Mysticism, Recurring symbol & Major themes of Emily Dickinson's Poetry

Mofizur Rahman

Mysticism, Recurring symbol & Major themes of Emily Dickinson's Poetry

Honours 4th Year.
Department of English.
American Poetry.
Emily Dickinson's Poems
Hand Notes For Good Result.
Broad Question and Answer (Part C)

Mysticism, Recurring symbol & Major themes of Emily Dickinson's Poetry, Department of English. Honours 4th Year. American Poetry. Emily Dickinson's Poems Hand Notes For Good Result. Broad Question and Answer (Part C)



Give your ideas about Dickinson a mystic poet. Or, Write an essay an Emily Dickinson mysticism.

Ans: Emily Dickinson occupies unique position in English literature as a mystic poet. A mystic poet deals with the themes of God, soul, death, immortality , nature, union of human soul with the Divine. Dickinson deals with all these elements in her poems profusely. Dickinson is a mystic poet in the sense that in her poems we find all the elements of mysticism.

Mysticism means spiritual quest  for union with the Divine. But mysticism can be in  different forms in different religions. According to Hinduism, mysticism means absorption of the soul in the All. In Buddism emphasizes meditation as a means of moving toward Nirvana. Islam defines mysticism as, it denotes spiritual endeavour  to have union with the Divine.

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary mysticism is defined in the following terms: "The belief that knowledge of God and real truth can be found through prayer  and meditation, rather than through reason and senses." But many thinkers look upon mysticism in a different way, rather than  through reason and through  the senses.

We see that E. Dickinson did not follow blindly others definition of mysticism. Dickinson  has own apprehensions of presence of God in nature . Her views on   life and death . She believes   soul‘s relations with  Nature and God .Mysticism also means the capacity to establish a spiritual contact with Nature or God.   She also believes that the immorality of soul existence before the birth of a  person  in the bodily form. We can have a clear conception of E. Dickinson's attitude to God, soul, death and immortality  by analyzing of her poems.

The themes that a mystic poet deals with are those of God, soul, immortality, union of the human soul with the divine. Emily Dickinson deals with all those themes in a good number of her poems. Her position as a mystic poet is based on her treatment of themes relating to those metaphysical existence.

If we observe Dickinson‘s poems, we can see her views about God and divine love in term of sexual love.  It is mystical. She also believes with all mystics, past and present, that the entire universe overflows with love and beauty, and that this love and beauty are but a reflection of the Divine. Divine love is the culmination of all spiritual attainments, and marriage with Christ is the only means of attaining eternity and immortality.

Dickinson is a mystic poet with her views on soul. She believes that soul has a relation with God and death is the gateway to union with God. Some of the poems that especially mark her mystic outlook may be referred/mention to here. In "1 Taste a Liquor Never Brewed", she used the symbol of wine that has never been brewed in order to achieve the stature of an immensely big celestial being to whom even the sun is a lamp-post. Her stature is then admired by the seraphs(an angelic being)  and saints. This aspiration  to rise to the gigantic spiritual stature sounds one of her notes of mysticism.

Her attitude to death is also mystical. To her, immortality  of the soul can be achieved through death. Death is the gateway to acquire the divinity and to immortality. So, death should be welcomed rather than shunned /avoided. She muses on death. Sometimes she regards death as the end of all earthly things. To her death is a kind of life. In the poem "I Died for Beauty, But Was Scarce the poet imagines herself dead and talks about her short life in the grave. She died for beauty and was scarce adjusted in the tomb when another person died for truth and was laid in the grave beside.

"I died for beauty, but was scarce Adjusted in the tomb, 
When one who died for truth was lain In an adjoining room".

Dickinson's attitude to immortality is also mystical. Many of his poems deal with her notion of immortality and she asserts her firm faith in the immortality of the soul. She argues that the identity of the soul cannot be lost because it is immortal.

Dickinson's attitude towards Nature is mystical. She has dealt with the natural objects like the sun and other celestial bodies, the seasons, especially spring and summer, and the birds and the insects as forming part of Nature. In the poem "My Cocoo Tightens, Colours Tease", we have a wonderful poetic treatment of a chrysalis just before bursting open its cocoon and taking the shape of a butterfly. This is a phenomenon taking place in the bosom of Nature. The minute observation of this phenomenon in Nature highlights Dickinson's attitude to Nature and her interest in her mysteries.

To sum up, we may say that Dickinson is a mystic poet for her extra-ordinary treatment of her mystic elements in her poems. In her poems we find all the elements of mysticism. Her poems are full of mystic elements.

Recurring symbol

Death is a recurring symbol of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Illustrate.

Ans. Emile Dickinson is not only a great poet of death but also a reclusive American poet. She is known for her obsession of death. Death is her prime subject/topic. She wrote more than five hundred poems based on the theme of death. As a result, readers get death as a recurring symbol her poems. She has viewed death as a gateway to the world of immortality.

