 0.001% famous artist Theo Fadel through a megaphone outside the Emily Dickinson Museum while waving a facsimile of the poet’s original draft. “It’s My LIVE! Come on! Quit saying It’s My LIFE, which is a Bon Jovi song — Doesn’t anyone know the difference?” Ms. Fadel acknowledges that a real academic may have already noticed, somewhere, but being an amatuer herself, how should she know? She does know that no one has come around to fix her books.
The original manuscript actually does say “Live” and not “Life.” The word live was exchangeable with the word life, archaically. A docent edging his head from a museum shop window suggested to Ms. Fadel that the original editor of 1929 believed she had tweaked the poem into modern English. Throwing a handful of hemlock cones the amateur scholar snapped through her megaphone, “How do you people get these jobs? Emily Dickinson IS modern English. What’s to tweak?”
A yard squirrel spitting mary-gold petals from its mouth spun on its heel to add, “And live has everything to do with a loaded gun. Why would she NOT use a word that means explosive as well as life when describing the position of life force between the material mechanicals of this world and an ultimate reconciliation with eternity? Why not?”
“I suppose,” ventured the docent, “that the v of live enables a phonetic gesture towards the word love what with Loaded directly beneath supplying the ohhh sound and tons of her poems bind the measures of living life and love.”
A cyclist illegally speeding across the museum grounds hit an exposed oak root and shot over his handlebars onto a small pile of gravel and loose teeth. Raising a bloodied face he smiled, “Love, even Harold Bloom knows that when Emily uses the word Master she’s invoking a geometry of Romantic Love, in one or another reality.” The cyclist refers to lines 13 through 16:
“And when at Night — Our good Day done–/ I guard My Master’s Head–/ ‘Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s/ Deep Pillow– to have shared–”
“Enough!” shouted Ms. Fadel. “Okay, so some publishing people made a mistake in 1929, in Londonia. Between the banning of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The House at Pooh Corner, people were fagged out. Minds were blown. Understand? And has anybody yet recovered from the loss of unregulated laudanum? We can forgive the reckless disregard of one of the greatest poets of the English language, but for the love of God after 87 years of misprint after misprint could we just fix it?!”
Ms. Fadel is drafting a bill for the US Senate that would mandate the US Postal Service to print millions of adhesive backed v’s in a variety of fonts and ship them worldwide to all owners of print copies of poem #754. “I’m also asking for millions of O‘s,” she added, “because a yard squirrel who knew Monique Wittig has just pointed out a problem in line 10 where a capital O has been disfigured into a U.”
Read a transcription of “My Live had stood” here.