If I can stop one Heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one Life the Aching
Or cool one Pain

Or help one fainting Robin
Unto his Nest again
I shall not live in Vain.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem If I can stop one Heart from breaking


  1. Beth Ann Domondon says:

    When I first read this poem I immediately thought that the writer had to have experienced pain and sorrow and wanted to releive others of their pain. (Fellow feeling)….and the pain that she suffered would somehow have equiped her better, to do just that. Thus, not living her life (pain and sorrow) in vain.

  2. Balls says:

    This poem means… HELP! do not waste your life

  3. Steve says:

    @rmik from France
    Well, she wants to relieve her own pain by relieving others’.

  4. rmik says:

    this poem is wonderful, for sure, but it’s kind of weird nevertheless cuz how could you possibly relieve others’pain when you actually can’t do it for yourself? I know it may sound selfish but the poem itself is impossible in that way!!!

  5. cherry says:

    this poem?….wel our teacher let us make a reflection about this…..this poem is great but i cant mke up my reflection on it… so disgusting!!!!!….

  6. killton says:

    i just hate poem they r lame and fing boring it suk f u poem

  7. killton says:

    i just hate poem they suk its lame i get hate that sh1t f u poem

  8. vickter says:

    i hate poems!!!!!!!!!!!it is so hard and weird too because you have to look deep enough to find wat it means and it takes days to find out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Cammy says:

    Before any of you decide to comment this poem, may I suggest some English classes? I’m only 16 years old, and I’ve found more grammatical errors in these few comments than in my five year old nephews whole two years of speaking. Thanks!

  10. WENDY SULLIVAN says:


  11. Adriana says:

    This was one of the most beautiful poem I’ve already read… We must read it every morning,before doing anything, the world would be a little happiest!!

  12. Harel says:

    This simple poem brings out the most basic of human desires. When caring for yourself stops being your driving force, you realize that caring for others is what seperates a meaningless life to one that has all the meaning in the world.

  13. Jessica says:

    1.Who is speaking? Emily Dickinson
    2.To whom is she speaking? A person who needs comfort
    3.What is the occasion? A time of reflection
    4.When is the poem being spoken? Doesn’t say!
    5.Where is the poem being spoken? I think, from he windowsill as she looks upon the graveyard
    6.what is the central idea? That she envied people who could comfort those who were broken-hearted, or even the simplest thing, such as assisting a helpless bird back into it’s nest.
    7.what is the dominent tone? Sad and depressed
    8.How is that tone acheived? In the 2nd line of the 1st stanza, she says “I shall not live in vain”and in the 3rd line of the 2nd stanza she quotes again “i shall not live in vain” this meaning that while she grows old she could look back nd think she did something and that she was counted for that.
    9.What happens in the poem? doesn’t show any action
    10.How would you describe the language of the poem? Figurative
    11.what words in the poem especially move you? The entire 1st stanza
    12. How woulkd you identify the meter and rhyme scheme of the poem? A, B, A, B, C, B, A,

    These are some analizing things. Hope you enjoy them!

  14. Kylea Culver says:

    I wanted you to know that I really liked you poem it was really good hopefully you have foud something that you are good at. Well I wish you the best of luck!!

  15. Jessica says:

    Although I think some of Emily’s poems are confusing, and boring, I do believe that this one spoke to me, more than any of them. Not only because it is simple, but because, it shows she had pitty for herself, and that she envied other people who could do these things. She wished she could help people with their love problems, or help a hopeless bird back into it’s nest. I think this poem is very deep, if you think about it long enough…

  16. Alexandra says:

    i think the poem expresses how we should think about others, and help them, and guide them. and not to help just to boost our self confidence, or make us feel good about ourselves.its about them.

    great poem

  17. kirsten says:

    i think this poem was really good it was the first one i read from emily dickenson that i really liked i think she is a good poet writter

  18. The barkster says:

    I just read this poem for the first time and I think it is sooooooo great! I think Emily really expresses what all of us sometime hope-that if we could just help one person, do just one good thing in our lives, that we’d feel like we are special and we have accomplished something. Emily has a way of expressing herself that is very unique, and I definitely look up to her for that.

  19. Aisha Billa says:

    Wow. What an amazing poem. In just a few lines Emily expressed her her wishes and desires. She wrapped up a great deal of anxiety and pain in those few lines. This poem is an inspiration and should be one to all. It made me realize how humanity works, and how everyones heart is subtle and delicate, if only we had the power to change lives. I absolutely adore this poem.

  20. Akin says:

    I came across this beautiful poem a little over 30 years ago. I still constantly recite it to myself and have introduced it to several friends as my favorite poem of all times. I am so strongly affected by it and I wish we could all live our lives doing what it says instead of adding to others’heart aches through what we say and do.

