“There’s A certain Slant Of Light”
Emily Dickinson has a special way of using punctuation marks in poems to increase the musicality of the poem and pass the message intended in the right manner. The same technique is applied to this poem.
If you try to understand the poem as a whole, it may not be easy. For this reason, this text looks at each stanza of the work. The breakdown and the summary of the poem are as shown:
There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes – (Dickinson, 1890)
Notice that in the first line, the first letter in ‘Slant’ is capitalized though it is a common noun. This shows that the emphasis of the poet is not about the light but the angle taken by the light and emphasizing on the importance of this light. Remember that the light is a slant on a winter afternoon as indicated in the second line. The first stanza sets the stage for the setting of the poem. It is an afternoon of winter. Basically, the poet is bringing a situation that can be related to death on the winter afternoons. The oppression brought about by the light is directly compared to the sounds of the cathedral tunes due to their loudness. There is also a direct comparison (simile) that the slant of light and how it oppresses like heft. Again the common nouns ‘Heft’ and ‘ Cathedral Tunes have also been capitalized showing just how important these words when used to relay the message that is meant to be communicated. Moreover, the stanza also has a rhyme scheme that follows the pattern ABCB.
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are – (Dickinson, 1890)
The first line of this stanza brings a religious touch to the poem which is a follow-up to what the first stanza talks about. However, the term ‘Heavenly Hurt’ is an oxymoron given the type of enjoyment that people associate with heaven. This is a continuation of what is in the previous stanza where oppression is associated with the cathedral bells. The rest of the stanzas talk about the internal struggles of people. The line ‘We can find no scar’ shows that the pain caused by the heavenly hurt cannot be manifested physically and is only felt internally. The ‘internal difference’ and ‘meaning’ used in the last two lines of the stanza basically points to the fact that different people perceive different ideas. Dashes and the comma in this stanza are used to separate the ideas in the poem.
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air – (Dickinson, 1890)
The stanza expounds on the message that is in the previous stanzas. The point is that no one can enlighten you on the feeling of ‘Heavenly Hurt’ since the exact definition of the subject is nearly impossible to get. Even the next line ‘Tis the seal Despair’ insists on the difficulty involved in comprehending these subjects. The author is not very clear what the ‘despair’ is all about in the normal language perspective.
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death – (Dickinson, 1890)
In this final stanza, the poet creates a lot of images using nature. The stanza, ‘When it comes, the Landscape listens,’ (Dickinson, 1890) shows that nature has been given the ability to ‘listen’ just as human beings (personification). The ‘it’ in this case is the slant of light. Again, the capitalizations of the landscape, distance, and death show that they are very important in communicating the message of the poem.
The setting of the poem
The speaker talks about a winter afternoon but mixes up the narration nature. The poem then moves directly to the internal conflicts suffered by the speaker. With the mention of the slant of light, the whole setting becomes a bit mysterious. The speaker also expresses a variety of feelings in the poem.
There are several themes in this poem:
The appearance of bright light is not a common phenomenon during the winter season. The slant of light makes the speaker feel oppressed in this situation.
The speaker depicts this slant of light as something that is worth looking at on any day. Even landscapes have to listen to it.
Because of the isolation, there is also suffering. ‘Heavenly hurt’ is an indication that there are incidences of suffering.