The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

THE ONLY ONE-VOLUME EDITION CONTAINING ALL 1,775 OF EMILY DICKINSON’S POEMSOnly eleven of Emily Dickinson’s poems were published prior to her death in 1886; the startling originality of her work doomed it to obscurity in her lifetime. Early posthumously published collections-some of them featuring liberally “edited” versions of the poems-did not fully and accurately repres...

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Title:The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Author:Emily Dickinson
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Edition Language:English

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Reviews

  • Janice

    Emily Dickinson's poems convinced me, at an early age of 9 or 10, to become a writer myself. I discovered her poems from the obsolete American textbooks my mother got from the collection in our school library. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when it was too hot to play outside and children were forced to take afternoon siestas, I'd end up reading her poems and imagined the person, that woman, with whom I shared similar thoughts. My favorite poem remains to this day:

    I'm nobody! Who are you?

    Are

    Emily Dickinson's poems convinced me, at an early age of 9 or 10, to become a writer myself. I discovered her poems from the obsolete American textbooks my mother got from the collection in our school library. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when it was too hot to play outside and children were forced to take afternoon siestas, I'd end up reading her poems and imagined the person, that woman, with whom I shared similar thoughts. My favorite poem remains to this day:

    I'm nobody! Who are you?

    Are you nobody, too?

    Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!

    They'd banish us, you know.

    How dreary to be somebody!

    How public, like a frog

    To tell your name the livelong day

    To an admiring bog!

    I knew of course that she never became famous in her lifetime, and that was something she didn't particularly aim for. But her poems assured me that there was something else I needed to do, somewhere else I had to be. Like everything, including our physical state was just temporary. So I grew up looking forward to the day when I'd have enough courage to write about my thoughts and feelings and be able to say, this is my letter to the world who never wrote to me... ;)

  • Timothy

    Because she is so freaking good--

    As good--as she can be--

    She makes me want--to scream--and shout--

    And set my poor heart free--

    Because I cannot live without--

    Her rhythm--and her rhyme--

    I keep this poet close at hand

    And only ask--for time.

  • Aubrey

    I recently ran across an argument against eBooks that went along the lines of suspicions of censorship, commenting on how easy it would be for publishers and the like to c

    I recently ran across an argument against eBooks that went along the lines of suspicions of censorship, commenting on how easy it would be for publishers and the like to change the text at any point via the digital interface, obfuscating any spot of material at any point thought necessary and rendering the interaction between reader and reading as puppet and puppeteer. A plausible occurrence, but an old one. Technology does not birth new abuses of communication and truth; it merely expedites, and leaves a different trail.

    A century and a quarter after Dickinson's death, almost sixty years after the last of her poems were finally published as they were meant to be, and still much too much is made of the means by which she composed. Never mind the seven years of higher learning, the keen network of letters enabling a vibrant circle of thought, the oeuvre itself in its wondrous breadth and brilliant insight that puts many a classical novel to shame. No, let us instead focus on how weird she was, how closeted her life, how quiet her compositions, how we rescued her work from the dire abyss and shaped it for the public whims and fancies as to how an American gentlewoman of that day and age should have written. How easy it is for us to focus on the cutesy trifles, the small morbidities, the things we call experimentation in men and "capriciousness" in women, that last word courtesy of Thomas H. Johnson, editor extraordinaire. So proud he was of his complete collection and yet

    couldn't give his scholarly focus the benefit of the doubt.

    One favor Johnson did well enough when he wasn't patronizing his chosen poet was accompany every poem with two years: one of composition, the other of publication. The first of the review was written 1862, published 1935. The second also 1862, yet published 1945. Once the anger at such mincing censorship has cooled, the text becomes invaluable, for here is a shameless record of piece by piece persistence of a work through the consternation of the ages. Paranoia inspired by digital outposts has nothing on a history of flagrant editing, closeting, disbelief and pride, till the author finally gets her due in her own words if not those of others.

