Tuesday Poem: Emily Dickinson

One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted -
One need not be a House -
The Brain has Corridors - surpassing
Material Place -

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting -
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop
The Stones a'chase -
Than Unarmed one's self encounter -
In lonesome Place -

Ourself behind ourself, concealed -
Should startle most -
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The Body - borrows a Revolver -
He bolts the Door -
O'erlooking a superior spectre -
Or More -

Emily Dickinson, 1863

Having just read 'Lives like Loaded Guns:  Emily Dickinson and her Family's Feuds', by Lyndall Gordon,  it just had to be Emily Dickinson this week.  This is one of my favourite poems and one of her most profound.   Reading the biography has sent me back to the poetry, reading it with new eyes now that I know what was going on in the context of her life - her brother's adulterous relationship and her own ill health.  What comes over most strongly in the biography was how little control women (particularly middle class women)  had over their lives in those days, being financially dependent on men and forced to conform to the strict public standards demanded of them by society.   Working class women were expected to work all their lives and less was expected of them morally.   Emily Dickinson's servants were, in a way, freer than she was.

For more poetry visit the Tuesday Poem blog


  1. Kathleen, how apt! We were in sync with our Tuesday poem choices this week. I love the supernatural in this, aided by the rhythm of each line. Thanks for posting!!

  2. Emily my Emily.Ourself behind ourself, concealed.

  3. As always with Emily Dickinson, a very insightful poem.


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