Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I’m going, all along.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

12 Comments

  1. Mariam says:

    It is at last. I got it from my college text book

  2. frumpo says:

    My church is God in Nature, and I enjoy it daily.

  3. Ian G says:

    Has justice been done to the poem’s ending, “I’m going, all along”?

    Emily seems to imply that she is already partaking, heartily and comprehensively, in an ongoing heaven. Her tone is jubilant: it’s not her lot to tarry, yearning for some afterlife.

  4. Chantal says:

    kate, i’m afraid “at least” is a typo. i looked in my book, and in several other sources, and it is in fact “at last”, and as someone else said before, it absolutely changes the connotation of the poem . However your analysis is what matters, and i think it is very helpful for those who are interested on the poem and not on criticism towards other people.

  5. Lena says:

    I agree with Steph. “At least” from the poem really changes the whole poem. When i first read it, i was surprised to see what i read!

  6. TPCorrigan says:

    “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”

    12/07/2005 T. P. Corrigan

    Emily Dickinson’s poem “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church” is an expression of her rather unorthodox view of how a person should live his or her spiritual life. Most people celebrate the Sabbath by going to church; however, Emily Dickinson feels that time is better spent at home and especially with nature, a very prevalent theme in this poem.
    She starts her poem making the simple statement that some people keep the Sabbath by going to church, but she stays at home. She makes comparisons between church and her home stating that she has birds for a choir and an orchard for a dome (dome meaning a church building). She states that some people dress up for church, but she just wears her wings. Wings are symbolic of what God gives her, and they relate to her expression of the glory found in nature. She says that instead of ringing bells for church, her Sexton, which she has mentioned as the bobolink, sings. In her last paragraph, Emily says that God, who of course is a noted Clergyman, preaches to her through life, a sermon that is never long. She says that instead interrupting her life to go to church, she is going home where she can live her life and get to heaven just as easily.
    Emily uses a definite rhyme scheme of A, B, C, B, to D, E, F, E, to G, H, I, H in her three paragraph poem. She uses a vivid vocabulary in her use of sound and sight imagery. She also employs other poetry devices, such as alliteration in the title and the first line of the second and third paragraph, – “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” and “Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice.”
    The Sabbath and church are very important aspects of most people’s lives. Emily Dickinson expresses how she feels about truly appreciating the Sabbath, and establishes her own kind of relationship with God. She feels that one can get to heaven just as easily by staying at home and in nature, God’s creation.

  7. Steph says:

    In my textbook and also every other version I could find of the poem online it is “at last” in the second to last verse of Some Keep the Sabbath going to Church. Are you positive it is at least? Those two words completely change the connotation of the poem.

  8. Eddie says:

    i think it actually is at last, at least its that way in my textbook

  9. Kate says:

    Contrary to what two people have said, the second to last line is not a typo. It is in fact “at least–”
    Look it up!

  10. Nodnarb says:

    Emily, in this poem, is once again displaying her desire to be unorthodox and her success in doing so. While many people choose to celebrate the Sabbath in a church, she sees this as a waste of time and not truly appreciating the Sabbath at all. The Sabbath began as a Pagan holiday celebrating the turn of the seasons, regardless of the Christian connotation it now has. So, in staying true to the original essence of the Sabbath, Emily enjoys nature and experiences all it has to offer. Contrary to this, of course, is staying cooped up inside a stuffy building, listening to someone talk about things you’ll hear a million times over before you die. Moreover, instead of listening to someone worship God for her, she will do it directly and have her own relationship, eliminating the clerical middleman. Emily, finally, concludes that she won’t stop her life to worship when she could be doing it equally well at home. Even if she doesn’t get to Heaven, she proclaims, at least she will have had a full life instead of life that’d been frittered away in a Church.

  11. Jan Lee Ande says:

    Your have a typo in the penultimate line. It is at last, not at least….

  12. Rich says:

    Line three of the last or third stanza is incorrect and should read:

    So instead of getting to Heaven, at LAST-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem better? If they are accepted, they will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.