    Written unknown, published 1945. Multifaceted the academics say, as if this wasn't a lifetime contained in 1,775 proofs of existence whose range of thematic material could have easily come together into one of those weighty tomes popularized by those with sufficient freedom of time and respect of endeavor by both Self and Other. Thought, Truth, Ethics, Creation, Creed, Deserving Pride, Bound Despair, Fragility of Self, Violence of Intellectual Development, Inexorable Stretching of Time from Second to Eternity and All the Survival Between, to name just a few of the topics captured so surely in succinct measures in some of my favorites of hers, thirty-one in total and not a single one seen before in high school classrooms and other variations on the popularity context. If you want the scale of a legacy of ungrateful disrespect, try

    on for size. Now make Melville a woman.

    Written 1878, published 1945. Even her compositional submission to virulent androcentrism couldn't revive this particular piece till near seventy years went by. Her mind was a marvel and knew it, too, clear evidence in her just contempt, her needful compartmentalization, her courting with the furthest ends of triumph and sheer oblivion. She never needed to go to war to know the futility of achieving glory and fame by means of homicidal finality, nor venture far from her chosen methodology of creation to contemplate the rise and fall of Life and Ideal the world over. Milton was blind when he conjured up Paradise Lost through dictation to his daughters, and nary a murmur that mayhap some of the result was her or her own. Dickinson was a woman who found the means to contemplate; the rest is sordid history and ugly present.

    Written 1883, published 1945.

    Written 1862, published 1935.

    Written 1861, published 1896. Whitman's multitudes came first, but Dickinson knew the difference then as bitingly as she would now. She was dead when others came to rifle through her work, and still they insisted on putting it and her persona through the torturous paces of then till today. Her words excavated themselves long before technology came into play; how long till we stop pretending otherwise?

    P.S. She talked about the Birds and the Bees a lot. Just saying.

  • Dolors

    “I taste a liquor never brewed” by Emily Dickinson

    I taste a liquor never brewed –

    From Tankards scooped in Pearl –

    Not all the Vats upon the Rhine

    Yield such an Alcohol!

    Inebriate of air – am I –

    And Debauchee of Dew –

    Reeling – thro' endless summer days –

    From inns of molten Blue –

    When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee

    Out of the Foxglove's door –

    When Butterflies – renounce their "drams" –

    I shall but drink the more!

    Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –

    And Saints – to windows run –

    To see the little Tippl

    “I taste a liquor never brewed” by Emily Dickinson

    I taste a liquor never brewed –

    From Tankards scooped in Pearl –

    Not all the Vats upon the Rhine

    Yield such an Alcohol!

    Inebriate of air – am I –

    And Debauchee of Dew –

    Reeling – thro' endless summer days –

    From inns of molten Blue –

    When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee

    Out of the Foxglove's door –

    When Butterflies – renounce their "drams" –

    I shall but drink the more!

    Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –

    And Saints – to windows run –

    To see the little Tippler

    Leaning against the – Sun!

    Inebriated by poetry

    "I taste a liquor never brewed" a poem by E. Dickinson

    For me, this is an hymn to poetry and what is sacred about the act of writing. I read line after line as an invocation to beauty in all its natural forms until I got drunk with it, until I, the reader, was able to reach the heavens and join its inhabitants, Seraphs and Saints, along with Emily, who is writing from there.

    In this sense, I guess that we, the readers who are able to share beauty through words, are rewarded with the admittance in Dickinson's house of possibility and poetry.

    The poem read also as an hymn for me because of its musicality and rhyme which I became aware of when I first read the poem out loud. The way the words sang by themselves came as a surprise, and the lack of punctuation, only the dashes and the capital letters to emphasise some words, made the poem more open and infinite.

    Analysing stanza by stanza, the poem starts with a reference to a certain liquor, which is a strange one, because it was never brewed and because its vastness wouldn't fit into such a huge river as the Rhine. There's also the reference to the ancient age of this liquor, because the Rhine, along with the Danube, appeared as important rivers in historical texts during the Roman Empire.

