Emily Dickinson

(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886 / Amherst / Massachusetts)

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'Speech'—is a prank of Parliament


688

'Speech'—is a prank of Parliament—
'Tears'—is a trick of the nerve—
But the Heart with the heaviest freight on—
Doesn't—always—move —

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Monday, October 08, 2012

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  • Bronze Star - 7,381 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (10/9/2014 3:57:00 AM)

    A great poem where sadness of tears is also seen there. Having limited knowledge about the great poet and her poems the following comment of Respected readers john Richter referred in detail which transformed the mind in such meaningful ways of understanding of the poem and the circumstances that lead to writing the poem which is very informative. The depressive mood in the old days of the poet and the reasons all are read and opened the window of understanding the poem in a different mood which I think that this is not a simple poem in four lines but wonderful creativity came from the mind of the poet. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 418 Points John Richter (10/8/2014 8:12:00 AM)

    I think she is referring to fake emotions - that speech and tears can be constructed on whim to act a part, to feign a cause or emotion. But true sadness, sadness that exists as only that, leaves a body unable to even interact. I think understanding Emily's poems can be difficult, but knowing that she was extremely emotional and exceptionally loving to those who opened their hearts to her can help that understanding. Emily made many loving friends while studying as a young woman and became despondant, (probably clinically depressed) over their deaths one by one as she became older. In the end she became a complete hermit - incapable or refusing interaction with almost all others. Knowing that makes this poem as clear as a bell to me and is just another window into her beautifully loving soul. (Report) Reply

    Veteran Poet - 3,533 Points Daniel Brick (10/8/2014 5:16:00 PM)

    Your comment on Emily's poem was helpful to me far beyond its length, because you connected the writing with the person. I was unaware of the biographical details you cited. The fact that her increasing seclusion was a response to the deaths of loved ones gives me the emotional connection with her that I need to read her works. I find that aspect of her personality so poignant; this knowledge will put me in the right mind-set to explore her poems. Your description of her as extremely emotional and exceptionally loving to those who opened their hearts to her will echo in my mind as I read more of her poems. And it would seem the first thing I must do is not try to interpret the poems in the style of literary criticism but rather open my heart to her - whose spirit still lives in these poems.

  • Freshman - 2,313 Points Terry Craddock (10/8/2014 3:33:00 AM)

    Loved the contrast of speech/tears with prank/trick and parliament/nerve implications. Yes when the heart is light and care free we can occasionally seem to float but Emily is correct, if our heart is weighted down with the heaviest fright sometimes we cannot move and the heart in dire straights is incapable of motion. This poem is beautifully succinct 10+ for a brevity of delightful insight concisely conveyed :) (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 5,052 Points Frank Avon (10/8/2014 12:55:00 AM)

    Miss Emily always surprises me with each new poem of hers that I read. I don't always understand them, certainly upon first reading, but like this one they almost always communicate with me - something I'm glad to have heard.

    Two aspects of this one caught me - and moved me - even in my first impressions. (1) The sounds of her words: obviously she always takes pleasure in their sounds. Her half rhymes (nerve, move) , her ballad or hymn stanza (ABCB,4.3.4.3) , her dashes for slight pauses, especially the alliteration, consonance, and assonance (e.g., Prank/Parliament, Heart/heaviest, Prank/trick, Speech/tears/heaviest, Parliament/heart) , and the play on words (move=elicit motion vs. move=go somewhere) - all these gave me pleasure long before I took the time to list them for myself consciously. (2) Her juxtaposition of opposites of one kind or another. 'But' turns out to be the key word in the poem, demanding that we see the contrast between the pranks and tricks of the first two lines and the 'heaviest freight' of the second; i.e., between the somewhat superficial and the definitely profound. One can go on finding contrasts: the overt (speech/tears) and the unspoken (heart and 'move'): the positive and negative (is/is and doesn't) , the direct statements of the first two lines vs. the subtle implications of the second two. Lovely. And having said all this, I suspect my understanding is still superficial (itself a prank or trick) , not the depth that will emerge with successive readings (the heaviest freight, yet to come) .

    Thank you, PH, for choosing such a delightful work as the poem of the day.
    the prank and trick of the first two lines (Report) Reply

    Veteran Poet - 3,533 Points Daniel Brick (10/8/2014 5:06:00 PM)

    Thank you, Frank, for your extended comment on Emily's poem. Your comment deepen my appreciation of her work but more importantly you gave me an open doorway INTO her poetry. I have always admired her craft and felt strong sympathy for her, but the meaning of her poems often elude me. I want to know her work not only better but more intimately. Your commentary has shown me a path I can travel. WALT WHITMAN and I have been traveling together for many years, many decades, and I could not exist without periodic readings of PASSAGE TO INDIA, OUT OF THE CRADLE, ENDLESSLY ROCKING, THE SLEEPERS, et al. but I want to visit Emily in her secluded home and establish a rapport, because SHE is the poet of the Interior Life, and balances Whitman's Life as Adventure.

