Summertime Poem

August 26, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT

ROBERT PINSKY: Scientific discoveries and explorations—in genetic codes, in sub-atomic particles or in the vastness of space—seem to make the world as a whole all the more mysterious, even while they explain some part of it. That sense of mystery, for Emily Dickinson, is associated with this time of year. She imagines the secret rituals of crickets or cicadas, her isolation from their hidden, insect ceremonies:

Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Enlarging Loneliness.

The sound of the insects, her sense of their presence, makes the August
world around her seem subtly more rich and attractive, and more beyond
comprehension—the natural world, in summer heat, as stunningly remote
and romantic as the religion of the Druids:

Antiquest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify.

Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now.