Sheesh, Emily. This is another one of those “poor lil’ Emily” poems that seems so wildly at odds with poems like “Because I could not stop for Death.” Is she writing from the perspective of a child? That would explain the pathetic tone and the simplistic diction. I’m not sure. I do like the line about the “granite lip”–it evokes both the cold stiffness of the dead and their stone memorials. There’s a wonderfully weird sort of suggestion here of the speaker somehow morphing into her own memorial, becoming the stone angel of her own grave. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s the end of a long day.
It’s strange to try to reconcile all the different Emilys. I don’t know if it’s even possible, aside from spouting some vague platitudes about how we all contain worlds within ourselves.
Well, this is Christmassy. A poem about dead children, cold in the grave. Sheesh, Emily. What’s most notable about this poem, though, is that it reads like the kid version of “Because I could not stop for Death.” The grave/death is depicted as a kind caretaker, gently tucking them in, protecting them from the harshness of life. It provides safe harbor, a place where nothing can find or harm them.
And then there’s the ending. Dickinson ends this one with a little heresy. Describing the dead children Biblically as “lambs” and “sparrows,” she says that they are “unnoticed by the Father,” contradicting the Biblical passage about how no sparrow falls unnoticed by God, and all the Biblical references to God as loving shepherd who lets no sheep become lost.
What to do with this? Dickinson argues that death is kinder to these lost lambs than God–more attentive and protective. One can only wonder what her preacher father would have thought of such a poem, how Puritan New England would have received it. Maybe Dickinson tied up her poems and tucked them away not because she wanted to remain anonymous, but because she knew her world wasn’t ready for them.
Wow, so this is an “I told you so” poem par excellence. The pathos is dripping from every line. The speaker in this poem is a little child who seems used to being chastised or ignored, and who, as far as we know, has only ever said “please.” I am reminded of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, with his “Could I please have some more?”
The child seems horribly ignored–she imagines a future in which she is gone and the faceless “They” of the poem hurry to the door to call her home. But she is dead and buried, iced over in winter.