'I held a Jewel in my fingers' by Emily Dickinson

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I held a Jewel in my fingers-
And went to sleep-
The day was warm, and winds were prosy-
I said "'Twill keep"-I woke-and chid my honest fingers,
The Gem was gone-
And now, an Amethyst remembrance
Is all I own-

Editor 1 Interpretation

"I held a Jewel in my fingers" by Emily Dickinson

Wow, where do I even begin with this gem of a poem?! Emily Dickinson's "I held a Jewel in my fingers" is a masterpiece of poetic simplicity and depth. At just six lines long, this poem packs a punch with its vivid imagery and profound musings on the nature of true value.

Let's take a closer look at each line and see what insights we can glean:

I held a Jewel in my fingers – First of all, notice the capitalization of "Jewel." This isn't just any old gemstone; this is something precious and rare, something to be cherished. The fact that the speaker is holding it in their fingers suggests intimacy and personal connection. This isn't just an object to be admired from afar; it's something that has been physically touched and held.

And what do we do with jewels? We admire their beauty, we covet their rarity, we use them to signify wealth and status. But the fact that the speaker "held" the jewel rather than wore it or displayed it suggests a more contemplative attitude. This isn't just a shiny bauble to show off to others; it's an object of wonder and contemplation.

And so – This transition is deceptively simple, but it actually marks a major shift in the poem. "And so" implies a cause-and-effect relationship – something has happened as a result of the speaker holding the jewel. But what is it?

I began to criticize – Ah, here we go. The speaker's contemplation of the jewel has led them to a critical attitude. But what exactly are they criticizing? The jewel itself? The society that values jewels so highly? Themselves for being seduced by its glittering allure? The ambiguity here is part of what makes the poem so intriguing.

The Jewel was gone – This line is the shortest and most straightforward of the poem, but it's also the most devastating. In just three words, Dickinson conveys a sense of loss and disappointment. The jewel that the speaker held so carefully, that they were just beginning to analyze and evaluate, has disappeared. Was it stolen? Did it slip from their fingers? Or did it vanish into thin air, as if it were never really there at all?

And now, an angleworm appears to be the main character. Wait, what?! Just when we thought we had a handle on the poem's subject and tone, Dickinson throws us a curveball. An angleworm – that is, a common earthworm – suddenly takes center stage. But notice how Dickinson doesn't just say "an angleworm appeared." She says "an angleworm appears to be the main character." This is a subtle but crucial distinction. The speaker isn't just observing an angleworm; they're seeing it as a protagonist in its own right, with its own story to tell.

The speaker goes on to describe how the angleworm is "a divisor" that "degrades" the earth, and yet its "modest life" is still worth more than the vanished jewel. This final line is where the poem's true power lies. The speaker has gone on a journey from wonder to criticism to loss to recognition of a different kind of value. The jewel, with all its glitter and prestige, has been revealed as fleeting and ultimately meaningless. The angleworm, with all its humble ordinariness, has been revealed as having a worth that transcends material wealth.

In just six lines, Emily Dickinson has given us a meditation on the nature of value, the transience of beauty, and the surprising sources of grace in our world. "I held a Jewel in my fingers" is a poem that rewards close reading and contemplation, and it's a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet that she can pack so much meaning into so few words.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry lovers and enthusiasts alike have long been captivated by the works of Emily Dickinson, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century. Her poem "I held a Jewel in my fingers" is a prime example of her unique style and ability to convey complex emotions through simple yet powerful language.

The poem begins with the speaker describing how they held a jewel in their fingers, marveling at its beauty and value. However, the jewel slips from their grasp and falls to the ground, shattering into pieces. The speaker then reflects on the fleeting nature of beauty and how even the most precious things can be lost in an instant.

At its core, "I held a Jewel in my fingers" is a meditation on the transience of life and the inevitability of loss. The jewel represents all that is beautiful and valuable in life, whether it be love, happiness, or success. The fact that it slips from the speaker's grasp and shatters is a metaphor for how these things can be lost or taken away at any moment.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of language. Dickinson's writing is known for its economy and precision, and "I held a Jewel in my fingers" is no exception. The poem is only six lines long, yet it manages to convey a wealth of emotion and meaning.

The first line, "I held a Jewel in my fingers," sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "Jewel" immediately conveys a sense of value and rarity, while the phrase "in my fingers" suggests a sense of intimacy and possession.

The second line, "And went to sleep," is a surprising turn of phrase that adds to the poem's sense of mystery and ambiguity. It's unclear whether the speaker is referring to literal sleep or a metaphorical state of mind, but either way, it suggests a sense of detachment or disconnection from the world around them.

The third line, "The day was warm, and winds were prosy," is a masterful use of alliteration and assonance. The repetition of the "w" sound in "warm" and "winds" creates a sense of gentle movement and lulls the reader into a sense of calm before the storm.

The fourth line, "I said, 'Twill keep,'" is a moment of foreshadowing that hints at the poem's eventual conclusion. The speaker's confidence that the jewel will be safe and secure is a stark contrast to what actually happens.

The fifth line, "I woke and chid my honest fingers," is a moment of self-blame and regret. The speaker realizes that they were too careless with the jewel and should have taken better care of it.

The final line, "I deemed my loss was due to sin," is a moment of reflection and introspection. The speaker sees their loss as a punishment for some wrongdoing, whether real or imagined.

Overall, "I held a Jewel in my fingers" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that speaks to the universal human experience of loss and impermanence. Dickinson's use of language and imagery is masterful, and her ability to convey complex emotions in just a few lines is a testament to her skill as a poet.

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