The Heart asks Pleasure — first —
And then — Excuse from Pain —
And then — those little Anodyness
That deaden suffering —

And then — to go to sleep —
And then — if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor
The privilege to die —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem The Heart asks Pleasure — first —


  1. Hrishikesh Menon says:

    My own cooked up analysis if as follows 🙂
    In summary, I think she is talking about how life generally progress towards liberation (true freedom).

    The heart seeks enjoyment, but enjoyment is measured in pain. One defines the other. A temporary adjustment (anodynes – material or otherwise) is not a sustainable option, and hence sleep. Sleep is “happiness” in some sense. Absent is the time-pleasure-pain nexus in the sleep state, yet, its not a practical option. The “Heart” is “submerged” in sleep (nescience). The last two lines shows depth of Emily’s understanding of her own “self”. “The will..” or “The Grace..” of the heart’s “Inquisitor” is a must to be free (die) to all the above situations. I don’t think she is talking about physical death, but the death of “heart”.

  2. Egiptia says:

    the heart asks pleasure first – so people wont to love and to be loved, but then when the love is platonic they wont to stop loving and gain a relive, forget. The second stanza seems to me like a desire to die. She said about the sleep. A sleep gives us rest and we forgot about plain life. Maybe she wonts to fall in the eternal sleep but she must have the permission of the God- Inquisitor and then she will be able to end her life – liberty to die.

    I invented it so do not take it seriously 😉 what do you think about my interpretation??

  3. Landon says:

    I think, considering Emily Dickinson’s background, these are a small list of minor prayers that she may have each day. Being she was a devout Calvinist and religious person, these may be common requests she made to God, the “Inquisitor” in prayer.

  4. Rachel says:

    To me, she just either suffered a great heartache or thought on the process of such. To me its just plain truth, everyone desires happiness, and if you can’t have that great crazy happy then just no pain is good, thats the next best thing, and hey if you have to be in pain best to be numb right. To me its just honesty, no matter the reason for writing it, whether it be speculation on mans nature, a great heartache or even an illness. She was truly brilliant.

  5. Gabrielle says:

    Seems rather evident… painful chronic illness is the inspiration for this poem. Most of us who suffer so have similar thoughts. There are fates worse than death.

  6. Dayna says:

    I think this poem pretty much speaks for iself; however, it’s hard to ananlyze because I’m not sure exactly what the circumstances are that surround or influence the motive behind her feelings…any help?

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