There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —
‘Tis the Seal Despair —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air —

When it comes, the Landscape listens —
Shadows — hold their breath —
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem There’s a certain Slant of light,


  1. Kady B says:

    I think Emily Dickenson meant that the winter is a dark, depressing time that opresses people. I can relate to this in that winter is a dark, depressing time for me as well. “We can find no scar, but internal difference” refers to emotional damage. She also compares the winter light to death.

  2. karen says:

    Personally i believe that this poem’s theme is hope. the way she describes the slant of light, it gives me the impression of hope for a dead loved one. for eaxample in the poem dickenson says,”There’s a certain Slant of light,
    Winter Afternoons —
    That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes –“. To me this means that there is always a silver lining. no matter how grim our situations get, we always have that “slant of light” or that burst of hope.

    Also when the poems says”None may teach”, it reminds me of one of the comments given on this same site. one commenter said that hope is only taught when we are deficients of it. i believe that is exactly what this phrase drawn from the poem means. Hope is not something that is taught. we aquire it.

    When emily dickenson was writting, maybe she had just lost a dead loved one. she may have been thinking about how that loss relates to the loss of light on winter. but right when a slant or just a little bit of light come it gives us hope. that was probably what she may have been feeling.

  3. alexandra and e'lexis says:

    This poem was hard to understand at first. After I reread it and read the comments from others, I saw the other opnions and ways to look at it. I realized the message of the poem, which was about death and the after-life.

  4. Patrick says:

    I believe that the message Emily Dickinson is trying to say is that when you see death, you see heaven, and you see hell. When I read it, I didn’t quite understand it at first, but when I read it over and over again, the message became clearer and clearer to me. When Emily Dickinson wrote
    “That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes-”
    I believed that those two lines were the lines that were the most confusing to me. There were also the words that were capitalized, such as Landscape, Shadows, and Death- I must say, it is very peculiar to why Dickinson capitalized certain words jjust to add more emphasis to the poem. Basically, this is a very moving poem. Read it!

  5. emily jesus says:

    this poem is about depression. it is emily dickinsons attempt to describe the feelings that accompany depression, at a time when doctors and physicians did not realize depression was an illness or an actual mental problem. Dickinson explains that the feeling of depression is like the heft [heaviness, weight] of cathedral tunes. The auditory imagery of this gives the reader the impression of the deep organ tunes often heard from churches. Another use of imagery is in the picture Dickinson gives the reader of the slant of light on a winter afternoon. Dickinson lived on the east coast, where winter afternoons held a dreary, downcast, grey sky. Dickinson describes depression as a hurt that leaves no scar, as it is not visible to others. She explins that depression on changes on internally [where the meanings are].

  6. Ann Cotrupi says:

    The poem seems to reflect the way one feels when one is feeling ill. The illness seems to have hit us “out of the blue.” We think (hope) this will pass. No one else can appreciate our suffering or sense our inner despair. Soon, we believe (hope) we will get through this period and feel better. Hopefully, soon we’ll look into the mirror and see our healthy selves looking back. Then this bad time will be just an unpleasant memory.

  7. noah says:

    i think this poem is about suckin paynus

  8. Cherell B. says:

    This poem can have many different meanings to it. But to me, this poem means the person is standing in front of the door way to death looking back at their life and what they did. The music being played is from their funeral and the light shinig is from God’s stair way and taking their last breath is they are finally near death.

  9. Ciara says:


  10. Sidra Muntaha says:

    In this poem,Emily Dickson is expressing her mind about hope and then she is relating it to the eternal idea od death.In the poem, she personifies hope as the slant of light in the winter. She also repressents death as a symbol of sorrows, sadness and agony.

  11. Brittany says:

    I believe that this poem is about enduring things in life and finding a way to get through it. When it is refering to winter it is referring to tough times that we will experience in our lifetime. The “light” in the poem symbolizes hope. Life can seem dark and dull at times, but when a little light shines it gives you a great sense of hope that there can be a better tommorow! Without these tough and dark times that Emily Dickinson refers to, we would not grow or mature in the way that God has intended for us. In my opinion I believe that when we experience these tough times God is the one who sends a light to give us hope in the dark times.