  21. anne says:

    uhmmmm..well,when i read this poem it made me feel sorrow..

  22. Kayley says:

    I am currently singing a song for a recital called “IF”. Its actually this poem put with a tune. It is so amazingly beautiful! The words with the song make it so much more meaningful.

  23. Alcar says:

    Encased in amber, torn from the chest,
    Freed from bodily veins
    It joins my collection of the rest
    No longer feeling pain

  24. Anonymous says:

    This beautiful poem — which expresses the wish of the human heart to make a difference to others, to help those in pain and need — is a wonderful companion to “Faith — is the Pierless Bridge,” which is my all-time favorite poem by Dickinson or perhaps by anyone.

    By Faith, the Pierless Bridge, too slender for the eye, we can know that we do make a difference, that our efforts affect others in a positive way, that we do not live in vain if we are committed to living out of love for others in the world.

    There is a sort of poetic hyperbole in the poem — one I first heard in American Literature class in 11th grade back in the 1960’s. Of course, it isn’t about cooling just one pain or stopping just one heart from breaking or helping one fainting robin. But how often, faced with a given situation, have I felt that if I can just do this one thing, it will make a difference — and at that moment, I have the encouraging, quickening experience that maybe my life does make a difference after all.

    I think this poem expresses that brilliantly.

    Dickinson is so much more than “Sweet Emily” — the poet who explored the meaning of existence, the mysteries of life and death, joy, hope, faith and despair. That she was such a shy person, to the point of reclusiveness, makes her work all the more wonderful, especially considering she was only negligibly published during her lifetime. Well over a hundred years after her death, what she wrote is still being read, pondered, considered.

    Emily Dickinson, as it has turned out, made a most profound difference and she still is making a difference. As long as there are books and the English language persists, she will continue to do so.

    I cannot remain unmoved when I read her work and I am so far from alone in that.

  25. Sarah says:

    This year in english class we read this poem for the first time. And i fell in love with it. I think that the vary way Emily speaks about love and helping others through heart breaks it absolutly touching. She is an amazing writer.

  26. michele says:

    I remember reading this poem for the first time in 8th grade. The words have haunted me ever since, mumbling in my memory. This poem has become my mantra

  27. Brendan Webber says:

    I think this poem has a quiet desperation about it, a stalwart belief in virtue being the only true goal.

  28. rachelle says:

    i love this poem because its very beautiful….emily really had a great heart……maybe she wrote this one because she dont want to see other people suffering from a pain that she had also felt………….

  29. *~Lulu~* says:

    In our grade 9 language art class right now, we are reading the poem If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking, only it is a different virson from this. I think that is was a shame that such good talent was hiden for this long

  30. Ducky says:

    this poem is really touching and makes me think of what i have in life!

  31. Cayla says:

    While most interpret this poem as the whole “help others” thing, that’s not how I see it. In my opinion, that’s just a little cliche and so different from her other poems. It seems as though she’s being more literal (i.e. actually meaning *one* bird). Since she lived her life in seclusion, it sounda as though she were trying to give her own life meaning, and convince herself that every small thing that *she* did made a difference. A little more depressing, but more realistic in my mind. (We’re singing an arrangement of this in choir and it’s GEORGEOUS!)

  32. Vianney says:

    I think this is a very profound poem. It’s one if my favorites. I like it because it has a true meaning.

  33. Lisa says:

    Emily suffered so much of her own pain, I feel this poem reflects her desire to help others who fought the depression which resulted in her agorophobia and sadness that is reflected in many of her “winter” poems. A perceptive and awesome poet for all time.
    Thanks Emily!

  34. people says:

    i think this is a really great poem it shows that we should not always worry about ourself, but worry about other people and help them with whatever we can.

  35. celia taylor says:

    this was a nice good hearted poem

  36. MailbuBarbie0526 says:

    Dickinson is just cool ~ this is so awesome because if everyone took the time to help others, we would all feel great for doing it and eventually we all wouldn’t need as much help (#805 is one of my personal favs.)

  37. Brian says:

    This poem is quite a contrast from Dickinson’s own life. However, she makes an excellent point. If more people lived by this Christian principal we would have less crime, poverty, and war. An extremely “deep” set of words…

  38. Glenn says:

    This poem really touched me and I think that everyone should live life to the fullest and if someone is in need, even if its out of the way, you should help them out. You will feel better about yourself and maybe the world will wake up and realize that its not always about themselves.

  39. Peter J Orlando says:

    This poem clearly express a need for all of us to take note that helping one another is the only way to save humanity. We must be there when someone is in need and to hold their hand if the pain of a broken heart is to strong for one person to endur.

  40. Ajia Holiday says:

    this poem really touches me it says that friends family peolple will die hearts will be broken and there is no way to stop it!

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