By a departing light
We see acuter, quite,
Than by a wick that stays.
There’s something in the flight
That clarifies the sight
And decks the rays.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem By a departing light


  1. A.J. Newton says:

    Pardon this comment on a comment left about five years ago. I don’t even know whether this is still active, but here goes:

    I read “Decks the Rays” as something like sorts the rays, shows the rays in their places in the spectrum of light, lets you see the clarity of the spectrum of rays in great detail. That would be consistent with the remainder of the poem. Decks is like showing the strata of the rays. If anything the common definitions that might come close are the decks of a ship or a deck of cards, but turn that into a verb and deck the rays, sort them, stack them. let their order and differences be seen.

  2. Helen Stein says:

    I have used this poem as a metaphor for separation, but it is an unsentimental one. I think it suggests that with distance (or separation), we may get more clarity, and might even begin to expand upon what we experienced. The use of the word “decks” was confusing, but I figured out that she probably meant something like embellishes (as in Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly).

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