Amber

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					Shari Lewis                                                                    Dr. Tingley
English 6917                                                                  June 8, 2005
                                 LEXICON EXERCISE:

                                        AMBER
I. The most common and/or relevant definitions of Amber I found in my search:

The Oxford English Dictionary 1961
            I. Ambergris, to which the name originally belonged, a product of the
               whale … afterwards extended, through some confusion of the substances,
               to the fossil resin ‘amber’.
            II. A piece of amber used as an amulet to attract lovers, Referring to the
               property of amber as enclosing and preserving insects of past ages.
            III. An alloy of four parts of gold with one of silver ... bright, beaming as
               the sun, considered by some to be the original sense in Greek.
The American Dictionary of the English Language 1849 by Noah Webster (expanded
       definition of the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).
            A hard semi-pellucid substance … found in alluvial soils, or on the sea-
               shore. The ancient opinion of its vegetable origin seems now to be
               established, and it is believed or known to be a fossil resin. Its color
               usually presents some tinge of yellow. It is highly electrical.
OED Online Updated 2004 (other definitions matched Oxford Dictionary of 1961).
            II. The resin. A yellowish translucent fossil resin … used for ornaments;
               burns with an agreeable odour … and when rubbed becomes notably
               electric.
Oxford Reference-25 Dictionaries listed
            Said to be rubbed on sore eyes and sprained limbs, or worn for chest
               ailments. (From a Dictionary of English Folklore in Mythology &
               Folklore)

II. Amber appears in two of Emily Dickinson’s letters (2 imbedded poems also
      mentioned in the concordance of poems, so no further mention of the letters
      necessary) and 23 poems (in three the word appears twice).

       ED poems containing the word amber (in Franklin #’s): 104, 318, 326, 336, 363,
       387 (2), 451, 511, 539 (2), 589, 593, 669, 728, 733 (2), 735, 875, 878, 1173, 1416,
       1599.

The definition of Amber that fits the uses in the poems best is that of the fossil resin of
yellowish tint with electrical properties. This definition highlights the stones simulation
of the sun or as a yellowish color in general. However, the mythology of Amber as a
healing stone adds an interesting second level to the poems.

An interesting pattern I found was that in all but 1 of the 23 mentions of amber in
Emily Dickinson’s poems, the word is capitalized.
Shari Lewis                                                                    Dr. Tingley
English 6917                                                                  June 8, 2005



            In F104 amber is not capitalized, “Still rears the East her amber Flag,”
             maybe because Dickinson wanted the emphasis to be on “East” instead,
             yet the word is used as it is in a lot of her poems, as a color of yellow (16).


In all of Dickinson’s poems amber is used as an adjective that describes one of the
following:

                     Sunrise
                     Sunset
                     Moon Light
                     Horizon
                     Carriage (a metaphor for a sunset)
                     Honey


In 12 of these poems Dickinson uses the color amber to describe a sunset or a sunrise and
with this color brings a feeling of warmth and contentment to each of these poems.

In poem F451 Dickinson again uses amber again to describe the sun, however, instead of
the content feeling of her poems regarding sunrise and sunset, this poem relates the
sunshine with its “Vest of Amber” to conformity and slavery (12-13). She uses the theme
of amber as a metaphor for the sun and for conformity again in poem F511 in which she
relates an “Equipage of Amber” as the transport to heaven, which the narrator fears they
will not be on (7).

In the final common use of amber, in reference to the moon, the three poems Dickinson
uses this word in give the reader a very strong feeling of admiration for the moon and the
might with its yellowish hue.

				
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