What mystery pervades a well!
The water lives so far,
Like neighbor from another world
Residing in a jar.

The grass does not appear afraid;
I often wonder he
Can stand so close and look so bold
At what is dread to me.

Related somehow they may be,—
The sedge stands next the sea,
Where he is floorless, yet of fear
No evidence gives he.

But nature is a stranger yet;
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.

~Emily Dickinson

Dickinson’s description of the well is evocative and powerful. It is a thing of mystery, otherworldly. Words like “afraid,” “dread,” “fear,” “stranger,” “haunted,” and “ghost” paint a vivid picture of the speaker’s visceral response to the well. It is mysterious, terrifying, alien, even though it is part of nature.

Compare this to yesterday’s poem, in which Dickinson uses a well as a metaphor for marriage–marriage is the dropping of a life into a well. What do you think? Are these poems meant to speak to each other?


A solemn thing it was, I said,
A woman white to be,
And wear, if God should count me fit,
Her hallowed mystery.

A timid thing to drop a life
Into the purple well,
Too plummetless that it come back
Eternity until.

~Emily Dickinson

“Solemn,” “hallowed,” “mystery”–all words that seem apt in describing marriage. But “timid,” “drop a life,” “plummetless”? Interesting choices. Today’s post goes along with tomorrow’s. In this one, Dickinson uses a well as a metaphor for marriage. In tomorrow’s, her subject is a well itself. What are these two poems saying to each other? See what you think.