How brittle are the Piers
On which our Faith doth tread —
No Bridge below doth totter so —
Yet none hath such a Crowd.

It is as old as God —
Indeed — ’twas built by him —
He sent his Son to test the Plank,
And he pronounced it firm.

1 Comment

  1. J. Mark Hunt says:

    This is not one of her more difficult poems, but it is one of the best at showing her honesty regarding faith and doubt, two of her most visited themes. Perhaps the most repeated themes in her poety is “the next life,” the brevity of this life, and the critical passage of death, moving from mortality to immortality.

    The first stanza is so modern… she faces the unavoidable doubts of belief and acknowledges plainly, with some irony, that the bridge of faith linking this life with the next is unhappily weaker than we’d like, and there is no doubt a desire that there should be firmer evidence if not outright proof. But doubt is an essential ingredient of faith. Without doubt, faith would not be faith at all, but knowledge.

    Yet she is aware that though she may wish for more compelling evidence, her faith (and from her other work and from the 2nd stanza, we know she is referring to Christian faith) is not blind but bound in history in the person of Jesus, “his son.” He who while dying cried…”My God, why have you forsaken me” was also the one who rose from death and declared the Reality on which faith, not sight, risks everything, and He pronounced it firm.

    We Christian believers are too often either afraid of or in denial of our own doubts. We’d do well to follow Ms. Dickinson and acknowledge the doubts fully, and then decide by an act of the will to stand on that bridge. It is indeed amazing that while the bridge may totter, it carries us to a real immortality. No wonder this rickety old bridge is crowded. We may wish there was no tottering, but it’s the best, indeed the only, bridge we have.

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