Dickinson and the Power of Meter


So I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can make the poems and letters flow seamlessly together in Thursday poems and I stumbled upon poem 519. Dickinson mentions numerous times that she believes that sometimes letters cannot capture the truth of emotion, that with meter and rhyme one is able to achieve more somehow. The opening line of this poem seems to echo this sentiment. Dickinson writes, ” This is my letter to the world”(1). yet she writes this line in pentameter that begins with a trochee and transitions into regular iambs. This use of meter suggests that Dickinson feels that her “letter” will be stronger if she employs these poetic elements.

Dickinson is expressing her loneliness, but also her own self realization in this poem. When She writes,

The simple News that Nature told-

with tender Majesty

Her message is committed

to hands I cannot see- (3-6).

it is as though because of Dickinson’s isolation she has been able to understand nature. When Dickinson describes the telling of the news as “with tender Majesty” it is as though she herself has experienced this communication. It seems to suggest that if one has a connection with ‘the world’ one is not privy to nature’s communication and as a result Dickinson seems to address the reader when she writes, “her message….cannot see” it is as though she has written down her correspondences with nature so that we (the hands she cannot see) can read the “news”. What seems particularly of interest to me are the final two lines of the poem where Dickinson suddenly becomes preoccupied with the judgements of her future readers. She writes, “For love of Her– Sweet–countrymen–/ Judge tenderly– of Me” (7-8). The use of dashes in this portion of the poem seems to suggest that Dickinson is imploring her reader to be kind for the sake of “Nature”, yet Dickinson begins the poem by admitting that she is largely ignored by the world. Perhaps Dickinson knew that the power of meter would ensure that is poem was not overlooked as she was during her lifetime.



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