Emily Dickinson

Amherst / Massachusetts
Emily Dickinson
Amherst / Massachusetts
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A Shade Upon The Mind There Passes

Rating: 2.9

A Shade upon the mind there passes
As when on Noon
A Cloud the mighty Sun encloses

That some there be too numb to notice
Oh God
Why give if Thou must take away
The Loved?
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Indira Renganathan 09 November 2016
very touching...and wonderful write with wonderful simile....10
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* Sunprincess * 23 May 2016
.....losing a loved one is difficult ?
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Angelina Holmes 05 May 2014
Shadows bring out the colors though :)
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Anne Landsberger 18 October 2006
Emily Dickinson in this obscure poem writes on a theme she often explores – human loss. While this theme is conveyed clearly, the interpretation of how the poem’s speaker experiences the loss is more uncertain. Dickinson creates this uncertainty by producing multiple meanings from her word selection and syntax. There are three possible readings of this poem: the speaker expresses his/her grief about the loss of a loved one; the speaker explores the contrast between those who feel loss and those who are “too numb”; and most literally, the speaker questions God’s role in permitting death and loss. Usually Dickinson uses punctuation, meter and complex language to frame the meaning of her poems; in 882, however, Dickinson barely uses any punctuation at all. It is the lack of punctuation, the use of simile, and the oddly arranged word order that allow Dickinson to create the poem’s complexity. This poem catches the eye because Dickinson often writes using an abundance of punctuation; here she uses none except the last question mark. The lack of punctuation produces enjambment of the lines, which allows the poem to flow together as if one thought. This creates the sense that the speaker is keening or wailing in sorrow. The meter emphasizes this sense of a wail of sadness by having the poem follow a four plus/two pattern until a shift at line six to a one/four pattern. The first five lines of the former pattern are the initial fluid cry. The shift of meter patterns between lines five and six causes an interruption in the flow of the poem, like a deep breath before another sob. The latter pattern’s slight change in meter from the former pattern suggests a similar, yet different moan of sorrow. The language Dickinson chooses is the strongest conveyer of sadness in the poem. In the first line, the word shade suggests a dark thought or depression of the mind. The term shade means a low-lighted or dark color, which is often associated with depression. The association of darkness and depression is carried further by the simile used in the second and third lines. The image produced is that of light (the sun) covered by opaque darkness (the cloud) , which is a representation of a “mind” overwhelmed by grief, for as a dark, thick cloud can block out the sun’s rays, a dark, depressing thought can obliterate one’s personal comfort. The word remembering of line four supports the plausibility that the speaker is having a memory of the one he/she lost. The depressed mood is evident in the poem, but the meaning isn’t. Dickinson intensifies the poem’s complexity in the fifth line with word order and the word “numb”. In the first interpretation, the poem’s speaker suggests that his/her personal “numbness” derives from a grief so intense it destroys feeling, sadness so deep that it empties the mind of sensation. One can see the speaker’s sorrow of losing a loved one in the last three lines, for he/she laments, “Oh God” and questions, “Why…? ” loved ones are taken away. The word order in line five is unusual; to be understood for this interpretation, the word “some” suggests other people, perhaps other loved ones, which the speaker is too “numb” with the grief of the one he/she lost to notice. Furthermore, the lack of punctuation allows the word “Remembering” to flow into line five, creating the sense that the speaker acknowledges he/she is too occupied and “numb” to notice other people around him/her, which could cause more depression. If read in another way, the word order of line five could be interpreted as though the speaker, grieving over a loss, becomes disturbed and bitter by the realization that there are some people in the world who are so “numb, ” or detached from their emotions, that they are indifferent to feeling the loss of a loved one. In this second interpretation, the sadness felt from loss is acknowledged as before, and again the first three lines indicate a dark and depressing thought the speaker becomes aware of. Thus, the speaker, at this point feels pain from two sources: the overwhelming sorrow at his/her personal loss and the resentment that “some” others are unresponsive to such loss. The third reading of the poem brings the speaker’s two streams of thought together in a final exclamation. The speaker, as explained before in the other interpretations, is feeling the sorrow of losing a loved one and possibly bitterness that not all can or will understand his/her pain. But in the first stanza, the simile Dickinson uses in lines two and three to describe personal loss also suggests a link to Christ’s Crucifixion. In the poem, the cloud encloses the sun at noon when the sun is at the highest point in the sky. The sun as mighty, meaning to possess power, suggests divine light and power. Thus, the cloud covering the sun at noon possibly refers to the Christian gospel that a strange darkness occurred at noon the day Jesus was crucified (Luke 23: 44) . In connection with this religious simile, line five is now read as there are “some” people who are true believers, protected from, or numb to, experiencing loss by their faith in God. Furthermore, the religious association causes the speaker to question God directly, “Why give if Thou must take away/ The Loved? ” In other words, what kind of God does such grievous acts like give the world His Son just to take Him away, or create those whom we love only for them to die? “A shade upon the mind” remains in itself a dark and depressing thought, but as the poem develops, the speaker’s grief becomes more bitter, for it is depressing to the speaker to remember that some people blindly follow God with out question, while he/she sits there mourning the loss of a loved which God took from him/her. This poem and many other poems by Dickinson are like archeology sites. Her manipulation of punctuation, language, word order, et cetera, creates a layered density one must excavate to understand. This poem was a part of the manuscripts found after Emily Dickinson died and was not published until 1945. Many of the poems in this manuscript were apparently unfinished. It is unclear whether this poem is complete or truly “finished” (McIntosh/Hart) . Whether a complete poem or not, it follows Dickinson’s signature of layering meaning on meaning to reach deep into the human dilemma. Works Cited - Dickinson, Emily The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Ed. Johnson, Thomas H., New York: Little, Brown & Co.,1961. [X] & 419. -McIntosh, Peggy. Hart, Ellen Louise. “Emily Dickinson 1830-1886” The Heath Anthology of American Literature vol.1, Ed. Lauter, Paul. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co,2002.2973-74. - The Gideons International. New Testament * Psalms Proverbs “Luke 23: 44” Nashville, TN. Note: the sixth hour was noon in the Jewish day.
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