Emily Dickinson's "Morns Like These — We Parted"

Updated on June 4, 2019
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Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Source

Introduction and Text of "Morns like these — we parted"

Emily Dickinson's speaker is creating a drama from the act of bird watching which covers a single day from the time of morning when one bird and she parted company to the act of evening drawing the curtains, simultaneously hearing the bird fly off to its own abode.

The mental gymnastics of the speaker reveals a special gift of qualifying the experience of the human mind intrigued by the bird's ability to fly in the freedom of the open skies, indicating that this drama has often play out in the speaker's mind.

Morns like these — we parted

Morns like these — we parted —
Noons like these — she rose —
Fluttering first — then firmer
To her fair repose.

Never did she lisp it —
It was not for me
She — was mute from transport —
I — from agony —

Till — the evening nearing
One the curtains drew —
Quick! A sharper rustling!
And this linnet flew!

Reading of "Morns like these — we parted"

Emily 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.

Commentary

This riddle poem offers an accumulation of evidence that the speaker has observed a bird and then poof! one human act and the bird takes wing!

First Stanza: Observing a Bird

Morns like these — we parted —
Noons like these — she rose —
Fluttering first — then firmer
To her fair repose.

Observing the behavior of feathered friends, the speaker avers that on certain mornings she has watched as a bird will make its way heavenward leaving her earthbound but astounded by the ability of an earth creature to fly through the sky.

In addition to morning flights, she has experienced the magic also around noontime. The creature with wings first may seem to merely "flutter[ ]," but then suddenly with more determined gait glided to her chosen destination.

Second Stanza: Experiencing Awe

Never did she lisp it —
It was not for me
She — was mute from transport —
I — from agony —

As the bird begins its magical journey, it does not communicate vocally in song or chirp to the speaker's presence. Having nothing to impart to its observer, it merely begins its flight. The speaker assumes that the bird's silence is caused merely by her "transport" of the felicity of light.

The speaker remains "mute" merely from "agony"—the sudden awareness that one will remain earthbound while this marvelous creature will ascend and vanish skyward.

Third Stanza: The Close of a Drama

Till — the evening nearing
One the curtains drew —
Quick! A sharper rustling!
And this linnet flew!

All this drama of observation and bird flight goes on from morning to evening, nigh to which someone in the home closes the window curtains. From without comes the "rustling" which is quick and sharp, as the bird—now identified as a "linnet" flies off.

The speaker's attention has been suddenly snipped by this final sudden movement of the flying creature which she has so patiently watched in wonder. The speaker's mind has flown with the bird, waited as the bird waited, now drops its object as the bird has rustled its feathers for the last time that day and flown off to God only knows whither.

Emily Dickinson at 17

Source

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.

Reclusiveness and Religion

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.

Emily's reclusiveness extended to her decision that she could keep the sabbath by staying home instead of attending church services. Her wonderful explication of the decision appears in her poem, "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church":

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I'm going, all along.

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.

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

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes

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