Emily Dickinson is known as one of the most unique and influential poets of all time. Many of her poems are recognized for their deep meanings and dark tones. She often wrote about unconventional themes of death and immortality. Less than a dozen of her eighteen hundred poems were published while she was alive. Today, Dickinson is known as one of the greatest American poets for her eccentric and truth seeking pieces of literature.
In Emily Dickinson’s poem 112 she discusses what success feels like depending on your position in life. She expresses how those who are victorious do not see their success or appreciate it. Meanwhile, those who have never achieved success before, truly understand the meaning of real accomplishment. Dickinson talks about Nectar, which is considered by the Greeks and Romans to be the drink that gives them immortality. Once again, she focuses on death and the idea of never dieing. Dickinson goes on to discuss the “purple host” or soldiers in the Army and how even though they successful captured their opponents flag, they still could not tell her the true meaning of victory. In contrast, the soldiers who had just been defeated lay down, listening to the “distance strains of triumph” (Dickinson, 2008, p. 1201) from their opponents, they were able acknowledge the meaning of true success. It’s often been said that we cannot fully appreciate success without first experiencing failure. I think this poem is Emily Dickinson’s way to expressing to the world the significance of success.
In her poem 479, Emily Dickinson personifies death and takes the reader on a journey to eternity. The first stanza, “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me.” (Dickinson, 2008, p. 1214-1215) Dickinson refers to death as a horseman driving a carriage to take her away to die. She then goes on to explain he’s driving very slow as she carefully tries to make peace with her life’s work. Dickinson describes the children and fields of grains she sees as the sun set, symbolizing her life is coming to an end. Emily Dickinson begins to feel cold as she travels towards eternity and her ‘House’ in the ground or grave. She ends the poem very bizarre by saying “tis, Centuries” (Dickinson, 2008, p. 1214-1215) since she last died, but then says it seems like less than a day since she was taken to eternity.
This strange ending leaves the reader wondering about the soul of Emily Dickinson and the truth behind her life and death experiences.
In both poem 112 and 479, Dickinson extends her knowledge of life, death, and immortality. I think poem 112 is a very ironic piece of work for her. The poem discusses success and how it is only appreciated after failure. Emily Dickinson was an amazing poet, but didn’t achieve success until after her death. I can’t help but feel she somehow knew her work would not be appreciated until she was gone.
Why do you think Emily Dickinson was so plagued by death in her poems? Did she achieve immortality?
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