  • Veteran Poet - 3,533 Points Manohar Bhatia (10/8/2013 8:02:00 AM)

    The poet speaks about {speech}, {tears} & {heart}. While everyone knows that a speech in a parlaiment is always politically motivated, there are some actos who cry just to concivnce; truthfully, it is only one's {heart} that can never think of a lie.Beautiful poem.
    Manohar Bhatia (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 3,533 Points Paddy D Daly (10/8/2013 5:07:00 AM)

    speech is a trick of parliament, everyone in Ireland knows that, tears though in the main tend to be more honest
    and I guess a heavy heart might slow you down, but you can always move on (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 37 Points Queeny Gona (10/8/2013 2:52:00 AM)

    Amazing read.
    Speech isn't always a prank,
    Tears aren't always a trick,
    And sometimes A heavy heart sometimes moves on..... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 37 Points Kevin Straw (10/8/2012 11:53:00 AM)

    This does not make sense. True The heart etc.... But she admits it sometimes moves. And when it moves it must express itself with speech which is not a prank and tears which are not a trick of the nerve. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Kevin Straw (10/9/2009 10:38:00 AM)

    Is it possible for Pruchnicki to comment on a poem without picking on people? My comments were heavily qualified with quotes, but 'Speech' is not a prank of parliament in an absolute way, i.e. not all (the absolute) speech in parliament is a prank. There are many able and fluent speakers in Parliament. They do not all do what either Pruchnicki or Dickinson say they do. It is Pruchnicki's criticism that almost always begins chug chug and then ends up in the wrong siding! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Michael Pruchnicki (10/8/2009 9:12:00 AM)

    Aside from the usual nit-picking by some of our more polished scribblers on this site, most readers managed to state the obvious, though a 'line's apparent absoluteness' (does he mean 'certainty'?) confuses this reader!

    Listen to any deliberative body (like the British Parliament or the United States Congress or the United Nations) and tell me if what these assembled members do in session is not like the engine of a freight train that starts slowly, chug by chug, building up a head of steam to propel the heavily loaded cars! Note how long it takes the speakers, some of whom love to hear the sound of their own voices, to begin to move an argument from A to B to C, etc. The drive wheels on the locomotive move almost imperceptibly at first. The dashes after 'Speech' and 'Tears' suggest that kind of slow motion common to both politicians and trains. Note that speeches do not always move the argument the way their makers intend. Sometimes even a strong appeal to the emotions (that 'trick of the nerve' mentioned in the second line) does not avail and the train sits motionless in the station. No matter the weight of the cargo, the gravity of the argument, nothing happens, and as speakers in the houses mentioned put it - the motion fails!

    Do not neglect to explore the metaphor Dickinson uses to illustrate what in the end is a very simple thought, but one expressed in a memorable fashion! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Kevin Straw (10/8/2009 7:22:00 AM)

    Should it not be ''Speech' - can be a prank of Parliament' etc. Are the quotes round 'Speech' and 'Tears' enough to qualify the line's apparent absoluteness? With that qualification, the poem says that the heart can be so heavy with feeling that words and tears cannot express it. Sometimes a sorrow, or a joy, ar too much, too weighty, for the faculties that usually express them. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Joseph Poewhit (10/8/2009 6:40:00 AM)

    A few simple words to capture the depths of the heart. Frivolous seem other things, when it comes to the heart. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 5 Points marvin brato (10/8/2009 5:15:00 AM)

    Speech may be the way people of wisdom shared their thoughts to elaborate a point, yet tears are expression of an emotional state induced by nerve-stirred sentiments; while those who are heavy laden with freight become too shock to even move or express true feelings.... I might be right? (Report) Reply

    Bronze Star - 7,381 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (10/9/2014 4:00:00 AM)

    A poem with such different definitions and meanings makes it so much interested no doubt.

  • Rookie - 5 Points marvin brato (10/8/2009 5:14:00 AM)

    Speech may be the way people of knowledge shared their thoughts to elaborate a point, yet tears are expression of an emotional state induced by nerve-stirred sentiments; while those who are heavy laden with freight become too shock to even move or express true feelings.... I might be right? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 3 Points Adam Sobh (4/10/2009 11:51:00 AM)

    I'm doing a project on Emily Dickinson for my 11th grade American Literature class, and i need to find a poem by Miss Emily Dickinson and then analyze it, i chose this poem, but i don't really understand it, so if anybody could please explain it to me and help me to better understand it, i would be extremely grateful. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 2 Points Chris Mendros (10/8/2007 10:59:00 AM)

    You've got it, Richard. The powerful know all the tricks, but the more obdurate among us don't fall for them.
    For better or worse, neither do some of the most ignorant. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 2 Points Richard A. Davis SR. (8/21/2007 2:20:00 PM)

    Basically - I could lie to you, telling you what you want to hear.
    I could flow fake rivers of tears to deceive you.
    But a heart- the real emotion never falters.
    At least that’s what I read in this beautiful poem. (Report) Reply

Read all 25 comments »

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