Cover image featuring Emily Dickinson for the analysis of To Lose Thee by Emily Dickinson

Here’s What “To Lose Thee” by Emily Dickinson Means and How It’s a Love Poem

Emily Dickinson’s “To Lose Thee” is a complex poem wrapped in just eight lines of sheer literary genius. It is a commendable feat to do what Dickinson has done; delivering such a complex and powerfully meaningful poem in just eight simple lines. 

There is a lot to unpack here. What does this poem even mean? Or what is Dickinson trying to convey? Is it love, hatred, or something totally different? “To Lose Thee” is a poem about love and the pain that comes with it. 

If you have loved someone and have been heartbroken, then you will love this poem. Let’s take a look at the poem first and then at the meaning and analysis to understand the depth and meaning. 

To Lose Thee

To lose thee, sweeter than to gain
All other hearts I knew.
'T is true the drought is destitute,
But then I had the dew!
The Caspian has its realms of sand,
Its other realm of sea;
Without the sterile perquisite
No Caspian could be.
-Emily Dickinson

Analysis and Meaning of the Poem

Let’s break the poem down into two parts and look at them in detail to understand the meaning with a deeper analysis. 

To lose thee — sweeter than to gain

All other hearts I knew.

‘Tis true the drought is destitute,

But then, I had the dew!

The very first line confuses people because of what Dickinson is saying. “To lose thee is sweeter than to gain all other hearts I have known.” How is losing someone a sweet feeling if you have loved them? 

She then uses a metaphor that while it is true that drought is a terrible lack of all the things necessary to live, she never had the river. She only had a “dew.”

The first four lines convey what Dickinson is feeling. She was in love with someone, who perhaps did not love her back in the same way she did, or maybe she never expressed her love to this person. 

Even losing this person is something sweeter than all the people she has known. Dickinson loved this person so dearly that even losing the person gives her a sweet feeling.

She says that yes, not having your love would be a terrible and hurtful feeling, but she never truly had the complete love of this person in the first place. She only had the “dew.”

Perhaps this is the reason why losing the person is also a sweet feeling. This person was never completely hers and losing them was a sweet relief of letting things go.

We can understand how it would feel to love someone who doesn’t love us back. So if they leave, you can keep the love for them intact, without the fear of them breaking your heart. 

The Caspian has its realms of sand,

Its other realm of sea.

Without the sterile perquisite,

No Caspian could be.

The last stanza explains everything. Dickinson uses a geographical place; the Caspian sea as a metaphor to explain the emotional state she is in. 

While the Caspian sea is large with dark blue water wherever the eyes can run around it, it also has a realm of sand too. Sand is the complete opposite of the sea, and yet both exist in the same place. 

The complex idea of opposites is at play here. You need darkness to know what light is and the same way around. One has to experience sorrow to enjoy happiness. One must know pain before meeting pleasure. 

Emily Dickinson is saying that while she loved this person dearly, being together and having a dew of the total love she deserves is not the right way to live. Losing this person is what creates “opposites.”

She cannot be with this person, and that is fine by her. She can love without them being in love with her. The sterile sand will be needed to create a beautiful sea of love. If she removes the sand, the Caspian would be no more. 

Meaning and Theme of the Poem 

Believe it or not, “To Lose Thee” is a very complex love poem. In a very different and deep way, it is expressing a form of love that is perhaps stronger than the love you see on the surface level. 

To accept that the person you love is never going to love you back, and then letting them go without any bitterness takes a lot of heart, courage, and strength. And for all these three, you need to love the person to the bone. 

The themes of the poem are love, the various and complex faces of love, and the dependence on opposite things for their existence. Just like dark needs light and pain needs pleasure, sometimes you need distance for love to exist. 

Dickinson could not stay with a dew in her possession, so she let that go just to stand at the end of the sterile sand so that she could see the Caspian sea. 

Literary Devices in the Poem 

The literary devices used in the Poem “To lose Thee” by Emily Dickinson are:

End-stopped lines– The lines are end stopped throughout the poem resembling the end of a thought. Moreover, it also adds rhythm to the poem. For example:

All other hearts I knew.

But then, I had the dew!

Its other realm of sea.

No Caspian could be.

Metaphor– The poet uses “Caspian sea” as a metaphor to explain the emotional state she is in. For example:

The Caspian has its realms of sand,

Consonance– A few examples of consonance from the poem includes:

Tis true the drought is destitute,

The Caspian has its realms of sand,

Without the sterile perquisite,

Alliteration– A few examples of alliteration are:

To lose thee — sweeter than to gain

Tis true the drought is destitute,

No Caspian could be.

Related Articles:

Similar Posts