Why — do they shut Me out of Heaven?
Did I sing — too loud?
But — I can say a little “Minor”
Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me —
Just — once — more —
Just — see — if I troubled them —
But don’t — shut the door!

Oh, if I — were the Gentleman
In the “White Robe” —
And they — were the little Hand — that knocked —
Could — I — forbid?

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem Why — do they shut Me out of Heaven?


  1. JJ says:

    Truly a fantastic poem with an amazing amount insight and meaning that could only be seen if read 4 or more times

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’m doing an analytical essay on this poem and I’m stuck on the “Timid as a bird” line in the poem. I don’t really see the connection to the rest of the stanza or really the poem itself. It would be great if someone could do a quick explanation on its power and meaning.

    • “Timid as a bird” is, in my interpretation, is about accommodation. As a young woman, lacking in much autonomy or power, back in the day, and struggling to get published, etc., she is acquiescing. She is saying, “Did I overstep, was I too much, did I push a boundary? I didn’t mean to, because I want this so much, so I will become timid as a bird in order to please the powers-that-be.” Then, achingly, she pleads for grace that angels would extend her, surely, but that she is being denied here on earth. Women, even now, still shrink themselves and accommodate all manner of stated or unstated expectations for their behavior.

  3. Marsha says:

    This poem speaks to me about a person who wants to meet God on their own terms. The speaker muses that her behavior (possibly singing too loud) might be keeping her out of heaven and that she might have to change-by becoming more timid and more considerate. However she only muses on all this for just a short time because she goes right back to the behavior that she suspects is keeping her out of heaven in the first place-singing too loud.

    • Jeremy says:

      Very interesting idea about being more timid and fitting in more. I was wondering where the bird comes in, as I have been trying to figure that out myself.

  4. frumpo says:

    Why won’t God accept me?

  5. Stacy says:

    This poem to me shows how Dickinson saw society casting her out. She uses the metaphore of heaven to show it truly pains her that they see her as not fit to part of what they have. She debates at the end of the poem if she would treat them the same way, but sees that she would have a hard time using the metaphor of a priest or an angel perhapse.

  6. annemarie says:

    When Aaron Copland set this poem into “The twelve poems of Emily Dickinson” he used “sing” instead of “say” in “but I can “Sing” a little minor.” I dont’ know if this is due to the fact that he had a different version of if there was a typo somewhere along the way, but since the song uses the metaphor of singing as a key to get to heaven, I think it makes more sense to substitute sing there.

    • Jeremy says:

      I Agree, if Dickinson wrote “sing” rather than “say” i believe it would have connected the poem on another level. But then again, as we know, Dickinson is a mind of mystery and for all we know, this could be exactly the word she was looking for and we could be looking at it in a different light.

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