Emily Dickinson has been a prominent influence on my poetic skills. The unique and disruptive use of dashes and pauses with beautiful composition of words that mixes your thoughts with the exact thought what the poet was intending is the reason why I consider Emily Dickinson as one of the greatest poets ever. In the spirit of that, I decided to showcase 5 of Emily Dickinson poems. Not just that but I have also added my own interpretation of these poems. These interpretations are what I feel about the poem and its meaning.
The poems mentioned here are not the most famous or the best Emily Dickinson poems. I will write another article about some of Emily Dickinson’s most famous poems with complete analysis, this article is more towards her lesser known poems. What I want to show is how unique Dickinson’s way of conveying her feelings was. Notice the use of dashes, pauses, poetic devices she uses to bring out the beauty in the words and breathe feelings in them.
Although Emily Dickinson wrote close to 1,800 poems and you can find so many great poems that are not that popular, we have chosen these five. There was no preferential advantage given to any of these poems. So here are 5 of Emily Dickinson’s poems and their brief meaning.
Here are 5 Emily Dickinson poems
I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.
The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”
But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while
Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.
The Meaning :
Here we see Dickinson’s ability to make a very simple day into something so beautiful. Not just that, but she removes a veil from our eyes and allows us to sit back and appreciate the things we ignore, just because it happens “every day.” In the poem “A Day,” we see the world through the eyes of a child or someone who isn’t very aware of the day and night cycle. This lets the child see everything with astonishment and wonder.
While the way she describes the beauty of the dawn is with utter curiosity, you can see the religious underlying in the poem. Dickinson observe the simple phenomena of dawn through the eyes of an innocent mind. The first part is about the beauty of the day and how she watches the world as it lights up and brings colors to everything. Notice the clever line “The news like squirrel ran.” Here she is referring to a new day as news. The rays of the sun mark the beginning of the day for everyone. Bobolinks are American blackbirds. They begin their day with the ribbon of sunlight.
The second part of the poem brings the frightening yet curious night. The poet is unaware as to how the sunsets and then darkness prevails. You can see the religious input as she says “A dominie in gray” who is pastor. The pastor is gray means the clouds that start to look grayish as dusk begins to take form. Another clever use of words here is “Put gently up the evening bars.” This line shows that the day began with ribbons of sunlight. Now the same sunlight rays is enclosed within bars of the evening. And the day disappears, into the darkness of the night.
A Man may make a Remark
A Man may make a Remark –
In itself – a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature – lain –
Let us divide – with skill –
Let us discourse – with care –
Powder exists in Charcoal –
Before it exists in Fire –
The Meaning :
This is another short yet powerful poem by Dickinson and it goes to show how dense her poems were. Despite the length, the message that it gives is remarkable. The poet here tells us about the power of our words. Our remarks, our criticisms. The remark may be a quiet thing, which may not seem to be too powerful force to someone. But for someone else, it can act as an ignitor of a spark. She says that the spark lies in everyone, in dormant nature. But some remarks can change the dormancy.
Then she says that it is henceforth our responsibility to conduct ourselves carefully to avoid awaking this spark in someone else with our words. In many other versions of this poem, the line “Let us divide – with skill -“ is replaced with the line “Let us deport – with skill -” However, the meaning is same. Deport meant conducting oneself in archaic times.
In the last two lines, Dickinson says that powder that burns exists in charcoal before it turns into fire. So the spark like charcoal powder is lying dormant in people. And some remarks can turn it into fire.
Color – Caste – Denomination
Color – Caste – Denomination –
These – are Time’s Affair –
Death’s diviner Classifying
Does not know they are –
As in sleep – all Hue forgotten –
Tenets – put behind –
Death’s large – Democratic fingers
Rub away the Brand –
If Circassian – He is careless –
If He put away
Chrysalis of Blonde – or Umber –
Equal Butterfly –
They emerge from His Obscuring –
What Death – knows so well –
Our minuter intuitions –
The Meaning :
Another great poem that packs so much meaning in a very compact form. This is something that almost every philosopher has talked and thought about. The frail and meaningless discrimination that humankind has created on the basis of their own biases and appearances. Dickinson shows how absurd these biases are by putting it in front of the ultimate truth; Death.
She says that all these classes and caste and denomination are just our own creation, based on time and the politics of that particular time. These biases are “Time’s Affair.” Death does not care about these things and will meet everyone irrespective of these positions humans give. A beggar would meet death the same way a king would.
She says that we can get a taste of that ultimate truth when we go to sleep. In sleep there is nothing that we can control. And there we do not see any form discrimination , no tenets from the world that we stay awake in. This poem is brilliant.
I could suffice for Him, I knew.
I could suffice for Him, I knew—
He—could suffice for Me—
Yet Hesitating Fractions—Both
“Would I be Whole” He sudden broached—
My syllable rebelled—
‘Twas face to face with Nature—forced—
‘Twas face to face with God—
Withdrew the Sun—to Other Wests—
Withdrew the furthest Star
Before Decision—stooped to speech—
And then—be audibler
The Answer of the Sea unto
The Motion of the Moon—
Herself adjust Her Tides—unto—
Could I—do else—with Mine?
The Meaning :
This is another amazing poem where Emily Dickinson deals with the subject of love and heartbreak. With some brilliant verses like “The Answers of the Sea unto The Motion of the Moon.” The celestial association of her with her love is beautiful to read.
Like Brooms of Steel.
Like Brooms of Steel
The Snow and Wind
Had swept the Winter Street –
The House was hooked
The Sun sent out
Faint Deputies of Heat –
Where rode the Bird
The Silence tied
His ample – plodding Steed
The Apple in the Cellar snug
Was all the one that played.
The Meaning :
Another poem that appreciates the beauty of the world around us that we usually don’t pay much attention to. Since it is winter season (when this article is being written), this poem just makes me realize how much we miss everyday by not paying attention towards the world around us.
Emily says that the sun drops small droplets of warmth that puts life in the still and cold world. The trees are stalled, the birds sit quietly without making any sound. This quietness around the white world will take you into a different world, if you let it. If you stop and listen to the silence, you will experience an inner, spiritual peace. That is the beautiful thing about winter.
So these were the 5 selected Emily Dickinson poems. Which one was your favorite? Tell us in the comments section. You may also like to read the analysis of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Click on the name to go to that article.