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Emily Dickinson's "There is a morn by men unseen"

Emily Dickinson's poems remain a vital part of my poet worldview. They dramatize the human spirit via deep attention to life's details.

Emily Dickinson - This daguerreotype is likely the only extant authentic image of the poet.

Emily Dickinson - This daguerreotype is likely the only extant authentic image of the poet.

Introduction and Text of "There is morn by men unseen"

The speaker of Emily Dickinson’s "There is a morn by men unseen" has likely been observing the beauty of a morning in May, during a time that the greening of the Earth is becoming lush with new brightness.

This exceptional beauty motivates the speaker to intuit that even brighter mornings exist beyond the confines of this plant, a place in which the souls of departed loved ones are celebrating in their own way, just as she is celebrating the beauty of this earthly spring morning.

There is a morn by men unseen

There is a morn by men unseen –
Whose maids upon remoter green
Keep their Seraphic May –
And all day long, with dance and game,
And gambol I may never name –
Employ their holiday.

Here to light measure, move the feet
Which walk no more the village street –
Nor by the wood are found –
Here are the birds that sought the sun
When last year's distaff idle hung
And summer's brows were bound.

Ne'er saw I such a wondrous scene –
Ne'er such a ring on such a green –
Nor so serene array –
As if the stars some summer night
Should swing their cups of Chrysolite –
And revel till the day –

Like thee to dance – like thee to sing –
People upon the mystic green –
I ask, each new May Morn.
I wait thy far, fantastic bells –
Announcing me in other dells –
Unto the different dawn!

Reading of "There is a morn by men unseen"

Commentary

The speaker of this Dickinson poem is observing and reporting on a scene that she intuits which exists behind the mystic curtain dividing the ordinary world from the extraordinary world, where souls dwell and have their being.

First Stanza: Not an Ordinary Scene

There is a morn by men unseen –
Whose maids upon remoter green
Keep their Seraphic May –
And all day long, with dance and game,
And gambol I may never name –
Employ their holiday.

The speaker hints that she will be describing a locus out of this world because ordinary, day to day folks have not seen it. In this fabulous place, the young women frolic upon a "green" that far removed from that of the ordinary existence. These beings observe their "holiday" with "dance and game," and their weather remains perfect, a "Seraphic May."

The speaker avers that these beings also employ activities that she is not privy to "name." The reader will note that she does not say that she does not know what those activities are, but just that she cannot put a label on them.

Second Stanza: Beyond the Ordinary

Here to light measure, move the feet
Which walk no more the village street –
Nor by the wood are found –
Here are the birds that sought the sun
When last year's distaff idle hung
And summer's brows were bound.

The speaker makes it quite clear that the scene and the people she is describing are no longer part of this world; thus she offers the strong suggestion they have departed this earth, that is, their souls have left their bodies through death. The lines, "move the feet / Which walk no more the village street – / Nor by the wood are found," report the fact that those about whom she speaks no longer inhabit this mud ball of planet earth.

At the same time, the speaker is making it clear that she is not setting up a dichotomy between the city and country. Those feet that no longer "walk the village street" also no longer walk in the "wood." She then reports that the souls of birds who have departed the earth are also here. While on earth they had "sought the sun" after summer had relinquished its short lease on time.

Third Stanza: Mysticism of the Stars

Ne'er saw I such a wondrous scene –
Ne'er such a ring on such a green –
Nor so serene array –
As if the stars some summer night
Should swing their cups of Chrysolite –
And revel till the day –

The speaker then remarks about the uniqueness of this fantastic scene, for never before has she observed such a "wondrous scene" with mystic activities continuing on such a phosphorescent color of beings and movements. The serenity of the scene also strikes the speaker with its measure of uniques.

The speaker then attempts to compare the scene she has observed to what it might look like if upon any given "summer night" the stars were to be seen frolicking and "swing[ing] their cups of Chrysolite," or offering up toasts as party revelers are wont to do. The employment of the heavenly bodies offers the strong hint that the speaker has engaged her considerable mystic vision in order to describe a scene that she has intuited.

Fourth Stanza: Awaiting Her Own Arrival

Like thee to dance – like thee to sing –
People upon the mystic green –
I ask, each new May Morn.
I wait thy far, fantastic bells –
Announcing me in other dells –
Unto the different dawn!

The speaker then addresses the Divine Reality or God, declaring that these "People upon the mystic green" are singing and dancing as the Divine does. She then becomes confident enough to remark that she too expects to dance and sing upon such a "mystic green." The speaker reveals that she prays "each new May Morn," as she continues to wait with anticipation to hear the ringing of God's "fantastic bells," which seem "far," as she remains upon the material level of earth.

But the speaker expects to hear this bells calling her as they announce her arrival in those "other dells," and at a different kind of dawn. The speaker has likely been motivated to intuit the mystic scene by the natural beauty of a May morning, which has spirited her mind away to a holy place where the dearly departed now reside, play, and take their celebratory being.

  The text I use for commentaries

The text I use for commentaries

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on December 27, 2018:

According to Thomas Johnson, she gave titles to only 24 poems, and most of them were titled in letters but not attached to the poems themselves. The Shakespeare sonnets are not titled either, so she's in good company. I love her poems, too.

Nice to hear from you, Louise! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on December 24, 2018:

Oh I love her poems. I didn't know she never gave them a title though. That's interesting.

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