Emily Dickinson

From Dover's Selected Poems:
Emily Dickinson is still considered America's foremost woman poet.  Of her more than 1,700
extant poems, only a handful were published in her lifetime.  She never married and she seldom
left her family home in Amherst, Massachusetts, but she transcended all physical limitations
in her extensive, artistic correspondence and, even more so, in her unflinchingly honest,
psychologically penetrating and technically adventurous poems.

 thinkers home

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

      
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.
  
They might not need me--yet they might--
I'll let my Heart be just in sight--
A smile so small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity--
   

It's all I have to bring to-day,
  This, and my heart beside,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
  And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget,--
  Some one the sum could tell,--
This, and my heart, and all the bees
  Which in the clover dwell.

 
I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

 

 
Tie the strings to my life, my Lord,
  Then I am ready to go!
Just a look at the horses--
  Rapid!  That will do!

Put me in on the firmest side,
  So I shall never fall;
For we must ride to the Judgment,
  And it's partly down hill.

But never I mind the bridges,
  And never I mind the sea;
Held fast in everlasting race
  By my own choice and thee.

Good-by to the life I used to live,
  And the world I used to know;
And kiss the hills for me, just once;
  Now I am ready to go!

   
  

I'm nobody!  Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

 

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I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could find enmity.

Nor had I time to love, but since
Some industry should be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

   

   
Each life converges to some centre
Expressed or still;
Exists in every human nature
A goal,

Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be,
Too fair
For credibility's temerity
To dare.

Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
To reach
Were hopeless as the rainbow's raiment
To touch,

Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
How high
unto the saints' slow diligence
The sky!

Ungained, it may be, by a life's low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring
Again.

 

  

They say that 'time assuages,'--
Time never did assuage;
An actual suffering strengthens,
As sinews do, with age.

Time is a test of trouble,
But not a remedy.
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no malady.

  
A drop fell on the apple tree,
Another on the roof;
A half a dozen kissed the eaves,
And made the gables laugh.

A few went out to help the brook,
That went to help the sea.
Myself conjectured, Were they pearls,
What necklaces could be!

The dust replace in hoisted roads,
The birds jocoser sung;
The sunshine threw his hat away,
The orchards spangles hung.

The breezes brought dejected lutes,
And bathed them in the glee;
The East put out a single flag,
And signed the fête away.

 

I stepped from plank to plank
So slowly and cautiously;
The stars about my head I felt,
About my feet the sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch,--
This gave me that precarious gait
Some call experience.

 
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.

  

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

  
The cricket sang,
And set the sun,
And workmen finished, one by one,
  Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,
The twilight stood as strangers do
With hat in hand, polite and new,
  To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came,--
A wisdom without face or name,
A peace, as hemispheres at home,--
  And so the night became.

 

 
Before you thought of spring,
Except as a surmise,
You see, God bless his suddenness,
A fellow in the skies
Of independent hues,
A little weather-worn,
Inspiriting habiliments
Of indigo and brown.
With specimens of song,
As if for you to choose,
Discretion in the interval,
With gay delay he goes
To some superior tree
Without a single leaf,
And shouts for joy to nobody
But his seraphic self!
 
  

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