On this wondrous sea
Sailing silently,
Ho! Pilot, ho!
Knowest thou the shore
Where no breakers roar —
Where the storm is o’er?

In the peaceful west
Many the sails at rest —
The anchors fast —
Thither I pilot thee —
Land Ho! Eternity!
Ashore at last!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem On this wondrous sea


  1. Dan Sweeney says:

    I too see the sea as life, and the calm shore, beyond the breakers, as the eternal life, but who do you think is the pilot? Is it as simple as God, or who?

  2. Shama T. Bukhari says:

    Emily lived in quest of peace.and she thought she might find it in the west..still she loved the sea ,and compares her life with it..while the shore was a dead life,which mostly peple spend..no pains,no sorrows,no partings no tomorrows..

  3. Emile Moelich says:

    What water is for the desert, is poetry for the soul.

  4. gabse says:

    Hey there..
    I thinkt it is a very interestig poem – and your interpretation is very interestig, too.
    I interpret it in a similiar way, but there is one thing that is incomprehensible to me:
    This was the poem she sent to Susan Gilbert (who would be later her brother austin’s wife) as a plea to write her a letter back. That is, in my opinion, the thing that doesn’t match.

  5. Juan says:

    I’m reading or rereading Emily’s poems in the order they are listed here, so it will be a while before I’m done 🙂 Anyhow, I was surprised by the small number of comments on a poem I find most enjoyable.

    Just want to add something to what others have already said. I find this one is very musical really, and it is a fact that many of Emily Dickinson’s poems have been sung to a tune. But even if you just read this poem carefully out and aloud and pay attention at the sounds you are making, the al.literations and the contrasts between minimal pairs of phonemes (or, simply put, sounds) such as /t/ /d/ /th/ /s/ /z/ and the way she combines vowels and diphthongs you can almost hear and feel the waves she is talking about and, with a bit of imagination, if you read this with the right intonation and rythm, you can see yourself aboard a rocking ship and in the end you are really glad when the poem is over and you are back at shore. No kidding. Try it!

  6. Jon says:

    Wow. This poem is amazing and bogles the mind into a world of Dickinson.

  7. Steve J. says:

    My interpretation was the same as Tamala’s. The “wondrous sea” represents life while the shore of eternity is the after life, free of “storms” and pain.

  8. Matt says:

    I think this poem is about leaving the hassles of every day life. A breaker, (see line 5), has several meanings.
    1. One who breaks (mean person)
    2. A wave that is visible against an afloat serface
    3. An industrial coal crushing machine
    All three have meanings pointing to dickinsons attempt to express her feelings.

  9. Tamala Turner says:

    i think the poem is talking about them being on the journey through life and them looking for land to be on for eternity is meaning after they die they will go to heaven to be for eternity

  10. Alex Ellis says:

    i like to sail the wondrous sea because i am a piirate mate.

  11. Monica says:

    As all of Emily’s poetry is full of symbolism so is this one . Poet wants to goto a shore where there is no storm in life means apeaceful life and she heads towrds west in her quest

  12. kim moreland says:

    cool poem i lke it a lot

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