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Emily Dickinson Quotes

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

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Emily Dickinson Sketch

Emily Dickinson Sketch

Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Emily Dickinson, reclusive during her lifetime, wrote poetry which she kept private and which was, with few exceptions, unknown until its discovery after her death.

Selected Emily Dickinson Quotations

This is my letter to the world

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed,
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me.

If I can stop one heart from breaking

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Short Quotes

• We meet no Stranger, but Ourself

• The soul should always stand ajar. Ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.

• To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

• I believe the love of God may be taught not to seem like bears.

• The Soul selects her own society

I'm Nobody! Who are you?

I'm Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too? Then there's a pair of us! Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know! How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – To tell one's name – the livelong June – To an admiring Bog!

We never know how high we are

We never know how high we are
  Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
  Our statures touch the skies.
  
The heroism we recite
  Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
  For fear to be a king.

There is no frigate like a book

There is no frigate like a book
  To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
  Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take
  Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
  That bears a human soul!

Success is counted sweetest

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
  
Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,
  
As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.

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!

The brain is wider than the sky

The brain is wider than the sky,
  For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
  With ease, and you beside.
  
The brain is deeper than the sea,
  For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
  As sponges, buckets do.
  
The brain is just the weight of God,
  For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
  As syllable from sound.

"Faith" is a fine invention

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see — 
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency. 

Faith: variant

Faith is a fine invention
For gentlemen who see;
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency. 

Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
  
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
  
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Look back on time with kindly eyes

Look back on time with kindly eyes,
He doubtless did his best;
How softly sinks his trembling sun
In human nature’s west!

Afraid? Of whom am I afraid?

Afraid? Of whom am I afraid?
Not death; for who is he?
The porter of my father’s lodge
As much abasheth me.
  
Of life? ‘T were odd I fear a thing
That comprehendeth me
In one or more existences
At Deity’s decree.
  
Of resurrection? Is the east
Afraid to trust the morn
With her fastidious forehead?
As soon impeach my crown!

The right to perish might be thought

The right to perish might be thought
An undisputed right,
Attempt it, and the Universe upon the opposite
Will concentrate its officers — 
You cannot even die,
But Nature and Mankind must pause
To pay you scrutiny.

Love is anterior to life

Love  —  is anterior to Life  — 
Posterior  —  to Death  — 
Initial of Creation, and
The Exponent of Earth. 

The last night that she lived

The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made nature different.
  
We noticed smallest things, — 
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as ’t were.
  
That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.
  
We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.
  
She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered scarce,
Consented, and was dead.
  
And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.

A word is dead

A word is dead
When it is said,
  Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
  That day.

Short Selections

• Of 'shunning Men and Women' — they talk of Hallowed things, aloud — and embarrass my Dog — He and I dont object to them, if they'll exist their side. I think Carlo would please you — He is dumb, and brave — I think you would like the Chestnut Tree, I met in my walk. It hit my notice suddenly — and I thought the Skies were in Blossom —

• For my companions — the Hills — Sir — and the Sundown — and a Dog — large as myself, that my Father bought me — They are better than Beings — because they know — but do not tell.

• Behind Me — dips Eternity —
Before Me — Immortality —
Myself — the Term between —

• Susan Gilbert Dickinson to Emily Dickinson in 1861, "If a nightingale sings with her breast against a thorn, why not we?"

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
  
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
  
We passed the school where children played
At wrestling in a ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
  
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
  
Since then ’t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

My life closed twice before its close
or, Parting is all we know of heaven

My life closed twice before its close;
  It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
  A third event to me,
  
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
  As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
  And all we need of hell.

Related Resources for Emily Dickinson

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Emily Dickinson Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/qu_em_dickinson.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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