  12. shanay-nay says:

    In my opion,the certain slant of light on a cold winter day for emily Dickinson is mysterious,like she thinks there’s a meaning to the light.I definitely think that she is refering death, and that everyting goes silent when your spirit leaves the body, and your free.Although she’s talking about death, she still incorporates the beauty of nature into the poem.this poem gives me the idea thta she believes that we are all going to leave the earth with nothing heavy on our soul’s except for the events in our life that truly matter.

  13. Travis says:

    How she is talking about hope and how she is seeeing throught the the light in an winter afternoon. She is also finding her self and fighting through life and living without scars. She is looking inside herself and seeing what she is really made of. She is also talking about noe one can teach you how ot find your self, only you can. it is always good to be by yourself and listen to nature and just pay attention to your surroundings.

  14. Fernando says:

    The is saying that the light cast upon the world is like hope: it will fade away at times but will return. At times we are depressed because we feel the weather has turned against us. When light, hope, is returning to us, the “darness” holds it’s breath hoping themselves that the darkness will return. Hope is taught only when we are deficient in it.

  15. katie norris says:

    This poem really is about hope. The slant of light is the light we see in every darkness. The will to carry on, to have faith and trust is what we learn through living life. Thhat is why none may teach it.

  16. Travis says:

    How she is talking about hope and how she is seeeing throught the the light in an winter afternoon. She is also finding her self and fighting through life and living without scars. She is looking inside herself and seeing what she is really made of.

  17. g ceds says:

    i believe that this poem is about hope. The slant of light is the sliver of hope that lies within all of us, even on the cold winter afternoons, that fall upon us like the cathedral tunes. Althouhg having this hope hurts is, it leaves no scar, but truly lies within our souls. One cant teach hope, but only few undertsand, ‘the impirial affliction. When hope comes, all is well, but when it leaves we are left with the idea of death

  18. Chris McComb says:

    Emily Dickinson’s poem “There’s a certain Slant of light,” is definitely one of her heaviest works, meaning that it deals extensively with the concept and realization of the inevitability of death. The speaker in this poem is someone who is extremely close to death. The proximity of the speaker to death lends validity to the views that they express in the poem. It also gives him/her a unique perspective, a type of hindsight that only those whose lives’ wither away receive. When I read this poem, I imagine the words barley escaping the lips of an old wrinkled man who is lying on his deathbed, contentedly waiting for Death to come end his torment. He feels no pain, only intense weariness. While he takes his last breaths, he is speaking to a small boy. The man tells the boy of “a certain Slant of light,” that enters his room, and how that light led him to realize the futile importance of human life. The message conveyed through this poem, this man’s last words, is that one’s life is lived completely on borrowed time. The price of this borrowed time is being forced to exist for eternity knowing what it was like to live, and missing every second of it. Only you can make that borrowed time worth its price.

    The vivid images are found in the first and last stanzas. One peculiar thing about the images in the first stanza is that they are synaesthetic. This means that an image commonly associated with one is described in terms of another. The “Slant of light” that gives the poem its name, isn’t described as bright, or dull, or with any other visual descriptors. It is described as oppressive “like the Heft | Of Cathedral Tunes—“. Something that “oppresses” is commonly something of extreme weight, and light has hardly any weight. This slant of light is also compared to the weight and sadness of cathedral tunes. Since all of these descriptors are extremely uncharacteristic of light, light must be a very important symbol. I believe that light is symbolic of life, and that the rest of the poem is only an extended metaphor, describing life through contrast with death.
    The first line of the second stanza presents the reader with a paradoxical statement: “Heavenly Hurt”. This means that the pain and hurt that light (life) brings are truly heavenly in that they create actual life from simple existence. On the next line, Dickinson goes on to write that “We find no scar”, from the “Heavenly Hurt”. From this it becomes apparent that the “Heavenly Hurt” is only the psychological pain of life. The second half of the second stanza simply reinforce the idea of the importance that psychological pain holds in life. In the third stanza “None may teach it—Any—“ implies the supremacy of life. Life is presented now as omniscient. When this realization if made, light becomes synonymous with God as well as life. The idea of light as God is reinforced in the last stanza: “when it comes the Landscape listens—“. Only a truly supreme being could control nature, and make nature take note of it. And then, when the light, life, God, leaves, all that is left is death: “When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance | On the look of Death—“.

