Emily Dickinson's "Each Life Converges to some Centre —"

Updated on April 14, 2018
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Emily Dickinson

Source

Introduction and Text of "Each Life Converges to some Centre"

The Dickinson poem, "Each Life Converges to some Centre —," demonstrates what certain perceptive Dickinson scholars have come to believe: that Emily Dickinson possessed mystic powers. The speaker in this mystic poem offers a refreshing look at the soul's journey from the astral plane to the physical plane, as it alludes to reincarnation.

Emily Dickinson's poem, "Each Life Converges to some Centre —" (#680 in Johnson), consists of five stanzas. It features her signature slant rimes, but the alternating long and short lines provide a departure from her usual hymnal meter.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Each Life Converges to some Centre —

Each Life Converges to some Centre —
Expressed — or still —
Exists in every Human Nature
A Goal —

Embodied scarcely to itself — it may be —
Too fair
For Credibility's presumption
To mar —

Adored with caution — as a Brittle Heaven —
To reach
Were hopeless, as the Rainbow's Raiment
To touch —

Yet persevered toward — sure — for the Distance —
How high —
Unto the Saint's slow diligence —
The Sky —

Ungained — it may be — by a Life's low Venture —
But then —
Eternity enable the endeavoring

Reading of "Each Life Converges to some Centre —"

The reading features an altered second stanza instead of Dickinson's original

Embodied scarcely to itself — it may be —

Too fair

For Credibility's presumption

To mar —

Emily Dickinson

Source

Commentary

The speaker of Emily Dickinson's mystic poem offers a refreshing look at the soul's journey from the astral plane to the physical plane, alluding to reincarnation.

First Stanza: The Beginning of a Human Being

Each Life Converges to some Centre —
Expressed — or still —
Exists in every Human Nature
A Goal —

According to this speaker, each human being begins when the soul enters or "converges" with the unified ovum and sperm. The "[g]oal" of each convergence is a human being; and this convergence is not limited only to homo sapiens but all life forms.

But this speaker is more interested in exploring "Human Nature, "whether "[e]xpressed — or still."

Second Stanza: The Embodied Soul

Embodied scarcely to itself — it may be —
Too fair
For Credibility's presumption
To mar —

After the soul has found itself "embodied," it slowly grows accustomed to the physical level of existence. It may find it difficult to believe that a physical body now governs its every movement. Having been used to the rapid deployment capabilities of the astral level, it feels itself "scarcely to itself."

But then it soon realizes that despite being perhaps "[t]oo fair / For Credibility's presumption / To mar," it must again become habituated to its new body. A certain vague sense of loss accompanies the new soul, yet at the same time, it soon becomes distracted by its new environment.

Third Stanza: Contrasting the Physical and Astral

Adored with caution — as a Brittle Heaven —
To reach
Were hopeless, as the Rainbow's Raiment
To touch —

In the third stanza, the speaker continues to aver the contrast between the physical and astral levels of being. The physical plane is like a "[b]rittle Heaven"—not resilient and supple as the astral heaven—thus the new soul uses caution as it becomes enamored with this new situation.

The contrast, however, remains strong, and the sensitive soul realizes how "hopeless" total accommodation is: it is as impossible as trying to touch "the Rainbow's Raiment." The old gospel hymn, "This World is not my Home" bears the same theme and attitude.

Fourth Stanza: Soul Craving True Home

Yet persevered toward — sure — for the Distance —
How high —
Unto the Saint's slow diligence —
The Sky —

The fourth stanza presumes a span of years has passed, and the soul is now once again turning toward its origin. It becomes painfully aware of its exile from true heaven, its descent through a "brittle Heaven," and now it craves once again its true home.

It "persevere[s] toward" that heaven. It perceives a supposed great distance from itself, wonders "[h]ow high," and finally realizes its path runs through "the Saint's slow diligence." And its new goal is the "Sky," here metaphorically representing Heaven or God-unity.

Fifth Stanza: Eternity Allows for Repetition

Ungained — it may be — by a Life's low Venture —
But then —
Eternity enable the endeavoring
Again.

