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Emily Dickinson's "A Light exists in Spring"

Updated on June 19, 2016
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Emily Dickinson

This is the unretouched daguerreotype of Emily when she was around 17 years old.
This is the unretouched daguerreotype of Emily when she was around 17 years old. | Source

Dickinson's Titles

Emily Dickinson did not provide titles to her 1,775 poems.  When referring to a Dickinson poem, it has become customary to use the first line of the poem, capitalizing only as Dickinson capitalized.  Thus, this commentary is:  

Emily Dickinson's "A Light exists in Spring."  

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

Edited by Thomas H. Johnson, who restored Dickinson's original forms

 

Commentary

The speaker in Emily Dickinson's "A Light exists in Spring" is striving to portray a certain kind of light that "exists [only] in Spring" or very near spring.

The poem features five quatrains with a somewhat erratic rime scheme. Each quatrain follows a fairly regular pattern of ABCB with the second quatrain offering the slant rime, "fields / feels," and the third quatrain offering no rime at all. The final quatrain again features an irregular pair, "Content / Sacrament."

First Quatrain: "A Light exists in Spring"
The speaker asserts that, "A Light exists in Spring," and this particular light cannot be experienced any other time of the year.

The speaker reports that this light does appear, "When March is scarcely here." This claim, however, suggests that the light might also appear just before it is actually spring. Spring does not begin until the third week of March, not in late February, as the speaker has suggested.

Second Quatrain: "A Color stands abroad"
The speaker now claims that, "A Color stands abroad / On Solitary Fields." This extraordinary "color" apparently has not been identified in nature by science. However, human beings, according to this speaker, are capable of sensing this color without a name for or scientific description of it.

The speaker, therefore, hints that the color of this special light does not exist at all in nature, and it perhaps only visible to the human soul, not the mind or even the heart, as such lights as rainbows or the aura borealis is visible to the eye.

Third Quatrain: "It waits upon the Lawn"
This unearthly, perhaps even mystical, light and color may be experienced as it stands "upon the Lawn." However, the light may also appear in trees that grow very far away, and may also be gleaned from faraway, quite distant from the where the speaker views it.

The speaker now reports that this strange mystical light "almost speaks to you." Of course, the language would be one only known to the soul.

The speaker attempt to elicit from her listeners and readers an understanding that would be quite likely impossible to shape into words. The speaker has been carried to an indescribable place within the her own soul.

This light that is capable of "wait[ing] upon the Lawn" but does not instantly pass across the lawn strongly suggests that it is capable of halting time for a short period—possibly to allow the observer to contemplate the nature of its existence.

Fourth Quatrain: "Then as Horizons step"
However, that time cannot wait long and thus "it passes." Of course, we remain, that is, the speaker remains where she is while the light passes on.

The special light thus seems to resemble sunlight after it has passed overhead around the noon hour. Of course, its leaving is without fanfare, although the speaker seems to have expected a sound, or some other sign to help her understand the strange feeling that this light has engendered in her.

Fifth Quatrain: "A quality of loss"
The speaker then asserts that she feels a kind of deep loss. Its as if something drastically inappropriate has happened. She feels as wronged as Jesus felt on encountering the money handlers in the temple. The loss seems as inappropriate as the intrusion of "Trade" "Upon a Sacrament."

Final Comment
The speaker has remained vague about what this light looks like, but she has made it quite clear how it has made her feel.

The speaker's experience viewing this special light has moved her very deeply. Although she cannot portray the light's physical nature, she can suggest the nature of the way the light has influenced her mentally and spiritually.

Recitation of Dickinson's "A Light exists in Spring"

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 10 months ago from United States

      Interesting to read about one of my favorite poets and always learning something new about each one. Thanks for the nice info. whonu

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
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      Linda Sue Grimes 10 months ago from Spring Hill, TN

      Thank you, who. Glad you found my Hub useful. Blessings!

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