I Never Saw a Moor
I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
(Dickinson. "I Never")
This poem is about faith--believing in the unseen and unproven. Just because you have never seen a certain natural landmark or God, does not mean that they don't exist. We can't always know exactly what something looks like, or even if it is real, yet we can have proof that it is a real thing, even if it is not tangible to the human eye. For example, another example of believing in something that we can't literally see as a concrete object is love. Its not a concrete thing, but we can see it exists because of how people look at each other, and how people act around each other.
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory
As he defeated--dying--
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!
(Dickinson. "Success is Counted Sweetest")
People don't really appreciate things as much when the experiences have been experienced ever so often. When one has had many successes, the thrill wears off. One takes success for granted after being so accustomed to it. When one reads the stanza in this poem, "Not one of all the purple Host Who took the Flag today Can tell the definition So clear of Victory," the image of soldiers at war is evoked. A soldier could be close to giving in, due to his army's failures, and seeing so many of his fellow men killed off. But when he defeats his enemies, he realizes the value of wartime victory, and feels like a true member of the army. This is reminiscent of The Red Badge of Courage, where the main character in the story is at first going in to war for merely the aspect of obtaining pride. However, in the end, the soldier realizes the fellowship of him and his colleagues.
Because I could not stop for Death--
He kindly stopped for me--
The Carriage held but just Ourselves--
We slowly drove--He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility--
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess--in the Ring--
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain--
We passed the Setting Sun--
Or rather--He passed us--
The Dews drew quivering and chill--
For only Gossamer, my Gown--
My Tippet--only Tulle--
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground--
The Roof was scarcely visible--
The Cornice--in the Ground--
Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity--
(Dickinson. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death")
When one reads this poem, one thinks of someone who has a busy schedule in life. This kind of person does not put aside time to focus on what matters most, such as God and putting aside time for self. Instead, these kinds of people keep on living busy lives and don't slow down the pace. Then, Death comes and carries them away before they know it. These people could not stop their hectic lives, so Death stopped them.
Such peoples' lives have been wasted; too much is devoted time to work and social functions that life passes right on by. When one reads this stanza of the poem: We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess--in the Ring-- We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-- We passed the Setting Sun--", one is reminded of simple pleasures that have been passed by in life. Children at recess are so innocent and carefree, which is the opposite of the main character in this poem.
I had been hungry all the years-
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.
'T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.
I did not know the ample bread,
'T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature's dining-room.
The plenty hurt me, 't was so new,--
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.
Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.
(Dickinson. "I Had Been Hungry All the Years")
When one reads this poem for literal meaning, it seems to be about a hungry, poverty-stricken person. Then, suddenly, the person has food before. The food mentioned in the poem is bread and wine, which could be an allusion to Communion. They had not ever had such a plenty of food in their life, and so it made them feel "ill and odd."
When one has plenty of something that has been previously lacking in their life, one fills up quickly. In this case, food does not seem so appealing because the speaker has been without it for so long that it does not seem very necessary to have the ordinary amount of food.
However, this poem could relate to a variety of things. It could be a poem about a lost soul who is exposed to God, and is overwhelmed. When one has been outside of ordinary life for so long, one doesn't realize that a hungering for something exists. But after becoming exposed to it, one realizes that it was just what was needed for true happiness.
The Soul selects her own Society --
Then -- shuts the Door --
To her divine Majority --
Present no more --
Unmoved -- she notes the Chariots -- pausing --
At her low Gate --
Unmoved -- an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat --
I've known her -- from an ample nation --
Choose One --
Then -- close the Valves of her attention --
Like Stone --
(Dickinson. "The Soul Selects Her Own Society")
When one reads this poem, one thinks of peer groups. One decides who to hang out with and who one is not going to hang out with, and who we will not hang out with. One stands firm in one's beliefs on this subject, and shuts out the people who are not wanted in ones' lives.
This poem has religious undertones to it; the Soul is usually the portion of our being that links us to God. There is a line,"Then--shuts the Door--To her divine Majority--Present no more." This can be interpreted to mean that humans like to be in charge of their lives, and ignore the divine Majority, who is God. One think that the part of God can be played, but there is only one God.
There's a certain Slant of light,
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes--
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are--
None may teach it--Any--
'Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air--
When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows--hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death--
(Dickinson. "There's a Certain Slant of Light")
This poem could fit for people who long for the light of sun, and winter is what is really outside. A single ray of sunlight on a gloomy winter can be very oppressing. God gives one the glimpse of warmer weather, yet the weather is not quite warm yet. Or maybe the poem is about death. Death is oppressive, causes much hurt, and is a scarring aspect in the lives of human beings.
