Literature

‘Grief is a Mouse’: A Poem by Emily Dickinson

‘Grief is a Mouse’ by Emily Dickinson (1830-86) explores a range of metaphors for grief, including the idea of grief as a mouse, which ‘chooses Wainscot in the Breast / For His Shy House’. The idea is that grief is deeply felt, but hidden away: like a mouse in the wainscot, we are aware of it continually, but we never (or seldom) see it.

Grief is a Mouse—
And chooses Wainscot in the Breast
For His Shy House—
And baffles quest—

Grief is a Thief—quick startled—
Pricks His Ear—report to hear
Of that Vast Dark—
That swept His Being—back—

Grief is a Juggler—boldest at the Play—
Lest if He flinch—the eye that way
Pounce on His Bruises—One—say—or Three—
Grief is a Gourmand—spare His luxury—

Best Grief is Tongueless—before He’ll tell—
Burn Him in the Public Square—
His Ashes—will
Possibly—if they refuse—How then know—
Since a Rack couldn’t coax a syllable—now

If you enjoyed ‘Grief is a Mouse’, you might also like our pick of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

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