Emily Dickinson's "There is another sky"

Updated on April 13, 2018
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.

Emily Dickinson

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "There is another sky"

Emily Dickinson's "There is another sky" is an innovative, or American, sonnet. The lines are short, only 3 to 5 metric feet, and with Dickinson's characteristic slant rime, the rime scheme is roughly, ABCBCDECFCGHIH.

(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.")

This innovative sonnet sections itself into two quatrains and a sestet, making it a gentle melding of the English and Italian sonnets.

There is another sky

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

Reading of "There is another sky"

Emily Dickinson

Source

Commentary

This American (innovative) sonnet reveals an attitude dramatized in the Shakespeare sonnets: the poet's confidence in her creation of a world of beauty that will last forever.

First Quatrain: Physical Sky, Metaphysical Sky

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;

In the first quatrain, the speaker claims that in addition to the sky of the physical universe, there is an additional sky in existence. But this other sky is "ever serene and fair." She then reports that there is also "another sunshine," which is capable of shining through darkness in this other place.

Second Quatrain: No Fading in the Metaphysical Universe

Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;

The speaker then directly addresses another person, telling him that he should ignore "faded forests," and she calls the addressee by name, "Austin," who happens to be the brother of the poet. She then tells Austin also to ignore the "silent fields."

The reason he should ignore those faded forests and silent fields is that in this place to which she is inviting Austin, the "little forest" contains leaves that are perpetually green. The speaker remains very mysterious about this place where the sky, sunshine, forest, fields, and leaves behave differently from the physical universe.

Sestet: Invitation to the Metaphysical Garden

Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

The speaker now claims that the place to which she refers is "a brighter garden," and this garden never experiences the killing effects of "frost." Its flowers remain "unfading" while she listens pleasurably to "the bright bee hum." The final couplet is the invitation to her brother to come into this wondrous garden: "Prithee, my brother, / Into my garden come!"

The Dickinson Riddle

This little American sonnet is one of Dickinson's many riddles. Her speaker never states explicitly that the garden is her poetry, but still, she is inviting her brother in to read her poems. Dickinson's speaker is implying throughout the sonnet that she has constructed a whole new world, where things can live untested by the molestations of the physical plane of life. The sky can remain "serene and fair."

And the sun can even shine through the darkness. Forests never die out, and the fields are always bursting with life; they never lie fallow as in the real world. And the trees enjoy wearing green leaves forever. She knows all this because she has created it.

And like the master writer of the Shakespeare sonnets, Dickinson's speaker knows that she has fashioned out of crude nature an art that will provide pleasure in perpetuity. That she has the courage to invite her beloved brother into her world demonstrates the confidence she has in her creations.

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.

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.

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.

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

Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      6 months ago from U.S.A.

      Alex,

      My commentaries are not influenced by any of the "critical theories" that you listed. They are based on my personal interpretation with a bit of influence from New Criticism: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-te...

      Hope this helps.

      Blessings,

      Linda Sue Grimes

      (Maya Shedd Temple)

    • profile image

      Alex 

      6 months ago

      i would like to know what critial theory goes with this. (Ex: Feminisim, marxism, archetypal, and new historicism) And if so can you explain why

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      6 months ago from U.S.A.

      "Faded forests," "darkness," "silent fields," "fading flowers"—all appear on the physical, material level of being—in other words, in the real world.

      The speaker is creating a metaphysical, or alternative world, in which forests do not fade, no darkness exists, fields do not lie fallow, and flowers do not fade. She is creating this world with her poetry.

      The speaker is inviting her dear brother into this world she is creating with her poetry—which is the other world that has "another sky." She refers to her created poetry world as her "garden."

      Hope this helps, Maylene! Thanks for asking.

    • profile image

      Maylene 

      6 months ago

      What do faded forest stand for?

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Well, I'm so glad, Harish! I guess my efforts are not in vain.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 

      2 years ago from New Delhi , India

      Hello Linda, ' there is another sky ' is a lovely poem. I enjoyed the poem more after reading your fine commentary. Thank you.

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