Monday 17 December 2018


Another day, another new word. This one is 'overtakelessness', and it occurs in a poem by – who else – Emily Dickinson. This poem...

The Overtakelessness of Those
Who have accomplished Death —
Majestic is to me beyond
The Majesties of Earth —
The Soul her "Not at Home"
Inscribes upon the Flesh,
And takes a fine aerial gait
Beyond the Writ of Touch. 

'Overtakelessness' is a pure Dickinson word, one that couldn't be used in any ordinary discourse, or even beyond the bounds of this particular poem. I guess the closest paraphrase would be something like 'irretrievability'. Dickinson is saluting the awful finality of death, the fact that those who have 'accomplished Death' have indeed 'gone before', and cannot be caught up with or brought back; they are 'beyond the Writ of Touch' (the word 'touch' standing out all the more because we're expecting at least a half-rhyme to close the poem). It takes a special sensibility to find such majesty in this finality, and to admire the elegance, the 'fine aerial gait', of the Soul airily taking its leave of the Flesh that has been its Home – but Emily Dickinson's sensibility was nothing if not special.

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