Saturday, October 16, 2010

Classic Poetry (I Cannot Live With You ~ Emily Dickinson)

Suggested by Fireblossom (Shay)

I Cannot Live With You

I cannot live with you,
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to,
Putting up
Our life, his porcelain,
Like a cup

Discarded of the housewife,
Quaint or broken;
A newer Sevres pleases,
Old ones crack.

I could not die with you,
For one must wait
To shut the other's gaze down,
You could not.

And I, could I stand by
And see you freeze,
Without my right of frost,
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise with you,
Because your face
Would put out Jesus',
That new grace

Glow plain and foreign
On my homesick eye,
Except that you, than he
Shone closer by.

They'd judge us-how?
For you served Heaven, you know,
Or sought to;
I could not,

Because you saturated sight,
And I had no more eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise.

And were you lost, I would be,
Though my name
Rang loudest
On the heavenly fame.

And were you saved,
And I condemned to be
Where you were not,
That self were hell to me.

So we must keep apart,
You there, I here,
With just the door ajar
That oceans are,
And prayer,
And that pale sustenance,

~Emily Dickinson

Do you like this poem?  What does it make you think about?  Please share any thoughts you have concerning this selection in the comments section below.  We look forward to you sharing your thoughts with us.

Poets United posts a classic poem once weekly. We want to do this to introduce classic poets and their poems to our members. It is also a way to display different styles, genres and approaches to poetry. Our intent is to further expand the world of poetry while educating ourselves.

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  1. fantastic choice.
    love it and thanks for sharing.

  2. To love someone so much that you're afraid to love them and turn rather to despair!

    No one tells it like Emily Dickinson.

  3. Oh, Shay, what a beautiful selection! Incredibly lovely. I hadnt read it before. Makes me cringe at my paltry offerings - but also, makes one strive to write better poems. I love this selection - it is perfect!

  4. Great suggestion Shay....a deep poem by an amazing of my favorites indeed!

  5. Always a pleasure to read and be reminded of this incredible writer....thank you Shay...bkm

  6. I hereby change my name to Philippe de Jesus and enter the canonization of the Saints. Along with Emily!

  7. Not always that I get carried away with poetry but this one literally gave me goosebumps.

  8. How neat! Thanks so much for using my suggestion.

    I first read this poem in high school English class, and it stayed with me ever since. It expresses such hopeless longing. I was taught, as many were, that she was in love with a minister, or an editor. In fact, she was in love with her sister in law, Susan Huntington Dickinson, who lived right next door to her and was married to her brother. Their correspondence survives largely intact. Emily would pour out her heart in letters to Susan, which she would pass on to her later, or have a servant drop them by.

    The letters make clear that Susan is the one she wanted to see her poems first, and from whom she sought opinions and reactions. I well know this notion of "writing for an audience of one", as I have always been that way myself.

    What sweet torture it must have been for Emily, to have the (forbidden) love of her life living so close, to see her all the time, and yet never be able to be with her. Understanding this background, "I Cannot Live With You" becomes crystal clear, and cuts to the heart.



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