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Analysis and comments on A solemn thing -- it was -- I said by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 2 of 39, added on December 4th, 2010 at 2:51 PM.

I looked up Emily’s poem online once more and found it on Granger’s Online
World of Poetry. I analyzed the eight lines the site provided but was
puzzled since my memory possessed a different variation of the poem than
the one I had found. I “Googled” the poem like I had a year before and
found the version I was looking for, which was completely different and I
was frustrated that an online “resource” would have the poem incorrect.
The first difference that caught my attention was the dashes that
frequented the poem in the correct version, which the incorrect version so
recklessly lacked. Every line possessed a dash, sometimes two, or in some
cases even three. These dashes further accentuated Dickinson’s main theme
of death and eternity, with an emphasis on the latter. With so many dashes
in the poem I was required to stop and think as I read through it the first
time. Why were certain words isolated by means of a dash? Among the words
isolated I round “eternity”, “seen”, and “small” particularly interesting.
Eternity, being one of the main themes of the poem, was obviously meant to
be alone with a dash after it because “Eternity” is indeed forever and the
dash allowed me to stop and pause as that thought sunk in. “Seen” took an
important meaning because Dickinson was attempting to look forward and
sneak a glimpse of eternity. I suppose when she looked, she stopped in awe
at what eternity was going to hold for her which is why it is surrounded by
a dash on either side as “—seen—“ for it took such an extent of time for
her to attempt the greatness of eternity. Lastly, the word “small”, though
possessing the definition of tiny, contains a huge meaning in the way that
Emily Dickinson employs it in her poem. It is the last word in the poem
and is in quotes because it is said by Dickinson. She
“sneered—softly—‘small’!” Dickinson says this to the Sages who call life
“small” and she is sneering at them because she understands that life is
much greater than what we have on earth now. Emily Dickinson recognizes
that there is eternity after death, thus providing a greater amount of life
than once thought and life can no longer be considered “small”.

The beginning words of the poem are what intrigued me so greatly in the
first place. “A solemn thing—it was—I said—”. What was so solemn? As I
sat and pondered that question I moved through the rest of the stanza. “A
woman—white—to be—And wear—if God should count me fit—Her blameless
mystery.” After deciding that this poem is mostly about eternity and death
it was easier to decipher the meaning of all of the poem. Emily Dickinson
is talking about herself as the white woman in the poem and is apparently
going to wear a garment. Yet, it’s not a garment literally. She is only
going to wear her “blameless mystery” or receive eternal life in heaven if
“God should count [her] fit.” She calls eternity a “blameless mystery”
because she will be not only be pure through the new life she will receive,
but she will be living a life that is considered by many to be a “mystery”
because no one knows what heaven will look like. This stanza begins by
saying “A solemn thing” because whether or not a person goes to heaven is
considered by many to be a serious situation. Once God decides where you
belong, it’s not going to change. The second stanza begins with “A
hollowed thing”. The situation is no longer serious but has changed to
holy. “A hollowed thing—to drop a lifeInto the purple well—Too
plummetless—that it return—Eternity—until—”. Emily Dickinson switches from
talking about herself to talking about what happens after one passes away.
The reason that “hallowed” is used in this stanza is because it emphasizes
that holiness of deciding when it is time for someone to pass on. Only God
can decide when “to drop a lifeInto the purple well”, or in other words
when God will remove someone from this world and drop them into eternity.
Have you ever looked down into a well that goes extremely deep? Sometimes
the hue of the color of the well turns purple because of its depth and
Emily Dickinson uses this color to demonstrate that eternity is like a
“purple well” and that is “too plummetless” for humans to comprehend. The
focus of the next stanza returns to Emily’s opinions and personal thoughts
as she “pondered how the bliss would look”. The bliss she is referring to
is the soul or life of a human; she is pondering how it would look “And
would it feel as big” as a life actually seems to be. She then proceeds to
say “When I could take it in my hand—As hovering—seen—through fog—” in
order to confirm that she is thoroughly examining the life before her and
attempting to measure its greatness by holding it in her hand. And the
most fascinating part of it is that she is holding the soul and life of the
person from when they lived, not when they are in eternity, which is why
the next and last stanza of the poem is the great climax. “And then—”are
the first words of the last stanza in which Emily Dickinson requires the
reader to pause with the dash that she enters in the poem so that she may
truly build up to her final point: “And then—the size of this ‘small’
life— he Sages—call it small—Swelled—like Horizons –in my vest—And I
sneered—softly—‘small’!” Dickinson enforces her opinion that life is much
bigger than often perceived because when eternity is presented the size of
a life swells “like Horizons” and grows bigger than anyone could imagine,
including the Sages who “call it small”.

Elisabeth from United States
Comment 1 of 39, added on June 29th, 2010 at 11:01 AM.

The joy and influence of the departed is immense.

frumpo from United States

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Information about A solemn thing -- it was -- I said

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 271. A solemn thing -- it was -- I said
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 10338 times
Poem of the Day: Aug 2 2013

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