Comment 2 of 2, added on November 7th, 2005 at 5:24 PM.
Dickinson takes a look, obliquely (these were deep Victorians-) at the idea
of chastity, and finds it not worth the wait. The short lives of the
Victorians, abetted by the American Civil War with its 620,000 dead, had
degraded longevity. Dickinson lived a long, hemmed, claustrophobic
life-topped with a father who stifled her every attempt to live. The poem
is a great cry for help. A help which never came. She had become infatuated
with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, but the affair never moved beyond her own
thwarted attempts at presenting her desire to him. Penurious length: a
reference to the paucity of love,and the emotional poverty around her.
Tragic and yet beautiful, like so much of Dickinsons work.
Comment 1 of 2, added on November 13th, 2004 at 11:16 PM.
I understand this poem to say that, IF we were moved to joy by the
shortness of life, our rationality would be overcome, and we would lose our
sanity [since it is so short]. Underlying this, I believe, is the notion
that it's shortness, in reality, is the danger to calm reason.
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