Tuesday, September 27, 2005

1758 by Emily Dickinson

Love can do all but raise the Dead
I doubt if even that     
From such a giant were withheld
Were flesh equivalent

But love is tired and must sleep
And hungry and must graze
And so abets the shining Fleet
Till it is out of gaze.    

I love this Emily Dickinson poem mostly for how quietly it says really big things. I think you can sense that there is a huge loss, or many huge losses, lurking in the background of this speaker's experience. I don't think the poem is talking about just any love or just any dead person, although its ideas can be applied generally: I think that the idea of love's enormous longing to be reunited with someone who is gone seems to come out of a specific, personal sense of the pain of death. In the second stanza, I also love the very subtle way that metaphors are used: in the first two lines, love becomes a creature, and then specifically, with "graze," an animal (I see it as a sheep, but maybe that's just me), and then the poem locates this animal on a shore watching ships (symbolically linked to "the Dead") as they sail out of sight. This beautiful, pastoral picture (which Dickinson paints entirely through her use of verbs, amazingly) subtly provides an antidote, or at least a balance, to the poem's sadness.


Blogger Naseem said...

I definetly agree with you that this poem quietly says big things and that there is a huge loss. It does seem that she has lost a great love in her life. It does seem like she is comparing love to a human life because she says that it "is tired and must sleep and hungry and must graze".

7:19 PM  

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