How to make a way in the world by making something beautiful, if that’s my job, your job, our job. And I use the word “job” loosely to mean the activity your nature compels you to do.
The Bird must sing to earn the Crumb —
What merit have the Tune
No Breakfast if it guaranty
The Rose content may bloom
To gain renown of Lady’s Drawer
But if the Lady come
But once a Century, the Rose
Superfluous become —
Emily explains how or why she wrote nearly two thousand poems and only bothered to publish seven of them. One for each day of the week, one for each Blessed Sacrament, once for each color in the rainbow, one for each chakra and the quality of consciousness associated with it.
She looks at those whose entire being is devoted to the creation of something beautiful, such as the bird — or realizing its full potential as beautiful, such as the rose. And by the way, such a thing is not merely beautiful, but it serves a valuable function, which is to scent a Lady’s drawer. Some of you may think this is not the best use of one’s life purpose. Or that it is not the most practical. It’s not like building roads or manufacturing can openers. You know . . . something useful and worth money. No, the rose exists for the purpose of being beautiful and smelling good. The bird’s reason is to fill the air with beautiful song.
So, I would argue (and Emily would argue) that putting beauty into the world, anything that pleases our senses, constitutes a job well done. These things are worth paying for. And still . . . and yet . . . in her poem, the bird goes hungry and the rose becomes superfluous. If these beautiful things are not needed, what then?
Emily is being snarky here. She suggests the question: Why make something beautiful? If my work, my poem, my rose, does not adorn some lady’s drawer, isn’t it wasted then? Emily’s question is only posing as a serious question.
No one would forswear the existence of a rose or a bird’s song. She’s rubbing our noses in our value system. That’s the system that says a thing must fetch a price in the marketplace to have value. That it must serve some utilitarian purpose in order to justify its existence.
She drops this snide comment with such delicacy, you might miss it if you didn’t know better.
If you sing your song or open your beautiful face to the world, or craft a poem because you believe any of these things ought to fetch a good price or serve someone else’s need (scenting a drawer, etc) then you are done. You have destroyed the value of your own gifts.
Emily puts up the payment against these talents. A crumb? For a song? “To gain renown of Lady’s Drawer”? C’mon, that’s sarcastic. Renown? What paltry recompense for the perfume of a rose. There isn’t enough money in the world to pay for an act or being of such beauty. Beauty comes from innocence. And by innocence I mean devoid of any calculated hunger for recognition or payment. She alludes to art that arises from this innocent drive to create. No one ever made a birdsong or a rose because they though they’d be famous for it, or rich or grow fat on crumbs.
Emily says: Make your beauty. Don’t get lost in the marketplace. Stay in a state of innocent creation. . . . if you can.