Over the past few decades, a considerable number of comments have been made on the idea of eternity in Emily Dickinson's poetry. The following are several examples: Robert Weisbuch's Emily Dickinson's Poetry (1975), Jane Donahue Eberwein's Dickinson: Strategies of Limitation (1985), Dorothy Huff Oberhaus' Emily Dickinson's Fascicles: Method and Meaning (1995), and James McIntosh's Nimble Believing: Dickinson and the Unknown (2000). However, opinions vary as to how Dickinson explored the question regarding eternity; much ink has still been spent on the issue. This paper, therefore, provides another discussion of the idea of eternity depicted in Dickinson's poetry. I will discuss the issue by considering how her poems describe the process through which the poet finally reaches the belief in eternity-overcoming the feud between Christianity and scientific knowledge and that between Romanticism and existentialism.
As a beginning, let us look closely at one of the poems in which Dickinson gives a detailed account of a deathbed scene: The last Night that She lived
It was a Common Night
Except the Dying-this to Us
Made Nature different
We noticed smallest things-
Things overlooked before
By this great light upon our Minds
As We went out and in
Between Her final Room
And Rooms where Those to be alive
Tomorrow were, a Blame
That Others could exist
While She must finish quite
A Jealousy for Her arose
So nearly infinite-- (P-1100)
It is presumed that Dickinson wrote this piece of verse in circa 1886. In May of that year, Laura Dickey, the wife of Frank W. of Michigan, ...
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...Dickinson. 2 vols. 1974. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1994.
Stocks, Kenneth. Emily Dickinson and the Modern Consciousness. Hong Kong: Macmillan, 1988.
Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. Emily Dickinson. 1986. Reading: Addison, 1988.
Kjaer, Niels Pastor. "The Poet of Moment: Emily Dickinson and Soren Kierkegaard." Dickinson Studies 59 (1986): 46-9.
McIntosh, James. Nimble Believing: Dickinson and the Unknown. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000.
Oberhaus, Dorothy Huff. Emily Dickinson's Fascicles: Method and Meaning. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1995.
Rosenbaum, S. P., ed. A Concordance to the Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1964.
Scholnick, Robert J., ed. American Literature and Science. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1992.
Weisbuch, Robert. Emily Dickinson's Poetry. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1975.
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