    So, going forward, this strange alcohol, makes the " I " in this poem inebriated. I understand this " I " as the writer, in this case, Emily. She speaks of herself being drunk with this strange liquor, a liquor which comes from dew, air and summer days melted in endless blue skies. As I see it, in this second stanza, Emily is describing the beauty of the natural world as overwhelming, she is dizzy, intoxicated with it, and she drinks it in the inns of Nature.

    And in the third stanza she stresses out this last idea even more, because the more the inhabitants of this natural world, the bee, the foxglove, the butterfly, are denied by foreign "Landlords", emphasised by quotation marks, the more she drinks of this natural liquor, the more inebriated she becomes.

    As for the interpretation of these Landlords, I take it as if they were the real world, the rationality, Emily's house of prose. The ones who call the imagination back to earth and out of this world of poetry and possibility.

    The last stanza is for me, the most difficult to analyse.

    Emily is intoxicated by the beauty of nature and ultimately, of poetry, but she keeps drinking and drinking in it, until the whole act of writing becomes sacred. I understand that she reaches heaven in the Biblical sense, and salvation if I dare say. I'll risk it by saying that this "Tippler" might be Jesus, leaning against this sun, this shinning light, waiting for her to reach out for her destiny, her fate, her mission in life, which is to write, to become a poet.

    And just another conclusion after rereading the whole thing again.

    I also think, that the metaphor of liquor and inebriation is not a casual one.

    If you think of men drinking in inns and socialising in the XIXth century, you might wonder how a reclusive person as Emily might view this kind of activity. Surely she might have disapproved of someone getting drunk, and this poem might also be a criticism to such behaviour and at the same time, she elevates something she finds ugly or negative to an utterly magnificent and celestial act, the act of writing, proving its capacity to transform the dull world of reality into a beautiful fan of possibilities.

  • Praveen

    I realized for a moment with a great sense of sadness that from now on, whenever I decide to read a famous poet for the first time, I must keep myself free from any prejudice and presumption. I had heard that she was regarded as a transcendentalist as far as the major themes in her poems were concerned. I do not know from where I got this notion, I probably learned it from some of the early articles, I read about her poems somewhere. How authentic wa

    I realized for a moment with a great sense of sadness that from now on, whenever I decide to read a famous poet for the first time, I must keep myself free from any prejudice and presumption. I had heard that she was regarded as a transcendentalist as far as the major themes in her poems were concerned. I do not know from where I got this notion, I probably learned it from some of the early articles, I read about her poems somewhere. How authentic was that source?

    I never checked!

    And meanwhile, I never got time to read her, verifying such presuppositions.

    Transcendentalism is certainly present there, but I also found common place innocence along with that profound sapience and susceptibility for Life, Love, and Death in her poetry. She has also written on various subjects like trains, shipwreck, surgeons, contract, lost jewel etc. But she has filled those ordinary looking stuff around, with the fragrance of her craft and sensitivity.

    She herself has claimed that she has her phrases for every thought, but she confessed her limitations as well.

    While I was reading this bulky volume, I felt in the beginning as if I were getting acquainted with a young girl, who did not want to disclose her sentiments, and who felt irritated and looked sulky when someone read her and tried to empathize with her sensibility. I felt as if she wished to keep herself hidden.

    But at the very next moment, I felt as if she were daring me to explore too, proving my thoughts wrong about her hesitancy, telling me how audacious her approach was.

    Her poems on nature, love, and life are extraordinarily beautiful and touching. Her sensibility in writing about hope and hunger, about life and death, about exploring and returning is just wonderful.

    She has scrutinized almost everything. Her subtle observation enlarged my common sense. There were four- liners giving a sound imprint to my sensibility and then there were beautiful longer poems taking me to her world of imagination giving an impression of her vision. She was humorous at times and expressed herself lightly as well, but she never looked futile. She maintained the depth and gravity every time.

    I heard that though she lived a secluded life, she was never disappointed with the life. I think she might have been an extremely sensitive introvert who invaginated her sentiments from the world and then from within her, came out such beautiful and impressive rhymes and verses, which made her readers feel instantly connected to her.

