An Interpretation of Emily Dickinson's Poem #315
Length: 921 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)
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Emily Dickinson had an interesting life, and is a profound woman in the history of America and literature. Emily wrote many poems. Some are titled, and many are given chronological numbers instead of headlining the main theme. I am interpreting Poem #315.
I read the poem, and had to read it again and again. As with most poems, the meaning is always clouded from me and I need a little help to figure out the true meaning of the author's intentions. In this case, the outcome was not any different. The poem did not make much sense to me. Instead, I created my own meaning and it differed greatly from the others. However, I still like my interpretation and enjoy the final product that was created when I combined my ideas with the groups. I would like to start, by printing the poem.
He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on--
He stuns you by degrees-
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Etherial Blow
By fainter Hammers-further heard-
Then nearer-Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten-
Your Brain-t bubble cool-Deals-One-imperial-Thunderbolt
That scalps your naked Soul-
When winds take Forests in their Paws-
The Universe-is still-
The other members of my group saw this poem as a metaphor for some type of physical abuse. I saw it as a poem just describing a thunderstorm. Now, after incorporating in ideas from all in the group I describe the poem as a way of using a storms powerful force to describe physical abuse. Confused? Well, I'll walk you through this idea so at the end you won't be.
The first four lines of the poem describe a 'He'. It states, "He fumbles at your soul / As players on the Keys / Before they drop full music on-- / he stuns you by degrees-"
Before any great piano player plays a piece, he warms up. He practices. In a similar sense, so does a thunderstorm. A storm does not start out heavy and powerful; it starts out with a wind. And, the air gets a little cooler; the degrees go down on the thermometer. Powerful thunder vibrates the soul, and the earth is the piano for the persona of the storm.
The next four lines describe the storm getting more powerful.
"Prepares your brittle nature" When I look around at huge trees, and mountains, I never consider nature brittle. Brittle is a word used to describe something fragile, something that will snap under the slightest pressure. Nature does seem so flimsy to me. But, to a heavy storm, nature is a ragged doll. I've seen powerful winds knock down trees with the greatest of ease.
The next line reads, "By fainter hammers-further heard-- / Then nearer-Then so slow". I imagine this to refer to loud thunder at a distance that keeps getting closer and closer.
Then as the storm is over head, and raging, it begins to produce the high-energy electricity -- Lightning. "Deals -One-imperial-Thunderbolt-- / That scalps your naked soul.
Strangely, the poem is structured so that there is a double space followed by two lines that don't rhyme nor have any particular pattern. Those lines read, "When wind take Forests in their Paws-- / The Universe-is still".
This reinforces my theme of how extremely powerful winds and rain, and severe weather in general can be.
However, it seems unfair that this powerful force can loom over the innocent in such a way. And, I wonder if that is why the universe is still. Is it such an unfair match up, the whole universe remains still and somber? Is it the like the thought of a giant about to squash a baby? Or a grizzly bear with a poor bunny rabbit in its paws?
This is where I can see the metaphors toward abuse. Instead of the poem describing a storm that starts out mild and gets violent, it may be describing a man. A man, who for some reason or another has been pushed to violence.
The beginning of the poem can now describe the man who is at first just arguing, but his blood is beginning to boil. Now, lets pretend that his victim got away and ran upstairs to hide, well that could be the second part of the poem. Instead of loud thunder rolling in, it could be the loud booming footsteps of the man climbing the stairs approaching his smaller prey to deal his final lashing. And leading toward the end of the poem, we lead toward the doom of the smaller being. The abuser catches up and wields his fist in one last blow that takes the life. It sets the soul free.
Like a powerful wind on a rooted tree, a large man is a mismatch on a women, girl or boy.
It is a shame that some can not control their actions and will lash out when pushed past a certain limit. Violence is for those who cant handle their own issues or confrontation. It is a release for some that find no other rational way they can deal with their problems.
I'm sure you got lost plenty of times on the way through this reading. I don't know what Dickinson's initial intent was for the poem, and can only hope she herself was never smacked around by somebody. I like the interpretations that each one of us came up with and I hope you now have a better insight to your own interpretation.