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

Updated on January 28, 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 Poem, "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 —

Commentary

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."

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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