    I am so pleased and joyous reading her and having filled myself with such unique and exotic poetry of this poetess that I am going to visit her poetic world again and again. That’s a promise!

  • Edward

    --Poems

  • Duane

    This is a huge volume of poetry and probably not meant to be read straight through, but that's what I did. Some of them I didn't like or understand, but there were many that I thought were beautiful and perfectly suited to my feelings. I think that's the way with most poets and their readers. After reading, I was left in wonder about this strange and reclusive woman who saw only a handful of her poems published before her death. She never knew she would be a success, never knew her poems would b

    This is a huge volume of poetry and probably not meant to be read straight through, but that's what I did. Some of them I didn't like or understand, but there were many that I thought were beautiful and perfectly suited to my feelings. I think that's the way with most poets and their readers. After reading, I was left in wonder about this strange and reclusive woman who saw only a handful of her poems published before her death. She never knew she would be a success, never knew her poems would be loved by millions of people, and never knew she would be considered one of the greatest American poets.

  • James

    I love Emily Dickinson's poetry. I recently went to a museum exhibit dedicated to her and fell in love again with one of her poems, which I'll dissect below:

    Critics of Emily Dickinson’s poem number 328, commonly titled “A Bird Came Down the Walk,” have several different interpretations of the poem. Most critics believe that the poem is a “conventional symbolic account of Christian encounter within the world of nature…” (Budick 218). Although several critics take a religious appr

    I love Emily Dickinson's poetry. I recently went to a museum exhibit dedicated to her and fell in love again with one of her poems, which I'll dissect below:

    Critics of Emily Dickinson’s poem number 328, commonly titled “A Bird Came Down the Walk,” have several different interpretations of the poem. Most critics believe that the poem is a “conventional symbolic account of Christian encounter within the world of nature…” (Budick 218). Although several critics take a religious approach to the poem, I disagree with them. I believe that “A Bird Came Down the Walk” is about mankind’s innate fear of others who are larger/smaller than they are. I also think that the poem explains man’s reaction to this fear. The bird in poem number 328 actually represents all of mankind. When the bird is confronted with its fear, it flies away. A (wo)man is as guilty as the bird when (s)he is running away from his/her fears. When we are scared or frightened, we often run away instead of standing up to face our fears.

    The first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s poem shows a bird doing what it normally does all day long: “A Bird came down the walk / He did not know I saw / He bit an Angleworm in halves / And ate the fellow raw.” However, there is a deeper meaning in this stanza than the idea of a bird simply eating a raw worm. According to Jonnie G. Guerra, “the speaker’s choice of verbs seems to express a desire to anthropomorphize the bird” (Guerra 29). By giving the bird human-like qualities, the narrator invites the readers to compare the bird’s actions to mankind’s actions. The man is actually a human being who is eating his lunch or dinner. Since the bird does not know that the reader sees him eating a worm, the bird is perfectly at peace going about his daily business. Humans are identical to the bird in this sense. We follow our daily routines of eating, drinking, sleeping, shopping, and working; yet, we rarely realize that someone may be watching our every move. All throughout the day, parents watch their children to insure their safety, teachers monitor their students’ progress in order to help them do well, and bosses keep a close watch on their employees to see if they are doing the work that they were hired to do. There is always a pair of eyes beating down on us to scrutinize our every action, just like the narrator scrutinizes the bird’s actions. Through the bird, who is unaware of the man watching him, the narrator shows that no one is ever completely alone. The bird may be in danger, and it feels as though someone or something is approaching it.

