Quiet Passion

10 Emily Dickinson Quotes to Help You Transcend Death

Emily Dickinson may well be the best writer Americans have. Her popularization of poetic techniques like enjambment and slant rhymes helped pave the way for the free verse that followed. If there was no Dickinson, then 20th century and modern poetry would sound enormously different. It would probably a lot closer to what it sounded like 150 years ago.


In celebration of Dickinson, here are some of my favorite excerpts from her poetry. But don’t stop at the excerpt…read the whole thing! If you don’t get it the first time, read it again and again.



1. The Sweeping up the Heart 
And putting Love away 
We shall not want to use again 
Until Eternity –


From “The Bustle in a House”



2. But were it told to me, Today, 
That I might have the Sky 
For mine, I tell you that my Heart 
Would split, for size of me – 


From “Before I got my eye put out –”



3. This is the Hour of Lead – 
Remembered, if outlived, 
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow – 
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –


From “After great pain, a formal feeling comes –”



4. Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —


From “Crumbling is not an instant’s Act”



5. And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –


From “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,”



6. I dwell in Possibility – 
A fairer House than Prose – 
More numerous of Windows – 
Superior – for Doors – 

From “I dwell in Possibility –”



7. It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down –
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.


From “It was not Death, for I stood up,”



8. I would not talk, like Cornets —
I’d rather be the One
Raised softly to the Ceilings —
And out, and easy on —


From “I would not paint — a picture —”



9. Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –


From “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”



10. Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —


“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —”


Feature Image Via the Belcourt Theatre