"I Want"&Mdash;It Pleaded&Mdash;All Its Life Poem by Emily Dickinson

"I Want"&Mdash;It Pleaded&Mdash;All Its Life

Rating: 2.8


"I want"—it pleaded—All its life—
I want—was chief it said
When Skill entreated it—the last—
And when so newly dead—

I could not deem it late—to hear
That single—steadfast sigh—
The lips had placed as with a "Please"
Toward Eternity—

Gary Witt 20 September 2006

I'd like to begin by paying attention to the capitalization here. Skill and Eternity are both capitalized, and (IMHO) personified. Eternity in the form of a person? Well, let's just call that God. But Skill personified...that's more difficult to get my arms around. And a personification of Skill begging or entreating someone or something...that's equally difficult. Still, both Eternity and Skill are entities worthy of capitalization. On the other hand, the subject 'it' is not. Moreover, the use of the neuter pronoun in the first place further diminishes the relative importance of the subject entity or being. We're talking about a speck, of very little significance, pleading 'I want' for the entire duration of its (insignificant and likely short) lifespan. A pathetic, pitiable image. The subject 'it' also seems a bit self-centered. Its wants are 'chief it said.' (Somehow, I don't believe Eternity is buying that one.) Still 'it' is clearly suffering from its lack. We all suffer, we all lack, we all want. We are all 'it.' Perhaps Skill is trying to coax some kind of action from 'it, ' who does not respond, but only reiterates 'I want' to the very last, with a final 'please' directed to God. We then have the narrator, who enters in the second stanza commenting that she could not deem it late to hear that final sigh, that final 'please.' Sounds like the final 'please' might have been the only 'please' uttered by 'it.' Still, the narrator does not 'deem it late, ' so there is a certain forgiveness there. Or at least understanding. So on the one hand, there is a call to action by Skill, but a recognition on the part of the narrator that perhaps action would be futile, and that this final 'please' is understandable, and even to be forgiven. In the end, I think the poem is about everyone's suffering or longing, the insignificance that we all feel in the face of Eternity, the need or imperative to act (Skill begs us to act) to relieve our suffering, a recognition that our own actions will never suffice to eliminate that suffering, and perhaps forgiveness for our shortcomings or failures, which are mostly those of omission or a failure to act. Not bad for 46 words in 8 lines.

27 5 Reply
Adam Sobh 10 April 2009

I'm doing a project on Emily Dickinson for my 11th grade American Literature class, and i need to find a poem by Miss Emily Dickinson and then analyze it, i chose this poem, but i don't really understand it, so if anybody could please explain it to me and help me to better understand it, i would be extremely grateful.

14 11 Reply
Ruby Root 23 August 2006

When I think of word eternity I think of eternal existence, I wonder if that is was he wanted all its life. Excellent poem, unique and original.

9 12 Reply
abby 19 July 2022


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aniyah 19 July 2022


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Anas Affan 22 September 2016

The lips had placed as with a Please Toward Eternity— beautiful lines.......thanks for sharing...........

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Susan Williams 26 October 2015

So many of the comments below admire the amount of profundity she packs into so few words. What can I do but simply agree!

32 0 Reply

To beg God earnestly with please all through life for something or other longed for is what life is so profoundly said in 8 lines quite amazing.................

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Angelina Holmes 03 May 2014

The last two lines are simply beautiful. Very touching

5 1 Reply
Brian Jani 25 April 2014

Awesome I like this poem

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Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Amherst / Massachusetts
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