Emily Dickinson

(1830-1886)

 

"I dwell in Possibility -

A fairer House than Prose - "

 

Born in Amherst, MA, Emily Dickinson spent all of her days in the area. The latter portion of her life is characterized by a high degree of privacy and seclusion. She lived in her parents' home, and she rarely, if ever, left the house or accepted visitors.

An enigma even during her lifetime, her poetry spans themes of science and religion, nature and time, and intimate human relations.

She died of a kidney disorder at age 56, leaving behind an incredible poetic legacy.

 

 

Poems

The following collection of poems has been unedited to contain all of the words Emily Dickinson wrote. To read the poems, click on the drop-down menus that appear in some lines and select one of the word or phrase options. Try mixing and matching all of the options within each poem in order to see how the different words contain different meanings and impact the overall sense of the poem.

I found parts of the handwritten manuscripts to be illegible, and at times it was difficult for me to tell where the words were intended to fit into the poem. I indicate such cases with a double asterix (**) and a short explanation at the end of the entry about the ambiguity.

Working Anthology

288 I'm Nobody! Who are you?

I'm Nobody! Who are you?

Are you - nobody - too?

Then there's a pair of us!

Don't ! They'd banish us - you know!

 

How dreary - to be - somebody!

How public - like a frog -

To tell name - the livelong

June - to an admiring Bog!

315 He Fumbles at your soul

He fumbles at your soul

As players - at the keys -

Before they drop full music on -

He stuns you by degrees

 

Prepare your brittle

For the Ethereal Blow

By fainter Hammers - further heard

Then nearer - then so - slow -

 

Your breath - has to straighten -

Your brain - to bubble cool -

Deals one - imperial thunder - bolt -

That your naked soul

 

When winds take forests in their Paws-

still -

280 I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading - treading - till it seemed

That sense was breaking through -

 

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum -

Kept beating - beating - till I thought

My mind was going numb -

 

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again

Then Space - began to toll,

 

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race

Wrecked, solitary, here -

 

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down -

And hit a world, at every

And knowing - then -

510 It was not Death, for I stood up,

It was not Death, for I stood up,

And all the Dead, lie down -

It was not Night, for all the Bells

Put out their tongues, for Noon.

 

It was not Frost, for on my

I felt Siroccos - crawl -

Not Fire - for just my feet

Could keep a Chancel, cool -

 

And yet, it tasted, like them all,

The Figures I have seen

Set orderly, for Burial,

Reminded me, of mine -

 

As if my life were shaven,

And fitted to a frame,

And could not breathe without a key,

And 'twas like Midnight, some

 

When everything that ticked - has stopped -

And space stares - all around -

Or Grisly frosts - first Autumn morns,

Repeal the Beating Ground -

 

But, most, like Chaos - Stopless - Cool -

Without a Chance, or spar -

Or even a Report of Land -

To justify - Despair.

328 A Bird, came down the Walk -

A Bird, came down the Walk -

He did not know I saw -

He an Angle Worm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw,

 

And then, he drank a Dew

From a convenient Grass -

And then hopped sidewise to the wall

To let a Beetle pass -

 

He glanced with rapid eyes,

That hurried all abroad -

They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,

He stirred his Velvet Head -

 

Like one in danger, Cautious,

I offered him a Crumb,

And he unrolled his feathers,

And rowed him softer Home -

 

Then Oars divide the Ocean,

Too silver for a seam,

Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,

Leap, pathless as they stir

303 The Soul selects her own Society -

The Soul selects her own Society -

Then - shuts the Door -

her divine Majority -

Present no more.

 

Unmoved - she notes the Chariots - pausing -

At her low Gate -

Unmoved - an Emperor be kneeling

her mat -

 

I've known her - from an ample nation - Choose One -

Then - close the of her attention - Like Stone

670 One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted -

One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted -

One need not be a House -

The Brain - has Corridors surpassing

place -

 

Far safer of a midnight meeting

External Ghost -

Than an Interior - confronting -

 

Far safer though an Abbey gallop -

The stones a'chase -

Than members - one's a'self encounter -

In lonesome Place -

 

Ourself - behind ourself - Concealed -

Should startle - most -

Assassin - hid in our Apartment -

Be Horror's least -

 

The - carries Revolver -

He bolts the Door -

a superior spectre

 

+ A spectre - infinite - accompanying - He fails to fear**

**This line appears at the end of the handwritten manuscript of this poem. It is unclear where exactly in the poem it was meant as a potential substitute. I include it here so you can determine for yourself where you think it might fit.

