Emily Dickinson’s Poems

My life closed twice before its close;
My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive, As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven, And all we need of hell.

Emily Dickinson (Stobaugh, AMERICAN LIT) uses the metaphor of death to describe the catastrophe that two terrible events caused. Were these the death of two friends? Two unrequited loves? We really don’t know.

What matters is that the pain of these events was so sharp that Dickinson feels as if her life ended. Loss exacerbates Dickinson’s already fragile metaphysics.

What happens after death, in immortality? Well we know, don’t we?

The last two lines of this poem present a powerful paradox; parting is heaven to some and hell to others. We part with those who die and–hopefully–go to heaven, which is, ironically, an eternal happiness for them; however, we who are left behind suffer the pain (hell) of their deaths (parting).

Is there any comfort in this poem? Not if one is the realist Emily Dickinson whose cold New England intellectualism offers scant protection against the frigid exigencies of death! It is fun20to talk about birds walking on sidewalks as long as one does not have to think about ultimate things.

But we all have to think about ultimate things once in a while. In “a while” for most of us is death. Where will you spend eternity? If the Lord Jesus is your Savior you know where you will spend eternity.

Contrast this tentativeness with Dickinson’s New England predecessor Edward Taylor (From “I Prepare a Place”):

But thats not all: Now from Deaths realm, erect, Thou gloriously gost to thy Fathers Hall:
And pleadst their Case preparst them place well dect
All with thy Merits hung. Blesst Mansions all.
Dost ope the Doore locks fast ‘gainst Sins that so These Holy Rooms admit them may thereto.

I like to read Emily Dickinson’s poems. I like to drink vanilla milk shakes too. But not too many and never for nourishment and life. How about you?

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