0788. Emily Dickinson’s "Joy to have merited the Pain"

Updated on December 24, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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.

Dickinson's Titles


* Emily Dickinson did not provide titles to her 1,775 poems; therefore, each poem's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel:

"When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text."

APA does not address this issue.

* The numbers included with the Dickinsonian titles refer to the number of each poem from Thomas H. Johnson's The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "Joy to have merited the Pain—"

On first reflection, it is unlikely that the notion that earned pain is ever welcome to the human mind and heart or that any pain can ever be accepted. But on second thought and possibly after some delving into the nature of Spirit and Its relationship to a fallen world, the idea becomes well founded and completely comprehensible.

The mind and heart crave pure solace but find achieving that exalted state fraught with obstructions. This speaker offers her hard won experience with that journey as she dramatizes the thrill of seeking and the ultimate winning of that goal. Her mystical proclivities enhance her skills as she offers consolation on every level of spiritual awareness.

788 Joy to have merited the Pain—

Joy to have merited the Pain—
To merit the Release—
Joy to have perished every step—
To Compass Paradise—

Pardon—to look upon thy face—
With these old fashioned Eyes—
Better than new—could be—for that—
Though bought in Paradise—

Because they looked on thee before—
And thou hast looked on them—
Prove Me—My Hazel Witnesses
The features are the same—

So fleet thou wert, when present—
So infinite—when gone—
An Orient's Apparition—vRemanded of the Morn—

The Height I recollect—
'Twas even with the Hills—
The Depth upon my Soul was notched—
As Floods—on Whites of Wheels—

To Haunt—till Time have dropped
His last Decade away,
And Haunting actualize—to last
At least—Eternity—

Commentary

Stanza 1: Joy Eliminates Pain

Joy to have merited the Pain—
To merit the Release—
Joy to have perished every step—
To Compass Paradise—

The speaker is affirming that earned pain fades into joy. It gains a vivid, long liberation of the soul. At every step of the transitioning process from lack of vision to full sight, the joy seems to dissolve the soul in a marvelous unity—Spirit and soul becoming one.

Of course, the individual soul and the Over-Soul are always locked in an unbreakable unity, but the curse of delusion or Maya renders the human mind incapable of comprehending that unity until it regains that vision through inner stillness and concentration.

The burden of living in a fallen world weighs heavy on each perfect soul, situated in a physical encasement and a mental body that remain in a state of perdition, neither comprehending its perfection, nor for some even being intellectually aware that it possesses such perfection.

Paradise will remain on the horizon, though, until the seeker takes notice and begins that journey toward its goal.

Stanza 2: The Ephemeral Becomes Concrete

Pardon—to look upon thy face—
With these old fashioned Eyes—
Better than new—could be—for that—
Though bought in Paradise—

The speaker now affirms that she has become aware of her eyes growing strong, after she has been absolved from certain errors of thought and behavior. She is now capable of peering in to the ancient eye with her own "old fashioned eyes."

The speaker's transformation has improved her ability to discern certain worldly ways, and she will not long brook those wrong manners that limit her ability to adopt new spiritual steps.

The speaker is becoming aware that she can realize perfectly, that Paradise can become and remain a tangible place. That seemingly ephemeral place can become as concrete as the streets of the city, or the hills of the country.

Stanza 3: From Dim Glimpses of the Past

Because they looked on thee before—
And thou hast looked on them—
Prove Me—My Hazel Witnesses
The features are the same—

The speaker confirms that she has, in fact, in the dim past glimpsed the face of the Divine Reality, and that glimpse has already atoned for the fallen state, in which she now finds herself.

She has now become completely in possession of the knowledge that her "Hazel" eyes were, in fact, witnesses to the great unity for which she now urgently seeks reentry. The sacred sight of the Divine Seer and the practicing, advancing devotee are one and the same.

This knowledge delights the speaker who has already admitted that it was indeed "Pain" that nudged her on to seeking final relief. The human heart and mind crave on every level of being the final elimination of both physical and mental pain and suffering. When a soul finds itself transitioning from the fallen world to the uplifted world of "Paradise," it can do no less than sing praises of worship.

Stanza 4: The Consummation of the Infinite

So fleet thou wert, when present—
So infinite—when gone—
An Orient's Apparition—vRemanded of the Morn—

The speaker avers that the Divine Belovèd forever consumes all time, as It continues to remain infinitely present. The Blessèd One never strays, though Its creation may stray far and wide.

Just as the sun rises in the East to explain morning to the day, the rising from having fallen provides a soothing balm of gladness to the human heart and mind living under a cloud of doubt and fear.

Each soul that has earned its liberation through great pain can offer testimony to the sanctity of having regained the "Paradise" that was lost, despite the temporary nature of all that went before.

Stanza 5: Highest Level of Awareness

The Height I recollect—
'Twas even with the Hills—
The Depth upon my Soul was notched—
As Floods—on Whites of Wheels—

The speaker now reveals that she has evoked the highest level of awareness, that is, she has determined that she will pursue the ultimate range of vision. She compares the highest sight to the "Hills," finding that they are "even." And the valley below that had "notched" her soul seemed to flood her consciousness, as water does as it splashes upon the wheels of a carriage.

Still the speaker is aware that her own voice can speak inside the darkest shadow that earth life has to reflect. She determines not only to be a spectator of events but to fully interact with all that might bring her closer to her goal.

This observant speaker knows that she has the ability to comprehend the nature of fallen earth creations, but she also continues to be stung by the facile observations that only limit each soul and denigrate each thought that would seek to alleviate the misery and tainted status of the fallen mind.

Stanza 6: Transcending Space and Time

To Haunt—till Time have dropped
His last Decade away,
And Haunting actualize—to last
At least—Eternity—

The speaker continues her effort to transcend spiritually all space and time. Each year drops eternally into the ghost-day and feather-night. And, of course, they all are on their individual journeys through that space and time.

The speaker has taken the task of "Haunting" all the unselfactualized minds and hearts that cross her path, whether by night or day. As the decades speed by, she intends to ride each moment into the utmost reality until it yields that creature whose head is toward eternity, like those horses in, "Because I could not stop for Death -."

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

Show All Categories