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A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘The Brain is wider than the Sky’

A close reading of a classic Dickinson poem

‘The brain is wider than the sky’: the mind and all that it can take in – and imagine – is far greater than even the vast sky above us. This is the starting point of one of Emily Dickinson’s great meditations on the power of human imagination and comprehension. Before we attempt an analysis, though, here’s a reminder of the poem.

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do — Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Pain has an Element of Blank’

A summary of a classic Dickinson poem

‘Pain — has an Element of Blank – ’ is a short poem by Emily Dickinson which, like ‘It was not Death, for I stood up’, treats the dark subject of mental and physical pain and the way it engulfs our lives, extinguishing everything else.

Pain — has an Element of Blank —
It cannot recollect
When it begun — or if there were
A time when it was not —

It has no Future — but itself —
Its Infinite realms contain
Its Past — enlightened to perceive
New Periods — of Pain.

When we are ill or in pain it is very difficult to remember a time when we weren’t ill or in pain. The visceral power of physical pain – but this might also be extended to psychological pain as well – prevents us from imagining or envisioning a time without it, whether in the past or the future. This, in summary, is a short paraphrase of the meaning of ‘Pain has an Element of Blank’. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘This World is not Conclusion’

A short Emily Dickinson poem about life … and the afterlife

‘This World is not Conclusion’ is poem number 501 in Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poems. According to the best editorial guess, the poem was written in around 1862. ‘This World is not Conclusion’ sees Emily Dickinson exploring and analysing our attitudes to death and what awaits us beyond.

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy – don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown – Read the rest of this entry