In the poem 'I Felt a Funeral in my Brain' the poet has given a description of mystical journey to the world of eternity. Dickinson describes what seems to be a funeral in her mind. When one thinks of a funeral, they usually think of a ceremony for a person who has died. Although Dickinson describes events that usually take place  at a funeral, mourners, a service, lifting of a box implying a coffin, here we see that no one has died; no one is being buried. This funeral that Dickinson is experiencing in her brain is actually a funeral for the death of her mind. In the last stanza of the poem we come to know about the ultimate  result of the journey:

And then a Plank in Reason, broke, 
And I dropped down, and down – 
And hit a World, at every plunge
And Finished knowing-then--- 

'Because I Could Not Stop for Death' is one of Emily Dickinson's most enigmatic

poems regarding death. The idea of death in this poem is not portrayed as lonely /scared, but as serene  and content. She treated death as more like a person rather than just an event in one's life. In this poem the speaker is communicating from beyond the grave, and describing her journey with death.

To poet, death is unconventional, deeply personal and refreshingly original.  Dickinson considers death as a kind of life which is new, and life as it is lived here is a sort of death. She says-  A death –blow is a life –blow to some

Who, till they died , did not alive become. 

According to Dickinson-  Death is not dreadful rather it is a gateway to acquire the divinity and immortality. Death kindly takes away the speaker for the expedition to the eternity. In the opening stanza of poem 'Because I Could Not Stop for Death', she personifies death as a symbol of gentleness and kindness and immediately establishes what kind of person Death is:

"Because I could not stop for Death - He kindly stopped for me
The carriage held but just ourselves - And immortality. 

According to poet, death is always related with immortality.  She goes away with him in his carriage, with immortality as their companion. Dickinson regards death as a road to after-life. When the journey of his life ends we are brought to that odd Fork in Being Road. Eternity- by term. We find the celestial of Eternity. In this  Wonder Sea death is  looked upon as a pilot by Dickinson.  She shows how the pilot leads the human soul to the sore  of eternity through the sea of life.

In conclusion we may say that Emile Dickinson has presented death in a philosophical and symbolic way in her poems. Her poems teach the readers to accept death as an inevitable reality of life.

Major themes of Emily Dickinson's Poetry

Discuss the major themes of Emily Dickinson's Poetry.


In the modern poetic world of America Emily Dickinson plays a significant and multifarious(eûwea) role which makes her different from contemporary(mgmvgwqK) modern poets. She wrote poetry of great power questioning the nature of death and immortality. Emily Dickinson as a poet deals with various themes such as nature, love, pain and sufferings, death and immortality, God and religion, artistic philosophy, universality and so on. Thus the range of themes in her poetry is very wide.

Theme of Nature

Emily Dickinson feels the necessity and profundity of nature. It plays an important role to make her poetic theme glorious and age-worthy. To her , nature is extremely harmonious. It is an image of human. She considers nature as the gentlest mother as she finds mother like love amidst  nature. Nature is the source of joy and beauty. Actually we cannot refuse Emily Dickinson's actual fascination to nature specially in her poem " A Bird come down the walk" and "A narrow Fellow in the Grass"

Theme of Love

Emily Dickinson‘s treatment of love shows her as a representative figure in the field of love and emotion. Her love poems are psychological as well as autobiographical. Love is a mystic life force it should be free from voluptuousness. Her poems run the range  from renunciation  to professions of love to sexual passion; they are generally intense.

"If you were coming in the fall" 
"I cannot live with you"
"I early took my dog"
"Wild nights! Wild nights!"

Theme of Death

Death is one of the foremost themes in Dickinson‘s poetry. Death is sometimes gentle, sometimes menacing sometimes simply inevitable. In ―I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –,‖ Dickinson investigates the physical process of dying. In ―Because I could not stop for Death –,― she personifies death, and presents the process of dying as simply the realization that there is eternal life. Death is personified in many guises in her poems, ranging from a suitor to a tyrant. Death is a terror to be feared and avoided, a trick played on humanity by God, a welcome relief, and a blessed way to heaven. Immortality is often related to death.

"I heard a fly buzz when I died" 
"Because I could not stop for Death" 
"I died for beauty, but was scarce" 

Theme of Immortality

 Immortality have covered an important place in her poetic world. Emily Dickinson says death functions as a connecting  link between life and immortality. The conventional idea of immortality, with its insistence upon splendor and a majestic transformation, is in her poem uniquely reworked to present her belief in the reality of the soul after death.

Theme of Pain and Sufferings

The theme of pain and sufferings is also an organic part of her poetic theme. Actually, Emily Dickinson is a poet of universal grief whose poetic feelings goes on with the stream of eternal sufferings. Pain plays a necessary role in human life. The pain of loss or of lacking/not having enhances our appreciation of victory, success, etc.; the pain of separation indicates the degree of our desire for union, whether with another human being or God. Food imagery is associated with this theme; hunger and thirst are the prerequisites for comprehending the value of food and drink. "Pain has an element of blank"

"Success is counted sweetest" 
"After great pain a formal feeling comes" 
"I measure every grief I meet" 
"I had been hungry all the years" 
"My life closed twice before its close" 
 Theme of God and Religion 

Man's relationship to God and nature is concerned throughout Dickinson's life. Her attitude toward God in her poems ranges from friendliness to anger and bitterness, and He is at times indifferent, at other times cruel. "He fumbles at your spirit"

"Heaven is what I cannot reach!" "The heart asks pleasure first" 


So the final assessment goes in favor of Emily Dickinson that she transcends her poetic range to make her immortal and universal. Her universe is the universe of all people. Her poetry shows her personal confession through better experience. Then we can call her greatest as a modern poet. Emily Dickinson is totally a perfect poet who express her deepest thoughts under the guise of various themes.

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