Brief Comments on 40 Additional Poems


To conclude, we offer one-sentence comments on forty poems not analyzed or mentioned in these Notes. Since we have already suggested a variety of thematic patterns among Dickinson's poems, we are avoiding classification of these additional poems, leaving the reader free to relate them to Dickinson's themes. They are arranged here in alphabetical order. These brief comments do not attempt definitive or assured interpretations, nor do they mention alternate views.

"A Light exists in Spring" (812): A special light on the landscape during spring conveys a feeling of urgency and vitality, and its departure leaves the viewer with a sense of restive deprivation. "A Word made Flesh is seldom" (1651): The speaker wishes that the experience of expressing one's feelings adequately, which is like the act of God taking on flesh, could come more frequently. "A Wounded Deer — leaps highest" (165): Various kinds of suffering produce apparently joyful compensations which take the form of defenses against real pain. "Ample make this Bed" (829): Instructions for the correct frame of mind about burying people are given in a sinister manner, suggesting uncertainty about the destiny of the dead. "As the Starved Maelstrom laps the Navies" (872): The speaker compares her aggressive desire to consume something exotic, probably a beloved person, with the behavior of starved creatures.

"Civilization — spurns — the Leopard!" (492): A leopard, symbolizing the poet-speaker, was oppressed and rejected by her conventional society and deserves pity for her inability to live according to her natural desires. "Death is the supple Suitor" (1445): Death takes the form of a dishonest lover and woos his victims to a secret and silent realm. "Did the Harebell loose her girdle" (213): As an allegory drawn from nature may suggest, after women yield their virginity to estimable men, the promised rewards and the stature of the men will probably be diminished. "God is a distant — stately Lover" (357): The Christian idea that God needed to become Christ in order to win men over is satirically compared and contrasted to Miles Standish's use of John Alden to carry his marriage suit to Priscilla, in Longfellow's narrative poem The Courtship of Miles Standish. "'Heavenly Father' — take to thee" (1461): We pray that God will receive us in heaven despite our sins, but such a prayer neglects the likelihood that the creator made us sinful.

"He fumbles at your Soul" (315): The power of a magnificently eloquent speaker (or minister or writer) to transform his audience's feelings is compared to music, thunderbolts, and forest winds. "He preached upon 'Breadth' till it argued him narrow" (1207): A liberal minister makes such exaggerated claims for his broad-mindedness and grasp of truth that he reveals insincerity, lack of faith, and pretentiousness. "'Hope' is the thing with feathers" (254): Hope has various characteristics of a courageous bird, the most important being its total self-reliance or sourcelessness. "How happy is the little Stone" (1510): In its complete independence and security, a small stone provides a model for man's spiritual self-sufficiency. "I breathed enough to take the Trick" (272): The speaker learned to function adequately when she had a supportive environment, but now that she lives with deprivation she manages to survive by sheer nerve.

"I can wade Grief" (252): The speaker finds pain easier to endure and more creative than joy, for she has learned that unchallenging circumstances weaken people, whereas heavy burdens strengthen them. "I found the words to every thought" (581): The speaker is taking both pain and pleasure in illustrating her feeling that she can find no words for her most valuable experience, possibly some sense of personal or cosmic wholeness. "I got so I could take his name" (293): The speaker rehearses her agonizing and slow adjustment to a forcible separation from a beloved man and continues to address prayers about her situation to a deity who seems unlikely to care about her suffering. "I've seen a Dying Eye" (547): The speaker remembers watching a dying person whose slowly closing eyes revealed nothing of whatever happy future they could see. "Of God we ask one favor" (1601): People ask God to forgive their sins even if their only sense of sin is awareness of God's accusation, and they are thereby compelled to criticize an earthly happiness which they would like to have perpetuated in heaven.

"One dignity delays for all" (98): Everyone, no matter how low, can look forward to dying as something that will elevate him to a high rank, presumably a spiritual existence in heaven. "One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted" (670): Psychological or spiritual threats inside people are greater dangers than threat of ghosts or of physical aggression, though most people take the opposite view. "Myself was formed — a Carpenter" (488): The speaker's earnest and elevated view of her destiny as a carpenter suggests that she is talking about the way in which someone belittles her sacred poetic gift by wanting her to subdue it to convention. "Not with a Club, the Heart is broken" (1304): The speaker externalizes an inner drama of self-accusation to show the crushing power of shame in human life. "Pain — has an Element of Blank" (650): A major ingredient of pain, presumably a pain permeating all of one's being, is its loss of any time-sense about its own engulfment.

"She lay as if at play" (369): The body of a recently dead girl shows such vivid signs of its recent vitality that it is hard not to believe that she is merely asleep and will soon awaken. "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church" (324): The speaker indirectly offers various reasons why she finds more vividness and joy in performing Sunday worship in a natural setting near her home than she would in celebrating it by attending church services. "Split the Lark — and you'll find the Music" (861): Addressing a dear person who seems to doubt the speaker's absolute devotion, she insists that exposing the torment inside her would prove her sincerity. "The Admirations and Contempts — of time" (906): When we are on the verge of dying, we can see that the true meaning of time is that it shows the conditions of mortality and immortality to be fused together through the power of God. "The Bat is dun, with wrinkled Wings" (1575): The unpleasant but relatively harmless physical aspects of bats are puzzling, but we should assume that God acts with goodwill in making such a strange creature.

"The Brain, within its Groove" (56): The human brain, standing for the individual personality or for psychic wholeness, functions smoothly unless some part of it breaks down, in which case the damage to the whole is almost irreversible. "The Lamp burns sure within" (233): The human spirit is like a lamp tended and fed by outside forces, but if these forces fail it, it can miraculously go on just as it previously did. "The Malay — took the Pearl" (452): The speaker compares her timid self to a primitive person who is able to achieve satisfactions that frighten her but who has little of her appreciation for such achievements. "The soul has Bandaged moments" (512): The soul, a person much like the poet, goes through periods of bitter self-condemnation and then of joyful release, but when she returns to the oppressed state, things are worse than ever. "The Soul's Superior instants" (306): During its best moments, the sensitive soul revels in its detachment from everything and in its complete self-sufficiency; such realizations are identical with the sense of immortality.

"There is a pain — so utter" (599): Some kinds of engulfing pain protect the sufferer from disintegration by making him numb to the causes and nature of the pain. "Three times — we parted — breath — and I" (598): The speaker was three times threatened with the complete destruction of her spirit, but after giving up hope of outside help she was saved by an inner transformation or rebirth. "To fight aloud, is very brave" (126): The speaker celebrates the act of enduring spiritual suffering, and she is sure that people who practice the former will be elevated in heaven. "To hang our head — ostensibly" (105): The fact that many people pretend to have faith and humility that they discover they do not really feel is evidence that a person being addressed by this poem does not really believe in his frail arguments for some articles of faith. "What Inn is this" (115): Having arrived in the realm of death, the speaker is satirically curious about a lack of vitality in its residents and caretakers, for she had expected to find miraculous resurrection.

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