285 The Robin's my Criterion for Tune -

The Robin's my Criterion for Tune -

Because I grow - where Robins do -

But - were I Cuckoo born -

I'd swear by him -

The ode familiar - rules the noon -

The Buttercup's, my whim for Bloom -

Because, we're Orchard sprung -

But, were I Britain born,

I'd Daisies -

 

None but the Nut - October fit

Because - through dropping it

The Seasons fit - I'm taught -

Without the Snow's tableau

Winter, were lie - to me -

Because I see - New Englandly -

The Queen, discerns like me -

Provincially -

 

** There is a third option accompanying "spurn" and "scorn," but I cannot decipher the handwriting to determine what the word was meant to be.

287 A Clock stopped -

A Clock stopped -

Not the Mantel's -

Geneva's farthest skill

Cant put the puppet bowing -

That just now dangled still -

 

An awe came on the Trinket!

The Figures hunched with pain -

Then quivered out of Decimals

Into Degreeless noon -

 

It will not stir for Doctor's -

This Pendulum of snow -

The shopman importunes it -

While cool - Concernless No -

**

Nods from the Gilded pointers -

Nods from the Seconds slim -

Decades of Arrogance between

The Dial life -

And Him -

 

** In the handwritten manuscript, there is a word between these two lines. However, I could not tell what the word is meant to be.

214 I taste a liquor never brewered -

I taste a liquor never brewed -

From tankards scooped in Pearl -

Yield such an Alcohol!

 

Inebriate of air - am I -

And Debauchee of Dew -

Reeling - thro' endless summer days -

From inns of molten Blue -

 

When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee

Out of Foxglove's door -

When Butterflies - renounce their "drams" -

I shall but drink the more!

 

TIll Seraphs sing their sorry Hats

And saints - to windows run -

To see the little tippler

505 I would not paint - a picture -

I would not paint - a picture -

I'd rather be the One

It's impossibility

To dwell - delicious - on -

And wonder how the fingers feel

Whose rare - celestial - stir -

so sweet a Torment -

Such sumptuous - Despair -

 

I would not talk, like Cornets -

I'd rather be the One

Raised softly the Ceilings -

And , and easy on -

Through Villages of Ether -

Myself Balloon

By but a lip of Metal -

The pier to any Pontoon -

 

Nor would I be a Poet -

It's finer - Own the Ear -

Enamored - impotent - content -

The License to reverse,

A so awful

What would the Dower be,

Had I the Art to stun myself

With Bolts - of Melody!

501 This World is not conclusion.

This world is not conclusion.

A stands beyond -

Invisible, as Music -

But positive, as Sound -

It beckons, and it baffles -

Philosophy, don't know -

And through a Riddle, at the last -

Sagacity, must go -

To it, puzzles scholars -

To gain it, Men have borne

Contempt of Generations

And Crucifixion, shown -

Faith slips - and laughs, and rallies -

Blushes, if any see -

Plucks at a twig of Evidence -

And asks a Vane, the way -

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit -

Hallelujahs roll -

Narcotics cannot still the

That nibbles at the soul -

528 Mine - by the Right of the White Election

Mine - by the Right of the White Election!

Mine - by the Royal Seal!

Mine - by the sign in the scarlet prison -

- cannot conceal!

 

Mine - here - in Visiion - and in Veto!

Mine - by the Grave's Repeal -

Titlted - Confirmed -

- Charter!

Mine - Age's steal!

 

** In the handwritten manuscript, there is a + at the beginning of the poem that seems to correspond to two words added as notes at the end of the poem. It is difficult to tell with certainty what the two words say, although it looks close to "Good affidavit."

667 I dwell in Possibility

I dwell in Possibility -

A fairer House than Prose -

More numerous of Windows -

Superior - for Doors -

 

Of Chambers as the Cedars -

Impregnable of eye -

And for an everlasting Roof

The of the Sky -

 

Of Visitors - the fairest -

For Occupation - this -

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise -

 

536 The Heart asks +Pleasure /+Blessing

The Heart asks - first -

And then - excuse from Pain -

And then - those little Anodynes

That deaden suffering -

 

And then - to go to sleep -

And then - if it should be

The will of it's Inquisitor

The to die -

632 The Brain - is wider than the Sky

The Brain - is wider than the Sky -

For - put them side by side

The one the other will

With ease - and You - beside -

 

The Brain is deeper than the sea -

For - hold them - Blue to Blue -

The one the other will absorb

As Sponges - Buckets - do -

 

The Brain is just the weight of God -

For - Heft them - Pound for Pound -

And they will differ - if they do -

As Syllable from Sound -

312 Mrs Browning

Her - last Poems -

Poets ended -

Silver - perished - with her Tongue -

Not on Record - bubbled Other -

Flute - or Woman - so divine -

 

Not it's Summer

Robin - half the Tune

Gushed too full for the adoring -

From the Anglo-Florentine -

 

Late - the Praise - 'Tis dull - Conferring

On the Head too High - to Crown -

Diadem - or -

Be it's Grave - sufficient Sign -

 

Nought - that We - No Poet's Kinsmen -

Suffocate - with easy Wo -

What - and if Ourself a Bridegroom -

Put Her down - in Italy?