I looked on Bloom's Literary Resource and this is what I found, "This is the poem's central insight: the paradox that we live in the iron grasp of the ungraspable, so that our deepest convictions are shaped by subtleties of perception of which we are scarcely aware" (Leiter NP)
So, one can interpret the poem to be discussing the paradox of perception of experiences in life.
I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth - the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a-night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.
(Dickinson. "I Died for Beauty")
Beauty never lasts; it fades away with time, and is not an important thing in life. However, truth is something that lasts forever. It is not a physical thing that wears away with the cruelty of the years. It is a fixed thing, that one can maintain the entirety of one's life.
In this poem, beauty and truth have been buried in the same room. Both have failed, and called each other brethren. They talk to each other, and see through the differences--until they both fade away in the decay of the ground and cease to matter. For, in the end, one goes to Heaven, and nothing of this earth matters anymore.
I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.
The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.
I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable,--and then
There interposed a fly,
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.
(Dickinson. "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died")
This poem seems to be a minute observation typical of one's last breath. The air is still in this poem, and there is a stillness, which leads one to believe that the speaker in the poem died alone--with no one to make those dying breaths more bearable.
"I willed my keepsakes, signed away What portion of me I Could make assignable" This person feels like she is pretty much worthless in the world; whether it is due to being alone, or just plain old age. For some reason, it is reminiscent of Eleanor Rigby, in the Beatles song with that title: "Eleanor Rigby/picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been/Lives in a dream/Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door/Who is it for?...Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name/Nobody came."
Finally, "the windows failed, and then I could not see." This seems pretty obvious that the main character has died.
Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn
Indicative that suns go down;
The notice to the startled grass
That darkness is about to pass.
Presentiment, as defined by dictionary.com is "a feeling or impression that something is about to happen, esp. something evil; foreboding." The shadow on the lawn warns the grass that the sun is setting. And that is all I could really pick out of this poem, so I looked at Bloom's Literary Resource:
In Emily Dickinson's short poem the speaker uses a natural phenomenon (the formation of long shadows on the lawn as the sun sets) to illustrate how a premonition could work.
Because the subject borders on the occult, the speaker suspends the usual laws of the physical universe. Hence there is talk of suns (line 2) even though our planet has only one, and the grass has an emotional life (it becomes "startled" in line 3). The word "Notice" requires an even larger leap of faith, however, since as it is used here, it denotes a formal announcement by an authority of some kind. This suggests an entire system of extrasensory sensations that operates beyond the reach of our tangible sciences and our five universally recognized senses (Huff NP)
The first Day's Night had come—
And grateful that a thing
So terrible—had been endured—
I told my Soul to sing—
She said her Strings were snapt—
Her Bow—to Atoms blown—
And so to mend her—gave me work
Until another Morn—
And then—a Day as huge
As Yesterdays in pairs,
Unrolled its horror in my face—
Until it blocked my eyes—
My Brain—begun to laugh—
I mumbled—like a fool—
And tho' 'tis Years ago—that Day—
My Brain keeps giggling—still.
And Something's odd—within—
That person that I was—
And this One—do not feel the same—
Could it be Madness—this?
(Dickinson. "The First Day's Night Had Come")
I interpret that this poem is about overcoming a terrible circumstance that has happened to oneself. However, the tragedy is now over, and you are deciding to make the best of things and tell your "Soul to sing" Everything can go wrong in your life, yet you can still make the best of it. Out of most any bad experience there are good results, no matter if obvious or not.
However, even after telling oneself that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, one is still feeling the pain. Your brain is laughing and you are mumbling like a fool..."Could it be Madness--this?"
Dickinson, Emily. "I Never Saw a Moor ." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-never-saw-a-moor/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "Success Is Counted Sweetest." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/success-is-counted-sweetest/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/because-i-could-not-stop-for-death-712/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "I Had Been Hungry All the Years." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-had-been-hungry-all-the-years/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "The Soul Selects Her Own Society." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-soul-selects-her-own-society/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "There's a Certain Slant of Light." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/there-s-a-certain-slant-of-light-258/.
Leiter, Sharon. "'There's a certain Slant of light'." Critical Companion to Emily Dickinson: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2006. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CCED129&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 19, 2010).
Dickinson, Emily. "I Died For Beauty." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-died-for-beauty/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "Dying (I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died) ." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/dying-i-heard-a-fly-buzz-when-i-died/>.
Dickinson, Emily. "Presentiment Is That Long Shadow on the Lawn." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/presentiment-is-that-long-shadow-on-the-lawn/.
Huff, Randall. "'Presentiment—is that Long Shadow—on the Lawn—'." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CPAP0330&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 19, 2010).
Dickinson, Emily. "The First Day's Night Had Come." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-first-day-s-night-had-come/>.