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Poems I’ve Loved in Life – Rowing in Emily Dickinson





April 19, 2017

I count the year I finally read through all of Emily Dickinson’s 1775 poems as one of the greatest reading experiences of my life. Fortunately, famed Dickinson scholar, Thomas H. Johnson has organized the collection: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960) in sequence as to when Dickinson actually wrote each one. No small feat given that she was a recluse and never intended to publish her poems at all. Fortunately for posterity, her sister Lavinia disregarded her instructions and set about to have her poems published.

If you too want to secure an education into life like no other, all you have to do is track down a copy of this book and dedicate a large portion of time to slowly digesting each poem, stopping for the day when you stall out on one of them. Dickinson is viewed today as one of the greatest, most original, and most quotable poets our world has ever known. It will prove to be one of the greatest educational experiences of your lifetime.

You need your own book so that you can thoroughly mark up or illustrate your favorite poems. It has often been postulated that the least structured thought can be found in a novel, the next most in a short story, the second most in a poem, and the ultimate compressed thought is in a quotation (aphorism, folk-saying, etc.). Where Dickinson is unique is that her poems are also considered quotations. Note the following:


Soft as the massacre of Suns

By Evening’s sabers slain.


. . . Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind –


If I can stop one Heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain

 If I can ease one Life the Aching

Or cool one Pain.

 Or help one fainting Robin

 Unto his Nest again

I shall not live in Vain.


I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – Too?

Then there’s a pair of us?

Don’t tell! They’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the live long June –

To an admiring Bog!


To lose one’s faith – surpass

The loss of an Estate

Because Estates can be

Replenished – faith cannot –


To fill a Gap

Insert the thing that caused it –

Block it up

With other – and ‘twill yawn the more –

You cannot solder an Abyss

With Air.


To wait an Hour – is long –

If Love be just beyond –

To wait Eternity – is short –

If Love reward the end –


Some Wretched creature, savior take

Who would exult to die

And leave for thy sweet mercy’s sake

Another Hour to me.


A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.


Where Roses would not dare to go,

What Heart would risk the way –

And so I send my

Crimson Scouts

To sound the Enemy –


God is indeed a jealous God –

He cannot bear to see

That we had rather not with Him

But with each other play.


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.


Fame is a bee.

It has a song –

It has a sting –

Ah, too, it has a wing.


That Love is all there is,

Is all we know of Love,

It is enough, the freight should be

Proportioned to the groove.


Wild Nights – Wild Nights!

Were I with thee

Wild Nights would be

Our luxury!

Futile – the Winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah, the Sea!

Might I but moor – Tonight –

In Thee!

* * * * *

If these lines don’t hook you – I have no hope for you.

One thought on “Poems I’ve Loved in Life – Rowing in Emily Dickinson

  1. Lovely. Thanks

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