    The second stanza continues with the anthropomorphization of the bird: “And then he drank a Dew / From a convenient Grass / And then hopped sideways to the Wall / To let a Beetle pass.” The reader sees the resemblance of the bird to a human in this stanza when the bird drinks a dew because “grass” suggests an echo-pun on glass (Guerra 29). However, this stanza also sets up a situation that shows the goodness of humankind. Charles R. Metzger “playfully suggests a fancifully anthropomorphic sense of genteel deportment in the bird’s letting a “Beetle pass” (Metzger 22). Here, the narrator shows that the bird is kind enough to step out of the way for the beetle, a creature smaller than the bird, to pass by. Continuing with the theory that the bird is actually a human, readers then see how we humans often try to be accommodating to others. When others aren’t as capable of doing something on their own, man will often go out of his/her way to make it more convenient for them. When we are in the way of others’ goals, we try to get out of their way if at all possible. With its human-like qualities, the bird follows the “Golden Rule” just as man does. Since we are never alone in the world, we must work to make friends. Perhaps, the bird is trying to befriend the beetle. It is unlikely, but still, the bird is friendly by moving out of the beetle’s way. However, the bird’s friendliness isn’t enough to keep the bird calm when the stranger/narrator advances toward it.

    As a result, the third stanza shows a change in the bird’s composure: “He glanced with rapid eyes / That hurried all around / They looked like frightened Beads, I thought / He stirred his Velvet Head.” When the bird stepped to the side, he realized that the narrator was watching him. He wasn’t alone at all. Fear starts to enter into the bird’s blood, making him look for the nearest escape route. The bird is unsure of the narrator, and what his/her intentions are. The narrator might be there to cause harm, or the narrator could be there to express kindness as the bird did for the beetle. Folk wisdom has always said that the eyes are the windows to one’s soul. When the bird’s eyes glance all around, the fear is evident; only in a case of extreme fright would the bird’s eyes become beady and glassy (Andersen 119). At this point in the poem, the narrator is physically close to the bird. While the bird is afraid of the man who is close to him, we humans are afraid of the people closest to us. The people who know us best and are closest to us have the power to hurt us the most. We are so unaware of other’s eyes beating down us at times that we become victims quite easily. We may be accommodating to a point, but we should never be accommodating to the point that we lose our focus and our direction. We need to hold back from others so that we maintain some order in our lives. Fear cannot take control of us. When it does, we must get away from it somehow, just as the bird does.

    The fourth stanza of the poem shows the bird reacting to the narrator’s approach: “Like one in danger, cautious, / I offered him a Crumb / And he unrolled his feathers / And rowed him softer home.” Now, the narrator approaches the bird and offers to feed him, but the bird is frightened and flies away. The bird is quite small in comparison to the narrator. The narrator’s size is what scares the bird away. Charles R. Anderson notes that Dickinson “keeps the whole garden world reduced to the bird’s size. The [narrator] is left towering above and outside, having no magical elixir like Alice in Wonderland to shrink her down to a level where communication is possible” (Anderson 118). Jerome Loving agrees by pointing out that “if there is any suggestion of danger, it comes when the human narrator offers the bird a crumb. The truth is that nature is a nice place, a pastoral scene until man blunders on stage with the full weight of his past and future” (Loving 56). We humans have the same innate fear as birds when we face someone who is larger than we are. If someone is higher up on the corporate ladder than us, we are constantly afraid that he or she will fire us. Students have the fear of teachers failing them just as the bird feels the human will hurt him. Children feel afraid of their parents punishing them at times also. Everywhere we turn, there is someone who is stronger or more important than we are. We will always feel as though others are going to do something to hurt us; therefore, we need to escape this fear by running away like the bird does. If one looks at it another way, the bird could also be afraid of the entire world. Even though the beetle is smaller than the bird is, the bird might still be afraid. It is common knowledge that elephants are often afraid of mice, which are hundreds of times smaller than elephants are. Perhaps the bird’s nerves are on edge, and he is afraid of anything that makes a slight, sudden move. The beetle could cause harm too. Humans are often afraid of spiders and bees, which are quite small in comparison to man. Nevertheless, the bird runs away just as man does when confronted with a situation he fears.

    The fifth stanza shows that the bird flies away softly and quickly: “Than Oars divide the Ocean / Too silver for a seam / Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon / Leap, plashless as they swim.” The bird knows that it is in danger and must leave as quickly as possible. Also, the bird wants to leave quietly, in the hopes that the narrator doesn’t realize that the bird is leaving. We humans also try to leave swiftly and quietly. We know when we have been defeated, and we try to leave with our tail between our legs. We are ashamed and upset that someone has hurt us or tried to hurt us, so we escape. Running or flying away may not be the best way to handle the situation, but that is all that we know how to do. Man is accustomed to flee a situation rather than to confront it. Therefore, the bird, who represents man, flees too.

