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"Soleil Levant" by Caude Monet

I'll tell you how the sun rose,--
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.
The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
"That must have been the sun!"

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while
Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.

Copyright 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983
by the President and Fellows of Harvard College,
Harvard University Press.

"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot;
others transform a yellow spot into the sun."
-Pablo Picasso

"If the world really looks like that I will paint no more!"
- Claude Monet, flinging away a pair of glasses for which he had been fitted to correct a severe astigmatism.


Exemplified in this poem is Emily Dickinson's pure and beautiful descriptive talent. She looks at something simple and everyday, with the eyes of a child exploring and seeing these things for the first time.
I tend to agree with Freud's opinion when it comes to this poem. He thought that sometimes, just sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar and not a symbol for a penis. This is a poem without hidden meaning for most readers. Just a clean, bright and fresh approach to a plain old sunrise.

A nice and recurring image is that of the ribbon crossing the morning sky as the sun rises. This image comes back when she describes the hills untying their bonnets, in other words then streaks of the sunrise becoming brighter and filling the morning sky.
Also the color amethyst of the sunrise is used again in the description of sunset; however it has then taken on a darker color (purple).
Some religious images are used in this poem, namely the dominie (clergymen) and steeple (of a church). The dominie is described as taking the yellow children (rays of the sunset) away after they reach the other side of the stile (steps to climb over a fence). As they climb over the stile, the color of the sunset darkens since night is falling.

Although I expressed my opinion of the meaning of this poem earier, there are those who want to see a meaning in everything (High School English teachers tend to have this nasty trait). Even something that is beautiful because it's simple.
For those people: Some images in this poem are used traditionally in poetry as symbols. The images described of sunrise and sunset are recurring symbols for birth and death. Emily Dickinson has been known to use these symbols in her poetry before.
Ribbons and yellow boys and girls could represent innocence, or the ribbons might also portray vanity. The frantic squirrels could symbolize the frantic pace of life we lead.
Obviously, steeples and a dominie symbolize religion. But if you want to dig deeper, you might even say that the dominie symbolizes the call of God (since he collects the children climbing over the sunset, or death, he would seem a kind person).


place and time:
Monet painted this masterpiece when he was visiting the port city of Le Havre in 1872. The outlines were sketched quickly to capture the essence of the moment, after he filled in the blanks at a later time.

"Soleil Levant" represents the morning sunrise as seen through the mist at the docks. For the non-french-speakers (or those who didn't pay attention in High School) "Soleil Levant" literally means "Sunrise".
Details of the painting are not directly obvious out of context so the painting must be seen in its entirety. People, buildings and ships are vaguely recognizable. But the colors (like blu and orange) used in the painting are unusual since they contrast and thus spring to life even more (they create illusions, or impressions). The combination of colors, blobs of paint representing people or things, and the stroke with which is painted are all typical of the style that Monet brought to life: impressionism.

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Emily Dickinson International Society
This society creates a forum for appreciation of Emily Dickinson's life and writings and for scholarly research on Dickinson and on her relation to the tradition of American poetry and women's literature.

The Emily Dickinson Homestead
Visit the Dickinson Homestead and its lovely grounds and garden to learn more about the poet Emily Dickinson.

The Academy of American Poets- Emily Dicksinson page
Lots of links, some biographical info and selected works.

Welcome to Claude MONET's
A site dedicated to Monet, his life and his works. In English and French.

Webmuseum: Monet, Claude
A site with a short biography and images of selected works.

Claude Monet on the Internet
Entry in the Artcyclopedia about Monet, with an extensive list of links.

Data Services
Complete sun and moon data for one day, a table of sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, or twilight times for an entire year (and more info).

Sunset Station Casino
Sunset Station Hotel & Casino is a "unique entertainment experience" that offers a total package of fine dining, gaming, live concerts, special events and the finest, most secure child care service in the United States.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
All about Sunset Crater Volcano which is a National Monument located in Flagstaff, AZ.

Sunset Radio
A compilation of links to streamed radio stations worldwide.

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