My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
The speaker uses the metaphor of death to describe the torment
cataclysmic events inflicted. What these two events are we don't know,
and I think there is little to be gained in trying to read the poem
biographically; by asking, for example, is she referring to the deaths
people? and if so, to whom? was she in love? were her feelings
What matters is that the pain of these events was so sharp
feels as if her life ended. Despite her feeling, she is, of course,
still physically alive,
so that she can experience more than one loss and the pain of that
loss. Obviously, "its close" at the end of line 1 refers to
her literal death.
Dickinson uses metaphors of vision ("see" and "unveil") for
revelation. What happens after death, in immortality? She compares what
might be revealed to the pain she suffered twice before.
The last two lines of this poem present a powerful paradox;
is both heaven and hell. We part with those who die and--hopefully--go
to heaven, which is, ironically,
an eternal happiness for them; however, we who are left behind suffer
pain (hell) of their deaths (parting). Is there any comfort in this
poem? What is the one thing we "know" about heaven? Is heaven, for
living human beings, connected to hell? A personal note: these lines
chill me every time I read them, and they stay with me afterward.
|Dickinson, Online overview
"For each ecstatic instant," p. 2
"I taste a liquor never brewed,"
"Safe in their alabaster chambers,"
"I heard a fly buzz when I died," p.
"It was not death, for I stood up,"
| "A bird came down the walk,"
"I like to see it lap the miles,"
"Pain has an element of blank," p.
"A narrow fellow in the grass," p.
"I'm nobody! Who are you?" p. 9
| "After great pain a formal
feeling comes" (handout)
"The soul selects her own society"
"The heart asks pleasure first,"
"I'll tell you how the sun rose,"
"Presentiment is that long shadow on
the lawn," p. 36
| "Success is counted sweetest"
"I cannot live with you," p. 29
"He fumbles at your spirit," p.
"I felt a cleaving in my mind,"
"My life closed twice before its
close," p. 49
| "Wild nights! Wild nights!"
"She sweeps with many-colored brooms,"
"Hope is the thing with feathers,"
"I felt a funeral in my brain,"
"I had been hungry all the years,"
|"I started Early--took my Dog--"
"My life had stood a loaded gun"
"Because I could not stop for Death,"
"If you were coming in the fall,"
Sample Midtern and Student
Core Studies 6 Page || Melani Home Page