Emily Dickinson

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

There's a certain Slant of light (258)


There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes--

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are--

None may teach it--Any--
'Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air--

When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows--hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death--

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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  • Doren Robbins (12/13/2008 5:56:00 PM)

    'There's a certain Slant of light' can also be read mythically through the ancient tradition of the nekyia, the underworld journey. But since Odysseus, Aeneas, and Dante all return with a knowledge that ultimately permits them to complete their human and/or spiritual quests, the question arising about Dickinson's poem is: what knowledge is brought back as a result of the 'descent'? The knowledge is not entirely a morbid one since it has resulted in a meeting with the 'internal difference, / Where the Meanings, are-' and the further knowledge that 'None may teach it, ' and that 'When it comes the Landscape listens.' The knowledge implies a depth difficult to be prepared for, especially since the closure of the poem evokes the idea that 'Death' has a face, and the speaker has seen it.

    From 'Her Reduceless Mine, ' an Ameroot Broadside Essay (1995) .

    dorenrobbins.com (Report) Reply

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