BONNEVILLE Critical Appreciation : Poem 536 16/10/12
« The Heart asks Pleasure – First - » is a poem written by American poet Emily Dickinson. The two quatrains composing it explore various themes, some of which are very much present in her other works, such as death, and love. The deceptively simple nature of the poem makes it very much open to a variety of interpretations, all in a seemingly universal register, which Dickinson so often uses in her poetry. Nevertheless, the concept regarding the progression of pain and suffering appears to be dominant here.
First of all, it is essential to point out that “The Heart” is really the base of the poem; the personified, conceptual entity that is being examined by Emily Dickinson. The anaphora with “and then” (lines 2,3,5,6) followed by the positioning of the dashes make up the poem’s narrative liaisons, as well as establishing the idea of a chain of consequences: the poem tracks the evolution of the hearts pain, and the remedies used to attempt to alleviate the heart of it’s pain. The complementary nature of the words “asks” and “first” in the first line suddenly make the requests of the heart hierarchical, and gives an impression of selection: the Heart asks for pleasure first and then asks to be relieved from the pain. Here Dickinson seems to be suggesting that pain must come from pleasure, which fits perfectly into the idea of chain of consequence. The capital P attributed to these words would suggest that one causes the other, or a possible non-distinction of the two by the Heart. Here “asks” can also imply dependence, as a result of a sort of lower status in respect to the “Inquisitor”....
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