Emily Dickinson's poetry mostly reflects her feelings towards death and the projected events after death. As a poet, she was a very inward, and wrote about feelings that came from deeply within her--unlike other poets of her time whose societies were directly shown in their poetry (i.e.-Walt Whitman). Of course social and historical values shaped her personality, but in her poetry alone little can be derived about either the time period she lived in or the political and societal issues during her lifetime.
Emily Dickinson was a very unique poet for her time. Her poems were mostly written in four line stanzas that have the voice of a hymn or psalm. Her scheme was usually an ABCB rhyme scheme. Her poems have short pauses interjected by dashes, which interrupt the rhythm, typically done in iambic pentameter. One of her greatest assets is her ability to write about subjects that all audiences can relate to. She introduces topics that will never be outdated because of changes in society, changes in politics, or changes in technology. She writes of spirituality and godliness, of death and afterlife, these subjects will never cease and therefore her poetry is immortal. It will survive years to come due to its revolutionary ideas and its universality.
In one of her poems, "I died for beauty, but was scarce", one can obviously see the theme of death and the ABCB rhyme scheme.
"I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth,-- the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names."
-Emily Dickinson poem #449
The speaker claims that she died for beauty but was not in her burial ground for long before someone was buried beside her. This person had died for truth and claims that truth and beauty are the same. The speaker says that they met at night as "kinsmen" and talked between their tombs until the moss reached their lips and covered their names on their tombstones. It even portrays images and words that suggest martyrdom--"I died for beauty".
This poem states a reality, which is death. The end all which no one can escape--everyone must face it and deal with it. It suggests that death gradually erases all--identity (as the moss covers their tombstone names), human feelings and functions (namely in this case her ability to speak "until the moss covered our lips"). And by the speaker's voice (who is untroubled by the state in which she finds herself) seems to be even comforting and accepting. This poem is just another example of her uniqueness as a revolutionary poet. A revolutionary thinker is an essential ingredient for any poet to be successful. For who would look at a tomb and have a story like this evolve in ones mind. Emily Dickinson's perception of what an average person would see completely different--is what makes her poetry so unique. The symbolism and imagery suggested here is very deeply thought out even though the poem itself is short, the idea behind it can be discussed and debated for hours. So it is Emily Dickinson's perceptions and train of thought as the story in the poem evolves which is what classifies her as revolutionary. She was taking a stand against the barriers of female limitations, her conservative New England limitations, and the traditional Protestant limitations.
Another poem by Emily Dickinson, "I heard a fly buzz when I died", is also about death and her unique ability to create unforgettable, timeless images. In this scene the images created here are specifically about the moments before death, the signing of a will, and the tunnel into the next world (the window). These predicaments are something that everyone must do in life, and therefore are timeless.
"I heard a fly buzz...
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