Common Themes in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry
In Emily Dickinson’s poems, “ ‘Heaven’- is what I can not reach,” and “Success is counted sweetest,” the reader can see there is a desire. One poem shows the desire to reach heaven or a heavenly feeling. The other poem shows a desire to win, to accomplish something. In both poems Dickinson uses end rhyme and eye rhyme. Meyer defines rhyme as, “ The repetition of identical or similar concluding syllables in different words, most often at the end of lines.” (1601). Meyer also states “….words may look alike but not rhyme at all. This is called end rhyme.” (1601). Dickinson also uses images to tell a story with each poem. Meyer defines images as, “ A word, phrase, or figure of speech that addresses the senses, suggesting mental pictures of sighs, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings or actions.” (1593). She also added form. Meyer defines form as, “The overall structure or shape of a work, which frequently follows an established design.” (1591). With images, rhyme and form Dickinson shows the reader the similar way of using image, rhyme and form of both poems, and the feeling of desire. She shows the desire to reach victory or heaven or maybe both.
In “ ‘Heaven’- is what I can not reach,” Dickinson has many images to help the reader see and understand how heaven is unreachable. “ The apple on the Tree / Provided it do hopeless-hang / That – “Heaven” is –to Me!” (2,3,4). The out of reach apple is heaven to her. Being able to reach it would be reaching heaven. The reader can see the image of the apple up in the tree so vividly. The reader knows that there is a desire to eat that particular apple. When it is reached and a bite is taken, the taste will be heavenly. There will be a feeling of accomplishment for reaching that particular apple. “The Color on the Cruising Cloud,” (5). The color of a cloud in the sky that one just can not blend any colors to get. To find that color of the cloud would be heaven. “ The interdicted land,”(6). The reader can see the images of the private property sign. The reader can see the do not enter sign or keep out. This is the one place one would like to go in and see why no one can go inside. Being able to enter this place, this property just once would be heavenly. “ Behind the Hill-the House behold / There paradise – is found!” (7,8). The mountain behind the house that goes on as far as the eye can see but one could not reach to climb. The reader can see the images of the house, and behind the house the mountains. One can feel the mountain air, and see those mountains standing tall. The reader can see those mountains out of reach and knows that to be able to climb those mountains once to see what is on the other side would be heaven. Dickinson continues with “Her teasing Purple-Afternoons,” (9). Again there is the image of the sky during a sunset. When the sky changes into purple colors. These are colors that no matter where one looks, one cannot find the exact color. To find that particular set of purples would be heaven. “ The credulous-decoy / Enamored - of the Conjuror,” (10,11). The believable decoy captivated by the magician. The trick that one thought had it figured out but has not. That is the trick that if the solution could be found it would be heavenly. It would be great to know the secret of the magician. Dickinson stars this poem with “ ‘ Heaven’- is what I cannot reach,” (1). She uses the word “heaven”. Why not outer space? Why not the sky or a cloud? Why not the word hell? Heaven is unreachable we don’t have a clear image of heaven. The image we carry of heaven is soothing, clean, unreachable and white. In this poem there is a color of white when she speaks of the “ The Color, on the Cruising Cloud,”(5). “For white, in Dickinson’s
poetry, frequently represents both the energy (the white heat) of Romantic creativity, and the loneliness ( the polar cold) of the renunciation or tribulation Romantic Creativity may demand, both the white radiance of eternity - or revelations….” (Meyer 772). The desire to reach heaven is a desire like that of a romance s stated by Meyers. Dickinson uses the word “ heaven” because it is indeed unreachable.
In “Success is counted sweetest”, Dickinson uses images to show another desire, the desire to win. “Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne’er succeed.” (1,2). Those that don’t win or are very successful appreciate winning or succeeding the most. “To Comprehend a nectar / Requires sorest need.” (3,4). Here the reader sees the nectar, a drink. The reader feels the desire for a drink. To appreciate the drink one must really be thirsty. The images are clear. The thirst is desire and the nectar is the prize. “Not one of the purple Host / who took the Flag today,”(5,6). This is showing an image of a winning group reaching the winning flag. “Can tell the definition / so clear of Victory,” (7,8). Not one of them who has won can tell the true meaning of winning. “As he defeated-dying - / On whose forbidden ear,” (9,10). Here we see that the one who has been defeated can really tell the truth about winning. “The distant strains of triumph / Burst agonized and clear!” Here one can see the images of the losers that can hear the joy and happiness of the winners loud and clear. The images seen here are those of winners and losers. One group has succeeded in reaching their desire to win. While the losers have not and still have the desire to do so.
In both poems Dickinson uses end rhyme and eye rhyme. In “ ‘ Heaven’- is what I cannot reach!” Dickinson uses end rhyme first. The reader can see this with words like “Tree” and “Me”,(2,4). Also in “Cloud” and “Found”, (5,8). Then she uses eye rhyme with “decoy” and “Yesterday”,(10,12). We see the eye rhyme because both words end in Y. Then we take a look at “Success is counted sweetest” we also see end rhyme in “succeed” and “need”,(2,4). Then we see eye rhyme in “today” and “Victory”, (6,8). This is eye rhyme because both words end in the letter Y. Then in the next stanza she goes back to end rhyme in “ear” and “clear”,(10,12). Both poems use the same idea of end rhyme and eye rhyme.
Another similarity between poems is their form. They look exactly the same if you just look at both of then quickly. They are both three stanzas each. They both have four lines in each stanza. They do not have the same number of words in each line, but their form is exactly the same.
In both “ ‘Heaven’- is what I cannot reach” and “Success is counted sweetest” Dickinson uses images, rhyme and form basically in the same way in both poems. In both poems we see a story of trying to reach or accomplish something that is out of reach may it be heaven or victory. Reaching heaven is a victory and victory is reaching heaven.
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