So, I recently wrote a brief paper interpretting one of Emily's poems in relation to several other poems, with a brief emphasis on consciousness. I would fully appreciate any type of feedback or thoughts as part of my class requirement!


Forever—is composed of Nows—
‘Tis not a different time—
Except for Infiniteness—
And Latitude of Home—

From this—experienced Here—
Removed the Dates—to These—
Let Months dissolve in further Months—
And Years—exhale in Years—

Without Debate—or Pause—
Or Celebrated Days—
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Domini’s—

As timeless as Emily Dickinson’s poetry has become, one integral theme to many of her poems focuses on the concept of time, whether it’s a moment, an eternity, or infinity. Dickinson is well known for her suspended, idealized moment focused on time as the muse; she is observational rather than emotional as portrayed in poem 624, as numbered by Thomas Johnson’s arrangement.

In order to dissect and fully appreciate and implicate Dickinson’s poetry, each line should be considered individually, then as part of a whole. To begin, the first line suggests that the anatomical makeup of Forever is an unlimited number of “nows.” This is supported by the second line which states that Forever cannot be comprised of any reference of time other than “now” i.e., this very moment. Lines three and four encompass any disparities of how the concept of Forever as a “now” might exclude its total acceptance: that Forever is infinite, and that Forever’s “nows” may be separated by individuals. To clarify, perhaps the “now” is consequentially different for each of us (philosophically, we can’t occupy the same space as someone else)—that is, the physical place where each of us is from must house a different “now” or moment in time. “Let Months dissolve in further Months—” may suggest the present now existing in the future or possibly in the past. Likewise, “And Years—exhale in Years—” creates similar imagery; however, the verb choice “exhale” is interesting. Whereas an exhale is an expulsion or outward purging of an internal aspect, to “exhale in” might suggest past or present years encompassing future years. The relation among time references in these two lines corresponds as an ingenious implosion or circumlocution of “now.” Ultimately, Dickinson’s poem defines “now” as an embodiment of Forever and vice versa. Lastly, the final stanza of poem 624 utilizes “anno domini”—“In the year of our Lord.” The speaker suggests that debating, pausing, or celebrating, when we focus fully on the “now” our years would be the same as the year of our Lord. This may intimate that when one attains the enlightenment of living in and becoming the now, we may consider ourselves deity-like. Therefore, the concept of time may be completely unnecessary because the lord doesn’t need a concept of time if He is eternal and limitless.

In relation to poem 686, the passage of “Time is a Test of Trouble—/But not a Remedy—/If such it prove, it prove too/There was no Malady—”; that’s not to say anything is wrong but that things happen as they happen. If time does not assuage, it’s not the length of passing time after an event which mends an aching heart, but rather what we do in the “now” that’s important. Interestingly, comparing this concept to poem 765, the speaker personifies the ideas of time and eternity and suggests that we are each, in a respect, our own deities (“You constituted Time —/I deemed Eternity/A Revelation of Yourself —/'Twas therefore Deity”). This would certainly fit with Dickinson’s previous poetic explication that “forever”—an unlimited amount of time—is an essential composition to the Lord or to a God (an essentially ourselves). Augmenting with poem 406 to the interpretive mix, it’s suggested that time and limitlessness is a more tangible thing. The idea of immortality is juxtaposed with the concept of time—the speaker suggests that being in possession of large quantities of time does not necessitate or facilitate immortality or length of life. Following this concept, “Some — Work for Immortality —/The Chiefer part, for Time —/He — Compensates — immediately —/The former — Checks — on Fame —” I have interpreted that Time rewards us instantly, and if forever is composed of now, living in the moment will generate results. However, working for immortality seems to be a method in searching for fame, but no outcome is elaborated. The second stanza of poem 406 intimates that everlastingness is also very different from immortality; there exists a semantic subtlety in that everlasting embodies the idea of “forever composed of nows”—a classicism bordering on the abstract, and indeed, a moment frozen in time. On the other hand, immortality connotes a passage of time and a change throughout due to the passage of time. 406 wraps up this idea in the final stanza that money itself is ironically cheap, whereas a source for money (the mine) is integrally more important. Supposedly, that is to say, if the mine were related to one who constitutes time, and if one who constitutes time may be considered a deity, in a way one is also immortal. Time is also popularly viewed as being precious and valuable, and in Emily Dickinson’s perspective, a more worthwhile and higher standard currency than the currency of immortality. After all, one cannot literally buy time, especially when taking the concept of Fate into consideration.

The speaker’s situation proposes an intriguing idea of consciousness. In a roundabout manner, the concept that Forever is composed of “nows,” that immortality is cheaper than Time, and that an individual can be compose of eternity suggests that one should be entirely conscious while being unconscious of these abstracts. In summation, we must live in the moment, but worrying about living in the moment or worrying about obtaining immortality as a substitute for infinity hinders our ability to grasp the “now.”

Reference Poems

Some — Work for Immortality —
The Chiefer part, for Time —
He — Compensates — immediately —
The former — Checks — on Fame —

Slow Gold — but Everlasting —
The Bullion of Today —
Contrasted with the Currency
Of Immortality —

A Beggar — Here and There —
Is gifted to discern
Beyond the Broker's insight —
One's — Money — One's — the Mine -

They say that “Time assuages”—
Time never did assuage—
An actual suffering strengthens
As Sinews do, with age—

Time is a Test of Trouble—
But not a Remedy—
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no Malady—

You constituted Time —
I deemed Eternity
A Revelation of Yourself —
'Twas therefore Deity

The Absolute — removed
The Relative away —
That I unto Himself adjust
My slow idolatry —