 

+ Showing - token - **

 

** At the end of the handwritten manuscript, there are a list of possible word or phrase substitutions. "+Showing - token -" is one of the options, however, it is unclear where this phrase is intended to fit into the poem.

593 I think I was enchanted

I think I was enchanted

When first a Girl -

I read that foreign Lady -

The Dark - felt beautiful -

 

And whether it was noon at night -

Or only Heaven - at noon -

For very Lunacy of Light

I had not power to tell

 

The Bees - became as Butterflies -

The Butterflies - as - **

Approached - and spurned the Grass -

And first the Tunes

 

That Nature murmured to herself

To keep herself in Cheer -

I took for GIants - practising

Titanic Opera -

 

The Days - To Mighty Metres stept -

The Homeliest - adorned

As if unto a

'Twere suddenly -

 

I could not have defined the change -

Conversion of the Mind

Like Sanctifying in the Soul -

Is witnessed - not explained -

 

'Twas a Divine Insanity -

The to be sane

Should I again experience -

'Tis Antidote to turn -

 

To Tomes of Solid Witchcraft -

Magicians be asleep -

But Magic - hath an element

Like deity - to keep -

 

** At the end of the handwritten manuscript, there is a phrase that seems to correspond to the end of this line. The beginning of the phrase reads "Lit up the ---" but I cannot tell with certainty what the last word of the phrase is meant to be.

520 I started Early - Took my Dog -

I started Early - Took my Dog -

And visited the Sea -

The Mermaids in the Basement

Came out to look at me -

 

And Frigates - in the Upper Floor

Extended Hempen Hands -

Presuming Me to be a Mouse -

Aground - opon the Sands -

 

But no Man moved Me - till the Tide

Went past my simple Shoe -

And past my Apron - and my Belt

And past my - too -

 

And made as He would eat me up -

As wholly as a Dew

Opon a Dandelion's Sleeve -

And then - I started - too -

 

And He - He followed - close behind -

I felt His Silver Heel

Opon my Ancle - Then My Shoes

Would overflow with Pearl -

 

Until We met the Solid Town -

No He seemed to know -

And bowing - with a Mighty look -

At me - the Sea withdrew -

547 I've seen a Dying Eye

I've seen a Dying Eye

Run round and round a Room

In search of - as it seemed -

Then Cloudier become -

And then - be soldered down -

Without disclosing what it be

'Twere blessed to have seen -

650 Pain - has an Element of Blank -

Pain - has an Element of Blank -

It cannot recollect

When it begun - or if there were

A when it was not

 

It has no Future - but itself -

It's Infinite contain

It's Past - enlightened to perceive

New Periods - Of Pain.

754 My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -

In Corners - till a Day

The Owner passed - identified -

And carried Me away -

 

And now We roam Sovereign Woods-

And now We hunt the Doe -

And every time I speak for Him

The Mountains straight reply -

 

And do I smile, such cordial light

Opon the Valley glow -

It is as a Vesuvian face

Had let it's pleasure through -

 

And when at Night - Our good Day done -

I guard My Master's Head -

'Tis better than the Eider Duck's

Pillow - to have shared -

 

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -

None the second time -

On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -

Or an emphatic Thumb -

 

Though I than He - may longer live

He longer must - than I -

For I have but the to kill,

Without - the power to die -

 

** In the handwritten manuscript, there is a note for another word possibility to work instead of "Deep" before Pillow, however, I cannot tell with certainty what the word is meant to be.

978 It bloomed and dropt, a Single Noon -

It bloomed and dropt, a Single Noon -

The Flower - distinct and Red -

I, passing, thought another Noon

Another in it's stead

 

Will equal glow, and thought no more

But came another Day

To find the Species disappeared -

The same Locality -

 

The Sun in place - no other fraud

On Nature's Sun -

Had I but lingered Yesterday

Was my retrieveless blame -

 

Much Flowers of this and further Zones

Have perished in my Hands

For seeking it's -

But unapproached it stands -

 

The single FLower of the Earth

That I, in passing by

infinite by Me -