Literary Daybook, March 1

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

By the Salon Books Editors

Published March 1, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Today in fiction

On March 1, 1925, Henry Anthony Wilcox shows Professor Angell the bas-relief he has just carved under the influence of a dream.
-- "The Call of the Cthulhu" (1926)
by H.P. Lovecraft

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
occurred? Send it to

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Today in Literary History
On this day in 1862, Emily Dickinson's poem "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers" was published in the Springfield Daily Republican. This was the second of only a handful of poems published in Dickinson's lifetime, all of them anonymously and without her knowledge:

Safe in their alabaster chambers,
Untouched by morning and untouched by noon,
Sleep the meek members of the resurrection,
Rafter of satin, and roof of stone.

Light laughs the breeze in her castle of sunshine;
Babbles the bee in a stolid ear;
Pipe the sweet birds in ignorant cadences, --
Ah, what sagacity perished here!

Grand go the years in the crescent above them;
Worlds scoop their arcs, and firmaments row,
Diadems drop and Doges surrender,
Soundless as dots on a disk of snow.

The poem's newspaper publication came six weeks before her famous letter to Thomas Higginson, in which the 31-year-old novice sent four of the 400 poems she'd already written (there were eventually over 1,700) to the professional critic with the query, "Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?" Dickinson was so talented that she could turn even Higginson's discouragement to poetry:

"I smile when you suggest that I delay 'to publish' -- that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin.
If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her -- if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase -- and the approbation of my Dog, would forsake me -- then. My Barefoot-Rank is better.
You think my gait 'spasmodic,' I am in danger, Sir.
You think me 'uncontrolled,' I have no Tribunal ...
The Sailor cannot see the North, but knows the Needle can."

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," e-mail Steve King.

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