He preached upon “Breadth” till it argued him narrow —

He preached upon “Breadth” till it argued him narrow —
The Broad are too broad to define
And of “Truth” until it proclaimed him a Liar —
The Truth never flaunted a Sign —

Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
As Gold the Pyrites would shun —
What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
To meet so enabled a Man!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem He preached upon “Breadth” till it argued him narrow —


  1. Gary Newsum says:

    It seems as though Miss Dickinson was possibly referring to a minister she may have encountered who was pontificating upon subjects “broad” and truths so lofty and transcendent that it all sounded artificial or counterfeit, much like iron pyrite imitates gold. She seems to decry this type of insincere, puffed-up hyperbole in favor of the simple truths and delivery-style of the humble and innocent Jesus. That is why Jesus would be confused by such an “enabled” man.

  2. John Stauffer says:

    Actually I was told in college the “he” was a visiting blowhard of a preacher who was full of himself. He was quite popular at the time and her congregation invited him to speak.

    Emily was not impressed, stating Jesus would not recognize the nonsense this character was spewing.

    This preacher reminds me of the narcissistic pastors in the current Mega Churches with people follow blindly with out thinking or understanding what he is selling as the collection plate is passed.

    What enabled snake oil salesmen these are.

  3. Angela Woodard says:

    The “HE” in this poem is obviously JESUS HIMSELF. HIS teaching had great breadth to it, but HIS teaching revealed that Truth is really narrow. “The way is narrow that leads to life but broad is the way that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). Those who are insistent about the broad way continue to the point of calling the person of “Truth” a liar. The Truth did not flaunt who HE really was. HIS simplicity caused those who could not understand to flee from HIS presence. The fool shuns the real thing just as one is satisfied with Pyrite instead of the treasure of real gold. The innnocence of JESUS confuses those who cannot comprehend the GOD MAN HE truly is.

    • John Stauffer says:

      This comment is baloney. The “He” is a visiting narcissistic blow hard that is selling snake oil to a congregation. Emily calls him out on his BS.

    • Gary Newsum says:

      This interpretation might seem plausible for the first half of the poem (which could be using irony or sarcasm to describe Jesus), but the second half juxtaposes “the innocent Jesus” with this person of “counterfeit presence” hidden inside “so enabled a Man.” Therefore, the second half of this poem shows that the poem itself was describing a golden-tongued minister who was playing it up for the crowd.

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