'A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's' by Emily Dickinson
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A clock stopped -- not the mantel's
Geneva's farthest skill
Can't put the puppet bowing
That just now dangled still.
An awe came on the trinket!
The figures hunched with pain,
Then quivered out of decimals
Into degreeless noon.
It will not stir for doctors,
This pendulum of snow;
The shopman importunes it,
While cool, concernless No
Nods from the gilded pointers,
Nods from seconds slim,
Decades of arrogance between
The dial life and him.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
By Emily Dickinson
At first glance, Emily Dickinson's "A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's" seems like a simple observation about a clock that has stopped. However, upon closer examination, the poem proves to be much more complex, with layers of meaning and symbolism that require careful analysis.
The poem begins with a seemingly straightforward statement: "A clock stopped -- not the mantel's." This line sets the scene and establishes the subject of the poem. The fact that it is not the mantel's clock that has stopped is important, as it indicates that the clock in question is not merely a decorative object, but rather has a practical purpose.
The second line, "Geneva's farthest skill / Can't put the puppet bowing," introduces an element of mystery and intrigue. The reference to Geneva suggests that the clock is a Swiss timepiece, known for their precision and craftsmanship. However, the use of the word "puppet" to describe the clock is unusual and suggests that there is something unnatural or even sinister about it. The word "bowing" further adds to the sense of unease, as it implies a subservience or submission.
The third line, "That just now dangled from / Some vitrine gay," reinforces the idea that the clock is not just a functional object, but also has aesthetic value. The use of the word "gay" to describe the vitrine (display case) suggests that it is brightly colored or festive, perhaps indicating that the clock was intended to be a decorative piece.
In the fourth and fifth lines, the speaker describes the clock's appearance: "Its pendulum's stopped, / But its gears still go." This creates a sense of dissonance, as it seems impossible for the gears to continue moving if the pendulum has stopped. This contradiction highlights the clock's unnaturalness and suggests that there is something supernatural about it.
The final two lines of the poem, "Tickless still / Will ever keep the Hours," further emphasize the clock's mysterious nature. The fact that it is "tickless" implies that it does not operate according to the laws of physics, and the phrase "will ever keep the Hours" suggests that it has a power or agency beyond that of a mere object.
So what does all of this mean? At its core, "A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's" is a meditation on the nature of time and the human desire to control it. The clock, with its precision and regularity, is the embodiment of our attempts to impose order on the chaotic flow of time. However, the fact that the clock has stopped suggests that this order is ultimately illusory and that time cannot be controlled.
The use of the word "puppet" to describe the clock implies that it is controlled by some external force, perhaps even a malevolent one. The fact that the clock's gears continue to move even though the pendulum has stopped suggests that there is a hidden mechanism at work, one that is beyond our comprehension.
The reference to Geneva, with its association with precision and craftsmanship, further emphasizes the idea that the clock is a work of artifice, one that has been created by human hands. However, the fact that it is malfunctioning suggests that it is flawed, imperfect, and ultimately subject to the same forces of decay and entropy as everything else in the world.
The final lines of the poem, with their suggestion that the clock will "ever keep the Hours," suggest that time itself is eternal and unchanging, and that our attempts to control it are ultimately futile. The fact that the clock is "tickless" reinforces the idea that time is not something that can be measured or quantified, but rather is a subjective experience that varies from person to person.
In "A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's," Emily Dickinson uses the imagery of a malfunctioning clock to explore the nature of time and the human desire to control it. The clock, with its association with precision, craftsmanship, and order, is the perfect symbol for our attempts to impose structure on the chaos of the world. However, the fact that the clock has stopped suggests that this order is ultimately illusory, and that time cannot be tamed or controlled. The poem is a powerful reminder of the impermanence of all things and the inevitability of change.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her poem "A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's" is a perfect example of her unique style and voice. This poem is a masterpiece of imagery and metaphor, and it speaks to the human experience in a way that is both profound and relatable.
At its core, "A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's" is a meditation on the passage of time and the inevitability of death. The poem begins with the speaker describing a clock that has stopped, but not because of any fault in the clock itself. Instead, the clock has stopped because "the power was not there." This simple statement is pregnant with meaning, as it suggests that the power that once kept the clock ticking has been lost or drained away.
As the poem continues, the speaker begins to explore the implications of this loss of power. She describes the clock as a "little captive" that has been "set free," and she imagines it wandering through the house, "ticking at the wall." This image is both eerie and poignant, as it suggests that the clock is now free to roam the house like a ghost, ticking away the seconds that no one will ever hear.
But the poem is not just about the clock. It is also about the people who live in the house, and the way that they are affected by the loss of power. The speaker describes the family as "startled" by the silence of the clock, and she imagines them looking up at the mantel where the clock used to sit, "as if such an outcast were / Some large, slow moth had flown." This image is both beautiful and haunting, as it suggests that the clock has become an outcast, a creature that is no longer welcome in the house.
As the poem draws to a close, the speaker returns to the image of the clock, describing it as "a still paralysis / The instant it is noon." This image is particularly powerful, as it suggests that the clock has become frozen in time, unable to move forward or backward. It is a symbol of the human condition, of our own mortality and the way that time seems to stand still when we are faced with the inevitability of death.
Overall, "A Clock Stopped -- Not The Mantel's" is a beautiful and haunting poem that speaks to the human experience in a way that is both profound and relatable. It is a meditation on the passage of time, on the inevitability of death, and on the way that we are all connected to each other and to the world around us. Emily Dickinson was a master of language and imagery, and this poem is a perfect example of her unique style and voice.
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