    The first four lines of the poem alternate between 7 and 5 syllables. Of the 24 syllables in the first stanza, the odd-numbered syllables are stressed, while the even-numbered syllables are unstressed. This means that the 7-syllable lines begin and end on stressed syllables, and the 5-syllable lines begin and end on unstressed syllables. A line ending on a stressed syllable creates a sense of tension, and a line ending on an unstressed syllable gives a sort of relaxation. When lines of both types are paired as in this poem, the first line (ending in a stressed syllable) seems incomplete, and is made whole by the second line (ending in an unstressed syllable). This is the ‘standard’ structure for the stanzas of the poem.
    The second stanza has the same arrangement of 7- and 5-syllable lines as the first stanza, but there is a change in the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. The first line begins with two stressed syllables, and then alternates between stressed and unstressed syllables. The second, third and fourth lines all begin and end with stressed syllables. This slight change in the stanza structure serves to build tension, and the tension serves to foreshadow a more radical change in the stanza structure.
    The first line of the third stanza has six syllables, the second line has five syllables, the third line has eight, and the fourth line five. The first line is in iambic trimeter, and the third line is in iambic tetrameter. This means that they both begin on stressed syllables and end on unstressed syllables, which gives them a sense of calmness. The second and fourth lines both begin and end on stressed syllables. This weird and unstable stanza is the halfway point in the radical stanza structure change.
    The fourth stanza completes the change, and brings the stanzas back to a more regular form. The first and third lines are written in perfect iambic tetrameter. The second and fourth lines are the same as the second and fourth lines in every stanza of the poem: five syllables, alternating between stressed and unstressed, and ending on stressed. These five-syllable lines were the one constant throughout the entire poem. These lines are connected to the order of nature. Since they carry through the entire poem at regular intervals, we can assume that the theme of the poem (life vs. death) is ordinary from the point of view of nature. The first and third lines in each stanza are only the same in the first stanza and the last stanza. In between, they are constantly changing. These lines are tied in with the human element of the poem. In the first stanza, the “living” stanza, the first and third lines are the same because humans view life as a normal state. In the second and third stanzas, the “dieing” stanzas, the first and third lines are different to show that humans believe that sickness is abnormal. In the fourth stanza, the “dead” stanza, the first and third lines are the same, but not the same as in the first stanza. This points out that humans see death as natural, but that it isn’t natural in the same way that life is.
    The rhyme scheme of the poem is almost as free in form as the meter. Only the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme. Remember, these lines are the lines that are associated with nature. This gives the regularity of nature a kind of beauty. The irregular lines (the first and third of each stanza) don’t rhyme. These are the lines that represent mankind. The lack of rhyme in these lines enhances the randomness and lunacy of the human race.
    “There’s a Slant of light,” would fit into the genre of American music developed and refined by Bob Dylan. Particularly, I would have expected to find a song titled “There’s a Slant of light,” on the album Blonde on Blonde, due to the surrealism of the songs that were on that album. Much of Bob Dylan’s music had a fairly irregular meter, so this poem would be characteristic of his style.

    The primary emotions evoked by this poem are sober sadness, and a certain sense of respect. The speaker is dieing, which brings the sense of sadness. Yet, at the same time, despite the speaker’s impending death, he is trying to share what he has learned of life with whoever will listen. This brings the feeling of respect.

  19. Alb says:

    The opening stanza speaks of the Slant of light as emotionally impacting and oppressing, in the same manner as religion. In the second stanza the emotional, “internal difference” caused by such an atmosphere is set aside the contrasting image of physical harm: “We can find no scar.” In the third, the unworldly nature of the certain Slant of light is noted “None may teach it … An imperial affliction” implying a godly source. The “Slant of light” seems to me to be the darkness cast by clouds passing over the sun. When it comes “shadows hold their breath,” as their source of life (the sun) is obstructed; when the shadow leaves you, the cloud no longer looming directly overhead, its shadow follows, and, now being viewed from afar, “tis like the Distance On the look of Death.”

  20. Dickie says:

    Adam Rounds is a very strange kid. He’s also gay

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