Finally, the speaker concludes with the disturbing notion that it may be likely for a soul to fail in its search for returning to the Divine. In fact, God possibly could still be "ungained" after much work toward uniting with Him. If one's life has been one of "low Venture," such is very likely that following an unwholesome way through that life will result in that failure.

However, there is room for hopeful rejoicing, because that soul has all of eternity to find its way back to its original home in God: "Eternity enable the endeavoring / Again."

Life Sketch of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson remains one of the most fascinating and widely researched poets in America. Much speculation abounds regarding some of the most known facts about her. For example, after the age of seventeen, she remained fairly cloistered in her father's home, rarely moving from the house beyond the front gate. Yet she produced some of the wisest, deepest poetry ever created anywhere at any time.

Regardless of Emily's personal reasons for living nun-like, readers have found much to admire, enjoy, and appreciate about her poems. Though they often baffle upon first encounter, they reward readers mightily who stay with each poem and dig out the nuggets of golden wisdom.

New England Family

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born December 10, 1830, in Amherst, MA, to Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Emily was the second child of three: Austin, her older brother who was born April 16, 1829, and Lavinia, her younger sister, born February 28, 1833. Emily died on May 15, 1886.

Emily's New England heritage was strong and included her paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, who was one of the founders of Amherst College. Emily's father was a lawyer and also was elected to and served one term in the state legislature (1837-1839); later between 1852 and 1855, he served one term in the U.S. House of Representative as a representative of Massachusetts.

Education

Emily attended the primary grades in a one room school until being sent to Amherst Academy, which became Amherst College. The school took pride in offering college level course in the sciences from astronomy to zoology. Emily enjoyed school, and her poems testify to the skill with which she mastered her academic lessons.

After her seven year stint at Amherst Academy, Emily then entered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in the fall of 1847. Emily remained at the seminary for only one year. Much speculation has been offered regarding Emily's early departure from formal education, from the atmosphere of religiosity of the school to the simple fact that the seminary offered nothing new for the sharp minded Emily to learn. She seemed quite content to leave in order to stay home. Likely her reclusiveness was beginning, and she felt the need to control her own learning and schedule her own life activities.

As a stay-at-home daughter in 19th century New England, Emily was expected to take on her share of domestic duties, including housework, likely to help prepare said daughters for handling their own homes after marriage. Possibly, Emily was convinced that her life would not be the traditional one of wife, mother, and householder; she has even stated as much: God keep me from what they call households.

In this householder-in-training position, Emily especially disdained the role a host to the many guests that her father's community service required of his family. She found such entertaining mind-boggling, and all that time spent with others meant less time for her own creative efforts. By this time in her life, Emily was discovering the joy of soul-discovery through her art.

Although many have speculated that her dismissal of the current religious metaphor landed her in the atheist camp, Emily's poems testify to a deep spiritual awareness that far exceeds the religious rhetoric of the period. In fact, Emily was likely discovering that her intuition about all things spiritual demonstrated an intellect that far exceeded any of her family's and compatriots' intelligence. Her focus became her poetry—her main interest in life.

Publication

Very few of Emily's poems appeared in print during her lifetime. And it was only after her death the her sister Vinnie discovered the bundles of poems, called fascicles, in Emily's room. A total of 1775 individual poems have made their way to publication. The first publicans of her works to appear, gathered and edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, a supposed paramour of Emily's brother, and the editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson had been altered to the point of changing the meanings of her poems. The regularization of her technical achievements with grammar and punctuation obliterated the high achievement that the poet had so creatively accomplished.

Readers can thank Thomas H. Johnson, who in the mid 1950s went to work at restoring Emily's poems to their, at least near, original. His doing so restored her many dashes, spacings, and other grammar/mechanical features that earlier editors had "corrected" for the poet—corrections that ultimately resulted in obliteration of the poetic achievement reached by Emily's mystically brilliant talent.

Thomas H. Johnson's The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

The text I use for commentaries
The text I use for commentaries | Source

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    © 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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