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

Updated on March 10, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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.

Emily Dickinson - Commemorative Stamp

Source

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 literary issues.

Introduction and Text of Poem

The speaker of "There is morn by men unseen" has likely been observing the beauty of a morning in May, when the greening of 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 earth where 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.

Emily Dickinson

at 17
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.

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

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

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      10 months ago from U.S.A.

      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!

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      10 months ago from Norfolk, England

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

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