Superfluous were the sun
When excellence is dead;
He were superfluous every day,
For every day is said
That syllable whose faith
Just saves it from despair,
And whose “I ’ll meet you” hesitates—
If love inquire, “Where?”
Upon his dateless fame~Emily Dickinson
Our periods may lie,
As stars that drop anonymous
From an abundant sky.
If excellence is dead, then the sun itself is superfluous, the speaker posits in the first stanza. In fact, excellence is dead, so the sun is superfluous, she argues.
The dense middle stanza touches on faith and doubt–a faith just barely pried from the jaws of doubt, it seems. Is it excellence itself the speaker doubts? Or the excellence of a particular person or being or power? We cannot know for sure.
The final stanza exchanges the famous fallen excellence and the sun for anonymous yet numberless stars, a different kind of light salvaged from the darkness.