Elena Ferrante, writer
‘I Took Power in My Hand’ by Emily Dickinson (1862)
At times I’ve read these lines as a reflection on women’s writing, at times as a symbol of any female venture. The first painful fact is that Dickinson has no models of her own sex to refer to, nothing, anyway, that has the aura of David. This is the source of the inevitable comparison with the male figure from the Bible. His hand is bigger, the Power at his disposal is bigger. As a result, Dickinson, in order to make an equivalent gesture, needs twice the boldness.
But what’s the use of being bolder? The woman who takes aim and throws her stone does not confront simply the Goliath of the youth with the slingshot: her Goliath is the entire world. Thus that throw can only be ineffectual, its sole victim the thrower. And so we arrive at the wonderful last two lines. Is the Goliath of the audacious Emily ‘too large’ or is it that she is ‘too small’? That adjective, followed by the question mark, moves me. I wish all Emilys not to be small by nature, I wish they would just try, and try again, and so become large. (Translation by Ann Goldstein)
I took my Power in my Hand–
And went against the World –
’Twas not so much as David – had –
But I – was twice as bold –
I aimed my Pebble – but Myself
Was all the one that fell –
Was it Goliath – was too large –
Or was myself – too small?