Emily Dickinson – “Split the Lark”
Split the Lark–and you’ll find the Music–
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled–
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.
Loose the Flood–you shall find it patent–
Gush after Gush, reserved for you–
Scarlet Experiment! Sceptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?
This poem has a rather sinister tone to it, doesn’t it? But then again, this Emily Dickinson here.
Despite whatever symbolism is present in the first stanza, I can’t help but see a rather gory image of a bird cleaved in half, its bulb-shaped organs gleaming with a silvery sheen.
There’s also something challenging about the tone. The basic idea I’m getting here is that the speaker is addressing someone whose mistrust or doubt has resulted in the destruction of the thing he had faith in/loved/found beautiful.
I don’t see the poem as a warning against unbelief in God, as some have suggested. The poem is too visceral to be talking about that; I can’t see skepticism of God as a splitting of a lark. Rather, the allusion to “doubting Thomas” works more because of the physicality of that story, of Thomas putting his fingers in Christ’s wounds.
I’m stuck wondering about the “when Lutes be old” line. What does she mean by this? As far as I can interpret, she’s saying that when the artificially made music (or perhaps that which is orderly and rational) fails to impress any longer, the pure “physical” music of violence will replace it.
Despite the grisly imagery, I suppose one can have a more upbeat interpretation: the speaker is talking of discovery, of the startling journey from doubting the power of art to encountering the “gush after gush” of aesthetic blood.