MY life closed twice before its close--
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event
to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Composed sometime during the 1880's this remains a successful poem even if it cannot be understood on a "literal level" My life closed twice before its close, --note the paradox she uses in the words closed and close-- invites a certain kind of critical thinking.

Expression and idea are so suffused throughout all of Emily Dickinson's work that no analysis of her style and manner can be attempted without putting concretely to mind that every one of her phrases, her changing rhythms, is a direct reflection of her personality.

This poem demonstrates Dickinson's treatment of death and it is outstanding, as is most of her poems on the same subject, in that it lacks morbidity. It is more a frank observation about the sad inevitability of how all life moves through death.

She may have been seeking to ameliorate the sharp pain of loneliness since scholars say the two deaths she alludes to are the deaths of her father and a onetime suitor. Perhaps she has had an epiphany of sorts, a rebirth; If Immortality unveil /A third event to me and she may be using a comparative metaphor to the death and rebirth of Christ. One can read in these compressed lines the tragic revelation of her own personal and spiritual conviction that life is beauty, that love explains grief, and that immortality endures.

To the the pain of two events she has experienced --My life closed twice before its close she adds powerful and paradoxical metaphors. Vision with see and unveil for revelation and ending with a statement that is seemingly contradictory yet is perhaps true that parting is both a heaven and a hell. Those who die and she hopes, go to heaven, bringing about the irony of an eternal happiness for them while those left behind suffer the pain or in her sense the hell of their deaths. Inspiring and memorable lines of loss without indicating quite what has been lost.

Sources: Books: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson: sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_11_1/102-0284362-9032145
acessed August 24, 2003.

For more copyright information please see my write-up under Emily Dickinson.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

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