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Emily Dickinson

1830–1886
Emily Dickinson in a daguerreotype by William C. North, between December 10, 1846 and late March 1847. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Major works:
“I taste a liquor never brewed” • “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” • “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” • “Much Madness is divinest Sense” • “I like to see it lap the Miles” • “Because I could not stop for Death” • “My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun”

“At times it seems there is nothing in her world but her own soul, with its attendant abstractions, and, at a vast remove, the inscrutable Heaven. On most of what might intervene she has closed the valves of her attention, and what mortal objects she does acknowledge are riddled by desire to the point of transparency. Here is a sentence from her correspondence: ‘Enough is of so vast a sweetness, I suppose it never occurs, only pathetic counterfeits.’ The writer of that sentence could not invest her longings in any finite object. Again she wrote, ‘Emblem is immeasurable—that is why it is better than fulfilment, which can be drained.’ For such sensibility, it was natural and necessary that things be touched with infinity.”
—Richard Wilbur

“I am, with all the world, intensely interested in Emily Dickinson. No wonder six editions have been sold, every copy, I should think to a New Englander. She may become world famous, or she may never get out of New England. She is the quintessence of that element we all have who are of the Puritan descent pur sang. We came to this country to think our own thoughts with nobody to hinder . . . We conversed with our own souls till we lost the art of communicating with other people. The typical family grew up strangers to each other, as in this case. It was awfully high, but awfully lonesome.”
— Samuel Ward, 1890 letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Read the poem

Before I got my eye put out

Emily Dickinson

Before I got my eye put out
I liked as well to see—
As other Creatures, that have Eyes
And know no other way—

But were it told to me—Today —
That I might have the sky
For mine—I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me—

The Meadows—mine—
The Mountains—mine—
All Forests—Stintless Stars—
As much of Noon as I could take
Between my finite eyes—

The Motions of the Dipping Birds—
The Morning’s Amber Road—
For mine—to look at when I liked—
The News would strike me dead—

So safer—guess—with just my soul
Upon the Window pane—
Where other Creatures put their eyes—
Incautious—of the Sun—

Read a passage from Before I got my eye put out by Emily Dickinson
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