As it is Emily Dickinson Month, we share as much as we can about this great American poetess. She wrote so many beautiful poems. One of them is “Yesterday is History.”
What is so special about a Dutch street address in the city of The Hague? 26 Nassaulaan isn’t the most beautiful building in The Netherlands. It is a beautiful building, but there are even more beautiful buildings to be found in the country. In this building, you will find The HSV International Primary School, also known as the Willemsparkschool. This is an international school.
What has this to do with the splendid poem written by Emily Dickinson? A lot, actually, since one of the sidewalls contains this poem. This shows, that the work of Dickinson is still very much alive and it’s appreciated by many.
The project on this wall is part of the work of the Dutch Stichting ArchipelpoëZie. This foundation has the same goal as one of the other projects we introduced using our website: Muurgedichten.nl (wall poems). You can read more about this project in this article.
The project in The Hague took quite some time. This was because the Dutch artist, P3ter Matthias Noordzij, responsible for this wall painting designed the font that was used himself. He named this font Ceacillia – named after his wife Cécile. In October 2016, this poem was officially unveiled. The children who attended the school were al present. The poem was recited of course during this ceremony.
You can find a list of poems in The Hague on this Wiki page (in Dutch). On this page, you can also find a link to the list of wall poems in the Dutch city of Leiden.
Yesterday is history
There is a good reason that the poem written by Dickinson was painted on a blind wall. This is a place of education and the poem is about history, right? Well, it depends on what you want to think about this poem.
Yesterday is History is a metaphor. Just as the sentence Yesterday is Poetry. These are metaphors for the days that have passed. These days are long ago. There is beauty in this history to be found (that is what Poetry really means). And the Philosophy, that is the process of learning from the past. So much can be learned from all these past days. One thing is more than clear: history and time will pass and there is only one thing to do: to learn from your experiences.
Should we worry about the past? According to this poem, there is no need to worry. Yes, things might have happened, but these were just lessons. Any good student should be able to learn from them. Aren’t we all students?
If you want to go for the other approach: history is important. History should be part of any education and it is important to learn from this past. Whether this is the history of World War II, for instance, the decolonization of parts of Africa and Asia or the history of the Cold War. All these events in history were important enough. They formed the world as we live in now. Dickinson did not live to witness these events. In her time, other important events in history played a role of importance for Dickinson and the people of her time. This makes history dynamic and makes it interesting enough to dive into.
Poem 1292: “Yesterday is History”
Yesterday is History,
‘Tis so far away —
Yesterday is Poetry —
‘Tis Philosophy —
Yesterday is mystery —
Where it is Today
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away
The photo used in this article was taken by the Wikimedia user Vysotsky.