    According to Anderson, “The dangers as well as the beauty represented by nature at large… are here concentrated in a single bird that exhibits a complex mix of qualities: ferocity, fastidiousness, courtesy, fear, and grace” (Anderson 221). The bird in Emily Dickinson’s poem “A Bird Came Down the Walk” can be representative of humans, since humans have the qualities such as fear, courtesy, and grace in their personality. Dickinson’s poem comments on man’s innate fear of others. We humans are always being watched and when we realize how close someone is to us, we need to run for fear that (s)he will hurt us. Our fleeing is done with grace and courtesy. It is a reaction that all humans have at one point or another. Dickinson’s poem shows the readers this fear and the results of the fear on mankind.

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  • JV

    Sigh... I just experienced poetic gut punches from Emily herself. From this collection alone, there's a total of 1,775 poems. Blimey! A huge compilation if you ask me! Honestly, I didn't read every poem, because that would probably result in me having a mushy brain (poor noodle!). I just skimmed through a lot of them and just selected those that are meaningful to me. Her poems are oftentimes cryptic in nature (which made me scratch my head), but there are those that connect quite well with me. M

    Sigh... I just experienced poetic gut punches from Emily herself. From this collection alone, there's a total of 1,775 poems. Blimey! A huge compilation if you ask me! Honestly, I didn't read every poem, because that would probably result in me having a mushy brain (poor noodle!). I just skimmed through a lot of them and just selected those that are meaningful to me. Her poems are oftentimes cryptic in nature (which made me scratch my head), but there are those that connect quite well with me. Most of Emily's poems are full of bliss, despair, life, death, love, and nature, but most of the time, she obsessively delves into the dark aspect of life — mortality. This might be due to her life experiences as she witnessed the deaths of her closest family members and friends. A life of solitude, Emily preferred (heck, this woman obviously and seriously needs a hug!); and as reclusive as she is, she channeled her inner feelings in creating some of the most enduring poems that the world has loved. And as for me, I'd rather eat my feelings, because that's what I'm good at.

    *Spoiler tags aren't actually spoilers, just used those to expand/compress the poems.*

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  • Paul Bryant

    I felt a sneeze - as big as God

    Form in - back of - my Nose

    Yet being - without - a Handkerchief

    I Panicked quite - and froze

    Sneeze I must - yet sneeze - must not

    Dilemma - made - me grieve

    Happy then - a single Bee

    Saw me - use - my sleeve

    Well all right, I did not read every one of the 25,678 but certainly a fair number. You know when she died they found she'd stuffed poems everywhere in her house, up the chimney, down her knickers, tied in little "packets" onto her dogs' hindquarters, someone cut a

    I felt a sneeze - as big as God

    Form in - back of - my Nose

    Yet being - without - a Handkerchief

    I Panicked quite - and froze

    Sneeze I must - yet sneeze - must not

    Dilemma - made - me grieve

    Happy then - a single Bee

    Saw me - use - my sleeve

    Well all right, I did not read every one of the 25,678 but certainly a fair number. You know when she died they found she'd stuffed poems everywhere in her house, up the chimney, down her knickers, tied in little "packets" onto her dogs' hindquarters, someone cut a slice of a loaf of bread to make a sandwich and another 25 poems fell out. I think Emily would have made a great drug mule if she'd have lived another 120 years. Although she may have found a serious conflict between her intense religious convictions and the large amount of cash she would have made, not to mention the radical change of lifestyle.

    There's - a certain - slant of - light

    On - winter afternoons

    That makes - you feel - high

    Like - those - small - mushrooms

    I put - a poem - in my pants

    Then sitting - by an Eternal Lake

    My poem - seemed - to speak aloud

    "Lay off - the Battenburg - cake"

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