Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Nature rarer uses Yellow than another hue.” But what about Dickinson herself as a poet – did she rarely use “yellow”? Or did she use “yellow” more frequently than other colors? Was she prodigal of “blue”? Did she spend “scarlet” like a woman?
Which color do you think Dickinson used most often in her poetry?
Yellow? Red? Blue? Oh – and don’t forget about Black and White. And what of Gold and Silver?
Dickinson also used gem names as colors too – like Emerald and Ruby. What happens when you throw those colors into the mix?
By Emily Dickinson:
Nature rarer uses Yellow
Than another Hue.
Saves she all of that for Sunsets
Prodigal of Blue
Spending Scarlet, like a Woman
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly
Like a Lover's Words.
Well, I looked into this, color by color and poem by poem, and the results are below. Before you scroll down, though, to discover my findings, take a guess. Which color do you think Dickinson used most often in her poetry?
Okay, once you have a color in mind, you can continue scrolling through this post.
Initially, I looked into the colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, & violet – and also black and white. Then I added gold and silver and a few other secondary colors – purple, pink, brown, crimson, scarlet, and gray.
As I was researching the use of color in Dickinson’s poetry, I also remembered that Dickinson frequently used gem names as colors so I used checked on the number of times she used the words alabaster, ebon, emerald, ruby, amethyst, and sapphire.
So what were the results?
There were three colors which Dickinson used in only one poem each: orange, indigo, and ebon.
There were nine colors which she used in small numbers of poems: alabaster (3); sapphire (4); black, crimson, gray, and amethyst (6 poems each); ruby (7), violet (8), and brown (9).
The following colors were the big winners as they were used in more than ten poems each: emerald (11); pink (14); green (15); scarlet (17); white (25); yellow & silver (27 poems each); red (31); blue (32); purple (34).
And the big winner?
A drum roll please. . .
Gold was used in 36 different poems by Dickinson.
So how'd you do? Did you guess "gold" as the overall winner?
I'm not sure why, but I was surprised to find even one "orange" -- maybe because "nothing rhymes with orange." LOL -- but that wouldn't stop Dickinson. I was also surprised that "purple" beat out "red" and "yellow" -- but I suppose that isn't really true if you include "crimson," "scarlet" and "ruby" with "red" and/or lump "yellow" in with the gold. Another surprise? The sparse use of the color "black." I don't know why, but I thought there would be more of a balance between "black" and "white."
Were there any surprises for you?