'There's a certain Slant of light' by Emily Dickinson
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There's a certain Slant of light,
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-
Editor 1 Interpretation
"There's a certain Slant of light" by Emily Dickinson: A Deep Dive into the Soul
Have you ever experienced a certain slant of light that seems to weigh down on your soul? Emily Dickinson’s poem, “There’s a certain Slant of light,” captures this feeling with such precision that it’s no wonder she is considered one of the greatest American poets of all time. This poem, written in 1861, is one of Dickinson’s most famous works, and for good reason. Its words reach into the depths of human experience and evoke emotions that are difficult to articulate.
Let’s dive deeper into this poem and explore its themes, symbols, and literary devices.
At its core, “There’s a certain Slant of light” is a meditation on mortality. Dickinson writes, “The slant of light / Oppresses like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes.” The word “oppresses” suggests a feeling of heaviness, of being burdened. The comparison to “Cathedral Tunes” implies that this feeling is not only physical, but also spiritual. The weight of the slant of light is like the weight of religious music, reminding us of our mortality and the inevitability of death.
The theme of mortality is further explored in the second stanza, where Dickinson writes, “When it comes, the Landscape listens / Shadows – hold their breath.” The landscape, representing nature, seems to be paying attention to the slant of light. The shadows, too, hold their breath, as if waiting for something to happen. This creates a sense of foreboding, as if something ominous is about to occur.
Winter is the central symbol in this poem, representing both the end of life and the approach of death. Dickinson writes, “Winter Afternoons – / That oppresses, like the weight / Of Cathedral Tunes –.” The word “oppresses” is again used, emphasizing the heaviness of winter. The “Cathedral Tunes” have been replaced with “Winter Afternoons,” and yet the effect is the same: a feeling of spiritual weightiness.
In the final stanza, Dickinson writes, “We can find no scar, / But internal difference / Where the meanings are.” This suggests that the effects of winter, or of mortality, are not visible on the surface. There is no scar, no physical evidence, but rather an internal difference that is intangible. This emphasizes the existential nature of the poem, reminding us that the weight of mortality is not just physical, but also spiritual.
Literary Device: Slant Rhyme
One of the most striking features of this poem is its use of slant rhyme. Slant rhyme, also known as half rhyme or near rhyme, is a type of rhyme where two words have similar sounds but are not perfect rhymes. For example, in the second stanza, Dickinson writes, “The look of Death – / And that is all.” The words “Death” and “all” are not perfect rhymes, but they have enough similarity in sound to create a sense of harmony.
This use of slant rhyme is not accidental. It contributes to the overall mood of the poem, creating a sense of unease and dissonance. It reflects the idea that death is not a perfect, harmonious experience, but rather one that is fraught with tension and discomfort.
Interpretation: The Human Experience
At its heart, “There’s a certain Slant of light” is a poem about the human experience. It reminds us that death is a universal experience, one that we must all face eventually. The slant of light, the winter afternoons, the look of death – these are all symbols of mortality, and they weigh down on us both physically and spiritually.
But the poem is not entirely pessimistic. Rather, it acknowledges the inevitability of death while also suggesting that there is something beyond it. Dickinson writes, “When it comes, the Landscape listens / Shadows – hold their breath.” This implies that there is something beyond death, something that the landscape is waiting for.
The final stanza also suggests that there is something beyond death. Dickinson writes, “Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – / We can find no scar, / But internal difference / Where the meanings are.” The phrase “Heavenly Hurt” implies that there is something divine about the experience of mortality. And while there may be no physical scar, there is an internal difference, a spiritual transformation that occurs.
“There’s a certain Slant of light” is a masterpiece of American poetry. Through its use of symbolism, literary devices, and themes, it captures the essence of the human experience. It reminds us of our mortality, but also suggests that there is something beyond it. It’s a poem that will resonate with readers for generations to come, a testament to Emily Dickinson’s skill as a poet and her deep understanding of the human soul.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
There's a certain Slant of light - Emily Dickinson
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 -
Emily Dickinson's poem, "There's a certain Slant of light," is a masterpiece of American literature. It is a poem that explores the themes of despair, pain, and the human condition. The poem is a reflection on the nature of light and its effect on the human psyche.
The poem begins with the speaker describing a certain slant of light that occurs during winter afternoons. The light is described as oppressive, like the weight of cathedral tunes. This imagery is powerful and evocative, as it creates a sense of heaviness and burden that the speaker feels.
The next stanza is where the poem really begins to explore its themes. The speaker describes the "heavenly hurt" that the slant of light gives us. This phrase is paradoxical, as it suggests that the pain is both heavenly and hurtful. This paradoxical nature of the pain is further explored in the next line, where the speaker says that we can find no scar. This suggests that the pain is internal, and that it is not something that can be seen or touched.
The final line of the stanza is perhaps the most important in the entire poem. The speaker says that the pain creates an "internal difference, where the Meanings, are." This line is crucial because it suggests that the pain is not just a physical sensation, but that it has a deeper meaning. The pain is something that changes us on a fundamental level, and it is something that we cannot fully understand.
The third stanza is where the poem takes a darker turn. The speaker says that none may teach the pain, and that it is the "seal Despair." This line suggests that the pain is something that cannot be understood or explained, and that it is something that we must simply endure. The pain is also described as an "imperial affliction," which suggests that it is something that is sent to us from a higher power.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most beautiful and haunting. The speaker describes how the landscape listens when the slant of light comes, and how the shadows hold their breath. This imagery is powerful, as it suggests that the pain is something that affects not just the speaker, but the entire world around them. The final line of the poem is also incredibly powerful, as the speaker compares the pain to the look of death. This comparison suggests that the pain is something that is both beautiful and terrifying, and that it is something that we must all face at some point in our lives.
In conclusion, Emily Dickinson's poem "There's a certain Slant of light" is a masterpiece of American literature. It is a poem that explores the themes of despair, pain, and the human condition. The poem is a reflection on the nature of light and its effect on the human psyche. The poem is powerful and evocative, and it is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet.
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